Some thought Rice’s prickly personality and curt relationship with reporters during his playing career helped keep him out of the Hall all these years.
“I don’t think I was difficult to deal with for writers. I think the writers were difficult to me,” he said. “I wasn’t going to badmouth my teammates. When you start talking about my teammates or what goes on outside baseball, I couldn’t do that.
“I don’t know why it took me so long. I don’t even want to think about it,” he added. “I’m just happy I’m in and that’s what I’m going to cherish.”
What did he learn all these years?
“Be patient and wait to the last out,” Rice said. “I guess everything was just timing, because my numbers have not changed over the last 14 years.”
Andre Dawson fell 44 votes short with 67 percent. He was followed by Bert Blyleven (62.7 percent), Lee Smith (44.5), Jack Morris (44.0), Tommy John (31.7) and Tim Raines (22.6). John appeared on the ballot for the final time.
Mark McGwire, stigmatized by accusations he used performance-enhancing drugs, received 118 votes (21.9 percent) in his third year of eligibility, down from the 128 votes he got in each of his first two tries.
Henderson, who played with McGwire in Oakland, said the slugger was one of the best people he’s ever been around.
“He played the game the right way to me,” Henderson said. “I feel he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”
Henderson, the 1990 AL MVP, was a 10-time All-Star who swiped 1,406 bases, one shy of 50 percent more than Lou Brock, who is in second place with 938. Henderson batted .279 with 297 homers, 1,115 RBIs, 2,190 walks and 2,295 runs. He owns the modern-day season record with 130 steals in 1982, and the career mark with 81 leadoff homers. He played 25 seasons for Oakland, the Yankees, Toronto, San Diego, Anaheim, the Mets, Seattle, Boston and the Dodgers.
Henderson was with his family when he got the call Monday and pointed out that they have been with him through “all the glory and the headaches.”
“They enjoyed it probably as much as I enjoyed it, probably even more,” he said.
Rice, the 1978 AL MVP, was an eight-time All-Star who hit 382 home runs in 16 seasons with the Boston Red Sox from 1974-89. He had a .298 career batting average and 1,451 RBIs, and from 1977-79 averaged .320 with 41 homers and 128 RBIs.
He becomes the fourth Hall of Famer to have spent his entire career with the Red Sox, joining fellow left fielders Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, along with second baseman Bobby Doerr.
“That’s, I think, one of the biggest accomplishments,” Rice said.
AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.
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