When I was a kid making visits to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the least interesting part of the experience was that room with all the plaques.
Oh, is that the actual "Hall of Fame"?
Yeah, that. That was the dullest part.
Some of my boredom had to do with the presentation -- staid head shots on hunks of wood mounted on a wall in a room that felt like church. My footsteps echoed. I thought I was about to be shushed. I could feel myself getting math-class eyes as I attempted to read the words on one of the plaques.
The other sections of the building -- what I guess was the museum part -- were so much more interesting. Tales of the World Series and baseball players' feats. Famous teams and uniforms. Characters of the game and baseball cards. Giant photographs, batting gloves, awesome pitching feats, lit-up scoreboards, old contracts, quips and quotes, barnstorming ballplayers, the old Federal League, the previous year's postseason. Every last bit fascinating.
What I cared about in baseball was in the museum part. The people and the history of the game. Some musty old club with plaques? No, I didn't really care about that.
I think this is the way people need to start looking at the Hall of Fame.
A lot of people got upset all over again because the "Golden Era Committee" didn't vote anyone into the Hall this afternoon. Fuming. Cursing. Disgust.
I shrugged my shoulders. Who cares who gets voted into their little club?
It's so exclusionary. I've never been one for clubs. Ever. I didn't belong to a fraternity. I don't get involved in business clubs now. I don't belong to a golf club. I believe in inclusion, not exclusion.
The greatest of the greats? What is that? I've paid only a modest bit of attention to who is and who isn't in the Hall over the last couple of decades. So much so that I am always surprised by who is not in the Hall and who isn't. I have to remind myself over and over that Catfish Hunter was voted into the Hall of Fame. Yet, I always double-check to see if Danny Murtaugh has made it (he hasn't).
When you focus on the greatness of players -- all of the players -- then the exclusiveness fades into the background. Yeah, Sandy Koufax was a tremendous talent. But what about that Claude Osteen? He had some nice years, too. And Gorman Thomas, what a great character of the game! And you can't convince me that Garry Maddox didn't have some of the greatest baseball cards ever.
The Hall voting process has problems. I've written about this for years. With the exception of a select few, it's really not the writers' fault or the committee's fault or the former players' fault. They are mere pawns. The system is the problem.
The point is, what do you care about some building in Upstate New York? You don't need Joe Morgan, or whoever is on that committee, to tell you which players are great. Every time you piss and moan about the injustice of it all, the Hall wins. The Hall of Fame wants you to piss and moan because it's in the conversation again. The more people rail, the more the Hall is in the public eye, the more it makes money.
If you want someone to recognize the greatness of Minnie Minoso or Tony Oliva or whoever it happens to be, don't wait for the Hall to do it. They're too drunk on power. Recognize their greatness yourself. Wax poetic about Jackie Jensen or Lou Whitaker or someone from the steroid era. Create your own Hall. Proclaim whoever you want as the first member. Why are you waiting for Joe Morgan to tell you who is in and who is out?
So ... since the Hall didn't want to do it, let's vote some people in ourselves today.
I'll be nice and use the list that was provided for the Hall voters. The next time I'm coming up with my own list. Don't be surprised if Bake McBride is on it.
So, let's see here:
Gil Hodges. Won World Series as both a player and a manager. He's in.
Minnie Minoso. Found a loophole and played when he was in his 50s, 60s and 70s. You wish you thought of it first. He's in.
Ken Boyer. Among the finest hitters and fielders of his era, and it was tough to do both then. Albert Pujols had to come along to knock him off the list as the greatest right-handed home run hitter in Cardinals history. Welcome to the Hall, Ken.
Tony Oliva. Have you SEEN his rookie season in 1964? His rookie card would be worth a million gold doubloons if he were to do that today. He's in.
Luis Tiant. Tiant is the subject matter of one of my most favorite passages written by my all-time favorite baseball writer, Roger Angell. That alone gets you in the Hall, Luis.
Jim Kaat. Kaat is one of the few Yankees announcers that I didn't grow to hate. That's tough to do. And he pitched in four successive decades. Welcome, Jim.
Maury Wills. Wills was a pioneer. Would people like Morgan, Lou Brock, Davey Lopes, Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman pilfer bases at never known rates if not for Wills? Wills' 104 stolen bases came first. He changed the game. Get in the Hall, Maury.
Dick Allen. I love Allen's baseball cards. He's in.
As you can see, if I had a baseball card of the player, then I voted him in. Because really anybody who spent any appreciable time in the majors is OK with me. If they had a display in the museum part of the Hall of Fame, I would've eaten that up. If you're playing baseball and get good money to do so, then you're great to me.
Unfortunately I don't have any cards for the two other people on the list. Bob Howsam, an executive, and Billy Pierce, a pitcher for the White Sox and Giants.
So I'll save those for another day.
Meanwhile, I voted eight people into the Hall of Fame today. I'd say that's pretty good.
And, best of all, you didn't have to read any boring old plaques in a giant room with a marble floor.