Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox unanimously elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A Baseball Hall of Fame committee on Monday unanimously elected Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox, the three most successful managers of their generation and shepherds of a combined eight World Series champions, while again denying former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and influential union leader Marvin Miller.

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The election of the three by the expansion era committee kicked off what the Hall expects to be a banner year after nobody was inducted in 2013. In addition to Torre, La Russa and Cox, a number of players are considered first-ballot locks – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are the most likely – while Craig Biggio, MikePiazza and Jeff Bagwell could join them in one of the biggest classes ever.

Torre, 73, was far and away the best player of the three future managers, and he won the most World Series, too, leading the New York Yankees' dynasty of the late '90s to four in five seasons. He retired in 2010 after 29 seasons managing the Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers, with a 2,326-1,997 record.

"What makes it even better is to go in with these two guys," Torre said. "We waged a lot of battles against each other, and it's a great, great feeling."

La Russa, 69, won three World Series over a 33-year career with the White Sox, A's and Cardinals. A premiere strategist, he popularized the specialized bullpens that today pervade baseball, and his 5,097 games managed (2,728-2,365) rank second all-time behind Connie Mack's 7,775.

"Never, ever was the Hall of Fame part of that dream," La Russa said. "Never. It's a stunner."

Cox, 72, joined La Russa as one of four managers to win more than 2,500 games, as he went 2,504-2,001 during a 29-year career with the Braves and Blue Jays. His lone World Series victory came in 1995.

"They say when you're voted in to the Hall of Fame, your life changes," Cox said. "I've got goosebumps."

Steinbrenner, the Yankees' voluble late owner whose topsy-turvy career included remarkable amounts of success countered by controversy, was among the remainder of the candidates who did not receive more than six votes from a 16-person panel made up mostly of former players. Inductees needed 12 votes.

Miller, who died at 95 in November 2012, turned the MLB Players Association from a slipshod unit into the most powerful union in sports and is among the most important figures in baseball history.