ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
We are exactly three months away from baseball's opening day. But there is plenty to talk about today for Major League Baseball fans. Four players were elected to the Hall of Fame, including three dominant pitchers. The four voted in are the most for a single year since 1955. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now to talk about who is going to Cooperstown. And Tom, the winners are...
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: The winners are - well, two pitchers who were considered a lock, Robert. Randy Johnson, the Big Unit, the 6' 10" left-hander, one of the most intimidating pitchers ever - not just his size, but his scary demeanor on the mound - he played from 1988 to 2009, struck out 4,875 career batters. That's second all-time to Nolan Ryan. Pedro Martinez pitched from 1992 to 2009. He had masterful control of course, his 1999 season with the Boston Red Sox considered one of the greatest of all time. John Smoltz, part of the trio of fabulous Atlanta Braves pitchers of the 1990s, he won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award. Halfway through his career, he made the switch from a starting pitcher to a reliever and led the leagues in saves. And then, finally, the fourth, Craig Biggio, second baseman for the Houston Astros - he also played catcher and outfield. Seven-time All-Star, he took more hits by pitches than anyone in modern baseball history.
SIEGEL: A big issue in recent years has been what to do with athletes suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs. The baseball writers have taken a strong stand against voting in certain players. How did that figure today?
GOLDMAN: They're still doing that. Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, two of the greatest players ever but with those strong links to banned performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens got 37.5 percent of the vote. Bonds got 36.8. Those percentages are slight increases. But the voters are still taking what to many of them believe is a moral stance here. And although you have some who are very outspoken about what they called the hypocrisy of baseball writers determining that this guy doped and this guys didn't - some people say you just don't know who was up to what during that time.
SIEGEL: Here's the painful thing to me. We now say goodbye to Don Mattingly. This was his 15th and final year on the ballot. He was the brightest of bright spots in the darkest of dark ages for the New York Yankees, a wonderful first baseman who had some fabulous years. How did he do in the voting today?
GOLDMAN: Unfortunately, I'm not going to make you feel any better, Robert. Only 9.1 percent of the votes - the writers just didn't believe he had enough. Although, as you say, you know, six-time All-Star, nine Gold Gloves, never played in a World Series. That's rare for a New York Yankees great player.
SIEGEL: Well, if there's a hall of fame for playing through lower back pain, Don Mattingly deserves an alcove to himself in that hall.
GOLDMAN: And you're not alone among Yankee fans, Robert, who today are lamenting the fact that Don...
SIEGEL: Or people with back pain. Thank you, Tom.
GOLDMAN: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.