I love baseball. I’ve loved baseball since I was a kid. I played Little League baseball for five years: one year of t-ball, one year of minor league and three years of major league. I primarily played second base and center field, but also played right field, first base, catcher and pitcher. I might have also played left field and third base (I cannot remember).
I decided not to play Babe Ruth League baseball after Little League because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I tried out for high school baseball but didn’t make the team. I tried out for the junior college baseball team knowing I wouldn’t make the team. But I did it because I figured it would be fun. It was.
After that, I started playing softball: Six Flags Magic Mountain Intramural League, Mississippi State University Intramural League, Fayette, Alabama Church League, Spangdahlem AB Intramural League, Las Vegas Corporate Challenge Tournament, Charlottesville, Virginia Recreational Leagues. I’ve played every position in softball. One of my church league teams won the Alabama State Church “C” Championship. My Corporate Challenge team placed 3rd in a warm up tournament and 4th in the Corporate Challenge tournament. I’d love to play again, but my body tells me NO!
In softball, I’ve played every position. When I first pitched in softball, I didn’t care for it, but I came to like pitching slow-pitch softball, especially after I learned some different pitches, especially a knuckleball. It’s so cool when it works.
But I digress, this article isn’t about my baseball and softball career or skills, but that introduction shows, I hope, how much I love baseball. This article is about the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s about the farce that is called the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is first and foremost a museum. That’s right; it’s a museum about baseball. It’s as much a museum as the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and Le Louvre in Paris, France. It’s no different than the Neon Museum, Liberace Museum and Mob Museum in Las Vegas, NV. Except that it’s focus is on baseball and that 600 people “vote” on which players in baseball history are allowed to be called Hall of Fame players. The latter is where the farce comes in.
Before I continue, I must note that I have yet to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, though it’s on my bucket list. What I discuss below can be easily researched.
Everyone focuses on the plaques and busts of those players who have been enshrined within its halls as Hall of Fame players. But the Baseball Hall of Fame contains memorabilia from players, games and plays that are of particular significance in baseball history. These pieces of history are not just from Hall of Fame players. Examples:
- Pete Gray’s glove is in the Hall of Fame, but Pete Gray is not enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Pete Gray only had one arm, but was a pretty good player.)
- Eddie Gaedel’s jersey is in the Hall of Fame, but he is not enshrined there. (Eddie Gaedel was extremely short. He had one plate appearance. His job? Draw a walk.)
- The ball Barry Bond’s hit for his 756th home run is on display in the Hall of Fame, but Barry Bonds has yet to be elected.
- No doubt memorabilia from Mark McGwire’s 62nd home run during the 1998 season is displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame. McGwire has yet to be elected and probably won’t be.
- “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s jersey and glove are displayed in the Hall of Fame, despite his banishment from baseball for his part in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal (evidence of his involvement is dubious) and subsequent 1991 ineligibility for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
- Various pieces of Pete Rose memorabilia are on display in the Hall of Fame. Rose was served a lifetime ban from baseball and eligibility for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
The main point of those examples is that players who are not elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as Hall of Fame players are still represented in the Hall of Fame because of their participation in significant events in baseball history. Even if they are not elected to the Hall of Fame, they are still “in” the Hall of Fame.
Players from the “Steroid Era” are eligible to be elected into the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, despite their achievements, it is unlikely any of them will gain enough votes to be elected. Others, like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, who also deserve enshrinement, have yet to be voted in simply because they played during the “Steroid Era” even though there is no proof that they used steroids. They have been presumed “guilty by association.” It must also be noted that during the “Steroid Era” steroids were not banned by Major League Baseball. So any player who used steroids was not breaking the rules of baseball, though they may have been breaking the law if they were using steroids without care from a licensed physician.
Many players, some of whom are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, used cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines and other drugs. At the time, they were also not substances banned by Major League Baseball, though they may have been using these drugs illegally. These substances also enhanced performance, though not necessarily to the same extent as steroids. But they did allow players to perform or perform better than they would have been able to without the drugs.
Although this is a simplistic view, steroids help make people stronger and faster. Steroids do not help baseball players hit the ball or throw the ball with more accuracy. A hitter like Mark McGwire could hit the ball farther when “juiced” up on steroids, but steroids didn’t help him see the ball better (note: HGH may improve sight and perception). They didn’t help him hit the ball squarely. (I’ve always found that to be an odd phrase since the batter is trying to hit a spherical object with a cylindrical object.) Likewise, steroids may help a pitcher add a few miles per hour to his fastball, but steroids won’t help him throw strikes. Steroids won’t help him throw a better curveball, slider, changeup or other offspeed pitch.
Some argue that a player’s character is to be considered along with his accomplishments. I call bullshit! Ty Cobb was a racist and a mean son of a bitch. Babe Ruth was a womanizer and heavy drinker. Mickey Mantle was an alcoholic. Willie Mays reportedly used greenies (amphetamines) as did many other players. All of them are enshrined in the Hall of Fame and deservedly so.
Character, schmaracter. The Hall of Fame voters apparently only consider character when it suits them.
The “Steroid Era” of Major League Baseball didn’t really change baseball as much as people think. The records that fell, would likely have fallen at some point. The teams that won World Series would have won them anyway. The way I see it is that the steroids story came out and Major League Baseball was embarrassed. In the years before the story broke, Major League Baseball executives and owners knew about steroids. There is no way they could not have known in some way. I mean, Major League Baseball even used the catch-phrase “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” for a year or two before the story broke. Steroids simply did not change the game as dramatically as people think it did except in one way: MONEY! Players started hitting tons of home runs. Offense was prolific. And people flocked to the stadiums to watch. Owners raked in the bucks.
Maybe steroids helped Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds hit home runs. Maybe steroids helped Roger Clemens strikeout more batters. It doesn’t matter. They still achieved greatness. They deserve to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame as Hall of Fame players.
The sad part of the steroid/Hall of Fame controversy is that great players, who deserve to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, who have never been linked to steroids, are finding it difficult to get elected even though they should be shoo-ins. Players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum. I said that already. The purpose of a museum is to provide a history of the subject. That is, the good AND bad of history, not just the good. To deny the public the bad side of history is to deny it of historical truth and accuracy. Imagine, if you will, a museum that tells the history of the United States of America and that museum chooses to skip over the bad parts of U.S. history, like the Civil War, the Trail of Tears, the race riots of the Civil Rights movement and other not so positive periods of history. In some ways, that’s what the Baseball Hall of Fame does. It cherry picks players to enshrine within its halls. Some less than reputable players are enshrined, while others of dubious character are left out. It’s a sham and does the public a disservice because it’s not telling a true history of baseball.
It’s time for the Baseball Hall of Fame to change the election process. It’s time to eliminate ballot limitations (voters can only vote for 10 players per ballot). It’s time for voters to focus more on player’s accomplishments than their character. It’s time for voters to turn a blind eye to the “Steroid Era.” It’s time for the Baseball Hall of Fame to display and represent ALL of baseball history, the good parts AND the bad parts. If the Hall of Fame wants to identify players who admitted to using steroids, go ahead (but don’t identify players who might have used steroids when it hasn’t been proven that they did). But don’t act like that period of baseball didn’t happen. You cannot erase those performances. You cannot erase those records. The games were played. They cannot be “unplayed.” History cannot be erased or ignored. But the Baseball Hall of Fame and its voters cannot and do not seem to understand that. It continues to ignore and deny parts of its history.