NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame voters made up for last year's empty slate, electing Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine — three stars who've never been connected to performance-enhancing drugs.
On a day that turned out to be a celebration of first-timers on the ballot, Craig Biggio missed out on baseball's highest honor by two votes. Mike Piazza gained a bit of ground in his second year of eligibility, too, but nearly everyone else saw their percentage of votes drop — 75 percent is needed for admittance.
Award winners from the Steroids Era struck out again, and big-game ace Jack Morris missed on his 15th and final chance in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Next year, chances don't improve for returnees with another crowded class of achievers.
"Kids dream about playing pro sports, but to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it's a gigantic moment for me," Thomas said.
The induction ceremony July 27 will be an Atlanta Braves reunion with Glavine and Maddux joined by their former manager Bobby Cox, who along with fellow skippers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa were selected by the expansion era committee last month.
Here are five things to know about the Hall of Fame voting revealed Wednesday:
KEEP OUT: Another rough ballot for stars suspected of steroids use. Home run king Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens were among several who saw their support drop. In their second year on the ballot, the BBWAA gave Clemens 35.4 percent of the vote and Bonds 34.7. Mark McGwire (11 percent) and Sammy Sosa (7.2 percent) fell as well. Rafael Palmeiro, with 3,020 hits and 569 homers, received the ultimate rebuke: He got only 25 votes (4.4 percent), which is below the 5 percent threshold to remain on the ballot.
Whether the drop is a statement on the BBWAA's stance on PEDs or just a dip caused by the packed ballot is to be seen. But if Hall newcomer Thomas has his way, it won't get any easier for those with sullied reputations.
"Over the last year, doing a couple of charity events with Hall of Famers that are in, they've got a strong stance against anyone who's taken steroids. They do not want them in," he said. "I've got to take the right stance, too. No, they shouldn't get in."
KNOCK, KNOCK: Biggio, the Houston Astros second baseman with over 3,000 hits, a Hall benchmark, received 427 votes (74.8 percent) after getting 388 last year in his first appearance. Even with another impressive list of first-time candidates next year, Biggio is on target to join the elite. His close call matched Nellie Fox in 1985 and Pie Traynor in 1947 for the smallest margin to just miss. They both eventually made it.
Whether it's suspicion of steroids use or a crowded field, Piazza, the career home run leader for catchers, saw his chances for election improve, too. Piazza received 62.2 percent up from 57.8 last year.
FADING FAST: Writers can vote for at most 10 candidates, and with a strong first-year group several players saw their vote totals go down, seriously hurting their chances for election. Tim Raines fell from 52.2 percent to 46.6 percent. Lee Smith, in his 12th year, dropped to 29.9 from 47.8. Curt Schilling tumbled to 29.2 percent after getting 38.8 percent in his first appearance in 2013. Another player perhaps affected by the stench of steroids, Jeff Bagwell, saw his support decrease to 54.3 percent after two years of improving results. Unfortunately, the ballot remains chock full of talent next year.
WHO VOTED? Attention always zeroes in on the players who come closest to election. But with Biggio falling two votes shy of election, it's worth a look at the bottom of the ballot. This year, Armando Benitez, Jacque Jones and Kenny Rogers each received a vote. All fine players with solid careers, but as is often said, it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of the very good.
HEAD OF THE CLASS: There is little relief on next year's ballot for the holdovers. Maddux and Glavine's former teammate John Smoltz heads a worthy group that includes Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado and Gary Sheffield.
AP Sports Writers Andrew Seligman and Ronald Blum contributed to this report.