Posts Tagged ‘Hall of Fame’

Baseball, bigots and the Hall of Fame

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Curt Schilling ... never one to hide his feelings

Curt Schilling … never one to hide his feelings

It’s time for my annual turn from the front page to the back page (sports page) for some message on the meaning of life. Also, pitchers and catchers report any day now. 

  Typically, late January offers baseball fans an opportunity to argue (we don’t debate) about who got into the Hall of Fame and who didn’t and why. Last year was pretty mild, the only question being how one spiteful sports writer could’ve left Derek Jeter off his ballot, keeping the Yankee great from being named to the Hall unanimously of his first try. Baseball made up for that lack of drama when, in the same week, the Mets fired Carlos Beltran as their manager before he ever managed a game because he was part of a cheating scandal as a coach with the Houston Astros. Karma. So there was a lesson in good and evil on the back page.

     This year, the January controversy revolved around Curt Schilling, who wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame, even though he and 71.1% of the 401 sports writers who voted thought he belonged. A player needs 75% of the ballots to get in. Schilling needed 16 more votes. A star pitcher for Arizona and Boston, he fancies himself as a bit of an outspoken character. As fate would have it, he seems to have run afoul of baseball’s “character” clause. That is, he probably didn’t get enough votes not because he wasn’t a good enough player, but rather, because his presence in the Hall of Fame would somehow tarnish the name of Major League Baseball. He wasn’t a good enough person.

      A little about Schilling: His pitching credentials, in my opinion, are borderline Hall of Fame. He was a star in postseason play. I wouldn’t be too put out if he got in. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of his human-being credentials. He has espoused far-right conspiracy theories, compared Muslims to Nazis, said Hillary Clinton should “be buried under a jail somewhere“ and has spoken out vigorously against transgender people, among other things. He also enthusiastically endorsed a suggestion posted on social media that sports writers be hanged. (Since that’s who votes on Hall of Fame candidates, this was also a stupid thing to do, in my opinion.)

       But should stupidity or bigotry be reasons for disqualification from the Hall of Fame? (History says no.) And should baseball writers be the ones making that decision? These are the questions to ponder while waiting for the impeachment trial.

       Schilling has asked that his name be taken off the list of next year’s candidates. It would be his tenth and final year of eligibility and there’s been a lot of speculation, based on the history of other players, that he probably would manage to eke out that 75%. Schilling said he’d rather put his fate in the hands of another committee, which considers umpires, managers and other non-players as well as those who did not make the hall during their eligibility period. Apparently, he feels this group wouldn’t care how much he mouthed off about hanging sports writers or how much he hates Hillary and loves Donald Trump. The Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame said they would consider Schilling’s request.

        Of course, Schilling isn’t the only one of current Hall-eligible players running up against the “character” issue. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two dominant players whose Hall of Fame credentials are beyond question, also did not receive enough votes. That’s because they were part of baseballs “juicing era,“ when many players used steroids and other substances to enhance their performances on the field. To me, this would come under the heading of cheating, which one would think would qualify as being harmful to the image of baseball. Being not of good character. But neither man was penalized by major league baseball for using performance enhancing drugs and both have been on the Hall of Fame eligibility list for nine years, just like Schilling.

     It would seem to me, if baseball wants to have a character clause in deciding who gets into the Hall of Fame, it should apply that clause beforehand and decide which players do not even belong on the annual list, rather than leaving it to sportswriters. (I can’t think of a more qualified group to do the actual voting, as has been suggested.) That makes the writers’ task much simpler. If he’s on the list, just judge him on his on-field performance and nothing else. His character is OK with us. In that case, Bonds and Clemens would be shoe-ins. 

      Schilling to me would still remain borderline, a man with far-right extremist views who was also a very good pitcher. Someone who, ironically, was removed by ESPN as its commentator on the 2015 Little League World Series because he posted something on social media comparing Muslims to Nazis and who the next year was fired by ESPN for an anti-transgender post on social media. In those cases, I think ESPN made the right decision, for the good name of baseball and for them as journalists.

      So, this year’s lesson from the sports pages: If you want to be fussy about what kind of people can come into your home, you set the rules and you make the decision. Don’t give some strangers that responsibility. Also, if you’re going to shoot your mouth off with hateful nonsense, be prepared for the consequences.

      For me, Schilling can go to Cooperstown or not, just don’t ask me to have lunch with that bigoted, loudmouth jerk.

rjgaydos@gmail,com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

For Little Leaguers, No. 2 was No. 1

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter

Confession: As coach of my son’s Little League team, I used my responsibility as uniform distributor to make sure that Zack got the number he wanted. Number 2.

Yeah, it’s the number probably 90 percent of the kids wanted, but I never felt guilty about it because: (a) the smaller kids got the lower numbers and Zack had a delayed growth spurt and (b) c’mon, what dad wouldn’t do what he could to help his son got Derek Jeter’s uniform number?

For those who may have been on another planet, Jeter is retiring after 20 years as a New York Yankee. This is his last week as a major league baseball player. The season has been a continuous homage to his career and, more significantly, to the professional, dignified manner in which he has lived it. Number 2 has been Number 1 when it comes to athletes as role models.

Some people (not Yankee fans) have complained that the Jeter Love Train has been a bit much this year, with tributes paid to him in every ballpark the Yankees visited. I can understand that, but when the commissioner of the league says he’s proud that Jeter has been the face of baseball for a decade or more, I think it’s important. There has been no hint of scandal attached to Jeter for his 20 years with the Yankees. No steroids. No arrests. No trash-talking or posturing.

And, by the way, only five players (Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker) have compiled more hits (3,460 and counting) than Jeter. He happens to have been a hell of a ballplayer. Clutch hits. Clutch plays in the field. Mr. November. The Captain. Five World Series rings. Mr. Consistency. More games at shortstop than anyone else. Never played another position. He is a guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer and any baseball writer who doesn’t vote for him should have his voting privileges rescinded.

Jeter managed all this in the toughest market and media center in baseball — New York City. Funny thing though, while he qualifies as an all-time great and conceding that playing with the Yankees has helped burnish his image, Jeter doesn’t even make the list of top five Yankees of all time in my opinion. That would be Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. Still, being number six to that group is no small thing and it’s hard to imagine anyone breaking in to that Top Six club.

Mostly, when I look at Jeter’s career, I’m impressed with how quietly he went about his job, how almost routine he made the anything-but-routine appear. I don’t know how humble one can be when millions of fans shower you with praise every day for a year, when TV commercials extol your nice-guyness. Of course, Jeter has made hundreds of millions of dollars from baseball and those product endorsements. But that’s the world we live in and he has managed to carry it off with a sense of grace and dignity. You don’t hear those words used much around athletes these days.

Not to belabor what is really only repetitive, I felt an obligation to publicly thank Derek Jeter for showing youngsters how to go about whatever they do in life with a sense of purpose, responsibility, dedication, modesty, focus and respect for others. For showing them how to be grateful for the gifts they may have. That he also played baseball much better than most others was icing on the cake.

So here’s to Number 2. That number will be retired by the Yankees this year, which means a new generation of young ballplayers will have to find another number to demand. And a new group of dads will try to make it happen.