And he took the opportunity to talk about baseball’s dark past _ the Steroids Era.
All-Star sluggers Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire and Juan Gonzalez didn’t come close in Wednesday’s election. No telling if they ever will, either, after Hall voters sent a clear message: The drug cloud isn’t going to cover Cooperstown.
Blyleven was chosen on 79.7 percent _ it takes 75 percent approval by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to reach the shrine. The great curveballer won 287 games, threw 60 shutouts and ranks fifth with 3,701 strikeouts. He was down to his next-to-last try on the ballot.
“It’s been 14 years of praying and waiting,” Blyleven said in a conference call. “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 Toronto Blue Jays win titles in 1992-93.
“Guys cheated,” Blyleven said. “They cheated themselves and their teammates. The game of baseball is to be played clean. I think we went through a Steroid Era and I think it’s up to the writers to decide when and who should go in through that era.”
A lot of them have already decided.
“I will not vote for any player connected with steroid use, because I believe cheaters shouldn’t be rewarded with the sport’s highest honor,” Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle said in an e-mail.
“We are asked to consider character when casting Hall of Fame votes and I don’t believe those who used performance-enhancing substances meet that standard,” she said. “They cheated to get ahead, plain and simple, creating an imbalance in the game and a mess for the voters. They can enjoy the big contracts they earned as a result, but they won’t get my vote.”
Bagwell got 41.7 percent in his first year on the ballot. His career stats are among the best for first basemen since World War II _ .297 batting average, .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage. He hit 449 home runs, topped 1,500 RBIs and runs and ran the bases hard. He was Rookie of the Year, NL MVP and a Gold Glove winner.
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 on a conference call. “People are going to have suspicion in the era I played in.”