Sandberg gets in by six votes

NEW YORK -- Wade Boggsand Ryne Sandberg were caught off
guard. One thought the telephone call was a hoax. The other didn't
expect to learn his fate until later in the day.

Their good news: They made it into the Hall of Fame.

The hot-hitting third baseman was overwhelmingly elected his
first year of eligibility Tuesday, and the slick-fielding second
baseman made it on his third try with just six votes to spare.

A five-time American League batting champion for the Boston Red Sox, Boggs was selected by 474 of the record 516 voters who are
10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
His percentage, 91.86, was the 19th-highest in Hall history, and in
total votes he trailed only Nolan Ryan (491) and George Brett
"I wouldn't classify it as the end of the world had I not got
in today," said Boggs, the 41st player elected on his first
chance. "But it would have been a disappointment because of the
numbers that I put up."
Sandberg, the 1984 National League MVP for the Chicago Cubs, was
picked by 393 voters. He appeared on 76.2 percent of ballots, just
above the 75 percent cutoff (387). Sandberg received 49.2 percent
in 2003 and 61.1 percent last year, when he fell 71 votes short.

"There's been some tremendous, tremendous players that waited
longer than I had to wait to get into the Hall of Fame," Sandberg
said. "And so, I don't think that's it's ever too late, and I
don't think it diminishes the honor at all. You're either in the
Hall of Fame or you're not."

Boggs' voice choked with emotion when he thought about signing
his first autograph as a Hall of Famer, which will go to his
79-year-old father, Winfield.

"That will be the special one. I'm just going to sign a picture
to him and say, `I love you dad.' We made it. HOF '05," Boggs
said. "He coached me in Little League and sort of nurtured me
along, was there every phone call in the minor leagues, there every
step of the way."

Even though he was awaiting word, Boggs was surprised when the
telephone rang and he was congratulated by Jack O'Connell,
secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA.

"I thought it was one of my friends pulling a joke on me,"
said Boggs, who assumed Hall chair Jane Forbes Clark would place
the call. "I had the visions of 74 percent running through my head
and getting the call that I didn't make it."

He wasn't convinced until he heard a familiar voice tell him,
that of Hall vice president Jeff Idelson.

"My mind started doing a Rolodex of Little League days and high
schools days," Boggs said.

Sandberg, surprised by the early notification, called it "one
of the more incredible phones calls I ever received."

"It caught me off-guard, and total elation set in shortly after
that," he said.

Sandberg acknowledged being unsure whether he had Hall of Fame

"Today they've erased all doubts," he said.

Reliever Bruce Sutter, appearing on the ballot for the 12th
time, received 344 votes (66.7 percent), up from 301 last year but
43 shy of this year's threshold. He was followed by Jim Rice (307),
Rich "Goose" Gossage (285) and Andre Dawson (270).

"I'm not going to say I'm disappointed," Dawson said.

Willie McGee, also on the ballot for the first time, received 26
votes, exactly at the 5 percent cutoff to avoid being dropped in
future years. Darryl Strawberry got six votes in his first bid.

Pete Rose, ineligible because of his lifetime ban from baseball,
received nine write-in votes, six fewer than last year and his
lowest total. Rose, who admitted last year that he bet on the
Cincinnati Reds while managing them in the late 1980s, has been
written in on 239 of 6,687 ballots (3.6 percent) over 14 years.

He must be reinstated by late November to appear on the ballot
in 2006, the final year he would be eligible.

Boggs, a 12-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner during
an 18-year career with Boston, the Yankees and Tampa Bay, finished
with 3,010 hits and helped New York win the 1996 World Series.

Sandberg, a 10-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner,
played from 1981-97, spending his entire career with the Cubs,
except for six at-bats with Philadelphia at the start. Sandberg,
who came back in 1996 after a year off, has the highest fielding
percentage among second basemen at .989 and his 277 homers were the
most by a second baseman at the time of his retirement.

"I think defense had everything to do with me getting into the
Hall of Fame," Sandberg said.

Boggs and Sandberg will increase the Hall of Fame's membership
to 260, of which 102 were selected by the BBWAA. Induction
ceremonies are July 31 in Cooperstown.

Boggs, who said a family history determined Abner Doubleday was
a seventh-cousin on his mother's side, visited the Hall of Fame in
1976 when he was playing minor league ball in Elmira.

"You sort of start thinking that, wow, if I could ever make it
to the big leagues, man, this is where all the great players go,"
he recalled.

Results of voting by the Veterans Committee will be released
March 2. Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva and Ron Santo were among the 25
candidates on that ballot.

Among the players eligible for the first time on next year's
BWAA ballot are Orel Hershiser, Will Clark and Dwight Gooden.

Boggs' election followed Boston's sweep of St. Louis in last
year's World Series, the first Red Sox title since 1918.

"I was so happy for the people of New England," Boggs said.
"Finally, they can sit there and walk down the streets with their
heads held high and chests poked out."