NEW YORK (AP) – Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. will fall short of becoming the first unanimous Hall of Fame picks while Mark McGwire doesn’t figure to be anywhere close to the necessary 75 per cent when 2007 voting is released Tuesday.
Paul Ladewski of the Daily Southtown in suburban Chicago wrote in a column Monday that he submitted a blank ballot because of doubts he had over performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
“At this point, I don’t have nearly enough information to make a value judgment of this magnitude. In particular, that concerns any player in the Steroids Era, which I consider to be the 1993-2004 period, give or a take a season,” Ladewski wrote. “This isn’t to suggest that Gwynn or Ripken or the majority of the other eligible candidates padded his statistics with performance-enhancers and cheated the game, their predecessors and the fans in the process.
“But tell me, except for the players themselves, who can say what they put into their bodies over the years with any degree of certainty?”
Gwynn and Ripken likely will vie for the highest percentages ever in Hall voting. McGwire, also on the ballot for the first time, probably will draw only one in four votes, according to a November survey of about 20 per cent of eligible voters taken by The Associated Press.
McGwire finished with 583 home runs, seventh on the career list, and hit 70 homers in 1998 to set the season record, a mark Barry Bonds broke three years later.
But many voters have said they won’t select McGwire for baseball’s highest honour until he answers questions about steroids use. McGwire’s refusal to address his past during a 2005 congressional hearing damaged his reputation among many of the 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who cast ballots.
“I think I would vote for him,” Gwynn said. “I think I would vote for a lot of those guys who are considered to have done it.”
Tom Seaver holds the record percentage at 98.84, set when he was selected on 425 of 430 ballots in 1992.
Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News was among three writers who submitted blank ballots that year, joined by Bob Hertzel of The Pittsburgh Press and freelance writer Bob Hunter. Retired writers Deane McGowen and Bud Tucker did not vote for Seaver.
“That was the first year that baseball intervened with Pete Rose and kept his name off the ballot,” Hagen said Monday. “I just felt like that was a way of protesting.
“It had nothing to do with Tom Seaver.”
Ty Cobb was left off four ballots, Nolan Ryan wasn’t on six, Hank Aaron on nine, Babe Ruth on 11 and Willie Mays on 23. Joe DiMaggio needed to appear on the ballot three times to get in, receiving 44 per cent and 69 per cent in his first two tries.
“I’ll admit I sort of felt that sooner or later it might come my way,” DiMaggio was quoted as saying by The New York Times after he was elected in 1955. “But after failing to make it during the first two elections for which I was eligible – well, I just wasn’t too sure.”
Past elections also were cited by Ladewski as reasons for submitting a blank ballot.
“What makes Gwynn and Ripken so special that they deserve to be unanimous selections?” he wrote. “Walter Johnson, Cy Young and Honus Wagner didn’t receive such Hall passes.
“Neither did Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. In fact, nobody has in the history of the game. Based on the standards set by the Hall of Fame voters decades ago, is there a neutral observer out there who can honestly say Gwynn and Ripken should be afforded an unprecedented honour?”
Reliever Bruce Sutter made it last year on the 13th try, when Jim Rice fell 53 votes short and Goose Gossage was 54 shy. Rice is on the ballot for the 13th time this year, and he may have a better chance at gaining election next year, when Tim Raines and David Justice are the top first-time eligibles. Rickey Henderson goes on the 2009 ballot.
Gwynn and Ripken are baseball dinosaurs who spent their entire major league careers with one team.
In a 20-year career with the San Diego Padres that began in 1982, Gwynn won eight NL batting titles to tie Honus Wagner’s NL record and was a member of 15 all-star teams. He finished with a .338 career average and won five Gold Gloves as an outfielder.
Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games, breaking Lou Gehrig’s ironman record of 2,130. Ripken spent 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, hitting .276 with 431 home runs. A 19-time all-star, he won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1982, the AL MVP award in 1983 and 1991 and was a two-time Gold Glove shortstop.
Jose Canseco also is on the ballot for the first time. The former Toronto Blue Jay said he used steroids along with McGwire when they were teammates. Two-time Cy Young award winner Bret Saberhagen, former NL MVP Ken Caminiti and Harold Baines also are on the ballot for the first time.
A player remains on the ballot for up to 15 elections as long as he gets five per cent of the votes every year.
Any players elected will be inducted during ceremonies held July 29 at the Hall in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with anyone elected from the Veterans Committee vote, which will be announced Feb. 27.