COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- For Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr., the Baseball Hall of Fame long ago became a "when" instead of an "if."

For Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr., the Baseball Hall of Fame long ago became a "when" instead of an "if."

The "when" has finally arrived.

Gwynn and Ripken will enter the Hall on Sunday as the Class of 2007, with a record crowd of more than 50,000 fans expected in Cooperstown. They will celebrate the careers of two baseball icons, men who captured seemingly unbreakable records while spending their entire big-league life in the city where they broke into the majors.

And since Gwynn and Ripken both retired after the 2001 season, baseball has waited for this day.

"It's a wonderful moment, a wonderful feeling when you find out you've been elected," said Ripken, who received the most votes -- 537 -- of any player in the history of the Baseball Writers Association of America election. "And it's great to go in with Tony Gwynn. He was a really good all-around player."

Gwynn spent 20 seasons with the San Diego Padres, winning a record-tying eight National League battling titles. He received just five fewer Hall of Fame votes than Ripken, who set baseball's all-time consecutive-games played record at 2,632 during his 21-year career with the Baltimore Orioles.

Joining Ripken and Gwynn on the Clark Sports Center stage today will be Denny Matthews, winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters, and Rick Hummel, winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers.

"It's been incredible, and I'm really enjoying it right now," Gwynn said. "And I'll probably enjoy it more once I get there."

Contact Craig Muder at cmuder@utica.gannett.com.

Utica (N.Y.) Observer-Dispatch