The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

My Hall of Fame Ballot, and a Cautionary Tale

Are you familiar with the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, located on the campus of Bronx Community College in New York City?  Not many people are.  It was formally dedicated in May, 1901, as place to honor prominent Americans who had a significant impact on U.S. history and culture.  Modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, its 630 foot open-air colonnade was conceived as a place where marble busts of America’s most significant writers, presidents, inventors, and the like would be commemorated for all time.  A very serious blue ribbon panel of 100 men was cobbled together to make initial nominations, and for several decades, the landmark was taken quite seriously.

As you have probably guessed by now, the existence of this Hall of Fame put the seed of an idea into the head of Ford Frick, who passed this idea along to Stephen Clark (of the Cooperstown Clarks), whose very wealthy local family connections paved the way for this unlikely caper to come to fruition.  Stephen saw this as an idea to bring business to Cooperstown, suffering from the ravages of the Great Depression, and nearly overnight, this quaint little village was  dedicated as hallowed ground where the Abner Doubleday legend also conveniently took root.  That there was no easy way to transport people to Cooperstown to visit the proposed new shrine doesn’t seem to have fazed Clark.

Meanwhile, while the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown was just getting off the ground, the more established, high-brow Hall down in the Bronx (on what was then the campus of New York University) was in its heyday.  The New York Bar Association went so far as advocating for certain of its members, and newspapers breathlessly covered the annual inductions.

In a fantastic little article I recently discovered, Baltimore Sun columnist Joe Mathews (August 1, 1997), wrote, in a sentence that could serve as a cautionary tale for the institution up in Cooperstown, “The 97-year old monument is a shrine not only to [them], but to an ideal of fame that, like the hall itself, is dusty and decaying.”

Apropos to nothing, my favorite sentence in the article is, “The first hall of fame was the brainchild of a Presbyterian minister who was influenced by his concern for prostitution, democracy, and the Roman Empire.”  (emphasis added.) Mets brass, take note.  Want to put asses in the seats at Citi Field next season?  Why not go with  “Prostitution, Democracy and the Roman Empire” as next season’s slogan?  It’s certainly much more compelling than “Show up at Shea” (1998), or “Experience It” (2003).

Now, back to our story.

Hardly anyone ever visits The Hall of Fame for Great Americans these days anymore, even though it sits on an easily accessible college campus.  Its committee of electors made its final official inductions in 1976.  Among the four final inductees were a horticulturist and a judge.  None of the final four have yet had a bronze bust built in their honor.  Its Board of Trustees formally dissolved in 1979.  Since then, the colonnade has been far more popular with pigeons than with people.  You may still visit the 98 bronze busts in existence.  Self-guided tours are available daily from 10:00-5:00, with a suggested donation of $2.00 per person.

Attendance to the Baseball Hall of Fame has steadily declined over the past twenty years, from a high of over 400,000 in the early 1990′s to around 260,000 last year.  Although the Hall of Fame is a non-profit institution, and is, in effect, a ward of the State of New York, it appears that its operating budget was over two million dollars in the red in its last fiscal year.  Over the past decade, the HOF has more often than not lost money.

Outwardly, the Baseball Hall of Fame appears to be a healthy, thriving entity.  It has a modern website, a Board of Directors featuring such luminaries as Tom Seaver and Joe Morgan, and disproportionate influence on how the game itself is remembered from one generation to the next.  Its solid brick exterior and its pastoral location connote classical American values such as fortitude, temperance and diligence.  And it contains part of the original facade of Ebbet’s Field.  What can go wrong?

By all means, consider the official Hall of Fame ballot a sacred totem of a mystical shrine, if you will, but consider this:  Will our choices result in a stronger institution, more relevant to modern American sensibilities of entertainment and utility, or will they further contribute to the atrophy that apparently is slowly setting in?

Having said that, and while chafing at the ten-player limit arbitrarily imposed on actual BBWAA voters, here are my choices, in no particular order,  for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame:

1)  Greg Maddux

2)  Mike Piazza

3)  Craig Biggio

4)  Jeff Bagwell

5)  Tim Raines

6)  Tom Glavine

7)  Mike Mussina

8)  Alan Trammell

9)  Frank Thomas

10)  Don Mattingly

I’m sure the most controversial pick on this list will be Don Mattingly.  Fine.  Up until I set about typing this post, I would not have included him among this group, either.  But in light of all the previous paragraphs I’ve written about The Hall in this article, the relevant question is, would the enshrinement of Donnie Baseball be a good thing for the future viability of The Hall, or would it somehow be a “bad” thing.

Three questions:

1)  Was Don Mattingly ever the best player in the game during his career?

2)  Did Don Mattingly represent the game, his team, and himself with nothing but respect both on the field and off?

3)  Did he meet the 10-year minimum length career criteria for Hall eligibility?

The answer to each of these questions is yes.  From 1984-87, there was no better player in the American League than Don Mattingly.  He was always nothing but professional.  He played for 14 seasons.  At various times in his career, he led his league in hits, doubles, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, and total bases.  From 1984-89, he averaged 330 total bases per season.  Perhaps most impressively, however, he never struck out more than 43 times in any single full season in his career.

In his only playoff appearance, in 1995, vs. Seattle, he batted .417 in 25 plate appearances.  He was a six time All Star, won three Silver Sluggers, nine Gold Gloves, and his .996 Fielding Percentage is among the ten best all-time at his position.  He won an MVP award, and finished runner-up once as well.  If he picked up a bat today, at age 52, he would probably still outhit Ike Davis.

Perhaps more to the point, Mattingly has legions of loyal fans who might just possibly trek all the way up to Cooperstown to see their hero enshrined, and to listen to his acceptance speech.  Years from now, dads might still be taking their kids to see Mattingly’s plaque at The Hall.  How many parents do you think bring their kids all the way up to Cooperstown each year to stand in awe of the plaques of HOF “immortals” such as Herb Pennock, Rick Ferrell, Lloyd Waner, or Dave Bancroft?

Explain to me, then, how inducting Don Mattingly into the Baseball Hall of Fame would be bad for baseball, or for The Hall itself?

In the final analysis, the Hall of Fame is an idea as much as it is a place.  All baseball fans, in their heart of hearts, have their own idea as to what constitutes fame in this context.  When the chasm between what fans believe in their hearts is legitimate fame relative to the actual composition of the institution itself  grows too wide, then the fans, faced with an untenable choice, will always follow one and ignore the other.   Should that happen, The Baseball Hall of Fame may one day bear an uncanny resemblance to that other unfortunately failed Hall of Fame further downstate on a bluff overlooking the indifferent Harlem River.

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30 thoughts on “My Hall of Fame Ballot, and a Cautionary Tale

  1. Mike Cornelius on said:

    Outstanding writing as always Bill, and of course as a Yankees fan I agree with you on Mattingly. I have always been confounded by the fact that some players generate so much heat over their suitability for the Hall; Donnie Baseball certainly seems to be one of those players. I suspect Mike Mussina will be next up on that list. Perhaps Mattingly will bring a championship or three to L.A. and eventually get in as a manager.

    I also like your ballot, though mine would include a certain right-hander who won seven Cy Young Awards.

    Hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    Mike

    • Thanks, Mike. We did have a fine Thanksgiving. Hope you did, too.
      I wanted to avoid the steroid issue for now, as so much has already been written about it. That’s why I didn’t include Bonds or Clemens on my ballot. I get why many people don’t think Don Mattingly belongs in The Hall. I think they make valid points. I’ve just recently changed my mind about him as well.
      Thanks for the comment,
      Bill

  2. There are a lot of interesting sociological factors at play behind the declining BBHOF attendance figures, surely. The decline of baseball in popularity, with attendance being transferred from families with children, to corporations and their clients; the rise of interest in multiple other sports; the relocation of Americans away from the Northeast and into other geographical regions where baseball has a negligible foothold on American life — and where people are less likely to pick Cooperstown, NY, as their one must-see vacation destination; and, of course, the splintering of baseball fandom into groups of sabermetrics proponents, who see baseball through a prism of numbers rather than philosophy — they dislike the Hall’s selection policies and just do their own things online, like the “Hall of Merit”. If the BBHOF is dying, though, surely that is part and parcel of what is happening to baseball in American life… and can only be fixed if baseball is fixed, which would itself involve the rescuing of the game from the tyranny of a pro-owners Commissioner, FOX’s TV scheduling practices (which pushing Northeastern fans, even though that’s the last still-beating heart of baseball fanaticism geographically), and ludicrous ticketing policies..

    • Jason, This is quite an excellent comment. I especially agree with your points regarding the commissioner’s office and the TV schedule. Now, they are apparently going to add instant replay this year. Despite its obvious merits, I don’t see how this is going to speed the game up. Also, you are right about the move toward corporate box seats instead of actual families with kids. This practice occurs even at the minor league level. When you have to “know somebody” to get the choicest seats at a minor league game, something’s wrong.
      Thanks very much for the comment, and for reading this blog.
      Bill

      • Glen Russell Slater on said:

        I’ve never heard of such a thing at a minor league game, Bill. But that’s not everywhere, though. Maybe in Greenville. I know it’s not that way everywhere, for a fact, because I’ve been to many minor league games in Binghamton. We can get seats right behind the screen in Binghamton, and get tons of hot dogs, sodas, and everything else for the whole family, and still not pay even a fraction of what it would take for one person to go to Corporate Crime Field to see the Mets. And Binghamton is not small potatoes; it’s the Double-A team for the New York Mets. Eastern League.

        As for what you said, Dr. Who Novels, you hit it on the head, that’s for sure. I agree with every thing that you said. I can tell that you’re kind of embittered towards the major leagues. I have been for years.

        Glen

      • Hi Glen, When I lived in Maine, the Portland Sea Dogs reserved the seats over the home-team dugout for corporate ticket holders. My friend used to work for an accounting firm in Portland, and he was able to get me those seats a couple of times, but you couldn’t just go to the ticket office and request them. Don’t know if they still do that at Hadlock Field.

    • Glen Russell Slater on said:

      I would like to add this. As far as you mentioned, Bill, about speeding up the game, well, that’s simple.

      Back in 1985, I went to a two-day umpiring clinic at Fordham University. It was run by former minor league umpire Zack Rabicoff (Rebicoff???) and some other minor league umpires.

      It was an excellent clinic, very well-run.

      But do you know what the thing that I came away with? Zack Rabicoff or whatever his name is kept empahising for us to call strikes while we were behind the plate. “CALL STRIKES! WHEN IN DOUBT, CALL STRIKES! IT’S HOT OUT THERE! YOU DON’T WANT TO BE OUT THERE ALL DAY! YOU’RE NOT GETTING PAID BY THE HOUR!”

      This is the problem in the major leagues today. The strike zone has been taken away from the batter. I’d like to hear what Bob Gibson would have to say about that. As Tim McCarver often said when he was a Mets announcer, when he was catching Gibson, and he would go to the mound to tell Gibson something, Gibson would say, “Get the hell OUT of here.” As McCarver said, the pitching mound was Gibson’s OFFICE, and he didn’t take kindly to being disturbed.

      Also, the game has become sissified. You can’t throw too close to the batter, or you’ll be “warned” by the umpire. What would Gibson, Sal “The Barber” Maglie, or Don Drysdale say about THIS????

      So the batter can just lean over the plate and dig in, knowing that he’s in a minimum of danger. That’s why there’s so many home runs. (Forget about the steroid thing, for now. Enough has been said about that, and, of course, it’s true.) The more hitting, the more the innings go on and on and on.

      GIVE THE STRIKE ZONE BACK TO THE PITCHER! EITHER THAT, OR RAISE THE MOUND TO PRE-1979 HEIGHT!

      When I was a kid, at a typical game at Shea Stadium, you were lucky if there were two home runs per game. Look it up. It’s true. Now, Shea was never a hitter’s park, but if you look at the latter years of Shea, there were a LOT more than one or two home runs a game, on average.

      And, umpires, do your jobs! CALL STRIKES!!!!!! (It just occured to me why that sounded familiar when Zack Rabickoff kept yelling that. Throughout the book “Ball Four”, Bouton repeatedly told of how Eddie O’Brien, the bullpen coach, always yelled at the pitchers as they were going in the game to “THROW STRIKES!) Well, it’s easier said than done for a pitcher to THROW strikes, but, come on, ump, how hard is it for you to CALL strikes?????

      Also, the pitch-count nonsense. Has there EVER been any scientific evidence that the pitch-count actually saves careers??? Well, HAS there ever been???? Is the pitcher’s arm going to fall off if he pitches another ten or twenty pitches??? How many times, since this pitch-count nonsense, has a pitcher, pitching a great game and in the lead, been taken out just to have a relief pitcher come in and blow the game wide open???? Too many times to mention!

      Also, all of this lefthander goes in to pitch one pitch to a lefty batter, to be replaced by another reliever, to be replaced by another???? Too much specialization. Closers, set-up men (I used to be a set-up man, but in a restaurant), ad nauseum.

      All this has contributed to slowing down the game and making it boring. Not only that, but kids (supposedly “the next generation of baseball fans”) don’t even get to see the whole game, because it’s too late, and they’ve got to go to bed.

      Let’s cut the bologna, already!

      Glen

      • I’m all for calling more strikes in the game, as well as limiting the number of times a batter can step out and call time while at bat. T.V. also has an impact, with a certain number of commercials they have to get in per game. Also, pitchers need to be encouraged to work more quickly. When Josh Beckett was with the Red Sox, I don’t know how many times he would just endlessly stand on the mound. Just throw the damned ball already! There are lots of things that can be done to speed up the game, though I’m not sure baseball is seriously committed to doing so.
        Take care,
        Bill

    • There are some fascinating nuggets in this comment. It’s an interesting notion as to the “splintering” of baseball fandom being a consequence of the evolution of sabrmetrics; while the evolution of statistical analysis has lead to a deeper, if not more wide-ranging, interest in the game, it’s an interest on the micro-level, where the Hall of Fame is the celebration of baseball on the macro level. I think you’ve also hit on something with the notion that the nation’s changing demographic has resulted in its population center moving ever farther from Cooperstown, which, as Bill has noted on more than one occasion, is not the world’s easiest place to get to.

      I am, being Upstate born and bred, a huge Cooperstown fan–not just because of the Hall (which, as an aside, has become much more fan-friendly over the decades; when I first visited there in the 70s, it was a place only a researcher could love), but the place itself. Indeed, I’ve been to Cooperstown several times without ever setting foot in the Hall. That said, you can make the argument that having a sport’s Hall of Fame tucked away in a tiny village in a rural area is counter-productive and bad for the brand, and I can envision MLB co-opting and/or buying out the Clarks’ interests and moving the Hall elsewhere. I, for one, will mourn the day The Hard Rock Cafe Baseball Hall of Fame is opened in Times Square, but I can see the day coming.

      • You know, W.K., I, too, would hate to see The Hall moved elsewhere. Even if the powers that be of MLB ever got it into their collective heads to do so, I think, in the end, the charm and mystique of Cooperstown might win out over commerce, and that might not be such a bad thing after all.
        Thanks again for the interesting, thought-provoking comments,
        Bill

  3. Glen Russell Slater on said:

    I’ll have to ask my father if he’s ever heard of that Hall of Fame on the campus of Bronx Community College. He grew up less than a mile from there….. easy walking distance—- at 104 174th Street in The Bronx.

    But I’ll ask him if he ever heard of it.

    I was a big Ed Kranepool fan (“Ed-DEE! Ed-DEE! Ed-DEE!”), and if he can’t make it to Cooperstown, or even to Hoboken, New Jersey (where Ben, Little Joe, Hoss, and Adam Cartwright invented baseball), then maybe he can be honored in the Hall of Fame For Great Americans. Kranepool, after all, IS from the Bronx.

    Let’s start a petition Eddie to get into the Hall of Fame For Great Americans.

    Yes. I’m serious.

    Glen

    • Glen Russell Slater on said:

      UPDATE—–

      In answer to your question, “Are you familiar with the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, located on the campus of Bronx Community College in New York City? Not many people are.”

      Well, no sooner did I post my previous reply to your article that I called my father on the phone. I asked him, as soon as he answered the phone, “Dad, did you ever hear of the Hall of Fame For Great Americans?”

      Without missing a beat, he said “Yeah! It was this place with all of these busts! I used to hang out there sometimes with my friends!”

      I said, “You DID?”

      He said, “Yeah! It was near the end of my newspaper route. (The Bronx Home News, a daily that used to serve the Bronx.) I used to hang out there sometimes! It was interesting.”

      So, to my shock and chagrin, (not to be confused with Chagrin Falls, Ohio), my father not only KNEW about it, but he FREQUENTED it!

      Glen

      • Glen, I love it. You and your dad should make a trip up there sometime soon, then you can report back to us what you found up there. I’d love to hear about it, and I think so, too, would some of my readers.
        Thanks for letting me know,
        -Bill

    • Well, if Eddie Kranepool wants a statue, he’ll have to bring his own. I don’t think they’ve built a new one there in years. But sure, why not? Or we could just start a new HOF for famous guys from the Bronx. It could include Ronald Mallet (theoretical physicist of time travel), Ken Schaffer (inventor of the wireless guitar), serial killer David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, former NBA player Nate “Tiny” Archibald, and actor Al Pacino.

  4. Great post–lots of stuff I didn’t know, as per usual.

    To start with, I’d never heard of the HOFFGA (they could have snazzed that name up a little), but I think it’s an awesome idea. Of course, criteria would have to be set, and there would always be controversial choices, but it would be a great way to learn about and honor some of the movers & shakers of our time. Of course, if nobody visited it (like the actual HOFFGA), then it wouldn’t matter much.

    I’ve never been to Cooperstown, but I hope someday to go. I think one likely factor in the decline in attendance at Cooperstown since the 1990s has been the increased affordability of air travel. With Cooperstown being as remote as it is (or as it appears to be on a map), it’s likely not getting the road trip traffic it once did.

    • Hey Smak, Two words: Road Trip. This will give you an excuse to come back and visit us Easterners. Hadn’t thought of the airline price ticket angle, but it makes as much sense as any other reason I can think of. One weird thing about the Cooperstown area, there’s hardly any place to actually stop and sleep for the night. There are a few places, of course, but not as many as you might think. That could certainly serve to discourage older guys like myself who aren’t exactly into camping out in a cow pasture for the night. I guess this time of year, though, you’d probably have the entire village to yourself.

  5. First of all, a tip of the cap; this is just some of the finest writing that’s ever appeared on this blog, which means it is really top-shelf, first-rank stuff. That said, I can’t endorse your reasoning on inducting Mattingly at all. You noted that the Hall of Fame in the Bronx inducted, in its final class, a horticulturalist and a judge whose names would mean nothing to us. In short, it had sunk to inducting the ordinary. Now, granted, Mattingly is not ordinary–he was a fine, fine player. That said, the “new statistics” do not treat him kindly. He did the league in OPS+–once, and was only over the 140 mark four times. His career WAR, per B-R, puts him behind Keith Hernandez, John Olerud, Joe Torre, Fred McGriff, Will Clark, Joe Judge for goodness sake– and that’s just among first basemen. Yes, he has legions of fans within an easy drive of Cooperstown–but how much can that play into who gets in or who doesn’t? To take that to the absurd, do you induct Eddie Kranepool because he’s beloved. To paraphrase what Bill James said years ago, I don’t think it’s healthy if you have a hundred first basemen in the Hall of Fame, because what makes a Hall of Famer unique if you have a thousand players with plaques? Is Cooperstown’s health any less endangered than its counterpart in the Bronx if it begins to induct the equivalent of unnamed judges and horticulturalists?

    • Hi W.K. I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.
      Taking your last point first, that it might be detrimental to honor hundreds of first basemen with plaques in The Hall, if we assume that The Hall will be around for the next 100 years or more, eventually we’re going to run into that problem anyway. No matter how you cut it, The Hall can never be exclusive enough that eventually it won’t run out of plaque space. And no matter whom we believe to be truly immortal today (Jeff Bagwell, for example), the odds are strong that a couple of generations from now (at most) few will remember who the hell Jeff Bagwell was. “Exclusivity” is, in the long run, a losing, pointless battle.
      As for Mattingly vs. Hernandez, Olerud, Torre, etc., none of them, excellent as they were, ever dominated their league the way Mattingly did in the mid-to late ’80′s. From 1984-87, Mattingly averaged 6.25 WAR per season.
      I would also argue that I think The Hall would be no worse off with Keith Hernandez and Will Clark inducted than it otherwise is. Most people don’t have any idea which players are in The Hall or not, so I don’t quite buy the argument that the presence of some players that some fans don’t think belong in The Hall makes any negative difference overall. It’s like arguing that a group of teen boys won’t go to the school dance anymore because in addition to the three gorgeous girls, there are six other not-so beautiful girls. Boys go to the dance to see the hot girls, regardless of whoever else may attend. When people make the trip up to Cooperstown to see, for example, the plaque of Mickey Mantle, I doubt they care that Jim Bottomley also has a plaque.
      As for Ed Kranepool, I wasn’t saying that to have played in New York should be enough to get into The Hall. At the same time, the reality is that baseball has always been strongest when the teams in New York are successful. That many fans outside of New York resent this fact, and that a baseball market the size of the New York metropolitan region has so much influence on baseball in general and on The Hall in particular is simply a fact of life. A Mattingly plaque in The Hall would be good for baseball (which is the entire point of The Hall), and is entirely defensible given his career achievements.
      I know that we all want to get it right in terms of which players should receive this ultimate honor, but perhaps we’re missing the forest for the trees. Baseball is entertainment, and The Hall is not a holy shrine. I no longer buy the uniquely puritanical American argument that there’s somehow something wrong with giving the people what they want, that the worst impulses of the ignorant masses need to be tamed. For one thing, there’s always football. The people have spoken, and the Super Bowl is now the one event in American culture where almost everyone is paying attention, if only for the commercials. Baseball and The Hall can continue to pretend to be “above” all that, with predictable long-term consequences.
      I am always happy to hear from you, W.K. and look forward to your next piece of writing.
      Take care,
      Bill

  6. Hey Bill. That’s a fantastic piece of writing and as a friend of mine used to say, the miner’s light shines all the way to the last word.

    The “sprucing up” of museums mentioned by peacefulhands9 corresponds with your highly entertaining “Prostitution, Democracy and the Roman Empire” as next year’s Mets slogan. The idea is not so crazy, especially when considering the risks taken by some of baseball ‘s more progressive gm’s and owners. I’m thinking specifically of Bill Veeck and his “Hustler’s Handbook.” We could use a little of that effective attention getting device.

    As far as Cooperstown goes, I wonder how much of its board room discussions and what not are monitored by major league baseball? How much of a leash are they given to experiment or be outrageous in an educated manner to woo more fans? It’s troubling to witness so many years of turning a blind eye to steroids suddenly becoming a moral outrage by the same people. The MLB saying what the public wants to hear seems to backfire. I think fans want integrity-something different and fresh. They want Brauns’s 2011 MVP trophy to be taken from him.

    I visited the Hall of Fame in the early 1980′s so a lot has probably changed, but I vaguely recall the majority of the displays and what not being more Rah Rah than comprehensive in full story sort of way-corruption along side the walk off home runs. I wonder if a more balanced portrayal would win not only more baseball fans, but fans of culture and history. As an example, the entire steroids era could be covered as a societal endemic with viagra and the thousands of age elimination devices on the market included in the Hall’s explanation. Anyway, a great article like this one gets me thinking.

    The Mattingly numbers you included are good enough proof for me. I don’t pay too much attention to character when it comes to HOF elections. I’m more interested in impact; good or bad. Ultimately, if the numbers are solid, then I say get em in the Hall and if his character was suspect, then explain it in great detail with new and interactive technologies. Jose Canseco would seem to have a place in this kind of climate. Baseball fans are intelligent enough to separate the wheat from the chaff; the impact players on the diamond and the ones off it. That’s my two cents anyway or more like 20 cents. Sorry about that.

    Your article was well worth the wait. Much more to discuss. Cheers Bill!

    • You know, the Pro Football HOF in Canton instructs voters that they Have to induct from four to seven players each year! Imagine baseball doing that? Also, and I found this interesting, any fan (of football) may nominate any qualified person who has been connected with pro football in any capacity simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
      I’m not saying their approach is better, (and they’re having their own attendance issues as well), but it does reveal a somewhat different approach to marketing and public relations between the two sports. Football’s approach, it seems to me, is designed to appeal to as wide an array of fans as possible, whereas baseball’s approach almost seems designed to result in a perhaps unreasonable amount of fan disappointment. Where one approach has a “The circus has come to town!” general appeal to it, the other is a secret handshake, Skull and Bones society sort of grudging acceptance of new members.
      Having said that, it’ll be 20 years next June since I’ve visited The Hall myself. I’m currently planning a road trip up there with a friend of mine who has never been there. I may come away with a different opinion altogether once I get a chance to tour it again.
      Thanks for the comments,
      -Bill

      • Hey Bill will you be timing your visit with any of the events? Like the HOF game or the symposium on baseball research which I think is an annual deal?

        With so many baseball fans and so much history, the bones of contention seem inevitable when all legends and paraphernalia are housed in the same place especially when a select group of writers determines yeh or neh on who gets in.

        I wouldn’t be opposed to an articles of confederation type of arrangement with multiple halls spread around North America with additional ones in Mexico, DR, Cuba, Venezuela and so on. It might serve as a catalyst to get people traveling around pow wow style to all the different venues of fame.

        They could offer some special deal maybe like a Hall of Fame passport-the more you visit, the better deals or whatever. I’d like it if Harmon Killebrews’ relics were in Idaho-his birth state. The Idaho chapter wouldn’t have to be all about “Killer” but it could be built around his contribution to baseball.

        By the way, there are sort of other baseball halls worth visiting like The Baseball Reliquary is one example, http://www.baseballreliquary.org/

      • I’d never heard of The Baseball Reliquary, so thanks very much for sending that along. I’d often wondered why some other organization hadn’t popped up to present an alternative of sorts to the monopoly the HOF in Cooperstown has on baseball history and artifacts. I also like your idea of a kind of rolling HOF, existing at multiple times and places.
        My planning for a trip to Cooperstown is still in its early stages, so I can’t say for sure when I’l be going there, but it probably won’t be in the middle of the summer. More likely it’ll be either April or next fall. Want to come along?
        Bill

      • Bill, thanks for the invite. That’s tremendous! A trip to Cooperstown and meeting some great people sounds excellent. Hopefully, the timing in terms of schedules will work out. Please keep me posted on the details. Enjoy the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend

      • I’ll certainly keep you posted. Like I said, we’re in the early planning stage. My wife’s work/travel schedule will come into play here. She travels a lot on business. When she’s away, I have to be home for the kids.
        Take care,
        Bill

  7. Great article! The Baseball Hall of Fame is dealing with the same financial pressures as all museums — people have other things to do with their time. It’s not a reflection on baseball, necessarily; recent trends show that history museums in general are struggling more than science, art, and children’s museums. (I work in non-profits, and have a few museums under my belt.)

    Also, being a non-profit does not make you a ward of the state … 501(c)3 organizations maintain their own finances, and while many museums do enjoy some funding from local, state and federal government grants, that’s been in increasingly short supply of late. Many museums, the HOF among them, rely a great deal (or, in some cases, entirely) on individual donors and contributions (outside of museum admission fees). And, those gifts — and charitable giving across the board — have taken a big downturn in this slow economy.

    The museums that succeed ultimately are the ones that bring new technologies and interactivity to their on-site exhibits and learn to make the online presence rise above the fray. The HOF in Cooperstown isn’t a bad museum, not boring either. But it could certainly use some sprucing up.

    All that said, I like your list. Although I’m going to bump Tom Glavine up on my pseudo-ballot because I think he deserves it. And, I bump Mike Mussina up a little bit because he’s earned it … but mostly because he was a beloved Oriole. (However, if he’s planning on going into the HOF wearing a Yankees cap, then my vote is rescinded.)

    • Hello, and thank you for the thoughtful, intelligent response. You’re right, of course, that many museums these days are struggling due to the poor economy and the explosion of alternative forms of entertainment. Cooperstown, stuck in the middle of a pleasant “nowhere,” is especially vulnerable to this downturn, as people choose to stay closer to home. The real problem here might be demographic. I read that the average age of a World Series T.V. viewer this year was over 50-years old. If baseball doesn’t find a way (and there must be one) to attract younger people to the sport, even when the economy turns around, this problem will persist.
      I went to LegoLand with my kids down in Atlanta a few months ago, and even though the economy isn’t very strong, the lines were out the door. Baseball doesn’t help itself with a mid-20th century approach in choosing whom to honor in their HOF. Far more in the way of imagination is going to be necessary to draw more people (which does effect the long-term financial health of even a non-profit, aside from outside charitable donations.)
      Calling the HOF a “ward of the state” was a poor choice of words on my part. My point was that ultimately it is the State of New York that is responsible for the contents within the walls of The Hall. When memorabilia has gone missing in the past, it has been the state’s district attorney that has stepped in to investigate the apparent theft.
      My list wasn’t necessarily in the order in which I’d pick the players that should be honored. I hadn’t even thought of the issue of which cap some of these players would be wearing on their plaque. For better or worse, the players don’t get to make that decision anyway. Otherwise, Gary Carter would have gone in as a Met (or so I once read.)
      Thanks very much for reading, and for the interesting response.
      Bill

      • According to the HOF, they consult with the player before a final team is decided for the cap. (They insist that Gary Carter knew and was “comfortable” with the decision.) I guess it was a lot easier in the old days.

        You are definitely right about the bigger problem with baseball … although football is the money-making machine nowadays, and I don’t think they’re doing much better in Canton. Kid’s museums — like LegoLand and kid’s science museums etc — the the ones that are doing the best these days. Other museums should take a look at what makes them successful: interactive “play” things, things built low for smaller hands/eyes, better lighting, and creating a bright and fun kid-friendly experience.

        Good job … and thanks for giving me some baseball to think about today! :)

      • Glad to hear that they at least consult with the player beforehand. I’m sure they wanted to have at least one member of the Expos represented in The Hall. Another thing that occurred to me regarding baseball marketing in general is I don’t know how much outreach they do with Latin-American communities here in the U.S., but that would seem to be a natural market that they might be more or less overlooking.
        Thanks again,
        Bill

  8. Bill,

    It is always a pleasure to read your posts and pick up slices of history and baseball lore. The Bronx Community college HOF is new to me, thanks for the inspiration to find out more information about it.

    As far as Cooperstown goes, image is everything—is it not?

    Cheers,
    Allan

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