First Class: Minnesota’s Mauer elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Gee whiz.

That about sums up, to borrow Joe Mauer's own calm-and-unflappable vocabulary, the bulletin that the Twins' retired superstar received on Tuesday: Mauer has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

"He's what a Hall of Famer is all about," said Bert Blyleven, a Hall of Famer himself who watched most of Mauer's career from the broadcast booth. "He's such a class individual, on the field and off the field. Of course he'd never say it about himself, but he's very deserving."

The voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America agreed, as Mauer cleared the 75% of votes necessary to receive the sport's highest honor by getting 76.1%. He got 293 votes — four votes more than the 289 needed.

"It was unbelievable," Mauer said on the MLB Network of getting the call from the Hall. "I kind of laid low during that time of a possible call and just spent it with family.

"Leading up to today you reflect on all the people who had an impact on your career and who you are as a man. A lot of emotions. It's been a whirlwind, that's for sure."

The St. Paul native, whose career included three AL batting championships, the 2009 American League MVP award and three Gold Gloves, will be inducted on July 21 at the museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., where a plaque bearing his image will be permanently displayed.

Mauer will be joined by power-hitting third baseman Adrián Beltré and former Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. Beltré won five Gold Gloves and hit 477 home runs over a 21-year career with the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox and Rangers. Helton batted .300 a dozen times in his 17-year career.

Beltré was on 95.1% of the ballots and Helton on 79.7%.

Longtime manager Jim Leyland, chosen by a special non-player committee in December, will also be in the Class of 2024.

Mauer, now 40 and retired for 4 ½ years, is only the third catcher ever to be elected on the first ballot, joining Johnny Bench in 1989 and Iván Rodríguez in 2017.

"His career, being [drafted] first overall and accelerating toward the big leagues, it was almost as if it was scripted," said Paul Molitor, a fellow St. Paul baseball legend who served as Mauer's manager for the final four seasons of the catcher-turned-first-baseman's 15-year career, entirely spent with the Twins. "He obviously kept surpassing expectations, high as they were. Three batting titles, the defensive skill he showed as a catcher — the Hall of Fame seemed like his natural destination."

Narrowly missing election were Billy Wagner, a relief pitcher who saved 422 games over 16 seasons with five teams and received 73.8%. Slugging outfielder Gary Sheffield also fell short in his 10th and final year on the ballot, receiving 63.9%.

Mauer is the fourth overall No. 1 draft pick to reach Cooperstown, after Harold Baines, Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones, and the 13th Hall of Famer ever to play for the Twins. Perhaps most remarkably, he is the fourth St. Paul native to reach baseball immortality, having grown up less than 2 miles from the boyhood homes of Molitor, Jack Morris and Dave Winfield.

"It's pretty amazing. You'd never predict that from a northern climate," said Molitor, who like Mauer is a graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall High School. "I attribute some of it to coaching we all experienced, and the opportunities, all the numerous youth programs available to us. You could play every day, in a Babe Ruth league, and a rec league and on a traveling team."

Mauer was such a superior athlete, he also quarterbacked during football season and played point guard for the basketball team, and starred at each. But baseball was his true love, Mauer said, and when the Twins chose him with the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, he pursued that dream.

He arrived in the majors just three years later, and by 2006, he was an All-Star at 23. Mauer became the first catcher ever to win the American League batting title that year, hitting .347 for the AL Central champions. He would win two more over the next three seasons, and in 2009, added a career-high 28 homers to his .365 average en route to his selection as Most Valuable Player.

But injuries took their toll, and a concussion in 2013 forced him to give up catching. He played five more seasons as the Twins' first baseman, before memorably donning his catcher's mask for one more pitch in his final game in 2018.

Mauer's election wasn't a surprise, given that 83.5% of voters who revealed their ballots ahead of Tuesday's announcement had checked his name, according to the website But the fact that he got in without waiting a year or two as so many do, was striking.

Now he knows that he will travel to Cooperstown to hold a news conference in a Hall of Fame jersey and cap at the museum on Thursday.

"I'm all over the place with emotions," Mauer said. "Can't wait to get there and show my kids some of the history of the game."

He'll return to Minnesota in time to attend TwinsFest at Target Field on Saturday and sign autographs for fans. And he'll begin thinking about what to say in his induction speech in July.

Figure on this father of three to mention prominently his own father, Jake Mauer, who died almost exactly one year ago.

"He [had a] huge impact on my career, but also me as a person. I'm just thankful for the time we had and the lessons that he passed along to me that I'm trying to relay to my kids," Mauer said. "I think about him every day. [Today] is another reason to think of all those great memories that we had."