Paul Newberry, an Associated Press columnist, wrote an article in last Sunday’s sports section stating his belief that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Pete Rose should be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. I am in complete disagreement with Newberry. Both Bonds and Clemens have been linked to using performance enhancing drugs and steroids. Andy Pettitte, a teammate of Clemens, testified that he witnessed Clemens being injected with illegal drugs. There was also heavy evidence that Bonds was a user. Pete Rose, while managing the Cincinnati Reds, was banned from professional baseball in 1989 by Bart Giamatti, commissioner of baseball at that time, so his name cannot even be considered. He was found guilty of betting on baseball games, a charge he finally admitted to. Because of his banishment, his name does not even appear on the ballot and write ins are not allowed.
The Hall of Fame is the oldest such institution in professional sports in America, beginning in 1939. Tradition and history of the game are important to its continued existence. To give admittance to those who have elevated their statistical achievements by artificial means would lower the standards and demean those players who have been elected. How would they like to share this prestigious honor with those who cheated to get there?
During one of several visits to this picturesque village, I witnessed a roundtable discussion that the Hall of Fame puts on for its fans. The panelists included Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Phil Niekro and Harmon Killebrew, all elected members of the Hall of Fame. The president of the Hall of Fame was in charge of this event and posed questions that the members responded to. This was followed by the members taking turns answering questions from the fans in the audience. It was all very enjoyable and interesting, with the last question of the evening coming from a gentleman who politely wanted to know how the members felt about voting in ballplayers who used illegal drugs during their career.
Harmon Killebrew gave the rather lengthy response, slowly and methodically, showing fairness and without being judgmental. In the final analysis, his opinion was that players who cheat and therefore use unfair means to get elected should not be admitted. To me that said it all.
Players must get at least 75 percent of votes by the selected members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. This year, 549 members of the BBWAA cast their ballots and four players were voted in for induction in July. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio all had much success and outstanding careers in baseball and will be justly rewarded. The last time four members were voted into the Hall was 1955. There are some years when no one receives the number of votes necessary for induction.
Adam Jones, a star outfielder for the Orioles, was quoted by Newberry as saying, “They should be elected because even with the allegations, you still had to perform, and they performed.” Jim Palmer, a Hall of Fame pitcher with the Orioles from 1965 to 1984, suggested Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Famers before they got involved with illegal drugs and should be asked, “Why did you think you had to to break the rules? Why did you have to cheat?”
In the case of Pete Rose, the precedent was set in 1920 when eight Chicago White Sox players were judged to have been involved with gamblers and threw the 1919 World Series. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis ended their careers by issuing a lifetime ban from professional baseball. The incident was forever known as “The Black Sox Scandal.” Most noteworthy of that group was an outfielder named Joe Jackson, nicknamed “Shoeless Joe.” His career batting average was .356, third on the all-time list.
I’ve been privileged to witness two inductions in Cooperstown, including the 2007 induction of Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, two class acts. The crowd was estimated at 75,000, one of the highest-attended inductions in this small village of approximately 3,000 permanent residents. It was a memorable event for any baseball fan, especially Oriole fans.
Let’s keep the sport clean.
writes from Jefferson.