http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/...l/4362090.html

NEW YORK Mark McGwire, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. headline the first-time candidates on the 2007 baseball writers' Hall of Fame ballot released Monday, sure to spark debate on Big Mac's place in history as the steroid era comes under renewed scrutiny.

Jose Canseco, whose book last year led to a congressional hearing on steroid use in baseball, also is on the ballot for the first time. Canseco said he used steroids along with McGwire when they were teammates.

McGwire denied using illegal performance-enhancing substances, but when he appeared before a congressional committee, he evaded questions. "I'm not here to talk about the past," was his repeated response.

McGwire finished his career with 583 home runs, seventh in baseball history while Canseco, a former MVP, is 30th at 462. Dave Kingman, 34th with 442, has the most home runs for a player who has been on the Hall of Fame ballot and was not elected.

Gwynn, an eight-time batting champion with San Diego, and Ripken, a two-time MVP with Baltimore, are considered likely to gain election on the first ballot. Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games, breaking Lou Gehrig's record.

Bret Saberhagen, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and former MVP Ken Caminiti also are among 17 players on the ballot for the first time along with Harold Baines, Dante Bichette, Bobby Bonilla, Scott Brosius, Jay Buhner, Eric Davis, Tony Fernandez, Wally Joyner, Paul O'Neill, Devon White and Bobby Witt.

Jim Rice, who was 53 votes short of election last year, heads the 15 holdovers. Rich Gossage finished one vote behind Rice.

Reporters who have been in the BBWAA for 10 or more consecutive years are eligible to vote, and the totals will be announced Jan. 9.

The complete ballot:

Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Dante Bichette, Bert Blyleven, Bobby Bonilla, Scott Brosius, Jay Buhner, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, Dave Concepcion, Eric Davis, Andre Dawson, Tony Fernandez, Steve Garvey, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Tony Gwynn, Orel Hershiser, Tommy John, Wally Joyner, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Paul O'Neill, Dave Parker, Jim Rice, Cal Ripken Jr., Bret Saberhagen, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Devon White, Bobby Witt.