"Curt Schilling made a good point: Everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use," Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt said in an email to the Associated Press. "This generation got rich. Seems there was a price to pay."
Bonds, Clemens and Sosa were eligible for the first time and have up to 14 more years on the writers' ballot to gain baseball's highest honor.
"After what has been written and said over the last few years I'm not overly surprised," Clemens said in a statement he posted on Twitter.
Craig Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits, topped the 37 candidates with 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots, 39 shy of election. Among other first-year eligibles, Mike Piazza received 57.8 percent and Schilling 38.8.
Jack Morris led holdovers with 67.7 percent. He will make his final ballot appearance next year, when fellow pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine along with slugger Frank Thomas are eligible for the first time.
Two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy received 18.6 percent in his 15th and final appearance.
"With 53 percent you can get to the White House, but you can't get to Cooperstown," BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell said. "It's the 75 percent that makes it difficult."
Bonds, baseball's only seven-time Most Valuable Player, hit 762 home runs, including a record 73 in 2001.
"It is unimaginable that the best player to ever play the game would not be a unanimous first-ballot selection," said Jeff Borris of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, Bonds' longtime agent.