From: Ann Killion of the SFGate
The Baseball Hall of Fame ballots are due at the end of the month and the process just got more confusing than ever.
Steroid players? Still unlikely to be voted in.
Steroid managers? That’s a different story.
The Boys of Steroids are still on the Boys of Summer ballot: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro are among the 36 players on the 2014 ballot. They’re all there to be accepted or – more likely – rejected by the majority of the 500-plus Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters who participate (I’m one of those voters).
Last year, none of the players who come with substantial evidence that they used steroids received more than 37.6 percent of the vote. They need 75 percent of the votes to be inducted. Last year not a single player was voted into the Hall of Fame, making for a muted ceremony that probably contributed little to the Cooperstown economy.
Players stay on the ballot for 15 years, so this issue is far from over. However, it takes a lot of mind-changing – and a long time – for a player to jump almost 40 percentage points in balloting.
So all of those players must look at what just happened with the Expansion Era Committee voting last weekend and feel puzzled. Three of the best, most successful managers of the steroid era were elected unanimously: Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and – most notably – Tony La Russa. Easy, quick, no fuss.
If there were an all-steroid baseball team (Bonds in left, McGwire at first, Clemens on the mound – we can keep going), there’s no doubt who the manager would be. It would be La Russa, who managed the A’s in the late ’80s and early ’90s Bash Brothers era, widely considered Ground Zero for rampant steroid use. Then La Russa went on to manage the St. Louis Cardinals, where McGwire made it fashionable to use steroids to break baseball’s most hallowed records.
Along the way to this week’s Hall of Fame vote, La Russa has been a hypocritical steroid-era bully, pointing fingers at and calling out players he didn’t like, even ones he managed, such as Canseco, while simultaneously angrily defending McGwire and others. He eventually hired McGwire as his hitting coach in a transparent attempt to improve the slugger’s Hall of Fame chances. That backfired: McGwire’s vote tallies actually continue to drop. La Russa has both claimed that everyone knew Canseco was on steroids and to have no knowledge that McGwire was juicing. La Russa has attacked every reporter or outsider who dared to raise the issue.
But he, along with Torre and Cox, was unanimously elected inside a hotel room in Orlando by 16 voters on the Expansion Era Committee. The Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins was one of those voters and is sworn to absolute secrecy about the details of the process. But he did describe a closed-door environment where “everyone spoke the same language,” and held old-school values, removed from “the complex lingo of new-age stat devotees.”
I’m sure that the discussion of how the candidates benefited from steroids, if it was raised at all, took a back seat to all the other accomplishments in the candidates’ resumes. The managers elected were certainly helped by the belief that everyone was looking the other way. Of course those same arguments could and have been made on behalf of the steroid-era players on the ballot, and – for now – have been rejected by voters.
So would the steroid-tainted players benefit from getting into that exclusive kind of Expansion Era Committee environment – which they eventually may if they aren’t inducted while on the active ballot? Don’t be so sure. The most vocal opponents of steroid use are the men who have made it into the Hall of Fame. They believe their game and legacy has been tainted (and probably want to keep the Hall of Fame as exclusive as possible). Men such as Frank Robinson, Rod Carew and Andre Dawson who were on this year’s committee all have publicly damned steroid use. A 75 percent threshold would be hard to reach without the former players.
And the committee isn’t likely to embrace the old argument for letting in steroid users, that “you can’t write the history of baseball without them.” After all, they just rejected union leader Marvin Miller, whose contributions are significant to baseball history. Miller, of course, was instrumental in keeping drug testing out of the game for so long.
The process is muddied on so many levels. ESPN commentator Keith Olbermann had an interesting rant about La Russa’s election, noting that Pete Rose is banned from the ballot for betting while managing, which might have caused an unfair and illegal advantage to opponents, while “Tony La Russa was manager of the Founding Fathers of modern PED use who, because of their unfair and illegal advantage, doubtless won games they were not supposed to win.”
Sigh. It’s an honor. It’s a puzzle.
Well, Congrats to Barry Larkin, the singular inductee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for 2012.
Now comes the hard part. The 2013 Ballot will be flooded in worthy, clouded and questionable candidates. Of the first year candidates hitting the ballot for 2012, only Bernie Williams, @ 9.6%, earned enough votes (above 5%) to remain on the ballot for next year. Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell made fairly significant increases in their percentage numbers, however a few of those numbers will look to drop as ‘hold-overs’ tend to dip when big name newbies hit the ballot. Those names will include;
- Barry Bonds: OF Pittsburgh, San Fransisco
- Roger Clemens: RHSP Boston (A), Toronto, New York (A), Houston
- Mike Piazza: C/DH Los Angeles (N), Florida, New York (N), San Diego, Oakland
- Curt Schilling: RHSP Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia (N), Arizona, Boston (A)
- Kenny Lofton: CF/OF Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago (A), San Fransisco, Chicago (N), Pittsburgh, New York (A), Philadelphia (N), Los Angeles (N), Texas
- David Wells: LHSP Toronto, Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore, New York (A), Chicago (A), San Diego, Boston (A), Los Angeles (N)
- Sammy Sosa: OF/DH Texas, Chicago (A), Chicago (N), Baltimore
- Craig Biggio: C/2B/OF Houston
Now, looking at the list, one doesn’t see a first ballot inductee (as opposed to the 2013 ballot and Greg Maddux’ 1st year of eligibility). Both Bonds and Clemens carry the statistics of greatness but are deeply embroiled in the PED issue due to various and on-going reasons. Piazza, arguably one of the greatest offensive catchers in the game, played in the Steroid Era and, like Bagwell, will have to endure. Craig Biggio and Kenny Lofton were big-name stars but are on the bubble at best. Sammy Sosa, like McGwire and Palmeiro, will probably earn enough votes to stay on the ballot as voters continue to judge the Steroid Era for its’ fact and fiction. David Wells, well who knows. He’ll probably survive to the next ballot but with Schilling taking some votes away and Jack Morris still on it, who can say for sure?
So let’s take a look at what appears to be the next great debate; Curt Schilling versus Jack Morris.
Some say that Curt cannot get into the Hall if Jack Morris is excluded and vice-versa. Others believe that a few of their average to just above average regular seasons give way to their post-season efforts, while experts contend that the HOF isn’t based wholly on post-season theatrics. As Brian Kenney of Clubhouse Confidential put it, “Many people mistake Jack Morris for being the post-season pitcher Curt Schilling actually was.” So, let’s see where this takes us.
- Luis Tiant (19) Jack Morris (18) Curt Schilling (20) David Wells (21)
- Wins/Losses(%): 229/172 (.571) 254/186 (.577) 216/146 (.597) 239/157 (.604)
- ERA: 3.30 3.90 3.46 4.13
- ERA+: 115 105 128 108
- Strikeouts: 2416 2478 3116 2201
- K/BB: 2.19 1.78 4.38 3.06
- WAR: 60.1 39.3 69.7 50.7
Well, those are the basics. Wells is eliminated on ERA alone. At 3.90, Morris has the highest ERA of any legitimate Hall of Fame candidate and if elected, would have the highest ERA for a starter. Wells played for some great teams and Championship teams to accumulate that winning percentage, including some great personal accolades and 3 All-Star appearances, but he’s out.
Now let’s take a look at the post-season stats in the three-horse race.
- Luis Tiant (3 Series) Jack Morris (7 Series) Curt Schilling (12 Series)
- Wins/Losses (%): 3/0 (1.000) 7/4 (.636) 11/2 (.846)
- ERA: 2.86 3.80 2.23
- Innings Pitched 34.2 92.1 133.1
- Strikeouts: 20 64 120
- K/BB: 1.82 2.00 4.80
Tiant broke through in 1968, after he altered his delivery so that he turned away from the home plate during his motion, in effect creating a hesitation pitch. According to Tiant, the new motion was a response to a drop in his velocity due to an arm injury. Twisting and turning his body into unthinkable positions, Tiant would spend more time looking at second base than he did the plate as he prepared to throw. In that season, he led the league in ERA (1.60), shutouts (9, including 4 consecutive!), hits per nine innings (a still-standing franchise record 5.30, which broke Herb Score’s 5.85 in 1956 and would be a Major-League record low until Nolan Ryan gave up 5.26 hits/9 innings in 1972), strikeouts per nine innings (9.22, more than a batter an inning), while finishing with a 21–9 mark. Beside this, opposing hitters batted just .168 off Tiant, a major league record, and on July 3 he struck out 19 Minnesota Twins in a ten-inning game, setting an American League record for games of that length. His 1.60 ERA was the lowest in the American League since Walter Johnson’s 1.49 mark during the dead-ball era in 1919, and second lowest in 1968 only to Bob Gibson’s 1.12—the lowest ever during the Live Ball Era.
Known as El Tiante at Fenway Park, in 1972 Tiant regained his old form with a 15–6 record and led the league with a 1.91 ERA on his way to winning the Comeback Player of the Year award. He would win 20 games in 1973 and 22 in 1974. Though hampered by back problems in 1975, he won 18 games for the American League Champion Red Sox and then excelled for Boston in the postseason. In the playoffs he defeated the three-time defending World Champion Oakland Athletics in a 7–1 three-hitter complete game, then opened the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. His father and mother, having been allowed to visit from Cuba under a special visa, were in Fenway Park that game to watch their son defeat The Big Red Machine in a 6–0 five-hit shutout. All six Red Sox runs were scored in the seventh inning; Tiant led off that inning (the designated hitter was not yet in use in World Series play) with a base hit off Don Gullett and eventually scored on Carl Yastrzemski’s single for the first of those six runs. Tiant won Game 4 as well (throwing 163 pitches in his second complete game in the series) and had a no-decision in Game 6, which has been called the greatest game ever played, after Carlton Fisk’s dramatic game-winning walk-off home run in the 12th inning.
In his 19-season career, Tiant compiled a 229–172 record with 2416 strikeouts, a 3.30 ERA, 187 complete games, and 49 shutouts in 3,486.1 innings. Tiant is one of five pitchers to have pitched four or more consecutive shutouts in the 50-year expansion era, with Don Drysdale (six, 1968), Bob Gibson (five, 1968), Orel Hershiser (five, 1988) and Gaylord Perry (four, 1970) being the others. He was inducted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.
- 4 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA, leading the league twice.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins.
- 7 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league 3 times.
- 8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
3 All-Star Games. 4 time 20 game winner. 3 times appearing on the American League Cy Young balloting, twice finishing in the top five. 4 times appearing on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top ten.
Jack Morris played in 18 big league seasons between 1977 and 1994, mainly for the Detroit Tigers, and won 254 games throughout his career. Armed with a fastball, slider, devastating splitter and a fierce competitive spirit, Morris played on three World Championship teams (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, and 1992 Blue Jays). While he gave up the most hits, earned runs and home runs of any pitcher in the 1980s, he also started the most games, pitched the most innings and was the winningest pitcher of the decade. On April 7, 1984 Morris no-hit the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. In 1986, Morris racked up 21 wins, but was overshadowed by eventual Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox. Despite a sub par season in 1989 when he won only 6 games, he still finished as the winningest major league pitcher of the 1980s, with 162 wins during the decade.
In 1991, Morris signed a one-year contract with his hometown Minnesota Twins. He enjoyed another great season, posting 18 wins as Minnesota faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Morris started for the Twins three times, with his final outing being Game 7. In a postseason performance for the ages, the 36-year-old hurler, known throughout his career as a clutch “big game” pitcher, lived up to his billing by throwing 10 innings of shutout baseball against the Braves as the Twins won the World title on a 10th inning single by Gene Larkin that scored Dan Gladden. Morris was named the World Series MVP for his fantastic performance. Following the 1991 season, Morris spurned the Minnesota Twins, his hometown team, and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He earned 21 wins for the second time in his career (and the first ever 20-win season for a Blue Jays pitcher), though he rode the wave of superior run support from his offense, given his 4.04 ERA that year. The Blue Jays reached the 1992 World Series against the Braves and despite a sub par World Series performance, he won a third championship ring as Toronto beat Atlanta in six games. He won a fourth in 1993, as the Blue Jays repeated as World Champions with a victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. Morris did not pitch in the postseason, however.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA.
- 8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
- 8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league in 1986.
- 10 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Complete Games, leading the league in 1990.
- 12 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league twice.
5 All Star Games. 3 Time 20 game winner. Appearing on the AL Cy Young ballot 7 times, 5 time finishing in the top five. Morris appeared 5 times on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top 15. 4 Time World Series Champion including the 1991 World Series MVP award.
During the Phillies’ pennant run in 1993, Schilling went 16–7 with a 4.02 ERA and 186 strikeouts. Schilling led the Phillies to an upset against the two-time defending National League champion Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. Although he received no decisions during his two appearances in the six-game series, Schilling’s 1.69 ERA and 19 strikeouts (including the first 5 Braves hitters of Game 1, an NLCS record) were enough to earn him the 1993 NLCS Most Valuable Player Award. After losing Game 1 of the WS to the Toronto Blue Jays, he pitched brilliantly in his next start. With the Phillies facing elimination the day after losing a bizarre 15–14 contest at home in Veterans Stadium, Schilling pitched a five-hit shutout that the Phillies won, 2–0. Schilling was named to the NL All-Star team in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and started the 1999 game.
With Arizona, he went 22–6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2001, leading the majors in wins and innings pitched. He also went 4–0 with a 1.12 ERA in the playoffs. In the 2001 World Series, the Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in seven games. Schilling shared the 2001 World Series MVP Award with teammate Randy Johnson. He and Johnson also shared Sports Illustrated magazine’s 2001 “Sportsmen of the Year” award. During the World Series Schilling received two other honors, as he was presented that year’s Roberto Clemente and Branch Rickey Awards, the first Arizona Diamondback so honored for either award. In 2002, he went 23–7 with a 3.23 ERA. He struck out 316 batters while walking 33 in 259.1 innings. On April 7, 2002, Schilling threw a one-hit shutout striking out 17 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Both years he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Johnson.
On September 16, 2004, Schilling won his 20th game of 2004 for the Red Sox, becoming the fifth Boston pitcher to win 20 or more games in his first season with the team, and the first since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in 1978. Schilling ended his regular season with a 21–6 record. On October 19, 2004, Schilling won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. Notably, he won this game playing on an injured ankle—the same injuries that contributed to his disastrous outing in Game 1 of the ALCS. These injuries were so acute that by the end of his performance that day his white sock was soaked with blood, which is now referred to as “the bloody sock”. Schilling was once again runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2004, this time to Minnesota Twins hurler Johan Santana. Later, the entire Red Sox team was named Sports Illustrated’s 2004 Sportsmen of the Year, making Schilling only the second person to have won or shared that award twice. For the 2006 season, Schilling was said to be healthy. He began the season 4–0 with a 1.61 ERA. He finished the year with a 15–7 record and 198 strikeouts, with a respectable 3.97 ERA. On May 27, he earned his 200th career win, the 104th major league pitcher to accomplish the feat. On August 30, Schilling collected his 3,000th strikeout. On June 7, 2007, Schilling came within one out of his first career no-hitter. Schilling gave up a two-out single to Oakland’s Shannon Stewart, who lined a 95-mph fastball to right field for the A’s only hit. He earned his third win of the 2007 playoffs in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series leaving after 5 1/3 innings, striking out four while allowing only four hits. With this win, he became only the second pitcher over the age of 40 to start and win a World Series game (Kenny Rogers became the first just one year prior). As Schilling departed in the 6th inning, fans at Fenway Park gave Schilling a standing ovation.
Schilling has the highest ratio of strikeouts to walks of any pitcher with at least 3,000 strikeouts, and is one of four pitchers to reach the 3,000-K milestone before reaching 1,000 career walks. The other three who accomplished this feat are Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, and former Boston Red Sox ace and teammate Pedro Martínez.
- 1 time finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league in 2004.
- 2 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
- 4 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Wins, leading the league in 2001.
- 7 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Strikeouts, leading the league twice.
- 8 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in ERA (1 time in the American League).
- 10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Complete Games, leading the league 4 times.
- 10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Shutouts (1 time in the American League).
6 All Star Games. 2 time 20 game winner. Schilling appeared on a total of 4 Cy Young Award Ballots (3 National/ 1 American) finishing second 3 times. He appeared on the Most Valuable Player ballot 4 times (3 National / 1 American) finishing in the top 10 twice. 3 time World Series Champion including a 1993 NLCS MVP award and 2001 World Series MVP award. A Roberto Clemente Award/Branch Rickey Award/Babe Ruth Award winner in 2001.
At the end of the day, it becomes a two-horse race, my sentimental favorite Mr. Tiant dropping off. But as we have seen, there are questions, answers and some of the numbers are deceiving. Yes, Morris has some great numbers but has negatives to go along with them. For all the experts who tout Jack’s big game post-season prowess, Curt buries him. Sure, Morris has four WS titles, but pitched below average in one and didn’t even pitch in another. The big 1991 performance against the Braves? The Bloody Sock game in 2004. Looking past Morris’ wins and the fact he has more losses, Schilling sports a higher win percentage. Who played for more perennial contenders? Who played for better run producers? And on and on…..
The questions will wage on, but the timetable is fairly limited, adding more fuel to the fire. This year marked Morris’ 13th on the ballot, leaving two more attempts. In two years, this could be a battle for the ‘Golden Age’ Committee or Veterans committee or whatever the guys who keep deserving but still breathing players out of the hall, therefore keeping their divided annual shares in tact, call themselves.
Well, having taken a look at the career of Dwight Evans, a player whom I believe should be ‘on the bubble’ for Hall of Fame consideration but fell off the ballot, I decided to look at for a few others. But not just Red Sox. Sure, Evans may be a slightly biased pick on my part, but the numbers back it up. How about a player who, somehow, spanned the limit of his 15 years ballot eligibility before finally being removed. ‘Mr. Clean’ Steve Garvey.
Garvey played his entire 19 year career in the National League West for two teams; the Los Angeles Dodgers (1969–82) and the San Diego Padres (1983–87).
- Games played: 2’332
- Hits: 2’599
- Average: .294
- RBI: 1’308
- HR: 272
- Runs: 1’143
- Base on Balls: 479
- OPS: .775
Steve was part of the most enduring infield in baseball history, alongside third baseman Ron Cey, shortstop Bill Russell and second baseman Davey Lopes, the four infielders stayed together as the Dodgers’ starters for eight and a half years. He set a National League record with 1207 consecutive games played, from September 3, 1975, to July 29, 1983. Ironically, Garvey tied the record in his first appearance back at Dodger Stadium in Padre gold. It is the fourth-longest such streak in Major League Baseball history.
In 1981, at a point in his career when it looked like he would one day rank among the game’s all-time greats, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.
In December 1982 Garvey signed with the Padres for $6.6 million over five years in what some felt was a “masterstroke” to General Manager Jack McKeon’s effort to rebuild the team. Though San Diego had vastly outbid the Dodgers, McKeon particularly noted Garvey’s value in providing a role model for younger players. Additionally, Garvey’s “box office appeal” helped San Diego increase its season ticket sales by 6,000 seats in Garvey’s first year. Sports Illustrated ranked the signing as the fifteenth best free agent signing ever as of 2008. Led by Garvey, winning his second National League Championship Series MVP award, the Padres won their first National League pennant over the Chicago Cubs in 1984.
- 2 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Runs Scored.
- 3 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in HR’s.
- 6 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Batting Average.
- 7 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Doubles.
- 7 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Runs Batted In.
- 10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Hits, leading the League twice.
Garvey appeared on the NL MVP ballot 9 times with 5 times placing in the top 10. Beating out Lou Brock to win in 1974, he finished 2nd over-all in 1978 behind winner Dave Parker.
10 All-Star Games including 2 MVP Awards. 4 Gold Gloves. 2 National League Championship Series MVP Awards. The 1974 National League Most Valuable Player Award. 1981 World Series Champion. The 1981 Roberto Clemente Award.
His uniform Number 6 has been retired by the San Diego Padres.
For all his numbers, awards and credentials, Garvey may be yet another player who has been denied entrance to the hall for the personal choices he’s made. But while the ever-widening HOF issue of PED’s and the choices of players like Big Mac, Palmiero, Bonds, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez are complicated because the consequences of their actions directly impacted their performance on the field and constituted cheating, Garvey’s personal choices effected only himself and thusly dismantled his family life and reputation at the end of his career.
Longtime Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda once commented on ‘Mr. Clean’, “If he ever came to date my daughter, I’d lock the door and not let him out.” He may have meant it in another way. In the mid to late 1980s, Garvey, in the midst of what he later termed a “midlife disaster,” engaged in a series of simultaneous romantic relationships and fathering of children with multiple women that led to him being the subject of national ridicule which most likely diminished his credibility in the eyes of the world’s most perfect voters, the BBWAA. After all, players who were of less than honorable reputation off the field would never be allowed into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. Suspected murderers, members of the KKK, legendary carousers, alcoholics or adulterers would never get the prized bronze plaque… right Ty Cobb? Too extreme? Okay, we’ll ask Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle or Wade Boggs.
So is his omission from the Hall a punishment for his moral weakness or sarcastic revenge for his ‘Mr. Clean’ image being heartily tarnished? Which ever it may be, the Veteran’s Committee, to date, has apparently agreed.
This was posted to Yahoo Sports yesterday and it is on a subject I feel is very important to the history of not only ‘The Nation’ but any person who considers themselves a fan of Baseball.
I should start by saying one of the best days I ever spent in Kansas City was at the Negro Leagues Museum.
It was the day before the 2003 season began and my dad and grandfather were in town to see the White Sox play the Royals on Opening Day. We paid our admissions on that Sunday morning and started looking at the fantastic exhibits full of old uniforms and scorecards. Each case was full of descriptions and stories to pore over and I think I read every word on every card. The thought occurred to me that there weren’t many museums set up better for teaching one subject.
We looked at the amazing statues on the Field of Legends — everyone from Rube Foster to Oscar Charleston — and then watched a short movie featuring Buck O’Neil in the little theater. When we came out, O’Neil himself was standing outside and my grandfather engaged him in a little jabber the way old men often do. They called each other “young man,” patted each other on the back and laughed together. Like thousands of other visitors, we shook hands with Buck, thanked him and left feeling as if the President had shown up to talk with us on a White House tour. We finished our trip by touring the jazz museum next door and taking a short walk down 18th Street for heaping sliced meat sandwiches, unparalleled burnt ends and sweet strawberry soda at Arthur Bryant’s.
It’s a day that remains hard to beat, one I’d recommend to anyone visiting KC.
Yet when I look back at that visit — or any of my four or five other trips — one of the nagging memories is how devoid the museum was of other visitors. I once reported a story on Roger Clemens(notes) taking a tour when the Yankees were in town and the only people in the place were The Rocket, his entourage and O’Neil — who served as a proud tour guide.
And that’s why it comes as no surprise to read yet another story on how the Negro Leagues Museum is in financial trouble and facing an uncertain future. Part of the quagmire is based on a decrease in donations due to the recession, but a lot of the situation is based on the infighting among the museum’s leaders. It’s really quite sad. O’Neil died in 2006, but to see the way some already have forgotten his lessons and legacy suggests he actually passed away many decades ago.
So what to do about the museum — the only one of its kind — before it’s too late? After once being one of its biggest supporters, Joe Posnanski believes the people in charge have “lost their way” and that the place might be “doomed.” Baseball blogger @Wrigleyville23, meanwhile, thinks Major League Baseball should throw a lot of money at the museum to keep it afloat.
I think the solution lies in the middle. Move the museum to Cooperstown, N.Y., where it would have a better chance to flourish.
As Poz’s piece suggests, the methods and motives of the current leadership have started to completely overshadow O’Neil’s original plans for the museum. Its spotlight should shine on the performances of the great black players before the integration of the big leagues and their important place in the struggle for equal civil rights in America. That focus has seemingly disappeared in Kansas City and it seems doubtful that it will return. A fresh start in a new locale is needed.
As for Wrigleyville 23’s plan, I would add that it’s not only MLB’s obligation to keep the memory of the Negro Leagues alive but our obligation as the rest of the baseball world as well. Bringing the museum to Cooperstown would increase foot traffic and donations. More importantly, it would expose more baseball-minded folks to the Negro Leagues beyond the usual fare about Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell.
(And I should say here that I envision the museum not being absorbed by the existing Hall of Fame — which already includes Negro Leagues members and associated exhibits — but remaining autonomous in a specially built wing or in its own building. The Negro Leagues deserve more than being turned into a simple sidebar.)
There are undoubtedly any number of logistical problems and challenges that such a move would face, chief among them uprooting the museum from the city that O’Neil and the famous Kansas City Monarchs once called home. The move certainly would rob the museum of a certain local flavor — and I’m not just talking about the post-trip barbecue.
But the simple fact remains that the museum is struggling to draw visitors in a town that’s not exactly a magnet for tourists. So why not move it to the one place where everyone arrives with baseball on the brain? Wouldn’t that be the best way to present the memories that O’Neil worked so hard to preserve?
There are several points of comment which I must agree with in addition to the article as a whole.
This is not a ‘color’ issue, but yet it is. As fans, there is no dividing line… our color is the color of the team we root for and the red, white and blue of the MLB. It is partly our responsibility to ensure the history, a very rich one, of the Negro Leagues as part of Baseball’s history and not a sidebar or asterik. But there should also be a greater responsibility on.. well, Negro ball players. Be it African-American, Cuban, Latino… the Negro Leagues weren’t just a ‘dumping ground’ of black players as some ill-minded twits have referred to it (not necessarily here), it was a proving ground of talent and also character for Blacks and Latinos who were denied the opportunity to ply their craft in the ‘major’ leagues. They were denied by, but equal to their white counterparts… as history as easily proven and todays majority of African-American and foreign players need to recognize the sacrifices of those who came before them. Yes, in a way, even Ichiro needs to recognize Buck O’Neil.
So yes, Jimmy Rollins should be opening his checkbook. As should El Tiante (who we all know has a very special and distinct history with the Negro Leagues) Barry f#@&!n’ Bonds, Big Papi, Manny, Pudge Rodriguez, et al,… never mind any responsible white player who believes in the history of his sport. The owners should as well, let’s not forget the fortunes of teams such as the Dodgers and Indians were greatly affected early on in their historic decisions to take on minority players. And perhaps we as fans, the people who literally donate to their paycheck should remind them.
As a member of Red Sox Nation and the long, destructive history of the Yawkey administation’s deep seeded bias against colored people (Remember, we had a shot at Jackie Robinson long before Branch Rickey… and we deep sixed Willie Mays as well) and the talent they represented, I’m a firm believer that we need to fully recognize and support the Negro Leagues as a chapter in Baseball history. Not just MLB, but the evolution of the sport itself.
Should the Negro League Museum be moved to Cooperstown? Abso’freakin’lutely. Will it? Probably not. It is my understanding that the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a private entity working in conjunction with Major League Baseball… therefore an autonomous figure who can ultimately decide it’s own fate free of the MLB administration. Which is why the Negro Leagues are a sidebar to this point in Cooperstown. They have denied the NLM (Negro Leagues Museum) a wing and keep the exhibits to a ‘circulating’ display because there is just ‘so much of it’. Imagine trying to get the NLM as whole in the same building all together.
No, the museum needs to be in Cooperstown, but a free standing exhibit of its own equally celebrated year round and flooded in affection on Induction Day. Just like the Hall itself. Will it happen? Not easily. The folks who run Cooperstown also happen to be the long time city fathers of the town… and have kept growth moderate to suit their desire of keeping Cooperstown a ‘tiny historical hamlet’. Fine by me… we all love those sleepy tourist attractions which offer amazing historical notes. Getting the museum built to their specifications in their decided locale and at their decided price… who knows. In the end, it won’t matter if it is hitorically significant to their own Museum, its still competition. So, I’m sure if we the baseball loving public, former / current players and benefactors pay for it and let them run with a free hand… they may go for it… maybe.
If President Obama, one of the Nation’s biggest sportsfans were involved it sure would help. Hmmm… you know… if Obama, Big Papi, Al Sharpton and Jimmy Rollins showed up on my doorstep with a plan for the NLM, I’d sure as hell listen.
Where to begin. I’ve been mulling this over for a bit now and the words just seem to be.. empty. But seeing as how most of the responses to the steroid scandal have been empty, it’s fitting.
Many a sportswriter and fan have said “Oh, well the two championships are null and void now, so they might as well return the rings” and insanely dumb sh!t like that. Hey the Yankess had Sheffield, Clemens, Pettite and Canseco (on the bench) for a few of their championships and no one is telling them to return the hardware. Is Paul O’Niell less respected because he played with them or do we just suspect him now? Do we tell Torre he’s only half the coach he is because he managed those teams? Should we dial up LaRussa and tell him the legacy is cancelled becuase he won with both Canseco and MacGwire in Oakland? Should Lansford, Eck and Hassey be questioned now or just forced to hand in their rings?
I strongly believe the only way to end this charade is to publish that list. 103, 83 or somewhere between 1 and 50 depending on MLB and the player’s union story this week, it doesn’t matter. Publish it. Legalities be damned… the seal has already been broken and was as soon as the first name was leaked. At this point it’s appearing like some mean-spirited revenge tactic. Maybe Roger Goodell is behind it. Maybe it’s Pete Rose. Either way, these names will be popping up in the press for who knows how long. Obviously Baseball is scared… terrified is more like it. So far, the top tier talent of the ‘rebirth’ period has been exposed. You have just under ten names aside from the players exposed through other avenues and most have been record holders. Top ten record holders… top twenty record holders and what would have been future HOF’ers. Publish the list. Who ever is holding the list picks his or her spots very well. Don’t wait for one of the players to be voted in and two days before the induction ceremony at Cooperstown the NY Times breaks an ‘important’ story. Fearless Leader Selig wants to keep claiming he inherited the steroid era and it wasn’t his fault blah blah blah but as long as this story unfolds it’s his steroid era. Baseball was dead going into the ’98 season and Fearless Leader was the first one to masturbate with joy in the new ‘home run’ era which saved the game. Sosa and MacGwire were saviors and even though everyone said “Wow, they look a little bigger…” Bud and the owners simply put their fingers in their ears and sang “Oh-bla-dee-oh-bla-dah” all the while reconfiguring the free agency scouting system to include steroids in their factoring.
Now… the sh!t is hitting the fans in ballparks, homes and sports bars all over the country and splattering it’s way to Washington as well. You can take fans meaning the motorized air circulating kind or the ones who finance MLB by sitting in the seats, purchasing pay cable sports network subscriptions and of course penuts and crackerjack.
Which brings us to Big Papi. While this news shouldn’t stab us in the heart, it does none the less. Many a sportscaster and writer who actually care for their craft were stung. Manny was obviously no suprise, neither was his reaction. He gets paid either way. Sheffield, Clemens or Bonds? The games biggest a$$holes so no problems or really any surprises there. Giambi? You’d have been shocked if he wasn’t on the list or the Mitchell Report. Ortiz is what Cal Ripkin was… honest and appearing heroic. A role model. Kids love him and parents love him and he made fans love him through his dedication and play. Bam! Heartbreak. Shame. Tainted Love.
In 2003 a Minnessota bench player named David Arias became “Big Papi” David Ortiz, almost overnight and with such oomph that both Boston and The Twins went “Huh?” We struck gold. We picked up another low cost player with some really high reward. Why? Obviously he just wasn’t getting the playing time in Twinkieville… change of venue… new hitting coach? Um, David? Okay.. supplements. Now, before I go into any form of attack mode, I’ll take a deep breath. We’ve heard this before. “I wasn’t sure what I was taking… Everyone was doing it… Bud Selig passed the needles out at his New Years party…” If there’s a steaming pile of bullsh!t, there’s a member of the MLBPA (or more recently NFLPA or NBAPA) to shovel it. You’re a two million dollar a season minimum athlete (league minimum), never mind an all-star who makes like ten times that and rakes in additional millions from advertising locally and nationally and sells #34 jerseys all day long in the official shop (and on-line at bostonredsox.com of course) and you didn’t know what you were putting into your body? Your temple? Your means of income? Yeah, you got them here, you got them in the D.R., so on and so forth. I called bullsh!t with A-rod and his piss poor sob story and do so with yours. The difference being? A-Rod lied multiple times when asked on TV (and lying to Katie Couric will not do you any favors) and gave a dissapointing half-a$$ed tale to The Godfather of Baseball Peter Gammons (who sadly let him cake-walk on it) blaming youth and stupidity… Ortiz denies ever taking steroids. A-Rod lied and came around when he got caught. Ortiz, still denies it and does so passionately. Yes, he took supplements and didn’t know the whole story of what was in them. A pass? F^@% no, but at least there’s what could be derived as some truth. To date, he is the only named suspect to “search for the truth”. He went as far as to call a press conference in conjunction with the new MLBPA boss to say he can’t access the truth. But if there is one thing Big Papi and his reputation have offered, like a famous Vulcan first officer of the starship Enterprise, he doesn’t lie.
There is one thing. At the beginning of the pre-season Ortiz made some statements (as we have all heard again and again) about the use of steroids and ideas on penalties for such. Well, when his best friend and ex partner in crime was busted for apparently being trying to get pregnant, David was very quiet. Sure Manny is a friend and all, but principles are principles… aren’t they? After all, when the players held the team meeting at the trade deadline of ’08 to decide Manny’s fate it unanimously 100% no doubt in favor of trading him. Ortiz himself was ‘tired’ of the antics and the effect on the team. Now Manny has violated a sacred trust Papi has with the ethics of the game and the trust of the fans… and is speechless? Were they sharing supplements? Was there more to it? Was the writing on the wall for Papi’s involvement going public? Is that why Papi has been so dreadfully below average this season? Only Papi knows for sure.
That is the past… let’s dream for a moment and think of the future.
It was mentioned a while back that if the Sox couldn’t land Big Tex in the FA Market, they could possibly make a monster push for Albert Pujols in the next few years when he hits the market (remind you, this was mentioned before Tex landed in NY). Good idea? Sure, great idea! Not going to happen, but it sounds sweet. If Pujols ever plays a game in a uniform other than the Cards red and white, Busch Stadium will burn to the ground. He’s a mainstay for the city not just the team. You have to imagine Pujols will be getting A-Rod money easily and St. Louis is already saving up the war chest. Both he and Holliday look to be the next Maris & Mantle, Papi & Manny for years to come (while I fear the hopes for such with Tex & A-Rod will fall short of the lofty NY expectations) if they pay for them. St. Louis, like Boston is rich in tradition and loyalty so I can see it happening.
But what about Prince Fielder? Sure, he’s a house and more appropriately a powerhouse. Like his dad. I remember several times the Sox ‘Hot Stove’ bubbling over in Big Cecil news. Sure, we signed Jack Clark, Andre Dawson and others when Big Cecil was the talk of the league.. but hey, like Frank Viola said the Sox were were in transit
ion in the early ’90’s and those were the thin years. Not thin moneywise, we wasted that money on Jack Clark, just thin talent wise. Viola, Clemens on the original downslide, Tony Pena and then….. yeah. Every trade deadline, yep, talk of gettin’ Cecil… putting big #45 in Red Sox red, white and blue. But we rented Rob Deer or an older Tom Brunansky instead. (in no way a shot to Bruno who was greatly appreciated during both his terms of service in Red Sox Nation or Deer who was great guy and power hitter who though below average worked his butt off) Big Cecil was… well, Prince Fielder. A little older, a little bolder, but a power hitter and a presence in the line-up. Prince is a little rough around the edges just as his dad was, but he’s progressing a lot faster and without having to go to Japan to do it. Like his dad he’s not the most mobile of first-baggers but he does the job and is designed to help fill in for the DH spot in the AL. Perhaps the Sox should finally sign Fielder to the roster. Better late than never? No, just better.
Imagine Prince nailing those 450 foot or better bombs in the friendly confines of Fenway Park. Over the Monster. Off the Monster. Reaching out to Teddy Ballgame’s red seat in the right field bleachers… or beyond? Shades of Jim Rice. Papi may be cooked and Lowell, though still hitting well, is slowly on the outs as an everyday fielder and could be filling the DH slot more often… so imagine a line-up built around Youk at 3rd, Prince at 1st, Bay in Left with Vic behind the plate… with Petey and Jacoby and the revolving SS/RF position? Quite a line-up. Now I realize we have Lars Anderson down in the minors but hey who knows… Not major every prospect turns into a future HOF… and then again some do. We’re dreaming here, right?