“Baseball Hall of Fame”
You walk through the gallery where the plaques are in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and it is quiet, like a shrine. The hours after the final vote was announced, silence was replaced by cheering, and also by screaming, who got in and who did not get in.
My dad took me to Cooperstown as a 10-year old kid from Long Island. I was thrilled. He was thrilled too, that I had become a baseball fan and revered the history of the game.
He never got out of the minors, getting buried in the Philadelphia A’s organization, as a pitcher. He toiled prewar then right after. He loved baseball, the Gas House Gang era, Branch Rickey, the Cardinals and Dodgers era.
I lost him at such a young age growing up. I bet he was cheering the decisions made in the voting on Tuesday..
The cheering today is for the lone guy to get into the Hall on Tuesday. David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz. The most outgoing, well-meaning star, you’d see in modern day baseball. A 10-time all Star….a 20-year career…541-home runs….1,768RBIs…a .286-career hitter. Not bad for a guy going from the Minnesota Twins DFA list to Fenway Park to Cooperstown, just like that.
Ortiz got (77.9%) of the vote the first time on the ballot. Not close the to the near 100% that recent inductees Mariano Rivera-and Derek Jeter, but a brilliant accomplishment.
But as the cheering continued, so did the screaming, over the failure of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to gain enough votes to get it, despite the staggering statistics they put up in box scores over their decades in the batter’s box and on the mound.
The debate will rage too about their denial about their PED-steroid use, though mountains of information from the Balco trial and the Mitchell Report tell one story, while Bonds and Clemens say something else..
There can be no arguments of their greatness. We will argue forever about who they are and what they did to get great.
Bonds hit (.298) with a record (762 HRs) and 7-MVPs.
Clemens was (354-184) with (4672) strikeouts and 6-Cy Young Awards
Bonds got 66% in his final year. Clemens got 65% of the vote.
But there will be arguments about their era, the integrity of the game, the records they compiled, but how they got there. Add in what the Hall of Fame states qualifies a player to be on the ballot.
Words like integrity, sportsmanship, character, ethics are part of the description of a Hall of Famer. And the debate-argument rages on about whether Bonds-Clemens should have been considered, or whether they ignored those values as a tradeoff to get stats..
It was a bad day for Alex Rodriguez too, his (696HRs) aside, he got only 34% of the vote, and now he will replace Clemens-Bonds as the resident cheat on the list. Of course A-Rod was suspended for a full year in 2014 for what he did, what he lied about, what he denied.
It was a bad finish too for Curt Shilling, his star-studded stats, shrouded in the black cloud of the social media suicide he committed on twitter over the last couple of years for his personal takes on politics, covid, society, right vs wrong. He dropped to (58%) of the vote, people tired of the negative vibes he gives off constantly.
Of course the merits of being a Hall of Famer carry different rationale now. The Hall includes Hack Wilson, a raging drunk; Babe Ruth, a vibrant womanizer; Cap Anson-a racist.
Same rules, different era. It negates even voting those guys in with a *asterisk on the plaque. Didn’t do it for Hack-Cap-Bambino, why would you do it now.
As I sat there and watched the interview with Big Papi, I flashed back to the life and times of the late Tony Gwynn, beloved here, underpaid, and one who compiled his stats on bad teams, without cheating
It was a thrill for me to visit Cooperstown again in 2018 to see Tony’s plaque on the top row, with a Gold light shining on it, placed it its proper place.
Sorry, I cannot think of Bonds nor Clemens, without thinking they did all those while injecting themsleves with steroids and PEDs.
I remember my Dad walking thru the Hall telling me stories about the players he saw growing up, and talking about the 1936 initial class of inductees. I flashed back to going to the Hall-store to buy a baseball cap of my favorite team (Indians) and walking around the cafes in that little village, never wanting the moment to leave me.
I never forgot doing Hall of Fame broadcasts from Doubleday Field when I worked in radio in Utica. And I never forgot going to ancient Point Stadium in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on what would have been the 50th anniversary of my dad pitching in Class B-baseball in the Middle Atlantic League, wondering what his life was like as a young pitcher, hoping he could get to the show, before World War II intervened.
It’s a love affair with the game, handed down from father to son. He never got to the A’s, stalled by a shoulder injury and a feud with Connie Mack over money in the 1940s. But we shared baseball so much watching the Yankees-Dodgers-Giants on TV, growing up, and the games he took me to at the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field and Yankees Stadium.
That’s why the Hall of Fame announcement meant so much to me on Tuesday. Flashbacks then, baseball storylines now. What a special place.
And why the vote confirmed, the integrity of the baseball record book is so important, that it should not honor Bonds nor Clemens who stained it
So in the memory of the Babe, Teddy Ballgame, Jackie, Hammerin Hank, Sey Hey, Jolting Joe, and the Mick, Cooperstown will remain great, honoring those who did it right.
I just don’t think Bonds-Clemens, the people, deserved to be there, even if as players they accomplished so much.
I wish all baseball fans here, could walk thru the gallery there, stand silent, and read the plaques. It is a moving moment..