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Alomar and Blyleven elected to Hall

By Ben Walker
Associated Press / January 6, 2011

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NEW YORK — After a narrow miss last year, Bert Blyleven wasn’t shy in saying voters finally got it right by sending him into the Hall of Fame, along with Roberto Alomar.

But prolific sluggers Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, and Juan Gonzalez didn’t come close in yesterday’s announcement of the election election, as Hall voters sent a clear message: The drug cloud isn’t going to cover Cooperstown.

Blyleven, making it on his 14th try, was chosen on 79.7 percent of a record 581 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America; it takes 75 percent to reach the shrine.

The curveballer won 287 games, threw 60 shutouts, and ranks fifth with 3,701 strikeouts. He was down to his next-to-last try.

“It’s been 14 years of praying and waiting,’’ Blyleven said. “And thank the baseball writers of America for, I’m going to say, finally getting it right.’’

Alomar was picked on 90 percent of the ballots. The 12-time All-Star won a record 10 Gold Gloves at second base, hit .300, and helped the Blue Jays win titles in 1992 and ’93.

Palmeiro, McGwire, Bagwell, and Gonzalez fared poorly, with voters reluctant to choose bulky hitters who posted big numbers in the Steroid Era of the 1990s and 2000s.

Bagwell got 41.7 percent in his first year on the ballot, even though his career stats are among the best for first basemen since World War II.

Bagwell never tested positive, there were no public allegations against him, and he was adamant that he never used illegal drugs. Still, many voters and fans aren’t sure yet how to assess the huge numbers put up by the game’s top hitters.

“That stuff’s going to happen in this era,’’ Bagwell said. “People are going to have suspicion in the era I played in.’’

Palmeiro was listed on just 64 ballots (11 percent) in his first try despite lofty career numbers; he, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray are the only players with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.

But Palmeiro failed a drug test and was suspended by Major League Baseball in 2005.

McGwire got 19.8 percent, a drop from 23.7 percent last year. This was his fifth time on the ballot, and first since the former home run champion admitted he took steroids and human growth hormone.

Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP implicated by Jose Canseco in steroid use, received 30 votes, just above the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot.

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