NEW YORK -- As anticipated, the dynamic duo of eight-time National League batting champion Tony Gwynn and Iron Man Cal Ripken Jr. earned election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, both having attained nearly the highest percentage of votes in history.
On the ballot for the first time, the pair will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on July 29. They will be joined by any candidates elected in the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee election, the results of which will be announced on Feb. 27.
Ripken garnered 98.53 percent of the vote, the third highest in balloting history done by veteran members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, but the most for a position player. Ripken finished behind Tom Seaver (98.83 in 1992) and Nolan Ryan (98.79 in 1999). Gwynn's percentage of 97.6 percent, based on his 532 votes, ranks seventh all-time.
Mark McGwire, also a ballot newcomer, fell well short of election, his name appearing on less than a quarter of the record 545 ballots cast, two of which were left completely blank.
There is good news and bad news for Rich "Goose" Gossage, the reliever who is creeping ever so close to his day in the Cooperstown sun. The bad news is that this time Gossage came up 21 votes shy of the 75 percent needed to ascend to the Hall. The good news is that with a much thinner ballot next year, Gossage seems to be on the cusp.
On the ballot for the eighth year, the Goose came in at 71.2 percent, an increase from his 64.6 percent a year ago. In the history of the BBWAA Hall of Fame voting, no candidate has ever received at least 70 percent in an election without eventually gaining a place in Cooperstown. Most recently, Don Sutton (73.2 percent in 1997) and Gaylord Perry (72.1 percent) gained election the very next year.
McGwire received enough votes to carry him over until next year, but his 23.5 percent (128 votes) was a resounding rebuff from an electorate which suspected that the slugger, who finished his 16-year career with 583 homers, was part of Major League Baseball's so-called steroid era.
Of the 17 first-timers on the ballot, only McGwire and Harold Baines received enough votes to carry them over. Five years after he retires, a player has 15 years of eligibility on the ballot, but he must receive at least 5 percent of the vote each year to maintain that status.
With the addition of Gwynn and Ripken to the Hall, 280 members have now been elected, including 198 former Major League players -- 105 of them by BBWAA, whose voters must have at least 10 years of consecutive membership to receive a ballot.
Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, who like Gossage, received more than 60 percent of the vote last year, both lost a little ground this year.
From the outset, Gwynn and Ripken were dead-bang winners.
Aside from tying Honus Wagner for the most NL batting titles in history, Gwynn was a 15-time NL All-Star who had 3,141 hits, batted .338 and won five Gold Gloves as a right fielder in his 20 Major League seasons, all played with the San Diego Padres. His career-high .394 average during the strike-shortened 1994 season is the highest to lead either league in the past 65 years -- since Ted Williams became the last of the .400 hitters when he batted .406 to lead the American League in 1941.
Ripken played in a record 2,632 consecutive games from May 30, 1982, to Sept. 20, 1998, shattering the mark of 2,130 once held by Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig and captivating the hearts of baseball fans everywhere. Ripken had 3,184 hits -- including 431 home runs -- batted .276, was twice an AL Most Valuable Player (1983 and 1991), was a 19-time AL All-Star, and won two Gold Gloves.