(Reuters) - No one was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, with all-time home run leader Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens snubbed over suspicion they used performance enhancing drugs.
Craig Biggio, who stroked 3,060 hits in a 20-year career with the Houston Astros, came closest to winning election, named on 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots to fall 39 votes shy of the 427 needed for election to the Cooperstown, New York, shrine.
Three more votes back was pitcher Jack Morris, who received 385 votes, followed by Jeff Bagwell at 339.
Bonds was named on 36.2 percent of the ballots, and Clemens 37.6, well short of the 75 percent needed for enshrinement in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
It marked the first year since 1996 that no player was elected into the Hall of Fame, in what was seen as a referendum on players that compiled outsized statistics during the so-called Steroids Era.
”I was a little shocked,“ Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins told MLB TV. ”I thought probably Jack Morris or Craig Biggio would probably get the opportunity to be a Hall of Famer because they had such outstanding careers.
“But with the high profile situation of having too many other players under the microscope, the suspicion of taking performance enhancing drugs, I think it took away from their opportunity for getting votes.”
Clemens and Bonds, appearing on the ballot for the first time after waiting five years following their retirement, would have been certain first-ballot winners but faced a backlash over links to what Major League Baseball’s internal Mitchell Report of 2007 called widespread doping in the game.
Bonds has admitted to “unknowingly” using steroids, and been convicted of obstruction of justice in a federal case on PEDs. The longtime former trainer of Clemens has said the pitcher used steroids, though Clemens was found not guilty in a court case.
Hall of Fame voters pledge not only to look at a candidate’s playing ability and performance but also to take into account “integrity, sportsmanship and character”.
Mike Piazza, the all-time home run leader among catchers, was named on 329 ballots, 32 more than Tim Raines.
Former closer Lee Smith (272) and starting pitcher Curt Schilling (221) also finished above Clemens and Bonds in the voting, who stood eighth and ninth, respectively.
“It certainly is a start-studded ballot with a number of guys who set remarkable records,” Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said before announcing the results.
“Then you put in what voters have gone through and the consternation they’ve had in trying to decide who to pick and it’s made it one of the most talked about classes in history.”
They will all return to the ballot next year, which will also feature strong first-time candidates in pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and slugger Frank Thomas.
Players can remain on the ballot for as long as 15 years, and six players from the 1996 vote eventually did win election into the Hall of Fame.
“Major League Baseball recognizes that election to the Hall of Fame is our game’s most extraordinary individual honor,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement.
“While this year did not produce an electee, there are many worthy candidates who will merit consideration in the future.”
There will still be an induction ceremony in Cooperstown on July 28.
Former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, who bought Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox, turn-of-the-20th-century umpire Hank O‘Day and 19th-century catcher Deacon White, all deceased, were elected to the Hall last month by the Pre-Integration Committee and will be honored at the ceremony.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue