NEW YORK -- Mark McGwire fell far short in his first try for the Hall of Fame, picked by 23.5 percent of voters, while Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. easily gained baseball's highest honor.
Tarnished by accusations of steroid use, McGwire appeared on 128 of a record 545 ballots in voting released Tuesday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Ripken was picked by 537 voters and appeared on 98.53 percent of ballots to finish with the third-highest percentage behind Tom Seaver (98.84) and Nolan Ryan (98.79).
The former Baltimore Orioles shortstop said he was both relieved and euphoric. If he had been picked by two of the eight voters who didn't select him, he would have set the percentage record -- but he didn't mind.
"All I wanted to hear was, 'You're in,'" Ripken said during a conference call. "I really didn't get caught up with wanting to be unanimous or wanting to be the most."
Gwynn worried that he might get 100 percent.
"For the last month, I think, that's all I could think about, hoping that I didn't get near that number," he said. "We've never had one, and so I sure didn't want to be that guy who was closest."
Gwynn received 532 votes for 97.61 percent, the seventh-highest ever, also trailing Ty Cobb, George Brett and Hank Aaron.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to know that people think that what you did was worthy," Gwynn said. "For me, it's kind of validation. The type of player that I was doesn't get a whole lot of credit in today's game."
Goose Gossage finished third with 388 votes, falling 21 shy of the necessary 409. His percentage increased from 64.6 to 71.2, putting him in good position to reach the necessary 75 percent next year. The highest percentage for a player who wasn't elected in a later year was 63.4 by Gil Hodges in 1983, his final time on the ballot.
"It kind of feels weird to be that close," Gossage said. "Hopefully, next year will be the year."
Jim Rice was fourth with 346, his percentage dropping to 63.5 from 64.8 last year. He was followed by Andre Dawson (309), Bert Blyleven (260), Lee Smith (217) and Jack Morris (202). McGwire was ninth, followed by Tommy John (125) and Steve Garvey (115), who was in his final year of eligibility.
McGwire's dismal showing raises doubts about whether he will ever get elected -- players can appear on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years -- and whether the shadow of steroids will cost Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro places in Cooperstown.
McGwire finished with 583 home runs, seventh on the career list, and hit 70 homers in 1998 to set the season record, a mark Bonds broke three years later. Gwynn was surprised McGwire received such a low percentage.
"I hope that as time goes on, that number will increase," Gwynn said. "I hope that one day he will get into the Hall of Fame, because I really believe he deserves it."
Gwynn recalled the time in which McGwire thrived -- an era of performance-enhancing substances.
"In the late 1980s and early '90s, we had no rules," Gwynn said Tuesday. "We knew, players knew, owners knew, everybody knew, and we didn't say anything about it.
"As a player I kind of focused on what was going on on the field, and as far as I'm concerned he dominated an era," Gwynn said.
While Ripken said Gossage and Rice belong in the Hall, he wouldn't give his opinion on McGwire.
"It doesn't bother me that it's a story one bit, but I don't think it's my place to cast judgment," Ripken said. "It saddens me that baseball had to go through this.
"Unfortunately, all of the stories haven't been told yet," he said.
Jim Milner, McGwire's business representative, did not return telephone calls. McGwire, who lives in a gated community in Irvine, Calif., has made few public comments in recent years.
Commissioner Bud Selig declined comment on McGwire but readily praised Ripken and Gwynn.
"I have enormous affection for both individuals," he said. "They not only obviously had historic achievements on the field, but they represented the sport as well as it could be
Jose Canseco, on the ballot for the first time, received six votes, well below the 5 percent threshold needed to stay on future ballots. In his book two years ago, Canseco accused McGwire and others of using steroids. The book's publication was quickly followed by a congressional hearing on steroids during which McGwire evaded questions, saying: "I'm not here to talk about the past."
Gwynn, who compiled 3,141 hits and a .338 batting average during his 20-year career with the San Diego Padres, said he was fidgety and nervous before he received the call from Jack O'Connell, the BBWAA secretary-treasurer.
"I broke down right away," he said. "My wife came over and put an arm around me."
Ripken played in a major league-record 2,632 consecutive games to break Lou Gehrig's ironman mark of 2,130 and set a new standard for shortstops with 345 home runs (431 for his career) and 3,184 hits.
"I'm very proud of what the streak represents. Not that you were able to play in all those games, but that you showed up to play every single day," Ripken said last week.
Harold Baines, who received 29 votes, reached the 5 percent threshold. Bret Saberhagen got seven votes in his first appearance on the ballot and Ken Caminiti, who admitted using steroids during his career and died in 2004, received two.
Gwynn and Ripken raised to 43 the total of players elected in their first year of eligibility. That doesn't include Lou Gehrig (1939) and Roberto Clemente (1973), who were chosen in special elections.
Gwynn and Ripken each spent their entire major-league career with one team, a rarity these days. They will be inducted during ceremonies held July 29 at the Hall in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with anyone elected from the Veterans Committee vote, which will be announced Feb. 27.
Ripken spent 21 seasons with Baltimore, hitting .276. A 19-time All-Star, he won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1982, the AL MVP award in 1983 and 1991 and was a two-time Gold Glove shortstop.
Gwynn broke into the majors in 1982 and won eight batting titles to tie Honus Wagner's NL record. He made 15 All-Star teams and won five Gold Gloves as an outfielder.
Ripken and Gwynn are the fifth pair of players with 3,000 hits to be Hall of Fame classmates. The others are George Brett and Robin Yount (1999), Eddie Collins and Cap Anson (1939), Tris Speaker and Nap Lajoie (1937) and Ty Cobb and Wagner (1936).
McGwire did receive strong support from eligible writers in St. Louis.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote a column defending his vote. Rick Hummel, who will be inducted into the writers' wing in the Hall of Fame this year, also voted for Big Mac.
Hummel wasn't surprised McGwire won't be joining him in Cooperstown, judging by the results from surveys the past few months. He considered McGwire a borderline candidate because of his relatively low total of 1,626 hits, rather than the aspersions cast by the steroid accusations.
"I don't have any evidence, and you are innocent until proven guilty," Hummel said. "Are his stats worthy of the Hall? I think they are.
"But I think Rich Gossage and Jim Rice will be in the Hall of Fame a long time before Mark will," Hummel said.
Pete Rose, the banned career hits leader who has never appeared on the ballot, received four write-in votes.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.