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Mike Berardino / St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published January 08 2014

Jack Morris misses Hall of Fame in final ballot appearance

ST. PAUL – For the 15th and final time, Jack Morris has fallen short of baseball immortality.

Morris, the St. Paul native and 1991 Minnesota Twins World Series hero, received 61.5 percent of this year’s vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. That was more than 6 percent lower than last year and left the durable right-hander well shy of the 75 percent needed for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Three players were elected in voting announced Wednesday afternoon: former Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and former Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas.

“Very, very disappointed,” former Twins manager Tom Kelly said. “I don’t know what else to say. As we’ve said over the years, you can’t say enough about Jack and what he’s done for the game of baseball. He won so many games. He was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. I just have a hard time accepting it.”

Morris, 58, joins former Brooklyn Dodgers great Gil Hodges as the only players no longer on the ballot to cross the 50 percent voting threshold without eventually being honored.

Winner of 254 games in his 18 major league seasons, Morris was attempting to become the third inductee to gain the honor on his 15th and final attempt.

Jim Rice (2009) and Red Ruffing (1967) remain the only final-ballot inductees. Morris’ career 3.90 earned-run average would have supplanted Ruffing’s 3.80 as the highest for any pitcher enshrined.

Morris, the former Highland Park High School standout, fell 42 votes short a year ago, when he garnered 67.7 percent of the BBWAA vote. Only Biggio, the former Houston Astros star, received a higher percentage (68.2) as the writers failed to send anyone to Cooperstown for the first time since 1996.

Kelly, who managed Morris in 1991 and managed against him for almost a decade, said the honor was “well deserved” for this year’s class, but he was hoping for at least one more member.

“It’s a tough wall to break through, and I don’t really understand sometimes what you have to do to get through that wall,” Kelly said. “I know he’s a Hall of Famer in my book and I know in a lot of other people’s. When I think of him, I think of Hall of Fame pitchers.”

Morris spent just one season pitching for his hometown team, but it was unforgettable. He went 18-12 with a 3.43 ERA and went the distance in a 10-inning, 1-0 victory over the Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

Morris, who was working on three days’ rest in his seven-hit shutout in Game 7, went 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts in the ’91 World Series before opting out of his contact to sign with Toronto during the offseason.

Despite Wednesday’s disappointment, Morris still could gain admission via the expansion-era committee, which covers 1973 to the present. However, that body – which includes Twins special assistants Rod Carew and Paul Molitor, former Twins general manager Andy MacPhail and Blue Jays President/CEO Paul Beeston – won’t convene again for another three years after giving the nod to a trio of former managers last month: Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.