Sunday, August 14, 2005
Hall of Fame Atrocities
I’m hearing a lot of bellyaching about Rafael Palmiero and whether he should go into the Hall of Fame.
Of course he should, unless you want to exclude every other slugger from the juiced era. Raffy may be the first to actually get caught -- not counting leaked grand jury testimony -- but I think no one at this point will be shocked to find out that every great slugger of this era except Mike Piazza was having, ahem, accidental doses of flaxseed oil.
And besides, there are far, far worse things defiling baseball’s sacred shrine in Cooperstown.
I'm talking, of course, about the complete lack of respect to players belonging to a certain New York team -- and some completely unworthy adulation heaped upon another New York team. Some of these omissions are fixable, and we’d better get to it before it’s too late and our hallowed Hall starts to resemble that tacky truck stop in Canton that football calls its hall. The integrity of the baseball Hall itself is at stake, so let's get busy.
Phil Rizzuto: Why does this plaque exist? Enshrining Scooter alone almost forces the place to change its name to the “Hall of Fame Plus an Unworthy Guy Added When the Veteran’s Committee Relented to the Yankee PR Machine.” If Scooter was so good, why did it take 38 years after he retired to put him in? He won an MVP. Well, Dale Murphy has two, and he’s on the outside. The presence of this plaque among true heroes like Jackie Robinson, Tom Seaver and Ted Williams should allow anyone paying admission to demand a refund. I realize that the Yankees would like us to enshrine all their players, even weasels like Derek Jeter, and they darn near get away with it. But we've got to draw the line somewhere, and that line should have been drawn in front of Scooter.
At least this Scooter fiasco is easily repairable, given a crow bar and a few distracted security guards. Some of these other atrocities will be more difficult to fix. I submit the following:
Reggie Jackson: Why is this man wearing a Yankees cap? Baseball’s all-time strikeout king – as a batter, mind you – played 10 years for the Athletics and won three World Series and an MVP. He played five years for the Yankees, a tenure largely remembered for getting Billy Martin fired a couple times and one evening where some rubber-armed Dodger hurlers playing away from their pitcher-friendly yard allow him to doink a hit or three into the cheap seats in a World Series game. And that’s supposed to get him in Lou Gehrig’s company? And we all know what Reggie does when you ask him to sign your Hall of Fame ball. You can read about it here.
Willie Mays: Why is Willie wearing a San Francisco cap on his plaque? Mays started in New York, and he closed his brilliant career in New York, playing a couple seasons – well, 14 of them – on the West Coast. The Hall could have made both Giants and Mets fans happy by using a New York Giants cap, which, of course, bears a striking resemblance to the Mets cap. But no, Metsies are given the short end of the Hall stick. I’m not a big conspiracy guy, but this happens a lot, as you will soon read.
Yogi Berra: I’m fairly confident Yogi is rightfully wearing a Mets cap on his plaque. You just can’t see it -- another slight! And I can’t blame him for dissing the Yanks after the way the team treated him. Yogi played his entire career in pinstripes, became their manager, took them to the World Series in his first year as skipper and they went and fired the guy. So the Mets brought him over, coaxed him out of retirement for four very important games in 1965 and put him at the helm when fatherly Gil Hodges unexpectedly dies. Of course, Yogi took the Mets to the series, too. Now, look at his plaque: “Managed Yankees to pennant in 1964.” Hello! What are we forgetting? Who’s writing this stuff, Bob Klapisch and his Yankee apologist buddies? I know, I know, Yogi was elected to the Hall in 1972, before the 1973 “You Gotta Believe” team. But that’s what happens when you start adding managerial stuff to plaques when a guy is still managing.
Nolan Ryan: Another clear example of the Mets not getting the love. Ryan pitched five years for the Mets, the same number as he did for the Rangers. His tenure with the Mets is best remembered for a win in the first-ever NLCS and a fine performance in the World Series, earning the only ring of his 27-year career. Meanwhile, his time with the Rangers is remembered for bitch-slapping Robin Ventura. And we have to keep in mind that the Mets made the ultimate act of charity by giving Ryan to a poor, struggling Angels team in search of an identity. For all that, we don’t even get a mention in the text of his plaque. I could forgive the non-reference if he was at least donning that classy interlocking NY on his plaque cap.
Gary Carter: The Expos' abstract logo is hard enough to figure out when it's in color. But in bas relief on a plaque? Forget about it! I can picture a young fan in the not-so-distant future admiring the plaques of baseball's heroes and saying, "Daddy, why does this guy have a moose footprint on his cap? Isn't this the guy who started the Miracle of Game Six with a base hit?" The father will say, "Well, son, it is true that Gary Carter is known as a Met and even wanted to go into the Hall as a Met. But the people running baseball were feeling guilty for screwing up what was a great team in Montreal through a series of inept owners, including the commissioner. Yes, he owned even another team at the time. Sometimes that's called a conflict of interest. But we can read about that on his plaque. I think he's wearing a Yankee cap. Anyway, the guilt-ridden people running baseball wanted proof that the Expos existed, so they strong-armed the Hall into putting the Montreal logo on the cap."
There you go. I have issues with the plaques of Richie Asburn, Warren Sphan, Casey Stengel and Eddie Murray, but you see the devious tend at work here.
Luckily there's still time for us to start pressuring the Hall for the proper cap to be proudly displayed on the plaques of Rickey Henderson, Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez.
In other words...
Speaking of Pedro, he's only the latest Mets pitcher to have a no-hitter foiled. The guys at Faith and Fear in Flushing have a great article about the rogue's gallery of dream-killers here.