NEW YORK (AP) -Goose Gossage was hoping to become the fifth member of Cooperstown's bullpen.
After falling short eight times, Gossage was the leading candidate on this year's ballot.
``I try not to get too excited,'' he said Monday.
Votes from 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America had to be in by Dec. 31, and totals were to be released Tuesday.
When Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn were elected last year, Gossage was third with 388 votes (71.2 percent), 21 shy of the 75 percent needed for election.
Jim Rice was next with 346 (63.5 percent), followed by Andre Dawson at 309 (56.7) and Bert Blyleven at 260 (47.7).
Tainted by accusations of steroids use, Mark McGwire received just 128 votes (23.5 percent) in his first appearance on the ballot. Given Barry Bonds' indictment on perjury and obstruction charges and allegations of performance-enhancing drug use against Roger Clemens, it will be interesting to see if McGwire's percentage increases, stays the same or declines.
Tim Raines and David Justice headed 11 first-time candidates on the 25-man ballot. While there were no odds-on favorites among this year's newcomers, career steals leader Rickey Henderson will be on the ballot for the first time in 2009.
Just four pitchers who were primarily relievers are in the Hall: Hoyt Wilhelm (1985), Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004) and Bruce Sutter (2006).
Gossage is proud that he was the type of closer that doesn't exist today: Fifty-two of his 310 saves were of seven outs or more, while Mariano Rivera has just one, Trevor Hoffman two and Eckersley five.
Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, closers regularly entered in the sixth and seventh innings. Fingers had 74 saves of seven outs or more and Sutter 46.
``Now it takes three guys to do kind of what I used to do,'' Gossage said.

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