McGwire, Gwynn, Ripken headline first-timers on ballot

NEW YORK -- Mark McGwire, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr.
headline the first-time candidates on the 2007 baseball writers'
Hall of Fame ballot released Monday, sure to spark debate on Big
Mac's place in history as the steroid era comes under renewed

Jose Canseco, whose book last year led to a congressional
hearing on steroid use in baseball, also is on the ballot for the
first time. Canseco said he used steroids along with McGwire when
they were teammates.

McGwire denied using illegal performance-enhancing substances,
but when he appeared before a congressional committee, he evaded
questions. "I'm not here to talk about the past," was his
repeated response.

McGwire finished his career with 583 home runs, seventh in
baseball history while Canseco, a former MVP, is 30th at 462. Dave
Kingman, 34th with 442, has the most home runs for a player who has
been on the Hall of Fame ballot and was not elected.

Gwynn, an eight-time batting champion with San Diego, and
Ripken, a two-time MVP with Baltimore, are considered likely to
gain election on the first ballot. Ripken played in 2,632
consecutive games, breaking Lou Gehrig's record.

"It's pretty exciting, I'll tell you that," said Gwynn, now
the baseball coach at his alma mater, San Diego State. "I can't
lie. Ever since I retired I thought about being on the ballot and
waiting to find out what people think. I think I did enough, but
we'll see."

Gwynn, a member of the 3,000-hit club and a 15-time All-Star,
knows that the voting by longtime members baseball writers can be

"My numbers aren't going to change," he said. "We'll wait to
see what the writers think."

Gwynn played with the Padres his entire 20-season career. He had
3,141 hits and a lifetime .338 average, won eight NL batting titles
and helped get the Padres into their only two World Series.

Bret Saberhagen, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and former
MVP Ken Caminiti also are among 17 players on the ballot for the
first time along with Harold Baines, Dante Bichette, Bobby Bonilla,
Scott Brosius, Jay Buhner, Eric Davis, Tony Fernandez, Wally
Joyner, Paul O'Neill, Devon White and Bobby Witt.

Jim Rice, who was 53 votes short of election last year, heads
the 15 holdovers. Rich Gossage finished one vote behind Rice.

Reporters who have been in the BBWAA for 10 or more consecutive
years are eligible to vote, and the totals will be announced Jan.