Friday, May 29, 2020

HOF Class of 1999: Ryan Brett Yount Cepeda

If ever a player was a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame candidate, Nolan Ryan was that player. There have been many others, obviously, but he was probably the most famous pitcher of my youth who yielded the torch, after several seasons of overlap, to Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens. 

Like Tom Seaver in 1992, Nolan Ryan received 98.8% of the vote in 1999, his first year of eligibility. They were to that date the only players to earn that many votes, percentage-wise. George Bell (1.2%) was responsible for Ryan not being unanimous. 

Ryan went in with two other players that retired in 1993: George Brett and Robin Yount. Orlando Cepeda also went in this year. Carlton Fisk retired in 1993, too, but would (spoiler alert) have to wait a year for induction. Fisk wasn't issued a 1994 Topps card, unlike most of the players featured in this blog post. 

So here is Nolan Ryan's final Topps card. The pitching-action shot frankly isn't that flattering. He looks old, bow-legged.

Now the card back. Holy smokes. The text behind his tipping the cap photograph is perfect. The card back showing his stats for his 27 year career is mind boggling.

Is Ryan the best power pitcher of all time?

George Brett earned 98.2% of the vote which by 1999 standards, like Nolan Ryan, was practically unanimous because there were a few jerks in the voting pool. When I was growing up Brett was The Man. Most famous for the pine tar incident, he had a solid reputation what with an MVP, a 13-time All-Star, a World Series in 1985, Silver Sluggers, Gold Glove, etc. But the thing I remember him for most are those batting titles. That .390 in 1980 was slightly before I was fully ensconced of baseball  but it was a number we knew by heart once fandom took hold. He was admirably with the Royals his whole career.

Robin Yount was another player who was a single-team player. For 20 years he was a Brewers and was beloved by his fan base and like many others involved in the game of baseball.  He was MVP of the AL twice, was an All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner three times, and won a Gold Glove. It's a shame he only played in one World Series, and lost.

In 1999 Orlando Cepeda was elected by the Veterans Committee in 1999. An MVP and Rookie of the Year winner, he was part of the 1967 World Series winning Cardinals and was an 11-time All-Star. Like many veterans he played for a number of teams in his final years (four teams in last three years). This is is final Topps card, from the very attractive 1974 set. It looks like he missed a lot of time in 1964 and 1965 which definitely drove down his otherwise decent stats. Cepeda played 33 games in 1974 for the Kansas City Royals but was not issued a 1975 Topps card.

Cepeda's first Hall of Fame ballot was in 1980 and he garnered only 12.5% of the vote. In his fifteen and final year of eligibility, 1994, he was up to 73.5%. So close.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Might need to update this "To date" as
    Here are the highest voting percentages in Hall of Fame history:
    Mariano Rivera: 100.0 percent.
    Ken Griffey Jr.: 99.3 percent.

  2. I love that 94 George Brett card. Didn't recognize the Ryan from that set surprisingly. The 94 Collector's Choice Ryan is one of my favorite cards of any player.

  3. It's a shame that Topps didn't give Carlton a card in the 1994 set like they did to his colleagues. By the way... that Brett card is a classic.