HOF

This Is Your Daddy’s Hall of Fame

Being a White Sox fan, capsule hospital it goes without saying that I’m a fan of Frank Thomas, no rx the most formidable hitter in Sox franchise history.  His five or so plate appearances were reason enough to tune into White Sox games nightly in the 90s.  And during and in-between those Frank at bats, getting lost in some great White Sox teams in those years, I became, as far as sports go, a baseball fan first and foremost.\n\nStill, the news last week that the Big Hurt was elected into baseball’s Hall of Fame didn’t do much for me.\n\nPartly that’s because I think the guardians of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown are self-righteous boobs, and so Thomas’ first ballot selection is naturally a product of self-righteous boobery.\n\nIt’s clear that the baseball writers collectively have blacklisted players connected to PED use from the Hall of Fame.  Many of them the same Judas scribes who celebrated home run hitters and the return of baseball (and their own livelihoods) from a long players strike in the late 90s.\n\nThomas was never connected to steroids in the media as a player and he’s instigated a very public “I was clean” campaign since his retirement.  So Frank Thomas, one of the bulkiest players in an era of roided-up hulks, oddly has become the poster boy for anti-doping in baseball.\n\nHad this not been the case, would the baseball writers have voted in on his first ballot a player who hit mostly as a designated hitter and played in the field only 38 times after his age 32 season?  I don’t think so.\n\nBasically by his own admission, Frank Thomas’ 83.7% of the writers vote was as much about PEDs as Barry Bonds’ 34.7% or Mark McGwire’s 11%.\n\nSo ironically, Thomas’ first-ballot enshrinement, despite some gaudy career hitting numbers, feels kind of tainted by steroids.\n\nBut my blase attitude toward the Hall of Fame announcement comes from something more than this.\n\nI’ve never been to Cooperstown nor do I have much of a desire to go.\n\nIt’s not because I have no interest in the history of baseball; I do.  But the Hall of Fame isn’t very honest about baseball’s past; refusing to honor players connected to steroids is only the most recent example.  For baseball history, I’d rather read books like Eight Men Out, Ball Four, or The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.\n\nRather than history, what the Hall of Fame thrives on is nostalgia—or remittent celebrations of baseball’s joyful moments and statistical achievements by its hallowed players.\n\nI’m all for a little nostalgia now and then, especially in sports.  But even as a nostalgia factory the Hall of Fame doesn’t meet the quota for me.  Because in order to feel nostalgic about something you have to experience it beforehand.  I don’t feel a connection with most of the players in the Hall because I didn’t follow their careers and I don’t remember watching them play.\n\nAlthough my dad starting plopping me on the couch to watch baseball with him from the time I could sit up in the mid-70s, I don’t recollect any affinity for individual players until the mid-80s.\n\nMike Schmidt was the first player inducted into the Hall of Fame who I remember playing (and sobbing during his retirement presser).  That was 1995.\n\nThen there was the great class of 1999—Robin Yount, George Brett, and Nolan Ryan—who I definitely remember.\n\nBut the greatest hitters that I knew, whose primes I witnessed, played after these guys.\n\nBesides Frank and the White Sox, and Sammy on the North Side, I looked in the box scores daily for batting lines from Bonds, Pudge, Griffey, Juan-Gone, and later Sheff and Manny (and of course, Bonds still); these guys were ball mashers.  As both a White Sox and a baseball fan, I feared and revered them.\n\nBut it seems like very few of the best hitters that I knew will be in Cooperstown.  And I speak for a generation of baseball fans when I say: That ain’t right.\n\nBelow is a list of the top home run totals between 1990 and 2005—my prime years of baseball fandom, from the ages of 15 to 30—and their 2014 Hall of Fame status.\n

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Home Runs 1990-2005 and 2014 HOF Status

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Name

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HR (‘90 –’05)

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HOF

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Barry Bonds \n

624

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No (34.7%)

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Sammy Sosa \n

584

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No (7.2%)

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Rafael Palmeiro \n

536

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No (4.4%)

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Ken Griffey Jr. \n

520

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Not Eligible

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Mark McGwire \n

466

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No (11%)

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Jeff Bagwell \n

449

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No (54.3%)

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Frank Thomas \n

448

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Yes (2014)

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Gary Sheffield \n

440

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Not Eligible

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Manny Ramirez \n

435

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Not Eligible

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Juan Gonzalez \n

433

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No (Last Ballot 2012)

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\nKen Griffey, Gary Sheffield, and Manny Ramirez are not yet eligible for Hall of Fame induction, but if the writers maintain their current trend, then we can expect Griffey to get in (not implicated in any PED scandal) while Sheffield (named in the Mitchell Report) and Ramirez (failed multiple drug tests) will not.  Meanwhile, the rest of the players on this list besides Thomas—all busted, admitted, or assumed PED users—will keep losing support until they fall off the ballot like Gonzalez did after 2012 and Palmeiro after this year.\n\nAnd so, odds are that only two of the league’s ten most prolific home run hitters from this era, my era, will be in the Hall of Fame.\n\nFor the purpose of comparison, below is the list of home run leaders between the 1966 and 1981 seasons and the Hall of Fame status of each, or players from the time that my father, who plopped me on the couch and taught me to love baseball, was between 15 and 30 years old.\n

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Home Runs 1966-1981 and 2014 HOF Status

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Name

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HR (’66-’81)

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HOF

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Reggie Jackson \n

425

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Yes (1993)

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Willie Stargell \n

413

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Yes (1988)

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Johnny Bench \n

364

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Yes (1989)

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Hank Aaron \n

357

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Yes (1982)

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Willie McCovey \n

356

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Yes (1986)

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Lee May \n

351

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No (Last Ballot 1988)

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Carl Yastremski \n

347

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Yes (1989)

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Tony Perez \n

345

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Yes (2000)

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Bobby Bonds \n

332

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No (Last Ballot 1997)

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Mike Schmidt \n

314

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Yes (1995)

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\nEight of the top ten home run producers from this period are in Cooperstown, versus two of my guys.\n\nLike I said, that ain’t right.  More than punishing a group of players by denying them enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, the baseball writers are denying me my memories.\n\nAnd in doing so they’re denying the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum one price of admission, because I have no interest in going to Cooperstown.  Maybe there are others my age who feel the same way.\n\nMeanwhile, the people making the pilgrimage to remember Duke Snider, well they’re not going to be around forever.\n\nI wonder, when the baseball writers’ moral stand comes up against drastic reductions in Hall of Fame revenues, which is going to triumph?\n\nWell this is America, where I’ll bet on profits to win, and beat the spread, every time.  So see you in Cooperstown, Barry & Co, because eventually they’re going to want me more than they don’t want you.

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