There was a day when it was unimaginable that Curt Schilling would receive more Hall of Fame votes than Roger Clemens, a pitcher he once regarded as an idol and mentor.
Yet that's exactly what happened on Tuesday, when Clemens and his seven Cy Young awards carried less weight with voters than the opinion that his enormous achievements were grounded in the detritus of performance-enhancing drugs.
But while Schilling, whose reputation has stayed largely intact, drew seven more votes than Clemens (221 to 214), neither pitcher has an easy path to Cooperstown.
Since 1984, 11 starting pitchers have been elected Hall of Famers. Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer were all first-ballot selections.
Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins and Catfish Hunter all received more support in their first year on the ballot than Schilling, who drew 38.8 percent of the vote, compared to Clemens' 37.6 percent.
Only two Hall of Fame pitchers elected since 1984 made a worse showing on the ballot their first year. One was Don Drysdale, who received 21.4 percent of the vote in his first year before being elected in 1984, his 10th year on the ballot.
The other was Bert Blyleven, who received only 17.5 percent in his first year of the ballot and waited until his 14th year before being elected in 2011. Blyleven did not go as high as Schilling’s percentage until his eighth year on the ballot.
It won’t get any easier in 2014, either, when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Mike Mussina all become eligible for the first time, while Jack Morris, who missed election by 42 votes Tuesday, will be in his 15th and final year of eligibility.
Maddux and Glavine, both 300-game winners, should be first-ballot cinches. A year later, three more pitchers with impeccable credentials -- Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz -- will be on the ballot.
It remains to be seen whether support for Schilling, who is now an ESPN analyst, will grow incrementally enough for him to receive the 75 percent required for election, but it appears clear he will be in a waiting mode. Whether voters will reconsider Clemens’ candidacy is an even greater mystery.
The only greater enigma? Why one Hall voter wrote Aaron Sele's name on his ballot.