Gwynn, McGwire, Ripken among 17 first-time eligibles

For release Monday, Nov. 27

Eight-time batting champion Tony Gwynn, four-time home run leader Mark McGwire and two-time Most Valuable Player Cal Ripken, Jr., are among 17 first-year candidates on the 2007 Hall of Fame ballot that will be mailed out later this week to approximately 575 voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

They join 15 holdovers from the 2006 balloting in which Bruce Sutter was elected. Outfielder Jim Rice, the American League MVP in 1978, was 53 votes shy of the total required for election last year. One vote behind Rice was two-time Fireman of the Year relief pitcher Rich "Goose" Gossage. Candidates must be named on 75 percent of ballots cast to gain entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Rice was listed on 64.8 percent and Gossage on 64.6 percent of the record 520 ballots submitted last year. The only other players named on at least half the ballots were former National League MVP Andre Dawson (61.0) and 287-game winner Bert Blyleven (53.3).

Gwynn played his entire major-league career (20 seasons) with the San Diego Padres. The 15-time All-Star had a .338 career batting average, the 20th highest in history, with 3,141 hits (18th), of which 2,378 were singles (9th). Gwynn hit over .300 every season except his rookie year of 1982 when he hit .289. His career-high .394 average in 1994 is the highest in the majors in the 65 years since Ted Williams was the last player to bat over .400 (.406). In addition to winning eight NL batting crowns, Gwynn had five 200-hit seasons, led the league in hits seven times, batted .371 in his two World Series and earned five Gold Gloves for fielding his position in right field to go with his seven Silver Slugger Awards for offense.

McGwire led each league in home runs twice, and another year (1997) led the majors dividing his time between Oakland (34 home runs) and St. Louis (24). The first baseman's career-high 70 homers in 1998 broke Roger Maris' 37-year-old record of 61 for a season but were eclipsed three years later by Barry Bonds' 73. McGwire, who hit a first-year record of 49 home runs during his AL Rookie of the Year season in 1987, finished with 583, the seventh highest total in history.

Ripken holds one of the most prestigious records, playing in 2,632 consecutive games, a streak that included a stretch of 8,243 straight innings from 1982 to 1987. He spent all 21 of his seasons in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles, mostly at shortstop and later at third base. Ripken was a 19-time All-Star, played in a record 16 consecutive All-Star Games, twice the game's MVP and is the all-time All-Star vote leader with more than 36 million votes. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1982 and the MVP the following year when Baltimore won its last World Series. Ripken won a second MVP Award in 1991 by which time he was well on his way to such career numbers as 3,184 hits (14th), 603 doubles (13th), 431 home runs (35th), 1,695 RBI (20th), 3,001 games (8th), 11,551 at-bats (4th) and 127 sacrifice flies (2nd). He was a two-time Gold Glove winner, an eight-time Silver Slugger and batted .338 in 28 postseason games.

Two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen and former MVPs Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco are also on the ballot for the first time, with pitcher Bobby Witt, first baseman Wally Joyner, third baseman Scott Brosius, shortstop Tony Fernandez. third baseman-outfielder Bobby Bonilla, outfielder-designated hitter Harold Baines and outfielders Dante Bichette, Jay Buhner, Eric Davis, Paul O’Neill and Devon White.

Writers with 10 or more consecutive years' experience make up the electorate, which must return ballots by a Dec. 31 postmark. Votes are counted jointly by the BBWAA's Jack O'Connell and Ernst & Young partner Michael Di Lecce. Results will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007, , on the Websites of the Hall of Fame (www.baseballhalloffame.org) and the BBWAA (www.baseballwriters.org).

The 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.