NEW YORK – Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar got up from their seats on the dais, smiled and slipped on the cream-colored Hall of Fame jerseys they had been waiting to wear for years.
No such honor for Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell and Juan Gonzalez, a quartet of stars with superior statistics still on the outside looking in, now and perhaps for many years.
If it takes decades for sluggers from the Steroids Era to be evaluated in context with their predecessors, so be it says Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark.
“It will be interesting to see how it unfolds and what the history of baseball does to that question,” Clark said during an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday after Blyleven and Alomar were introduced as the latest electees to Cooperstown.
The preliminary judgment of the voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has been to lock the Hall’s doors to those accused or suspected of steroids use.
McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, got 19.8 percent of the votes on his fifth try on the ballot and well short of the necessary 75 percent. He fell from 23.7 percent last January, a vote held before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.
Palmeiro got just 11 percent support in his first appearance on the ballot, even though he is among just four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray. But he received a 10-day suspension for a positive test, claiming it was because of a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.
Gonzalez, a two-time A.L. MVP implicated by Jose Canseco in steroids use, received 30 votes, just above the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot next year. Bagwell, never accused of steroids use but a star in the era when power totals surged, got 41.7 percent support in his first appearance despite 449 homers, and N.L. MVP and Rookie of the Year awards.
“I think the writers are doing a very good job,” Clark said. “They have done a good job for us for 75 years now, and they continue to. And the history of baseball, the story of baseball, is what it’s going to be.”
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two stars under indictment in steroids-related cases, seem likely to meet similar fates when they appear on the ballot for the first time in 2013. Bonds is baseball’s career home run leader with 762 and the only seven-time MVP; Clemens is the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner.
Blyleven and Alomar told stories from their careers and spoke proudly of the chills they felt Wednesday when they found out they had made it, Blyleven on his 14th try and Alomar on his second. Blyleven proudly wore his 1987 World Series ring, earned with the Minnesota Twins.
Blyleven thanked his teammates and surprisingly “the umpires – even though they’re always lying. For me, they wouldn’t call my curveball.”
Alomar, who posed for pictures with his father, Sandy Sr., will enter the Hall in a Toronto Blue Jays cap after helping the team win its only World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.
Blyleven will wear a Twins cap, honoring the team he’s most tied to, and one he broadcasts for these days.