(Reuters) - Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are up for election to baseball's Hall of Fame for the first time, boasting career numbers that would ordinarily mark them as shoo-ins but facing a possible backlash over suspected steroids use.
All-time home run leader Bonds, seven-time Cy Young winner Clemens and Sammy Sosa, who hit 609 career home runs, were among 37 players listed on the ballot sent on Wednesday to voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Others among the 24 first-time candidates on the ballot included Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling, while Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines were among the top holdover candidates.
Candidates must be retired at least five years and not been on the ballot for more than 15 years and need to get 75 percent of the more than 600 ballots expected to be cast to win induction. Results will be announced on Jan 9.
Seven-time Most Valuable Player Bonds, Clemens and Sosa all fell under suspicion of doping use later in their careers and if recent Hall of Fame voting is an indication, the trio could have a hard time getting elected to the Cooperstown shrine.
Slugger Mark McGwire, who later admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, has never hit the 24 percent mark of votes despite standing 10th on the career home run list with 583 and having held the single-season home run record.
Rafael Palmeiro, suspended in 2005 after a positive doping test, is one of only four players to have amassed 500 homers and 3,000 hits yet has not reached 13 percent of the vote in two years on the ballot.
Bonds and Clemens were dominant players of their generation but both have been involved in court cases implicating them as PED users and many voters believe numbers posted during the so-called steroids era were tainted given widespread doping in the 1990s and early 2000s before mandatory testing was installed.
Bonds, a terrific all-around player throughout his career, jumped from 49 home runs in 2000 to a single-season record 73 in 2001 at age 37, the start of a four-year stretch that marked his heights as a power hitter.
Power-pitcher Clemens, ninth on the all-time wins list with 354, enjoyed great longevity as well, winning the last of his record number of Cy Young awards at age 39 and 42.
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue