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Todd Helton thought back to when he was a kid being coached by his father, Jerry, a minor league catcher in the 1960s.

“When I would go 1 for 3 – and it’s a bad day when you’re young – he’d say 1 for 3 gets you into the Hall of Fame,” Helton said.

Helton, Adrian Beltre and Joe Mauer were voted into Cooperstown on Tuesday, feeling elation and relief when they were rewarded with baseball’s highest honour.

Beltre was a no-doubt, first-ballot choice after batting .286 with 477 homers, 1,707 RBIs and 3,166 hits for four teams over 21 seasons. The third baseman appeared on 366 of 385 ballots (95.1 per cent) cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Helton made it on the sixth try, voters taking time to warm to statistics inflated by the thin mile-high air of Denver’s Coors Field over 17 seasons, all with the Colorado Rockies. The first baseman got 307 votes for 79.7 per cent after falling 11 short last year when Scott Rolen was elected. Helton started at 16.5 per cent support in 2019.

“I was the most superstitious guy in the world,” Helton said. “I hadn’t been superstitious in 10 years until today.”

Mauer (293, 76.1, four more than the 75 per cent needed, after batting .306 with 143 homers and 906 RBIs in 15 years, all with his hometown Minnesota Twins.

“Goes by way too fast,” Mauer said.

Beltre, Mauer and Helton will be inducted on July 21 along with Jim Leyland, elected last month by the contemporary era committee for managers, executives and umpires. There are 273 players among 346 people in the Hall, and just 60 of those players were elected on the first try.

Beltre becomes the fifth Dominican-born Hall of Famer after Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero and David Ortiz.

“I’m proud of the fact that I was able to play for a long time and be able to compete at the highest level,” Beltre said. “I’m honoured to be in the Hall of Fame. It’s something that I never even dreamed of.”

Reliever Billy Wagner was five votes short at 284 (73.8 per cent) but up from 68.1 per cent last year. He will appear on the ballot for the 10th and final time in 2025, when Ichiro Suzuki and CC Sabathia are newly eligible.

Gary Sheffield got 246 votes for 63.9 per cent in his final appearance on the BBWAA ballot, up from 55 per cent last year and 11.7 per cent in 2015. He is eligible for consideration by the contemporary baseball player committee, which next meets in December 2025.

Beltre, a four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1998-2004), Seattle (2005-09), Boston (2010) and Texas (2011-18). His 2,759 games at third base are second to Brooks Robinson’s 2,870 and his 636 doubles are 11th.

Helton, a five-time All-Star first baseman and the 2000 major league batting champion, hit .345 with 200 homers and 791 RBIs at home and .287 with 142 homers and 547 RBIs on the road.

“Pitchers get hurt – they say you can’t throw in thin air. And then hitters get dinked because they play Colorado,” Helton said. “I’m not embarrassed or anything about my home and road numbers. Going on the road after hitting in Colorado is hard. The ball breaks more and it’s a huge adjustment going through the season.”

Mauer was a six-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and the 2009 AL MVP. An All-Star in six of his first 10 big league seasons and the only catcher to win three batting titles, Mauer moved to first base for his last five years following a concussion on a foul tip off the bat of the New York Mets’ Ike Davis on Aug. 19, 2013, an injury that ended Mauer’s season. Concussion symptoms returned on May 11, 2018, when he had whiplash while diving for a foul ball at Anaheim. He tried to play through it for a week but missed 25 games and retired after the season.

He also had three knee operations.

“I feel effects of some of those things like that,” he said.

Voters included an average of seven names per ballot, up from 5.86 last year, and 24.4 per cent of the voters checked the maximum 10 candidates, an increase from 13.9 per cent. Just 10 eligible voters failed to return ballots.

Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez again lagged, hurt by suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs. Rodriguez received 34.8 per cent and Ramirez 32.5 per cent.

Among other first-time candidates, Chase Utley (28.8 will remain on next year’s ballot.

Jose Bautista, Bartolo Colon, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Victor Martinez, Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes and James Shields all were under 5 per cent and will be dropped.

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