SAN DIEGO – As a sophomore at Jefferson High School in Tampa, Fred McGriff was cut from the baseball team. Undeterred, he earned a spot on the squad the next year after a growth spurt, later became a ninth-round pick of the New York Yankees in the 1981 draft, blossomed after a 1982 trade to the Toronto Blue Jays and eventually hit 493 home runs during a career in which his teams could count on him for 30 homers and 100 RBIs every summer.
His consistency, his nearly two decades of quiet, reliable professionalism, was rewarded Sunday when the 16-member Contemporary Era Players voting committee unanimously elected McGriff to the Hall of Fame.
The 59-year-old, who topped out at 39.8 per cent during his 10 years on the writers’ ballot, hit 125 of his home runs during his five seasons with the Blue Jays before he was part of the most pivotal trade in franchise history, sent to the San Diego Padres with Tony Fernandez for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, another Hall of Famer, at the 1990 winter meetings.
When announced, the trade was stunning enough to draw gasps.
McGriff spent three seasons with the Padres before he was sent to Atlanta, where he batted .293/.369/.516 with 130 homers in five seasons, winning the World Series in 1995. He also played in his native Tampa for the Rays, along with stints with the Dodgers and Cubs.
But his roots are in Toronto, where Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick cleverly plucked him from the Yankees in a five-player deal that sent reliever Dale Murray to New York. He rose through the ranks, began his career in an awkward job split with Willie Upshaw and fellow first baseman/DH Cecil Fielder and eventually took over the job full-time in 1988.