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CARLTON MAKES HALL OF FAME; CEPEDA FAILS

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Steve Carlton is off to Cooperstown and Orlando Cepeda is off the ballot.

Carlton, the only pitcher to win four Cy Young Awards, was easily elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, receiving 436 of 455 votes Wednesday.Cepeda, however, fell just seven votes short in his 15th and final chance. A strong letter-writing campaign by the San Francisco Giants and members of Congress almost got him in; three years from now, he can be considered by the Veterans Committee.

"It is heartbreaking because if only seven votes could've gone the other way, it would've been enough," Cepeda said. "It's like losing a ballgame 1-0 when you had so many opportunities to win."

It takes 75 percent to be elected - 342 votes this year - in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. While Carlton got 95.8 percent, the fifth-highest in history, Cepeda got 335 votes and was stuck at 73.6 percent.

"While I've never been one to place a great emphasis on individual awards, I'm touched to be elected to the Hall of Fame," Carlton said. "To be included among the game's greatest players is truly a great honor."

Among the others who missed this year were 300-game winners Phil Niekro (273 votes) and Don Sutton (259), and Tony Perez (263). Cepeda and Perez each hit 379 home runs.

Carlton was 329-244 with a 3.22 ERA in a career from 1965-88, most of it with the Philadelphia Phillies. He is ninth on baseball's win list - second among left-handers to Warren Spahn's 363 victories - and second in strikeouts with 4,136. "Lefty" shares the NL record of 19 strikeouts in a game.

Carlton won the Cy Young Award with the Phillies in 1972, 1977, 1980 and 1982. He helped pitch Philadelphia to its only World Series victory in 1980. His greatest season was 1972, when he went 27-10 with a 1.98 ERA for a team that won a total of 59 games.

Cepeda was an 11-time All-Star. He batted .297 with 1,365 RBIs and 2,351 hits. Carlton and Cepeda played together for two full seasons and helped the St. Louis Cardinals reach the World Series in 1967-68.

"He deserved to be in the Hall of Fame," Cepeda said of Carlton. "I'm glad for him."

Cepeda became the latest player to be a near-miss for election. Nellie Fox fell two votes shy in 1985 and Jim Bunning was seven votes short in 1988.

"I knew it was going to be close right from the beginning," Cepeda said. "I was disappointed."

This is the second straight year that only one player was selected. Last year, Reggie Jackson was the lone choice.

Carlton will be inducted into the shrine in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 31. He is the 25th person to be selected in his first year of eligibility since the first election in 1936, and is scheduled to be the 217th member of the Hall. Tom Seaver set the record for vote percentage of 98.84 in 1992.

Cepeda was named on 252 of 423 ballots (59.6 percent) last year.