Boys in the Hall

Each November Major League Baseball releases their Hall of Fame ballots to the baseball writers whose responsibility it is to determine which players meet the criteria to be included in the baseball Hall of Fame. In January the winners are announced and the recipients are left with 6 months to determine what they will say when it’s their turn to be inducted to this most hallowed institution.

The Hall of Fame voting is now entering a phase when many of the players eligible for election come from the so-called “steroid era”. We have already seen players who have been implicated in taking performance enhancing drugs or even those under suspicion of taking PEDs see their names relatively ignored by the voting press.

We are likewise starting to hear the living member of the Hall of Fame become more vocal about their thoughts on the subject. For me it was somewhat surprising to hear the comments this weekend during the 2009 Hall of Fame Induction festivities. Some of the comments were relatively subtle such as when Henry Aaron was introduced as “the people’s home run king”. Others were more outspoken such as Harmon Killebrew complaining at the public being seemingly apathetic or accepting of the behavior of Manny Ramirez and his failed drug test earlier this season.

Clearly we are only a collision course at some point when the baseball writers vote in a player who is either a known cheater or is guilty by implication. From the words spoken by some of the greatest living players to play the game, this will not sit well with them and I would not be surprised if there will be a revolt or some kind of boycott when that vote occurs.

Regardless of how far baseball has come in its testing program and its attempt to clean up the game, we may quickly be coming to a point when we see an entire generation of players passed over by the Hall of Fame not because they were not worthy but because no one can be sure they accomplished their feats on talent alone.

Rather than dwelling on this sad state of affairs; I will instead take away bits and pieces from the induction speeches of Jim Rice, Ricky Henderson, and by the daughter of Joe “Flash” Gordon. Prehaps the most anticipated speech was Ricky Henderson. His colorful personality during his playing days and referring to himself in the third-person led everyone to believe the day would be a celebration of “Rickey”.

“When you think of me, I would like you to remember that kid from the inner city that played the game with all his heart and never took the game for granted, and to all the kids out there: Follow your dream. Believe your dream. Because dreams come true.”

– Rickey Henderson

When Henderson arrived in a cream suit with matching tie it fueled the anticipation further. Instead, Rickey was uncharacteristically humble and showed his love for the game. He talked about family and how important it was to follow your dreams.

During his speech Jim Rice gave the listeners a brief glimpse into his life; something he did not do during his years with the Boston Red Sox. After an excruciating wait to be elected we learned that he was not sitting by the phone waiting for the call but rather was watching soap operas like he does every day.

Perhaps the most moving part though was listening to Judy Gordon, the daughter of the late Joe Gordon as she talked about what baseball meant to her father. His love of the game came through in each of her words. And when she ended explaining that her father insisted in not having a funeral but that his final resting place was in Cooperstown; it gave everyone a chill and allowed us to understand how great an honor it is to be enshrined here.

Another year is behind us and soon it will be time once again for the voters to cast their ballots and give another player the chance of a lifetime to stand on that stage and thank the game for all it has given them.

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