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Hall of infamy

Sports | Writers won't likely forget steroid testimony during Hall of Fame vote

Issue: "Looking at India," Dec. 9, 2006

Baseball writers have a prickly decision ahead of them: For the first time, well-known players from baseball's steroids era will be on the Hall of Fame ballot. Released Nov. 27, the ballot contained what many feel are two sure-fire future Cooperstown inductees in former Orioles third baseman and shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and former Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn.

But one name might give baseball writers-the gatekeepers at the Hall-fits. Mark McGwire, who dazzled the sports world with a 70-homerun season in 1998, will be up for his first Hall of Fame vote. The votes from 10-year veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America will be announced Jan. 9. There are approximately 575 voters.

Back in 1998 when McGwire traded homeruns with former Chicago outfielder Sammy Sosa, Big Mac seemed like a Hall of Fame shoo-in. But his stumbling testimony before Congress combined with accusations from former teammate and admitted steroid user Jose Canseco (also a Hall candidate) put McGwire's 583 career homeruns under a cloud of doubt.

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Baseball writers seem skeptical of McGwire. "There is a clause on the ballot indicating that character should be considered and after his nonperformance at the congressional hearings his character certainly comes into play," said the Dayton Daily News' Hal McCoy, referring to McGwire's refusal to answer questions under oath about his steroid use. Rather, McGwire told a House committee on March 17, 2005, that he wasn't there to talk about the past. "He doesn't want to talk about the past?" said McCoy. "Then I don't want to consider his past."

According to a survey conducted by the Associated Press, just one in five voters plan on casting their ballot for McGwire, while 62 percent of the likely voters said they would cast ballots against him. At that rate, the former Cardinals first baseman won't be pushed off the ballot for next year, but it doesn't seem like he'll come close to the 75 percent threshold needed for the Cooperstown appointment anytime soon.

And that's a shame, says Chaz Scoggins of The Sun in Lowell, Mass. "He wasn't breaking any baseball rules during his career," he said, noting that Andro-the only performance enhancer McGwire admitted to using-wasn't banned or illegal at the time. "As for using performance-enhancing substances, the fact that so many pitchers have been detected using them kind of evens the playing field."

Around the Horn

CRIME: One reason not to bet on sports: Your friend might shoot you. A sports betting argument between friends turned fatal when South Carolina resident James Walter Quick shot and killed Richard Allen Johnson after he apparently refused to pay up on a $20 bet on the South Carolina vs. Clemson college football game. Authorities note that alcohol probably played a major role.

BASEBALL: Baseball off-season invariably means another season of trade rumors swirling around Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez. But for all the talk of teams making offers and even trade demands by the Red Sox star, Ramirez always emerged as the everyday left fielder in Fenway Park. The Giants, Padres, and Dodgers have all been reported as possible suitors for Ramirez this time around.

NFL: Suddenly, the NFL's most accurate kicker ever can't hold down a job. The Dallas Cowboys released placekicker Mike Vanderjagt after a disappointing run in which the career 86.5 percent field-goal kicker never earned coach Bill Parcells' trust. In his abridged tenure with the Cowboys, Vanderjagt (sometimes called Vander-clank by fans) missed five of his 18 attempts. But don't feel sorry for the cocky Canadian: He'll still pocket his $2.5 million signing bonus for inking with Dallas prior to the 2006 season.

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