Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox was sitting in the visiting dugout at Al Lang Stadium in March 1999 before an exhibition game against Tampa Bay when he was asked to name his Opening Day starter.
“Which one of them won the Cy Young last year?” Cox asked.
Tom Glavine, he was told.
“Then I guess it should be Tom,” Cox said.
It was quite a run Cox had in Atlanta with Greg Maddox, John Smoltz and Glavine, a run that led to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Cox, elected to the hall in December, will be joined by Maddux and Glavine, who were voted in Wednesday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America along with Frank Thomas, who hit 521 home runs during a 19-year career.
Joining those four are former managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who were elected in December along with Cox by the Hall’s Expansion Era Committee.
Former Houston Astro Craig Biggio missed the 75-percent of the voted needed for enshrinement by two votes.
“Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas,” Biggio said in a statement released by the Astros. “Obviously I’m disappointed.”
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, the two biggest names implicated in baseball’s Steroid Era, were passed over by BBWAA voters for the second straight year. Clemens was named on 35.4 percent of the ballots. Bonds was named on 34.7 percent. Both totals were lower than 2013, the first year on the ballot for each when Clemens received 37.6 percent of the vote and Bonds 36.2.
Maddox was asked his opinion on those linked to the use of performance enhancing drugs.
“I’ve got to take the right stance, too. No, they shouldn’t get in,” Maddux said. “There shouldn’t be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame.”
The additions of Maddux, Glavine and Thomas to the ballot led to lower vote totals to a number of the remaining candidates. Tampa’s Fred McGriff received just 11.7 percent of the vote this year, down from the 20.7 percent he received last year.
Jack Morris fell short of election in his 15th and final year of eligibility, receiving 61.5 percent, down from 67.7 last year.
This marks the second time since the inaugural class of 1936 that three players were elected during their first years on the ballot.
Cox, Maddux and Glavine will turn the induction ceremony into an Atlanta Braves love fest.
“That’s just the icing on the cake,” Maddux said. “It’s going to be special for me, and I’m going to share it with special people.”
Said Glavine, “It’s fitting, given the influence those two guys had on my career. The thing that would have disappointed me the most had it not happened would have been a lost opportunity to go in with Bobby and Greg.”
Smoltz, who becomes eligible for the hall next year, might have made it four Braves had he retired in 2008.
“The only thing that (messed) this up was John played one more year,” Maddux said.
Maddux was left off 16 ballots despite winning 355 games and four Cy Young Awards during his 23 seasons spent with the Chicago Cubs, Braves, San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He received 97.2 percent of the vote after being named on 355 of the 371 ballots.
When asked during a conference call Wednesday for the biggest key to his success, Maddux said keeping the ball down in the strike zone.
When asked if it was that simple, Maddox said, “I think it is.”
Glavine received 91.9 percent of the vote. The 305-game winner won two Cy Young Awards.
Thomas is the first electee to spend most of his career as a designated hitter -- 1,130 of 2,322. He is also the first player to ever hit a home run off a catwalk at Tropicana field. Thomas received 83.7 percent of the vote.
“This is something that I will have to sit back in the next three or four days and figure it out because you can only dream so big, as this is as big as it gets for me,” Thomas said in a statement released by the White Sox. “I’m a Georgia kid. Going in with Glavine, Maddux and Bobby Cox means a lot to me. The whole state of Georgia is going to be there, and I am just so blessed that I’ll be able to be there with these guys.”
Tampa’s Luis Gonzalez, appearing on his first ballot, received only five votes and did not meet the 5 percent requirement to remain on the ballot.