Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, while Craig Biggio fell two votes short.
Maddux was picked on 555 of 571 ballots by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His 97.2 percentage was the eighth-highest in the history of voting.
Glavine, Maddux's longtime teammate in the Atlanta rotation, appeared on 525 ballots and received 91.9 per cent.
Thomas, the first Hall of Famer who spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, was at 483 and 83.7 percent.
Thomas said he accepts the view of many Hall of Famers that players whose accomplishments are muddied by accusations of steroid use, such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, don't belong in the Hall.
"I've got to take the right stance, too. No, they shouldn't get in," he said. "There shouldn't be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame."
The trio will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 27 along with managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, elected last month by the expansion-era committee.
"It's exciting for me to go in with my teammate," Maddux said.
Writers had not elected three players in one vote since Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount in 1999.
Biggio received 427 votes and 74.8 per cent, matching Nellie Fox in 1985 and Pie Traynor in 1947 for the smallest margin to just miss the necessary 75 per cent. Biggio appeared on 388 ballots in his initial appearance last year and appears to be on track to gain election next year.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed to come that close," he said in a statement. "I feel for my family, the organization and the fans. Hopefully, next year."
Mike Piazza was next was 62.2 per cent followed by Jack Morris, who was 78 votes short at 61.5 per cent in his 15th and final appearance on the writers' ballot.
Morris pitched 14 seasons for Detroit, two for the Toronto Blue Jays and one each for Minnesota and Cleveland, posting a record of 254-186 with a 3.90 earned-run average in 549 regular-season games, including 527 starts.
Morris also won World Series titles with the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays.
Controversy over how to evaluate stars tainted by the Steroids Era continued to impact the vote totals of players with stellar statistics. In their second appearances on the ballot, Roger Clemens dropped from 37.6 per cent to 35.4, Barry Bonds from 36.2 to 34.7 and Sammy Sosa from 12.5 to 7.2.
Bonds, baseball's career home run leader, is the only seven-time MVP in major league history. Clemens is the lone seven-time Cy Young Award winner.
"As for what they did, I don't think any of us will ever really know," Thomas said. "But I can just tell you, what I did was real and that's why I've got this smile on my face right now because the writers, they definitely got it right."
Appearing for the eighth time, Mark McGwire fell from 16.9 to 11.0. Rafael Palmeiro will be dropped from future ballots after falling to 25 votes and 4.4 per cent, below the five per cent threshold necessary to remain eligible for next year's vote. One voter submitted a blank ballot.
"I can go home and sleep at night and rest," Thomas said, "so I don't have to worry about all the nonsense that the other people are going through, because I know I won't be getting a call in the middle of the night from someone saying, oh, he did this or he did that."
Deadspin.com announced Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard had turned his ballot over to the website, which allowed readers to vote on how it should be cast.
"I hate all the moralizing we do in sports in general, but I especially hate the hypocrisy in this," Le Batard said in remarks posted by Deadspin. "I always like a little anarchy inside the cathedral we've made of sports."
BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell declined comment.
Former Atlanta Braves teammates Maddux and Glavine, both 300-game winners, won a combined 660 major league games.
They are the only first-ballot pitchers to gain election together since Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, who were part of the inaugural class in 1936 with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner.
"It should be without a doubt for either of them [to be elected], especially with Greg," John Smoltz, who joined Maddux and Glavine to form The Big Three of the Braves starting rotation, told mlb.com.
"I watched Greg and Tom pitch my whole career, basically. They exemplified the fact that over 162 games, they were better than anybody else in the league."
Eighth on the wins list with a 355-227 record and a 3.16 ERA over 23 seasons, Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95 and a record 18 Gold Gloves with the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego.
An eight-time all-star, he won at least 13 games in 20 straight seasons.
Among pitchers with 3,000 innings whose careers began in 1921 or later — after the Dead Ball Era — Maddux's 1.80 walks per nine innings is second only to Robin Roberts' 1.73, according to STATS.
Glavine, a 10-time all-star and a two-time Cy Young winner, was 305-203 over 22 seasons.
A two-time AL MVP, Thomas hit .301 in 19 seasons with 521 homers and 1,704 runs batted in for the Chicago White Sox, Toronto and Oakland.
"This has been a stressful 48 hours," Thomas said in a statement. "This is something that I will have to sit back in the next three or four days and figure it out because you can only dream so big, as this is as big as it gets for me."
Writers who have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years at any point were eligible to consider the 36-player ballot.
Next year's vote could be even more crowded when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Carlos Delgado and Gary Sheffield become eligible, five years after their retirements. The BBWAA last month formed a committee to study whether the organization should ask the Hall to change the limit of 10 players per ballot.