By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
The wait is over for Rock.
Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was elected into the National Baseball of Fame in Cooperstown Wednesday on his 10th try along with Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriquez.
Raines’ teammates like Warren Cromartie and Andre Dawson will attend induction weekend July 28-31 in Cooperstown, NY.
“The first time I saw Tim he looked like a football player with his build,’’ Cromartie recalled in an interview with this writer. “When I saw him run, I thought we had finally found our leadoff man. I was also happy he was from Florida. He was a great teammate, a joker in the clubhouse.
“Five years ago, Tim and I were at the Hall of Fame watching Andre making his speech. I said to Tim, ‘You know, in a few years, it will be your turn up there making a speech.’‘’
Cromartie was right.
Raines, 57, was named on 86% of the ballots from the estimated 442 eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Falling short was another Expos’ great, Vladimir Guerrero, who had 71.7% in his first year of eligibility.
In his 15th and last time on the ballot, former closer Lee Smith was unsuccessful.
The 478-save man recorded his last save with the Expos in 1997 and should be given much more consideration by the voters because in his day, he routinely came into many games in the eighth inning to record up to six outs, whereas today, closers are in the game to secure three outs.
“We’ll be at the Hall of Fame watching Tim make his speech. I’m very proud to have played with three Expos hall of famers,’’ Cromartie said.
The late Gary Carter was the first player to go into Cooperstown with an Expos’ logo on his plague back in 2003, while Dawson joined the Cooperstown ranks in 2010.
“It’s great to see three of my teammates in the hall of fame,’’ Wallace Johnson said in an interview.
Jerry White, another one of Raines’ mates, likes to think he had the wheels when he played but was he quicker than Raines?
“We were neck and neck even though Tim said he nicked me at the finish line one day in New Orleans in the minors as we were warming up for a game,’’ White said, with a twinkle in his eye.
It was speed to burn that propelled Raines into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. He stole 808 bases including 71 in the strike-shortened 1981 season and 90 in 1983. He batted .294, scored 1,571 runs, collected 2,605 hits, 430 doubles, 113 triples, 1,330 bases on balls and 76 sacrifice flys. He collected two World Series rings with the Yankees in 1996 and 1998.
Raines was taken in the fifth round and 106th overall in the 1977 free-agent draft out of Seminole high school in Florida near his hometown of Sanford. He made his Expos’ debut with the Expos on Sept. 11, 1979 pinch running for Gary Carter in and 8-6 win over the Chicago Cubs at Olympics Stadium. And he played his 2,502nd and final game with the Florida Marlins Sept. 29, 2002 a 4-3 win against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“When we drafted him, he was a right-handed hitter but over the next winter, he learned to become a switch hitter and he ended up being aa better as a left-handed hitter,’’ said Canadian Bill MacKenzie of Brockville, Ont., who was one of the first Expos’ scouts to see Raines play in the mid-1970s at a game in Daytona Beach.
Raines played for the Expos through the 1990 season and was traded the following December to the Chicago White Sox. He later played for the New York Yankees, Oakland A’s, Montreal again, Baltimore Orioles and the Marlins.
Raines had 88.6% of the known public votes on Wednesday, according to Ryan Thibodaux of Oakland, who has been tracking writers’ published ballots. Only 56.6% of the voters had made their choices public. A year ago Raines had more than the required 75% of the known votes only to fall short when all the ballots were released with 69.8%.
Raines was also voted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. He played the equivalent of 10 1/4 seasons with the Expos.
“You knew he was going to be a good player,’’ teammate Larry Parrish said. “He definitely had the ability to swing the bat and he could run, which is another great tool to have.’’
Under the hashtag #itsmy2cents, celebrated talk-show host and baseball fanatic Larry King tweeted recently, “@timraines30 should walk into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.’’
Raines finally will come July.