BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
At left, Jim Rice; at right, Rickey Henderson. Both men will be inducted
into Baseball's Hall of Fame in July.
As usual, news centers on the players who didn't get picked
By MAURY ALLEN
There are 539 sportswriters, including this retired one, who cast ballots sending Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice to the Baseball Hall of Fame in bucolic Cooperstown, New York.
There were 286 names and plaques on the wall of the stately Museum ahead of them, from exalted Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson and Ty Cobb to doubtful entries Walter OMalley, Bobby Doerr and Bill Mazeroski.
As always, the Baseball Hall of Fame election announcement isnt as much about the ones who got in as it is about the ones who are left out.
Henderson was a first ballot lock with his landslide election netting 94.8 per cent of the votes cast for his explosive play over 25 years with nine teams as Rice slipped in on his final try in the writers vote after 16 seasons with the Boston Red Sox and 76.4 per cent of the 2008 vote.
These two names will be added to the list of the best and the brightest in emotional ceremonies before 10,000 enthused fans on July 26.
Henderson and Rice will accept the glory in person while family members will glow in the glory for late Yankee and Cleveland second baseman Joe Gordon, enshrined in December by a special committee.
The 62 living Hall of Fame members couldnt agree on a new name to represent their judgment so they remain without a selection since the honor of naming a forgotten veteran player fell to the members of this exclusive club.
As Henderson, Rice and Gordon survivors are feted in July, Pete Rose, Mark McGwire, Joan Hodges, 37-year widow of Brooklyn hero first baseman Gil Hodges and Marvin Miller, the most revolutionary figure in 20th century baseball, are locked out of the games Valhalla.
I just think it is a shame, said Joan Hodges through her tears last month when her husbands name was skipped again as an honoree of the games greatest.
Hodges has received more Hall of Fame votes than any person in the games history but never more than the needed 75 per cent in any one year. He has been on the ballot continuously since his death in 1972.
Miller received a miniscule 25 per cent of the votes of a special 12-man committee in 2007, the final year of his active eligibility. After that insulting amount cast by writers, former players and team executives, Miller wrote the Hall of Fame a letter expressing his regret and requesting his name be dropped from consideration.
His years of leadership at the Major League Baseball Players Association led to the huge salaries of today and the excitement the game has seen over the last quarter of a century.
Perhaps the most interesting Hall of Fame vote cast in 2008 was recorded next to the name of McGwire, the bulked up first baseman of the As and Cards who hit 583 home runs, eighth on the all time list behind Barry Bonds 762.
He was caught using a body building substance and sealed his doom for eventual induction by announcing before a 2005 Congressional committee that, Im not here to talk about the past, a dictum offered up by his unwise legal team.
Even with the 583 homers and even without a steroid discovery, McGwire would have been a fringe Hall of Famer. There are too many clean players on the horizon to ever move McGwire into that charmed circle of superstars.
Now we come to Rose and his 4,256 hits. Rose could say bye, bye, Ty as he broke Cobbs long-held mark but he never could say, Yes, I gambled on baseball and Im sorry. Rose could write a book (or a writer could do it for him) expressing some chagrin at his gambling but never quite owning up to the facts as laid out painfully in a long baseball probe.
One of the best of colorful character Roses lines as he entertained fans for a quarter of a century was, Ive written more books than I read.
His final book never really cleared the air or moved his case forward. No matter. Rose fills the streets with anxious fans every year in Cooperstown during induction weekend as he signs autographs, an appearance the real Hall of Famers find rather revolting as he steals attention from them.
So it seems clear that Henderson and Rice will shine in the summer sun at the Cooperstown shrine in July while McGwire, Rose, Miller and Joan Hodges are kept away from the games shrine.
Oh yeah. And there is also Shoeless Joe (Say it aint so, Joe) Jackson, another outsider for another day.
©2009 by Maury Allen. The Maury Allen caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted Jan. 19, 2009.
TO ACCESS MAURY ALLEN'S ARCHIVE OF COLUMNS ON THIS SITE, CLICK HERE: ALLEN ARCHIVE
You can comment on this column online. Please address your message to either "The Editors" or Maury Allen. To send an email, click here and don't forget to mention Maury's name: firstname.lastname@example.org
HOME About Us Index To
Talkback Contact Us