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Raines: Waiting on the Hall of Fame getting nerve-wracking

Tim Raines throws out a ceremonial first pitch before the Chicago White Sox take on the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field Friday night. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Tim Raines doesn’t consider himself a nervous person.

But with only one year remaining before his name is taken off the Hall of Fame ballot, Raines – who finished 23 votes shy of being inducted along with Ken Griffey, Jr., this year – admitted on Friday he is getting a big jittery.

“Being so close, it’s a little nerve-wracking,” said Raines, who appeared at U.S. Cellular Field Friday along with former White Sox pitcher Jack McDowell, outfielder Lance Johnson and pitcher Roberto Hernandez as part of a homecoming weekend event commemorating the park’s 25th anniversary. “I just can’t wait until it’s over.”

Raines spent five years with the Sox after 12 seasons in Montreal before playing with the Yankees, A’s, Expos, Orioles and Marlins. Raines retired in 2002 at age 42 and finished his career with a .294 batting average with 2,605 hits, 170 home runs, 980 RBI and 808 stolen bases.

Raines, who went on to coach first base for the Sox, appeared on 69.8 percent of ballots this year after he was on 55 percent of ballots in 2015. Raines is the only player who put together more than two back-to-back seasons with at least 50 extra-base hits and 70 stolen bases, accomplishing the feat for four straight years between 1983-86. Raines is also the only player in major league history with at least 100 triples, 150 home runs and 600 stolen bases.

Raines said of the years he has been on the ballot, this year was the first he felt like he had a chance of getting in. Each year around the same time, Raines receives a phone call from former Expos outfielder and teammate Andre Dawson, a Hall of Fame inductee Raines considers his best friend in baseball. This year when Dawson called, he asked Raines if he had gotten The Call.

Not The Call, Raines told Dawson, but A Call.

After not making it last year, a Hall of Fame official phoned, informing Raines that he had a good chance of being enshrined in 2017 – his 10th and final year on the ballot.

“Up until that point, I thought about it when people asked about it, but after that, the only thing I wanted to see was how many votes I got,” Raines said. “This year, realizing I was 23 votes away, I think about it a lot more than I ever did in the past.

Raines added: “If I don’t (get in), it’s not the end of the world. … I would love for it to happen.”

Sox manager Robin Ventura said Raines played a critical role with the Sox during his time in Chicago. Between his ability to get on base and then steal bases while hitting in the lead-off spot, Raines played a similar role to another Hall of Fame lead off hitter, Oakland’s Rickey Henderson – someone who gave the Sox instant credibility at the top of their line-up.

Asked if he saw Raines as a Hall of Fame player then, Ventura didn’t hesitate.

“When you break down his numbers with some other people, I think he ranks right up there with anybody,” Ventura said Friday.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_