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Hall entry will only get tougher
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01/08/2003  2:19 PM ET 
Hall entry will only get tougher
Vote now for the 2003 All-Star game
Tony Gwynn will be HOF eligible in 2007, along with Cal Ripken and Mark McGwire. (Fred Jewell/AP)
For the former players who didn't make it through the Hall of Fame balloting gauntlet this week, it's not going to get any easier during the next five years.

Among the players who will become eligible to join the Hall are such all-time greats as Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor next year, Wade Boggs in 2005, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire in 2007 and Rickey Henderson -- if he retires and doesn't play again this coming season -- in 2008.

Hall of Fame 2003

Induction Ceremony
Sunday, July 27
Cooperstown, New York

The inductees
Gary Carter | Eddie Murray

Schedule of weekend events
Complete coverage

These are the most likely first-ballot Hall of Famers, according to several writers who are members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America and cast a vote each year. Add such other stars as Joe Carter next year and Orel Hershiser, Will Clark and Albert Belle in 2006. These players are considered to be on the bubble along with Paul O'Neill and Bret Saberhagen, who are part of the monster class of 2007. And that's before taking into consideration the candidacy of Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader who was suspended by baseball in 1989 -- and has since been ineligible for the ballot -- but is seeking reinstatement.

"If you're not at 45 to 50 percent now, you have no shot," said Bob Nightengale, a staff writer for USA Today's Sports Weekly. "I don't think a Dave Parker will ever get in now."

On Tuesday, while Eddie Murray and Gary Carter were voted into the HOF, Parker, in his seventh year on the ballot, got only 10.3 percent of the vote. Ballots were returned from 496 of the eligible BBWAA members and a player's name had to be marked on 372 of them (75 percent) to be elected.

Bruce Sutter received 53.6 percent of the vote in his 10th appearance, and Jim Rice, on the ballot for the ninth time, received 52.2 percent of the vote. They were the only former players aside from the winners among the 33 on the ballot with support from more than half of the voters.

Ryne Sandberg, on the ballot for the first time and considered by many as the best second baseman of his era, received a disappointing 49.2 percent. And relievers Goose Gossage and Lee Smith barely finished above 40 percent.

Final results 2003
 Player Votes   %
 Murray  423  85.3
 Carter  387  78
 Sutter  266  53.6
 Rice  259  52.2
 Dawson  248  50
 Sandberg  244  49.2
 Smith  210  42.3
 Gossage  209  42.1
 Blyleven  145  29.2
 Garvey  138  27.8
 *Kaat  130  26.2
 John  116  23.4
 Morris  113  22.8
 Trammell  70  14.1
 Mattingly  68  13.7
 Murphy  58  11.7
 Concepcion  55  11.1
 Parker  51  10.3
 Valenzuela  31  6.3
 Hernandez  30  6
 Kile  7  1.4
 Coleman  3  0.6
 Butler  2  0.4
 Fernandez  2  0.4
 Honeycutt  2  0.4
 Pena  2  0.4
 Daulton  1  0.2
 Davis  1  0.2
 Tartabull  1  0.2
 Jackson  0  0
 Tettleton  0  0
 Williams  0  0
 Worrell  0  0
*Jim Kaat final year on ballot

Voters are allowed to designate as many as 10 players for election each year. But historically, bigger names on the ballot make it much harder for less distinguished nominees to get voted in.

"I can see where it's going to get very tough for some of these guys," said Jerry Crasnick, the national baseball writer for Bloomberg News.

The BBWAA hasn't even voted in a pitcher since Nolan Ryan was elected during his first ballot appearance in 1999. And Eckersley, who established himself first as a starter and later as a stellar reliever, seems to be the only pitcher within reach of being voted into the Hall -- that is, until active players like Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson become eligible.

According to rules established by the Hall of Fame, players must wait until five years after retiring before their names can appear on the ballot.

So if Clemens decides to retire at the end of this season, most likely having surpassed the 300-win plateau, he'll be eligible for the Hall in 2008. Clemens is only seven wins away from a mark reached by only 22 pitchers, every one of whom is among the 58 former Major League pitchers in Cooperstown.

"Voting guys like Clemens in is a complete no-brainer," said Ken Gurnick, who covers the Dodgers for

Here are the other "no-brainers" among the 32 possible players coming up for the first time through 2008:

Among numerous other honors, Molitor, Gwynn, Henderson, Boggs and Ripken are all among the 25 players who have 3,000 or more hits. Add Murray, who was elected this year, and every player on that list is already in the Hall, except Rose.

Henderson, of course, is the all-time base stealing leader (1,403) and Ripken has the longest consecutive games played streak (2,632). Gwynn won eight National League batting titles during his 20 seasons, all with the Padres. Boggs won five American League batting titles while playing for the Boston Red Sox.

In 24 seasons, Eckersley had 197 wins and 390 saves, all but three of which came during the last 12 years of his career, when he became one of the most dominant relievers in baseball history.

McGwire finished his career with 583 home runs, good for sixth all time, over 16 seasons. In 1998, he hit a then-unprecedented 70 homers in an historic race with Sammy Sosa.

Even among the guys on the bubble, Saberhagen is a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner. Hershiser was MVP of the 1988 World Series and NL Championship Series, the same season he set a record by throwing 59 consecutive scoreless innings and won the NL Cy Young Award. Clark finished his career in 2000 as a .303 lifetime hitter in 15 seasons. Joe Carter hit 396 home runs in 16 seasons and, as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, hit a dramatic walk-off homer to win the 1993 World Series, one of only two times that has happened in baseball history.

O'Neill was a five-time All-Star who won the 1994 AL batting title and played on four World Series champions in five years with the Yankees. And Belle was a five-time All-Star who was in the midst of nine consecutive 100-RBI seasons when his career was cut short by injury after the 2000 season.

"We have some tough choices coming up," said Jim Street, who covers the Mariners for "But none of this is ever very easy. No one said it would be."

Barry M. Bloom is a reporter for and can be reached at This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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