Tigers great Jack Morris was in his final year of being eligible for the Hall of Fame via the writers' voting process. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Detroit — In the end, it was more than disappointing. It was kind of cruel.
Poised with a 67.7 voting percentage from last year to make a big push toward the 75 percent required for entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame, Jack Morris didn’t just fall short Wednesday in final year of eligibility
The Tigers’ former ace slid backward.
Instead of making it, or even almost making it, his bid missed the plate like an overthrown slider.
“That’s really disappointing,” said Morris’ longtime Tigers teammate Alan Trammell, who also dipped in the voting. “But mark my words, Jack Morris will be in the Hall of Fame someday.
“I have absolutely no doubt about that.”
But it won’t happen through the vote of the Baseball Writers Association.
In a stunning turn of events, Morris went from 67.7 percent to 61.5 percent in results announced Wednesday. It was a push, all right — a push back.
So as three deserving first-timers made it — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas — Morris was left further from the front door of the Hall than he’d been the last two years.
What the heck happened?
In a candidate’s 15th year, if he’s close, there’s supposed to be an emotional wave carrying him up and over the finish line
Pitcher Bert Blyleven, just three years ago, rode such a wave in his 14th year after a percentage as low as 14.1 percent earlier in his candidacy.
But it doesn’t always work that way.
Consider the case of another fine Tigers pitcher, Jim Bunning.
Bunning, who went on to become a U.S. Senator from Kentucky after his baseball days, spent the first nine years (1955-63) of his 17-year baseball career as a Tiger.
He was eventually traded to Philadelphia, where he pitched a perfect game to go with a no-hitter he threw as a Tiger.
He had an outstanding career. But when it came to the Hall of Fame voting, he experienced an even bigger disappointment than Morris.
In his 12th year of being eligible, Bunning finished with 74.2 percent of the vote — just four votes shy of being elected.
That was in 1988.
In 1989, it was thought Bunning would easily get the needed votes, but like Morris just experienced, three excellent first-time candidates were added to the ballot: Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski and Gaylord Perry.
Bench and Yaz made it on the first ballot. Perry made it on his third try, but still received more votes than Bunning in 1989.
Instead of getting the four votes he needed, Bunning slipped from 74.2 to 63.3.
The following year he dropped to 57.9 percent. After being just four votes away in his 12th year, he went the entire 15-year process without making it.
Bunning eventually was voted in by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
When told of Bunning’s ordeal, Trammell said, “I’ve never been close. I’m usually playing golf on the day the results are announced.
“But it has to be agonizing for those who are on the brink. I didn’t know that about Bunning, but I think the same thing will apply to Jack.
“As I said, I’m confident he’ll get in some way or another.”
As for his own candidacy, which took a hit when his percentage dropped to 20.8 Wednesday, lower than in any of the last four years, Trammell said, “I never really spend much time examining how the results go up and down.
“But I think it’s pretty clear now (after 13 years of eligibility) that I’m not going to be voted in.”
Morris didn’t answer calls Wednesday but indicated last week he would be “at peace” however the voting turned out.
“Long ago, I came to grips with the fact that I don’t control any of it,” he said. “My record is what it is.”
Either way, the 58-year-old Morris was right when he said. “It’s a long journey that’s coming to an end.”
His candidacy was a difficult road the entire way.
The first time on the ballot, in 2000, he received 22.2 percent of the vote. It went down the next year to 19.6 percent.
It was the first of three times his percentage dropped from one year to the next.
From his seventh to eighth year of eligibility (2006-2007), Morris dropped from 41.2 percent to 37.1.
That’s when his candidacy looked the bleakest.
But from there, his vote total climbed steadily, the biggest jump coming in 2012 when he was named on 66.7 percent of the ballots.
At that point, it looked like Morris might make it after all. But when he climbed just 1 percent last year, from 66.7 to 67.7 percent, it was a setback.
His credentials never changed, of course.
Always known a tough competitor and a big-game pitcher, Morris won the most games (162) of any major-league pitcher in 1980’s.
He was a five-time All-Star who twice led the American League in wins and still holds the major-league for most consecutive Opening Day starts (14 from 1980-93)
He also led the Tigers in victories 11 times.
“I’ve always thought of him as a great pitcher,” said Trammell.
The signature moment of Morris’ career, however, probably occurred with the Minnesota Twins when he threw a 10-inning shutout of the Atlanta Braves in the seventh game of the 1991 World Series — a game the Twins won, 1-0.
It was the performance of a lifetime, but still not enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.
Not yet, anyway.
2014 Hall of Fame voting
571 votes cast, 429 needed
Greg Maddux 555 (97.2 percent)
Tom Glavine 525 (91.9)
Frank Thomas 478 (83.7)
Craig Biggio 427 (74.8)
Mike Piazza 355 (62.2)
Jack Morris 351 (61.5)
Jeff Bagwell 310 (54.3)
Tim Raines 263 (46.1)
Roger Clemens 202 (35.4)
Barry Bonds 198 (34.7)
Lee Smith 171 (29.9)
Curt Schilling 167 (29.2)
Edgar Martinez 144 (25.2)
Alan Trammell 119 (20.8)
Mike Mussina 116 (20.3)
Jeff Kent 87 (15.2)
Fred McGriff 67 (11.7)
Mark McGwire 63 (11.0)
Larry Walker 58 (10.2)
Don Mattingly 47 (8.2)
Sammy Sosa 41 (7.2).
Players on ballot receiving fewer than 28 votes (less than 5 percent), meaning they are no longer eligible for election by the BBWAA.
Rafael Palmeiro 25 (4.4)
Moises Alou 6 (1.1)
Hideo Nomo 6 (1.1)
Luis Gonzalez 5 (0.9)
Eric Gagne 2 (0.4)
J.T. Snow 2 (0.4)
Armando Benitez 1 (0.2)
Jacque Jones 1 (0.2)
Kenny Rogers 1 (0.2)
Sean Casey 0
Ray Durham 0
Todd Jones 0
Paul Lo Duca 0
Richie Sexson 0
Mike Timlin 0