Jim Kaat elected to Hall of Fame with Tony Oliva, Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, Buck O'Neil and Bud Fowler

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Jim Kaat is heading to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jim Kaat is heading to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

After decades of coming close, missing by handfuls of votes, Zeeland native Jim Kaat is a Hall of Famer.

Kaat was one of four players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday night from the Golden Era Committee. He will go in with his former Minnesota teammate Tony Oliva as well as Latino pioneer and Mr. White Sox Minnie Minoso and Brooklyn great Gil Hodges.

The quartet will be inducted in 2022 in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with Early Baseball Era's Buck O'Neil and Bud Fowler.

Kaat, who pitched at Hope College in 1957, earning All-MIAA honors as a freshman before becoming a professional left-handed pitcher, won 283 games in his career and 16 Gold Glove awards as the top fielding pitcher in the league. On the last Golden Era vote, six years ago, Kaat missed by just two votes.

Kaat, who has the Jim Kaat Little League Park named for him in Holland Township, received the needed 12 votes this time.

"It was overwhelming when I got the call. I had the Hall of Fame in my rear-view mirror," Kaat said on the MLB Network after the announcement. "This is truly a gift. I never thought this day would come. The added joy is that I get to share it with my teammate Tony Oliva, who I have known for so long. I have had so much support for the Hall of Fame over the years. I never thought I was the No. 1 pitcher. I wasn't dominant. I was durable and dependable. I am grateful they chose to reward dependablility."

Minnesota Twins pitcher Jim Kaat bears down in the 10th inning in Kansas City, Miss., Sept. 18, 1967, as he pitched the Twins to a 2-0, six-hit shutout over the Kansas City Athletics.
Minnesota Twins pitcher Jim Kaat bears down in the 10th inning in Kansas City, Miss., Sept. 18, 1967, as he pitched the Twins to a 2-0, six-hit shutout over the Kansas City Athletics.

Minoso got 14 of the 16 votes, while Hodges and Oliva also got 12 votes like Kaat.

Kaat started his career with the Washington Senators, spent his best years with the Minnesota Twins, where he pitched in the 1965 World Series. He was the top American League pitcher in 1966, before the Cy Young Award was given in both leagues. He later played for the Phillies, White Sox, Yankees and Cardinals, where he won the 1982 World Series.

Kaat went 283-237 with a 3.45 ERA, pitched 180 complete games, 31 shutouts and struck out 2,461.

His fielding is something that set him a part.

"I always tell people I learned to field my position from the radio. They would say here is the best fielding pitcher in baseball. He is square to the plate when he releases. I took a lot of pride in being an infielder once the ball left my hand," Kaat said.

Kaat has been a longtime broadcaster since his playing career ended.

Now he will enter Cooperstown with his longtime teammate Oliva, who also has been close for decades, missing last time by a single vote. He was a three-time batting champion and led the AL in hits five times. He was a Gold Glove outfielder that was runner-up for MVP twice and batted .304 for his career.

"I was looking for that phone call a long time," Oliva said on the MLB Network. "I had so many people work so hard for me to be elected. They said I should have been elected 40 years ago. To be alive to tell the people means a lot me. I am so happy to see Minnie Minoso go into the Hall of Fame. I see Jim Kaat in the Hall. I played with him for so many years. I am very proud."

Minoso was the first Black Latino star in the major leagues and was a nine-time All-Star. He batted .299 for his career, which began in the Negro Leagues.

Hodges hit 370 home runs mostly for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He won the first three Gold Glove awards at first base, in his final three years, and managed the Miracle Mets in 1969.

Phillies great Dick Allen missed by one vote for the second consecutive Golden Era election.

In the Early Baseball Era committee, O'Neil received 13 votes and Fowler 12 with 12 needed for election. John Donaldson received eight votes.

O'Neil was a batting champion and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. He was then the first Black coach in the majors and also a scout, having signed Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Lou Brock. He continued to be one of the greatest ambassadors to the game and helped start the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

Fowler is regarded as the first Black professional player in the U.S. and played for the legendary Adrian Page Fence Giants in Adrian, Michigan, near the turn of the century, one of the first elite professional Black teams in history.

— Contact Sports Editor Dan D'Addona at Dan.D'Addona@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanDAddona and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Jim Kaat elected to Hall of Fame with Tony Oliva, Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, Buck O'Neil and Bud Fowler

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