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Relief ace Gossage enters in ninth (try)

The Baltimore Sun

Rich "Goose" Gossage's long wait to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame is finally over, but Mark McGwire's vigil seemingly will go on for years.

Gossage, a dominating reliever who in 22 seasons pitched for nine teams including the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox, received 466 of the 543 votes (85.8 percent) cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

In his ninth year of Hall of Fame eligibility, Gossage easily eclipsed the 75 percent total required for induction after falling 21 votes short last year, when first-time candidates Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn were elected.

"I can't lie. There's been some frustration and disappointment," Gossage said during a teleconference minutes after yesterday's announcement. "But overall, now getting in [on the ninth try], it feels even more special."

For the second straight year, McGwire, the former Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals slugger, was named on fewer than a quarter of the ballots despite his 583 career home runs. McGwire, the first true Hall of Fame test case of the so-called "steroid era," received 128 votes, or 23.6 percent. Last year, he received 128 votes, or 23.5 percent.

As a pitcher, the 6-foot-3 Gossage was known for his intense mound presence and an erratic, blazing fastball. He finished his career with a 124-107 record, 1,502 strikeouts and 310 saves -- many of those coming in two- or three-inning stints.

"I think the big thing was he was so intimidating, from his beard and mustache to his hat pulled down around his eyes," said former Oriole Al Bumbry, who played against Gossage for years in the American League East before becoming his Padres teammate in 1985. "He had an unorthodox delivery, and at the same time he was wild. I don't think he was wild so much on purpose, but his control was fairly sporadic, and that's what really made him an intimidating guy on the mound."

Gossage was the only player selected by the BBWAA, but the 2008 class encompasses five others selected by the veterans committee, including Gossage's former manager in San Diego, Dick Williams. The other four members of the class will be inducted posthumously: manager Billy Southworth, commissioner Bowie Kuhn, and owners Walter O'Malley and Barney Dreyfuss.

Former Boston Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice came the closest of the other 24 men on this year's BBWAA ballot. Rice fell 14 votes short of induction, with 72.2 percent of the vote. Next year is Rice's 15th and final attempt on the writers' ballot.

Former National League Most Valuable Player Andre Dawson (65.9 percent), pitcher Bert Blyleven (61.9 percent) and former Orioles closer Lee Smith (43.3 percent) rounded out the top five.

"No hitters scared me, but Jim Rice came the closest," said Gossage, who endorsed Rice, Dawson and Blyleven as deserving candidates.

Ten players failed to get the 5 percent needed to remain eligible. Former Oriole Harold Baines stayed on with 5.2 percent (28 votes), but Orioles fan favorite Brady Anderson failed to receive a vote in his only year on the ballot. Former Orioles outfielder Tim Raines received 132 votes (24.3 percent), the highest for newcomers.

Gossage, who played with McGwire in Oakland, said he didn't envy voters for having to decide on steroid era players. But he said he supported baseball's commissioning of the Mitchell Report and believes voters should consider the drug issue.

"It's very unfortunate this is even happening, but I think something definitely had to be done," Gossage said. "There's too much great history and too many great players that played the game with the level playing field."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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