No players were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year in a polarizing vote that reopened the wounds of the steroid era.
Home run king Barry Bonds, owner of baseball’s most cherished record, was resoundingly rejected. So was pitcher Roger Clemens, who risked prison time by challenging allegations that he used steroids and successfully defended himself against perjury charges.
Craig Biggio came closest to election, getting 68.2% of the vote and falling 39 votes short. With 569 members of the Baseball Writers’ Assn. of America returning ballots, 427 votes were required to meet the 75% standard for election.
This is only the eighth time since 1936 that no player has been elected by the baseball writers.
Former Detroit Tigers ace Jack Morris was second in the balloting with 67.7%. Jeff Bagwell got 59.6%, followed by Mike Piazza at 57.8% and Tim Raines at 52.2%.
For the first time since 1960, the Hall of Fame -- located in Cooperstown, N.Y. -- will host a ceremony with no living inductees. The July 28 ceremony will honor the three inductees selected by a committee on baseball’s pre-integration era, but all of those inductees have been dead for at least 74 years.
Bonds, who holds the career and single-season home-run records, is the only seven-time most valuable player. Clemens is the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner.
Yet their links to alleged steroid use turned each player from a first-ballot lock into an also-ran, with voters sharply divided among those who deny induction to any player with ties to performance-enhancing drugs, those who prefer to wait and see what further information might emerge about those players, and those who vote for the most dominant players whatever their era.
Clemens was named on 37.6% of the ballots; Bonds on 36.2%. Sammy Sosa received only 12.5%.
Players remain on the ballot for 15 years, provided they receive at least 5% of the vote.
Dale Murphy, a two-time National League MVP, got 18.6% in his 15th and final year on the ballot. Morris will be on the ballot for the final time next year.
Mark McGwire, who had gotten no more than 23.7% in six previous appearances on the ballot, got 16.9% this time. McGwire is about to start his first season as hitting coach for the Dodgers.
McGwire and Sosa were credited with reviving the sport in 1998 when the two players staged a fabled battle for the single-season home-run record. McGwire won with 70, and Sosa finished with 66.
In 2001, Bonds hit 73 home runs, a record that stands.
McGwire has since admitted to steroid use. Sosa has not, although the New York Times reported he failed a steroid test in 2003, the year before baseball started identifying and penalizing offenders.
Bonds leads the all-time home-run list at 762, with Sosa eighth at 609 and McGwire 10th at 583. The trio are the only men to hit more than 62 home runs in a season – Bonds did it once, McGwire twice and Sosa three times.