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Hall call for Carter

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Eddie Murray is certainly headed to the Hall of Fame. With more than 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, there’s plenty to put on his plaque.

So, will he have any company this summer in Cooperstown? All-time saves leader Lee Smith and all-around second baseman Ryne Sandberg hope so, and All-Star catcher Gary Carter could be really close when the election results come out at 2 p.m. today.

“I know I’m deserving,” said Carter, who fell just 11 votes shy last year.

Murray is set to become the 38th person picked by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his first year of eligibility. Steady Eddie is the lone switch-hitter in the 500-3,000 club, whose only other members include Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

Murray, Sandberg and Smith are among 17 players on the ballot for the first time. Fernando Valenzuela also is on that list and so is Darryl Kile, the St. Louis pitcher who died of heart disease last season.

Kile was the third player to appear on the ballot early — in the rare cases when an active player dies, the customary five-year waiting period is waived and reduced to six months. Roberto Clemente and Thurman Munson were the others.

Carter, Jim Rice and Jim Kaat are among the 16 carry-over candidates. So are Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage, hoping to someday expand the Hall’s rank of relievers.

It takes 75 percent of the votes to be elected and join the current 254 members.

The reconfigured Veterans Committee, which is considering former manager Whitey Herzog, former players’ union official Marvin Miller and many others, will announce its voting results Feb. 26.

Induction ceremonies will be held July 27 in Cooperstown, the small village in upstate New York.

Murray, currently the Cleveland Indians’ hitting coach, was an eight-time All-Star first baseman. He finished with 504 homers and 3,255 hits in 21 seasons, playing his first 12 years with the Baltimore Orioles. In 1983, he homered twice in the clinching Game 5 of the World Series against Philadelphia.

Murray never led the league in hitting, homers or RBIs in a full season, was never an MVP and never was friendly with the media, the people who do the Hall voting. Still, his sheer numbers — posted mostly before baseball’s offensive outbursts — should make him an automatic.

Sandberg and Smith also put up big numbers. Unfortunately for them, they were stuck for a long time on the Chicago Cubs, and neither of them ever reached the World Series.

Sandberg was a 10-time All-Star for the Cubs and holds the record for most homers ever as a second baseman (277) and highest fielding percentage (.989) at the position.

Smith recorded 478 saves and was a seven-time All-Star in 18 seasons. He pitched in just four playoff games and was 0-2 with one save and an 8.49 ERA in them.

Carter is on the ballot for the sixth time, and has been getting closer each time. He was picked on 72.7 percent of the ballots last year, having gotten almost 65 percent in 2001, nearly 50 percent in 2000 and 34 percent in 1999.

A six-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover, Carter helped the New York Mets win the 1986 championship. Last January, he thought he’d get the call to Cooperstown.

“I think I was more disappointed last year because my wife was busy setting up a party to celebrate,” he said.