HOLIDAY EDITION 2006
on his way into record book
deny him Hall of Fame?
By MAURY ALLEN
It is the most sacred
duty of some 520 baseball writers across the country. It comes
up every year. It stirs emotions and memories. It always leads
This year will be no exception. I have just cast my Baseball
Hall of Fame ballot without checking the name of Mark McGwire.
His baseball deeds were in the past. He is not interested in
his past. He said so at a congressional hearing involving steroids.
Neither am I interested in his past.
McGwire hit 583 home runs in 16 seasons, 12 with the Oakland
As and four with the St. Louis Cardinals. His batting average
Oakland teammate Jose Canseco said that McGwire had help with
his hitting. Canseco said that McGwires 70 homers, breaking
the Roger Maris record of 61, were chemically aided. Barry Bonds
hit 73 and all indications are that his numbers were chemically
The Hall of Fame ballot, the single greatest honor in sports
over the last 70 years since the honor was established at the
Cooperstown, New York museum, is a subjective vote.
There are no guaranteed numbers for selection. With 520 voting
sportswriters there might be 520 different opinions about McGwires
Pete Roses 4,256 hits are not included on a Hall of Fame
plaque because of his gambling addictions. Shoeless Joe Jackson
accepted money to help lose the 1919 World Series for the Chicago
White Sox. He is not a Hall of Famer.
McGwire dishonored the game by cheating. He admitted to use of
chemical supplements though he has been hazy on steroids. He
embarrassed himself and all of baseball with his wimpy performance
before the congressional committee. He deserves dishonor.
I was around when the Babe Ruth home run record of 60 in 154
games in 1927 was broken by Roger Maris with 61 in 162 games.
Controversy followed every Maris at bat and stuck with him throughout
the rest of his life.
It was simply the greatest single baseball performance of all
time. Roger Maris was robbed of Hall of Fame honors for an abrasive
He hit 61 homers in an expanded 162 schedule. He pointed out
that the schedule was not of his doing. He broke the record of
baseballs icon, Babe Ruth, when most of the country, especially
those over 45, rooted against him to preserve the Babes
He also achieved the mark despite his own teammates showing reluctance
at his accomplishments. They wanted Mickey Mantle, the most beloved
of all Yankees in his time, to break the record.
Mantle got to 54 before he was grounded by an infection.
The single most exciting baseball game I have ever witnessed
was played that 1961 season in Baltimore when Maris had 58 homers
as the Yankees played game 154. He hit one homer for 59, flied
out deep twice and dribbled away his last chance against reliever
Hoyt Wilhelm, a future Hall of Famer himself, on his last at
Maris dribbled the knuckleball back to the mound and then let
out a huge release of stored up energy. It was over. The 61st
homer he hit the last day of the season against Boston rookie
Tracy Stallard was almost anti-climactic.
Commissioner Ford Frick, a lifelong friend of the Babes,
had killed the chase by setting that asterisk (never used) on
Rogers 61 homers. Fans bought into it and when Maris failed
to gain 60 homers in 154 games they lost interest.
Only 18,000 fans bothered to show at Yankee Stadium for the final
game of the 1961 season, the game that Roger Maris used to break
the noblest of baseball records, the 60 homers of Babe Ruth in
When McGwire broke the Maris mark, clearly helped by chemicals,
television made it into a national event. The Maris family was
brought along for the ride. They warmly rewarded McGwire with
their affection and praise. He said nothing about how he accomplished
The Baseball Hall of Fame voting is currently being held with
sportswriters across the land weighing their choices. Cal Ripken,
Jr. and Tony Gwynn are first round winners for sure with either
of them a possibility for unanimous selection, a feat never before
achieved in 70 years of voting.
I added Tommy John, Rich Gossage, Andre Dawson and Steve Garvey
to my list of worthy candidates.
I hope the Hall of Fame members, voting as a Veterans Committee,
will select old favorite Gil Hodges of the Brooklyn Dodgers as
a winner on their ballots for July induction.
The names of the selections or non-selections by the baseball
writers will be announced in early January. The Hall of Fame
Veterans announce their choice in February.
I will be there for the induction of Ripken, Gwynn and any other
2007 Hall of Famer. I just hope I dont see McGwire in Cooperstown.
Canseco deserves it more than McGwire for his honesty.
©2006 by Maury Allen. The Maury Allen caricature is ©2001
by Jim Hummel. The illustration is an artist's version of a famous
photograph. This column first posted Dec. 18, 2006.
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