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BASEBALL

Baseball greats applaud Hall of Fame decision

Prevailing emotion after Cooperstown vote was that the greatest honour in the game would be cheapened if the 'steroids era' stars were admitted

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 3:30am
 

Keep the cheats out of our club was the prevailing sentiment from US baseball Hall of Famers who were happy to see Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa excluded from the Cooperstown fraternity.

"I'm kind of glad that nobody got in this year," former Detroit Tigers outfielder Al Kaline said. "I feel honoured to be in the Hall of Fame. And I would've felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were."

Goose Gossage, a former relief pitcher with nine teams, went even further. "I think the steroids guys that are under suspicion got too many votes," he said. "I don't know why they're making this such a question and why there's so much debate. To me, they cheated. Are we going to reward these guys?"

Not this year, as baseball writers pitched a Hall of Fame shutout for 2013, failing to elect anyone for only the second time in 42 years. Among those rejected were a trio of steroid-tainted stars in Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, all eligible for the first time.

Bonds received just 36.2 per cent of the vote and Clemens 37.6 in results announced by the Hall and the Baseball Writers' Association of America, both well short of the 75 per cent needed for election - yet still too close for Gossage's taste. Sosa, eighth on the career home-run list, got 12.5 per cent.

"Wow! Baseball writers make a statement," Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley wrote on Twitter. "Feels right."

The results keep the sport's career home-run leader (Bonds) and most decorated pitcher (Clemens) out of Cooperstown - at least for now.

Bonds, Clemens and Sosa have up to 14 more years on the writers' ballot to gain baseball's highest honour.

"If they let these guys in ever - at any point - it's a big black eye for the Hall and for baseball," Gossage said. "It's like telling our kids you can cheat, you can do whatever you want, and it's not going to matter."

Bonds, baseball's only seven-time MVP, hit 762 home runs - including a record 73 in 2001. He has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice for giving an evasive answer in 2003 to a grand jury investigating drug use.

Clemens, the game's lone seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is third in career strikeouts (4,672) and ninth in wins (354).

He was acquitted of perjury charges stemming from congressional testimony during which he denied using drugs to boost his performances.

"If you don't think Roger Clemens cheated, you're burying your head in the sand," Gossage said.

Sosa, who finished with 609 home runs, was among those who tested positive in MLB's 2003 anonymous survey, The New York Times reported in 2009. He told a congressional committee in 2005 that he never took illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

"What really gets me is seeing how some of these players associated with drugs have jumped over many of the greats in our game," Kaline said.

"Numbers mean a lot in baseball, maybe more so than in any other sport. And going back to Babe Ruth, and players like Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson and Willie Mays, seeing people jump over them with 600, 700 home runs, I don't like to see that.

"I don't know how great some of these players up for election would've been without drugs. But to me, it's cheating.

"Numbers are important, but so is integrity and character. Some of these guys might get in some day. But for a year or two, I'm glad they didn't."

Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal doesn't see it that way. He thinks Bonds, Clemens and Sosa belong in Cooperstown.

"I think that they have been unfair to guys who were never found guilty of anything," Marichal said. "Their stats define them as immortals. That's the reality and that cannot be denied."

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