NEW YORK Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg were caught off guard. One thought the telephone call was a hoax. The other didn't expect to learn his fate until later in the day.
Their good news: They made it into the Hall of Fame.
The hot-hitting third baseman was overwhelmingly elected his first year of eligibility Tuesday, and the slick-fielding second baseman made it on his third try with just six votes to spare.
A five-time American League batting champion for the Boston Red Sox, Boggs was selected by 474 of the record 516 voters who are 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His percentage, 91.86, was the 19th-highest in Hall history, and in total votes he trailed only Nolan Ryan (491) and George Brett (488).
''I wouldn't classify it as the end of the world had I not got in today,'' said Boggs, the 41st player elected on his first chance. ''But it would have been a disappointment because of the numbers that I put up.''
Sandberg, the 1984 National League MVP for the Chicago Cubs, was picked by 393 voters. He appeared on 76.2 percent of ballots, just above the 75 percent cutoff (387). Sandberg received 49.2 percent in 2003 and 61.1 percent last year, when he fell 71 votes short.
''There's been some tremendous, tremendous players that waited longer than I had to wait to get into the Hall of Fame,'' Sandberg said. ''And so, I don't think that's it's ever too late, and I don't think it diminishes the honor at all. You're either in the Hall of Fame or you're not.''
Boggs' voice choked with emotion when he thought about signing his first autograph as a Hall of Famer, which will go to his 79-year-old father, Winfield.
''That will be the special one. I'm just going to sign a picture to him and say, 'I love you dad.' We made it. HOF '05,'' Boggs said. ''He coached me in Little League and sort of nurtured me along, was there every phone call in the minor leagues, there every step of the way.''
Even though he was awaiting word, Boggs was surprised when the telephone rang and he was congratulated by Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA.
''I thought it was one of my friends pulling a joke on me,'' said Boggs, who assumed Hall chair Jane Forbes Clark would place the call. ''I had the visions of 74 percent running through my head and getting the call that I didn't make it.''
He wasn't convinced until he heard a familiar voice tell him, that of Hall vice president Jeff Idelson.
''My mind started doing a Rolodex of Little League days and high schools days,'' Boggs said.
Sandberg, surprised by the early notification, called it ''one of the more incredible phones calls I ever received.''
''It caught me off-guard, and total elation set in shortly after that,'' he said.
Sandberg acknowledged being unsure whether he had Hall of Fame credentials.
''Today they've erased all doubts,'' he said.
Reliever Bruce Sutter, appearing on the ballot for the 12th time, received 344 votes (66.7 percent), up from 301 last year but 43 shy of this year's threshold. He was followed by Jim Rice (307), Rich Gossage (285) and Andre Dawson (270).
''I'm not going to say I'm disappointed,'' Dawson said.
Willie McGee, also on the ballot for the first time, received 26 votes, exactly at the 5 percent cutoff to avoid being dropped in future years. Darryl Strawberry got six votes in his first bid.
Pete Rose, ineligible because of his lifetime ban from baseball, received nine write-in votes, six fewer than last year and his lowest total. Rose, who admitted last year that he bet on the Cincinnati Reds while managing them in the late 1980s, has been written in on 239 of 6,687 ballots (3.6 percent) over 14 years.
He must be reinstated by late November to appear on the ballot in 2006, the final year he would be eligible.
Boggs, a 12-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner during an 18-year career with Boston, the Yankees and Tampa Bay, finished with 3,010 hits and helped New York win the 1996 World Series.
Sandberg, a 10-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner, played from 1981-97, spending his entire career with the Cubs, except for six at-bats with Philadelphia at the start. Sandberg, who came back in 1996 after a year off, has the highest fielding percentage among second basemen at .989 and his 277 homers were the most by a second baseman at the time of his retirement.
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