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Four selected to Baseball Hall of Fame

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It only happens in your wildest dreams. Growing up, when kids play baseball at the park or in the backyard, it always starts out "Game 7 of the World Series, 9th inning..." Being a Major Leaguer is every kid's dream, being a Hall of Famer is something that most of us, including those lucky enough to play the game for a living, can't even begin to fathom. In 150+ years of baseball, and the 76 year existence of the Baseball Hall of Fame only 215 people have been granted baseball immortality. The newest four additions being named today.

The Baseball Writers Association of America have voted in Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz as the Hall of Fame Class of 2015. It's the first time since 1955 that four players have been inducted in the same year, and the first time since 1954-55 that classes of three or more have been inducted in back-to-back years. Biggio received 82.7% of the vote, Smoltz 82.9%, Martinez 91.9% and Johnson 97.9%. Candidates need to receive 75% of the vote to earn enshrinement. Johnson falls 1.5% shy of Tom Seaver's record vote percentage of 98.8%.

Biggio, spent 20 years in the majors, all with the Houston Astros, amassing 3,060 hits, 291 HR, and 414 steals to go with a .281 career batting average. This is Biggio's third year on the ballot. He failed to reach the 75% mark last year be a measly two votes. He joins 24 other members of the 3,000 hit club in Cooperstown. Of the 3,000 hit club only Pete Rose, who is banned from the game for life, Rafael Palmeiro, who was once suspended for steroids and no longer appears on the ballot, and Derek Jeter, who only retired in 2014 and will not be eligible for the Hall for five more years, Biggio was the only member not to be in the Hall of Fame, until now. In a press conference Tuesday, Biggio was humbled and said he was in disbelief when he received the call and even broke into tears.

Randy Johnson earned the name "Big Unit," striking fear into the hearts of batters for 22 years. His 303 career wins is 5th all-time among lefties and is second only to Nolan Ryan in career strikeouts with 4,875. A 5-time Cy Young winner, Johnson took home co-MVP honors in the 2001 World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He spent ten years with the Seattle Mariners (1989-98), eight total with the Diamondbacks (99-04, 07-08), two years with the Expos (88-89), two with the Yankees (05-06), his final season (09) with the Giants, and pitched in 11 games with the 1998 Houston Astros. Only five players have been elected to the Hall of Fame with a higher percentage: Tom Seaver (98.8% - 1992), Nolan Ryan (98.7% - 1999), Cal Ripken, Jr. (98.3% - 2007), Ty Cobb (98.2% - 1936), George Brett (98.1% - 1999).

Pedro Martinez is arguably the most dominant pitcher ever when measured against the hitters of his own era. In 18 years split between Boston (1998-04), Montreal (94-97), New York Mets (05-08), LA Dodgers (92-93), and Philadelphia (09) he notched 219-100 record with a 2.93 ERA and 3,154 strikeouts. He was an 8-time All Star earning 1999 ASG MVP at Fenway when he struck out five hitters in two innings. Not to mention, three Cy Young Awards and a World Series ring with the 2004 Red Sox.

John Smoltz is rarely mentioned in a sentence that doesn't also include Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux who both were enshrined last year. Smoltz however, pitched one year longer than the other two and missed likely enshrinement with his Braves counterparts by a year. However, Smoltz joins Johnson and Martinez as 2015 first ballot Hall of Famers. He's the only pitcher in baseball history to top 200 wins (210) and 150 saves (154). He finished with a 3.33 ERA, 3,084 strikeouts, one Cy Young Award (1996), and eight All-Star appearances.

Not meeting the 75% mark required for enshrinement, most notably, long-time Mets catcher Mike Piazza. Piazza earned 69.9% of the vote, 5.1% shy of election. He's the all-time leading home run hitter among catchers with 396. In total, he hit 427 home runs with 1,335 RBI, and a .308 career batting average. He spent 16 years in the bigs, most memorably eight with the Mets and seven with the Dodgers. Many experts believe he's likely to be elected next year, his 4th year of eligibility.

Other notable names that fell short: Jeff Bagwell (55.7%), Tim Raines (55%), Curt Schilling (39.2%), Roger Clemens (37.5%), and Barry Bonds (36.8%).

Don Mattingly earned 9.1% of the vote in his 15th year on the ballot. By election rules, a player is only eligible for 15 years after first appearing on the ballot, so the fan favorite Yankee will not be a Hall of Famer, unless voted in by the Veterans committee.

Another surprise turning some heads is the voting results for Carlos Delgado. Despite 473 home runs and 1,512 RBI, the slugging first basemen received 3.8% of the vote. The rules state that in order to carry over to the next year's ballot a player needs to receive 5%, so Delgado's Hall of Fame dreams, despite deserving numbers, stop after one ballot.

This is a trend that is likely to continue as year after year for the next several years, more and more players will be joining the Hall of Fame ballot, many as deserving as the next. But with so many names, the field gets watered down and members of the BBWAA have more and more choices to choose from, making 75% that much harder to achieve. Next year, "sure things" Ken Griffey, Jr. and Trevor Hoffman join the ballot and "fringe guys" like Billy Wagner, Mike Hampton, Jim Edmonds, and Jason Kendall also make their first appearance on an already stacked roster.

Election ceremonies in Cooperstown will be held on July 26th.