NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former New York Mets' legend Mike Piazza heads a prestigious class of 24 first-time Baseball Hall of Fame eligibles.
Piazza, Craig Biggio, and Curt Schilling are among first-time eligibles. Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are the top holdover candidates.
Biggio topped the 3,000-hit mark — which always has been considered an automatic credential for Cooperstown — and spent his entire career with the Houston Astros.
Schilling was 216-146 and won three World Series championships, including his "bloody sock" performance for the Boston Red Sox in 2004.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are listed on the baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, setting up an election sure to become a referendum on the Steroids Era.
The 37-player ballot was announced Wednesday.
More than 600 longtime members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America will vote through next month. Candidates need 75 percent for induction, and the results will be announced Jan. 9.
Bonds is the all-time home run champion with 762 and won a record seven MVP awards. Clemens set a record with seven Cy Young trophies and Sosa hit 609 homers. The voters will now decide whether drug allegations that tainted their huge numbers should keep them out of Cooperstown.
The upcoming election is certain to fuel the most polarizing Hall discussion since career hits leader Pete Rose's betting troubles put him on baseball's permanently ineligible list, barring him from the BBWAA ballot.
While many continued to debate whether Rose should be enshrined, it was moot because there is currently no way he can be considered.
On deck, though, are some of the game's biggest names — along with a lot of the sport's biggest baggage.
Bonds, Clemens and Sosa each posted monster statistics, though their accomplishments were shadowed by accusations they used performance-enhancing drugs. And as baseball keeps trying to rid itself of PEDs, their impact on HRs, RBIs and Ws remains a prickly problem.
Bonds was baseball's premier slugger on his generation and Clemens ranks ninth in career wins with 354. Sosa is eighth on the home run chart with 609.
Fans, players and Hall of Fame members have all chimed in about whether stars who supposedly juiced up should make it to Cooperstown.
Many of those opposed say drug cheats should never be afforded baseball's highest individual honors. Others on the opposite side claim the use of PEDs was pervasive in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, and shouldn't disqualify candidates.
If recent voting for the Hall is any indication, the odds are solidly stacked against Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.
Mark McGwire is 10th on the career home run list with 583, but has never received even 24 percent in his six tries. Big Mac has admitted to using steroids and human growth hormone.
Rafael Palmeiro is among only four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, yet has gotten a high of 12.6 percent in his two years on the ballot. Palmeiro drew a 10-day suspension in 2005 after a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, and said the result was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.
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