The doors to Cooperstown swung open on Monday for Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice.Henderson was the all-time leader with 1,406 steals and 2,295 runs scored. Widely considered to be the greatest leadoff hitter ever, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first time on the ballot with 94.8 percent of the votes cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "I feel great about it," said the 50-year-old Henderson during a conference call on Monday. "I love the game and I wanted to continue playing. It came to a time that I had to stop. It's been five years and they chose me to go into the Hall of Fame. So I couldn't be any more thrilled or pleased." Rice, a career-long member of the Red Sox, was in his final year of eligibility. He received seven votes over the 75 percent threshold to garner 76.4 percent, earning 412 votes on the 539 completed ballots cast. Two ballots were sent in blank. This year, 405 votes were needed. Last year, Rice fell 16 votes short. Right fielder Andre Dawson and pitcher Burt Blyleven, both outside shots for election, didn't make it again. Asked what he learned after the long wait, Rice said: "Be patient and wait until the last out." But Rice, now 55, added that he certainly wasn't bitter. "If you look at some of the people in the Hall of Fame, my numbers are compatible," he said. "Why it took so long, I don't know. The only thing I can say is that I'm glad it's over with. I'm not going to bad mouth any writers or what have you. I'm just looking forward to today and to things to come." Henderson and Rice will be inducted on July 26 in Cooperstown along with the late former Yankees and Indians second baseman Joe Gordon, who was elected by a Veterans Committee in December. Tony Kubek won the Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to baseball broadcasting, and Nick Peters was the winner of the J.G. Spink Award given by the Baseball Writers' Association of America for his career as a baseball writer. Both men will also accept their awards that day on the stage behind the Clark Sports Center.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.