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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hall of Fame: how many bites of the apple are too many?

Yesterday afternoon I happened to be watching the Bud Selig MLB Network trying to get some news that Martians had swept through San Diego and kidnapped Yankee general manager Brian Cashman and that his replacement had actually acquired some players I might like.  The announcer guy was with former players Harold Reynolds and Kevin Millar when Selig apparently walked by and they pleaded with him to join them.

Bud Selig: longest serving member of the Hall of Fame Board of Directors. Monday, January 13, 2014

Allan Huber "Bud" Selig has been a director since 1976.  1976!  Selig has also been commissioner of the Major Baseball League since 1992.


Without offering the 80 year old commissioner a seat they then heaped praise on their boss.  It was revolting.  After Selig had extricated himself from the kiss ass fest, there was later an interruption of the Brain Kenny program to show the pathetic scene of the announcement of the most recent results of the most absurd committee formed to jam yet more unworthy people into the Hall of Fame: the Golden Era Committee.  What an embarrassment.  It's amazing how many take it so seriously.

As with voting by the 500 or so baseball writers for regular election, this committee needed to have 75% of its 16 members vote for someone to be elected.  That would be 12 of the 16 votes.  Dick Allen and Tony Oliva received 11 and Jim Kaat 10.  Maybe it was the spectacle of their being one vote short that made the howls of protest even more vehement.  11 of 16 is 68.75%, so it's not as close as one vote suggests.

The event went like this: there was a table with, I guess, all 16 committee members seated.  It was impossible to know since the TV camera showed only about five people at the center and never moved.  Jane Forbes Clark, whose family owns Cooperstown, NY and the Hall of Fame, for some reason took to the podium.  She introduced all 16 members and asked each to stand when announced.  Seated beside her was Fergie Jenkins looking glum.  Then after they had received tepid applause they quickly sat down and Jane Forbes Clark announced the number of votes for the finalists.

It was sad on multiple levels because it all seemed to have been orchestrated to be a celebration but it turned out to be a funeral.  Switching back to Brian Kenny and his foils, the second guessing began.  Or maybe it was 20th guessing.

All of the former players had been considered and rejected in years five through twenty after their retirements.  Then they were considered by the regular veterans committee multiple times.  And finally, this Golden Era Committee, stacked with contemporaries, also rejected them.  Isn't that enough bites of the apple?


 Votes Percentage

Dick Allen 11 68.8%
Tony Oliva 11 68.8%
Jim Kaat 10 62.5%
Maury Wills 9 56.3%
Minnie Minoso 8 50%
Ken Boyer 3 or fewer
Gil Hodges 3 or fewer
Bob Howsam 3 or fewer
Billy Pierce 3 or fewer 
Luis Tiant 3 or fewer

The Golden Era Committee considered the ballot of candidates whose contributions to the game were most significant from 1947-72...

The 16-member Golden Era Committee commissioned with the review of the 10-name ballot met Sunday and Monday in San Diego, Calif., and was comprised of Hall of Fame members Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Pat Gillick, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and Don Sutton; major league executives Dave Dombrowski, Jim Frey, David Glass and Roland Hemond; and veteran media members Steve Hirdt, Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe and Tracy Ringolsby. Hall of Fame Chairman of the Board Jane Forbes Clark served as the non-voting chairman of the Golden Era Committee...

The Golden Era Committee will next consider candidates in 2017 for the 2018 Induction year, as the process to consider candidates by era repeats on a three-year cycle.

Please don't.  Just stop the nonsense before you lose all credibility.

All of the candidates but Howsam were players.  Allen and Boyer are the only ones to win a major award, both were MVP.  There is a paragraph on each candidate at the link above.  As you can see the committee included prominent Hall of Fame players from that era.

Later on MLB Network there was mention of Jim Kaat's announcing and Gil Hodges managing and Ken Boyer's fielding.  Boyer wasn't even the best fielding third baseman in his immediate family: younger brother Clete was.  Blah, blah, blah.

One final point.  I heard this discussed by multiple panels on MLB Network TV and there was not one syllable about character, which is at least half of the criteria for election, at least as pertaining to Dick Allen.  It was strictly about their stats.


5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.


"Sixty-One: The Team, the Record, the Men" April, 1989
by Tony Kubek 

Kubek was the shortstop.  In his book he tried to explain the disconnect between Roger Maris and the image many of us had of Maris.  Kubek wrote about one incident after another in which Maris had been misunderstood until I finally thought that Maris was more of a jerk than I had thought.  I was reminded of that when I read this:

Weighing the Complexity of a Hall Candidate, and His Times
DEC. 6, 2014  The New York Times

Dick Allen may be one of the greatest players not enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame...

Richie Allen 1964, The New York Times
I went through high school thinking that Dick Allen was a sports villain. He was often portrayed as surly and combative, though the complexity of the man was rarely acknowledged. I had not yet learned to be skeptical of what I read and to consider the source before forming an opinion...

Allen established a defiant tone to his career in 1963 ...

But during the next few seasons, he battled the Philadelphia news media, his weapon of choice being silence.

There were incidents — a fight involving Allen and a popular white player that led to the other player’s dismissal. He outlasted two managers. He insisted on doing things his way. He was late to games. There were times he would have a beer — or two — before he played. He dressed in his own area, away from the team.

The fans, fueled by the news media, turned on Allen, going so far as to throw objects at him in the outfield. Allen made it known that he wanted out of Philadelphia. He conducted a two-year campaign to force a trade, including waging a 26-day strike ...

“I could have handled things a little better,” Allen said. “But I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I said what I said, did what I did, meant what I meant — and I’ll stand behind every bit of it. “

The Dick Allen story has never been solely about statistics ...

Let bygones be bygones, and give a worthy candidate a long-overdue salute.


Read the entire article for yourself but I came away with a similar reaction to the one I had many years ago about Roger Maris: what a jerk.  I had forgotten most of the stuff about Richie Allen, who later changed his professional name to Dick.  I am resisting the all to easy temptation to phrase that differently for the sophomoric wisecrack.

What about the character of the man?  Maybe the baseball writers weren't the dopes I had thought for excluding Allen all these years when his stats seem to compel his election.  Maybe they actually had it right but were too dumb to realize why.

Recently Barry Bonds had the colossally poor taste to tell everyone that he and Roger Clemens belonged in the Hall of Fame.   Bonds, like Brian Kenny and others considering Dick Allen, totally ignores the element of character.  You may not like that criteria but it's there.  Bonds was an obnoxious egomaniac and Clemens a head hunting opportunist.  Each could be excluded on those traits alone.  Both used banned performance enhancing drugs (PED) and continue to lie about it.  None of these three have any claim to be HONORED.  Ironically, some of the baseball writers who will not tolerate PED users support Dick Allen.

If character is really important why not consider Bobby Brown?  He played for the Yankees 1946-1954.  1,863 plate appearances, OPS+ 100.  Brown later became a noted heart doctor and after that president of the old American League.  If character is so important, how come it never is the dominant factor?  That's one reason we're wasting too much time considering the fate of Allen, Bonds and Clemens.

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