Since my sports reporting is so popular this week, I’m continuing today. In the interest of some variety, my focus today is baseball.
For those of you who think ESPN is a government agency, here’s today’s news flash. Baseball writers announced this year’s inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and they are . . . wait for it . . . no one.
For the first time since 1996, no former player will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The reason is steroid use which ran rampant during the period many of the most “successful” players currently eligible for the Hall of Fame were playing. Names like Bonds, Sosa, Clemens, and Piazza could have been added to the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, and Mantle if they either hadn’t (or been suspected of) using performance enhancing drugs.
I totally get that. Using steroids is cheating. It gives an unfair advantage to the athlete using the substances (with devastating health effects). Because of that, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France medals and Olympians are endlessly tested for these drugs. As a society, we really hate cheaters. That’s why we hated the bad guy Russian in Rocky IV so much. He was artificially pumped up with drugs.
I think today’s decision was an attempt to make a big statement against those players who use these drugs, but it’s really unfair because a few truly deserving players didn’t make it.
One of these is Craig Biggio, the former Houston Astros second baseman who was a great player and an even greater person in his community. He received the most votes but not enough to make it. Hopefully, next year this gross oversight will be corrected.
The most obvious glaring error to me though is the omission of Pete Rose.
I grew up in southern Indiana on Highway 50 which just happens to be exactly 50 miles down the road from the place where my favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds, play.
The Reds have a rich baseball tradition. One of the original professional baseball teams, their name derives from the early practice of naming a team after the color of the player’s socks. The Reds began as the Red Stockings and Redlegs. As a team, they’ve had their ups and downs, but one of the highlights of their long tradition is a team they assembled in the 1970s that became known as the Big Red Machine. On that team were great players like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey, Sr., and the amazing Pete Rose.
Many members of that team are already in the Hall of Fame. Not Pete Rose (aka Charlie Hustle). He’s banned for life because later in his career he managed the Reds and bet on baseball games.
I can separate Rose’s achievements as a player with his notable failures as a baseball manager. As a player, he was phenomenal despite the fact that physically he looked like a guy who enjoyed plenty of LaRosa’s pizza and Skyline Chili washed down with a six pack of beer. No steroids in this good ole boy. Still, he got the job done.
I’m not excusing the gambling. Clearly, that was wrong. But if he goes into the Hall of Fame it will be because of his tremendous ability as a player not as a Manager. I think banning him for life is a little harsh.
Face it, this is the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s not the Vatican. This isn’t a vote for the do-gooders club, top Boy Scout, or President of the United States. Okay, scratch the last one.
The Hall of Fame should reflect a player’s achievements based on his natural baseball ability. Many of its inducted members had LOTS of personal problems. For example, if excessive drinking could keep players out, the Hall of Fame could be housed in a phone booth in Cooperstown instead of a massive building. This doesn’t just apply to baseball. Many successful people failed spectacularly in other more personal ways. Bill Clinton lied under Oath yet remained President of the United States. Today, his Administration is lauded as an economic success.
Like everyone else, judge Pete Rose on his achievements as a baseball player . . . nothing else.
Rose definitely hit a foul ball, but he shouldn’t be thrown out of the Hall for life.