Results tagged ‘ Cooperstown ’

Trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame

A little over eight years ago, back in June of 2006, I took a trip with my family to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, as part of a two week journey around the Northeast. I wasn’t extremely into baseball back then, but I enjoyed it just enough that I would’ve gotten a decent experience out of the visit. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Due to major flooding in the surrounding area, the Hall of Fame was closed, and we had to settle for a visit to a nearby baseball wax museum — an interesting place, but one that obviously paled in comparison to the main attraction in town.

In the years since, I’ve become one of the biggest baseball fans you’ll ever meet, constantly following the game and studying up on the stars of today and years past. Therefore, it had slowly become a must for me to make it back to Cooperstown at some point during my life. Although I imagined a return trip would take place a couple of decades or more from the time I last made the long trek up to New York from North Carolina, a plan for my dad, grandpa and I to take another trip to the Hall of Fame was quickly orchestrated over the past few months. And thus, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the three of us made our way to New York.

On Saturday, November 29th, we got up early and made the drive from our hotel in Binghamton, NY, over to Cooperstown, arriving at a little bit after 9:00 in the morning:

DSCN7426As you may have noticed, there was snow on both of the trees to each side of the doors, as well as icicles hanging at various lengths from the roof. The cause of the snow and ice is one element of the trip that wasn’t present in June of 2006: cold weather. Far from the warm summer temperatures of our last visit, it was fairly cold (as is to be expected in late November), with the day starting off at around 10 degrees. But, thankfully, the Hall of Fame doesn’t close for cold temperatures, and we were actually able to make it past the front door this time around.

Upon entering the Hall and purchasing our tickets, we walked up the stairs to the second floor, where we caught a brief introduction movie, before beginning the tour of the museum.

One of the first pieces of memorabilia that we saw, and one of the most interesting of the day, was an old baseball that was used to “prove” that Abner Doubleday was the inventor of baseball, back in 1839:

DSCN7427However, contrary to popular belief, Doubleday didn’t invent baseball. As the display discussed, Doubleday was given credit for the sport’s origin, but a version of baseball had been being played for numerous years prior to 1839. Although the exact inventor of baseball isn’t fully known, credit for the rules of today’s version of the game — 90 feet between bases; 9 innings; 9 players per team — was awarded to Alexander Cartwright, the “Father of Modern Baseball”.

But while the invention of baseball wasn’t Abner Doubleday’s, there was an interesting non-baseball item that was in fact his own:

DSCN7436As a lover of history, including the Civil War era, these shoulder epaulets belonging to Doubleday during the war were very cool to see. Though not directly related to baseball, I came to find that the off the wall items such as these — not just baseballs, bats, jerseys, etc. — were some of the most interesting things to see.

But the baseball memorabilia was amazing as well; especially that of baseball’s well known all-time greats, such as Honus Wagner. Playing from 1897 through 1917, mainly for the Pittsburgh Pirates, there was a locker filled with Wagner stuff, such as one of Wagner’s full uniforms (used while he was a manager):

DSCN7442Wagner’s 1909 T206 baseball card holds the record for the most valuable sports card in existence, having sold for a whopping 2.8 million dollars back in 2007. So seeing the rare items tied directly to Wagner was amazing.

But things kept getting better and better as the journey through the museum continued. Next up was an entire section dedicated to the most well known player in baseball history: Babe Ruth. Among the items on display were a baseball estimated to have been hit by Ruth over 500 feet (picture 1); Ruth’s glove from the 1926 World Series (picture 2); a display of various things, such as one of Ruth’s bats (picture 3); and an autographed Babe Ruth baseball (picture 4):

RuthFollowing the Ruth exhibit, there was an exhibit dedicated the Negro Leagues, titled “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience”. The most well known Negro League player has to be Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier back in 1947, going on to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. However, the exhibit focused on more than just Robinson. Also included in the exhibit, that helped tell the story of the Negro Leagues, were uniforms worn by Satchel Paige (left) and James “Cool Papa” Bell (right):

Negro LeaguesPaige is likely the most widely known Negro League pitcher, having pitched three shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox in 1965 at the age of 59, becoming the oldest player ever to play in the majors. Bell, while not as much of a household name as Paige, was just as amazing in his own way. Possessing blazing speed, it was said that Bell could “turn off the light and be under the covers before the room got dark” and that Bell once “hit a ball up the middle of the field and was struck by the ball as he slid into second base”. Though merely stories people liked to tell, it goes to show just how much Bell’s speed stood out to people.

Next in line on the path through the museum was “Diamond Dreams”, which showcased the many roles that women have played throughout the history of baseball, including playing the game themselves. The 1992 movie ‘A League of Their Own’, staring Tom Hanks, Geena David and Madonna, among others, covered this very topic of women playing the baseball. And therefore, the exhibit included costumes from the movie itself:

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After spending some time reading about the history of women in baseball, the three of us then made our way through a collection of items from 1930-1970, including things used by all-time greats, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle, before finding ourselves in a portion of the museum dedicated to Latin American baseball players, entitled ‘Viva Baseball':

DSCN7483Although everything in the exhibit was interesting and fun to learn about, there were some items that interested me more than others. Two of the key items for me were David Ortiz’s 2004 World Series jersey (left), from the year the Red Sox broke their 86-year Championship drought, as well as a jersey worn by Albert Pujols (right) during his 2001 Rookie of the Year winning season:

LatinBoth players are likely on their way to the Hall of Fame for their careers once they retire.

The next section we came upon covered baseball up through the year 2000. Some of the top things around the exhibit were a Tom Seaver display (Seaver holds the record for highest Hall of Fame induction voting percentage, with 98.8 %) that included the red cleats from his 300th career win (picture 1); George Brett’s pine tar bat from 1983 (picture 2); Robin Yount’s batting helmet from his 3,000th hit (picture 3); and Derek Jeter’s 1998 World Series cleats (picture 4):

Today's GameAlthough I enjoyed every portion of the museum, seeing this type of stuff from players that I’ve seen countless hours of video on truly made it all the more impressive.

That’s one of the reasons I most enjoyed the last room of the second floor that had items from the last decade or so of the game. One of the great things about these items was that I could remembered seeing a lot of the unique events they were tied to take place on TV, either live or in a recap of the game. The room was organized into thirty different lockers (one for each team) positioned around the walls, with several items for each team in each locker.

Remember back in 2012 when Orioles’ slugger Chris Davis came on to finish out the marathon 16 inning game on the mound against the Red Sox after beginning the game as the designated hitter? Well, the cap Davis was wearing was there:

DSCN7516Do you recall the unbelievable home-run-robbing catch made by DeWayne Wise in 2009 to preserve Mark Buehrle’s perfect game? They had the glove he used to snag the ball:

DSCN7520In fact, pretty much anything of significance that has happened within the past number of years was included in this exhibit. The cleats Miguel Cabrera was wearing the night he secured baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967 (picture 1); the cleats Mike Trout wore when he recorded his first career cycle (picture 2); Jim Thome’s 600th career home run (picture 3); and the cap Mariano Rivera wore during his final All-Star outing of his career in 2013 (picture 4):

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It was all there.

Also in the room — in a display case in the very center — was an arrangement of items specifically from the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Although a bat from Jose Abreu’s rookie year was awesome to see, as were the cleats Albert Pujols was wearing when he blasted his 500th career home run, the thing that stood out to me the most was the jersey worn by Mo’ne David during the Little League World Series:

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Having watched Davis pitch on T.V. throughout the series, as well as seeing her on the cover of Sports Illustrated and basically anywhere you looked, it was awesome to see the jersey used by the first girl to earn a win in Little League World Series history.

After taking in all the things from this season, and doing my best to photograph it all, we all made our way up to the third floor of the museum. There, in a Hank Aaron exhibit, we saw another unique item not directly related to baseball, like the Abner Doubleday epaulets talked about earlier — bricks from Aaron’s childhood home in Alabama:

DSCN7557But while that was awesome to see, the Hall of Fame also had the full uniform Aaron was wearing the night he passed Babe Ruth for most home runs on the all-time home run list:

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That was pretty remarkable to see after watching him hit that historic blast over and over on T.V.

However, as we all know, Aaron’s career mark of 755 home runs didn’t stand. Barry Bonds went on to pass Aaron, with his 756th home run coming on August 7, 2007. The helmet Bonds was wearing when he hit the homer was on display, as was the ball itself:

DSCN7573You may have noticed that the ball has an asterisk cut out of the cover. The story behind that lies with Marc Ecko — the person who bought the ball online for $752,467. After purchasing the baseball, Ecko held an online contest to determine its fate. Voters had three choices: put an asterisk on the ball; leave it alone; or shoot it to the moon. Around half of the ten million votes said an asterisk should be added before the balls donation. And thus became the ball you see above.

Also in this room, focusing on records and such, were some pretty incredible things. Among them was Derek Jeter’s batting gloves from his 3,000th hit game (picture 1); a cap from each of Nolan Ryan’s record seven career no-hitters (picture 2); first base from Armando Galarraga’s infamous near-perfect game (picture 3); a ball from the 2007 game in which the Rangers defeated the Orioles 30-3 (picture 4); the jersey from Roy Halladay’s postseason no-hitter in 2010 (picture 5); and, my personal favorite item, possibly of the entire museum, the glove Willie Mays used to make “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series (picture 6):

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In all, I took more pictures in this one section of the museum than any other section. It was truly amazing stuff.

Towards the end of items on the third floor was a display with memorabilia solely from the 2014 World Series between the Giants and the Royals. Watching every single inning on T.V. as it happened, is was awesome to see some items from the series in person. But the one thing that stood out the most was rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura’s cap that he wore for his game six start:

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In addition to being a standout item because of the great outing Ventura had, it’s the inscription on the cap that makes it stand out the most. After the tragic death of 22-year-old Cardinals’ prospect, Oscar Taveras, Ventura took to the mound with “RIP O.T # 18″ written on his hat as a tribute to his native Dominican Republic friend. It was touching on T.V., and even more so in person.

Once we had viewed all there was to see on the third floor, my grandpa, dad and I headed down the street to grab a bite of lunch at a nearby restaurant before returning to continue walking around the Hall of Fame. Believe it or not, after over three hours spent at the Hall (and after 35 pictures and 2,000 words in this blog post), there was still more to see and do.

After returning to the Hall of Fame, we headed over to an art exhibit, which normally isn’t my thing but really intrigued me this time around. Following that, we headed through a room dedicated to this year’s Hall of Fame inductees — Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux — before arriving to the Hall of Fame’s main point of interest: The Hall of Fame Gallery:

DSCN7618With the current number of Hall of Famers standing at 306 total people — 211 players, 35 negro leaguers, 28 executives, 22 managers and 10 umpires — there were a lot of plaques to cover, but we made our way around to every single one.

As with every part of the museum, there were a few portions (in this case, people) that stood out the most.

The first of such was the inaugural class of five plaques (located at the far end of the picture above), being of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, all of which were inducted in 1936 — three years before the Hall of Fame’s opening in 1939:

DSCN7636Standing out as a member of the Hall of Fame that isn’t necessarily as known as the everyday players such as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Cy Young, etc., was Wesley Branch Rickey (left), accompanied by Jackie Robinson (right):

Robinson

Rickey was the person who brought Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers in 1945, making him the first African American player to break baseball’s color barrier when he made his debut two years later.

Another lesser known member is Effa Manley — the only woman in the baseball Hall of Fame:

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Manley was greatly involved in the Negro Leagues as the only woman owner among an industry of male owners. Her induction came in 2006 as a “reflection of her commitment to baseball and civil rights”.

One last person who is more known for what he did than who he was is Bill Veeck:

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Mostly known for his stunt of bringing the shortest player in MLB history to the plate in 1951 — 3 foot 7 inch tall Eddie Gaedel — Veeck made a major impact on the game, stating, “I try not to break the rules but merely to test their elasticity”.

Upon completion of viewing all of the plaques, we made a brief stop by the gift shop, where I picked up a T-shirt and a magnet to commemorate my second trip and first successful visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Following that, after half a dozen hours or so spent at the Hall of Fame, my dad, grandpa and I swung by historic Doubleday Field, which was covered in snow . . . :

DSCN7686. . . before making our way out of town and back to our hotel.

I didn’t fully know what to expect from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sometimes you can get your hopes up so high that the actual experience fails to meet those lofty expectations. But I can honestly say that the Hall of Fame completely blew away all my expectations. It was so well set up and so greatly stocked with some incredible pieces of baseball history that there was no way I could document it all — both with my camera or in this blog post.

So, if you haven’t, go see the Hall of Fame for yourself. It’s truly something that every single baseball fan should do at least once in their lifetime. You’ll never forget it.

Maddux, Glavine & Thomas Elected to Hall of Fame

For the first time since 1971, there will be six living Hall of Fame inductees enshrined in Cooperstown on July 27th, in this the 75th anniversary of the museum. It was announced on Wednesday that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas would be joining Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who were elected in December, as part of the 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.

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Maddux, Glavine and Thomas — the first player elected to have played the majority of their games as a designated hitter — all received above 80 percent of the vote, and each were elected on their first time on the ballot. This marks the first time since 1999 that three first-ballot nominees (Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount) were elected, and just the second time in history.

Maddux saw the most votes, earning 97.2 percent of the 571 voters’ approval, making him the eighth highest vote getter in Hall of Fame voting history, behind Tony Gwynn (97.61), Hank Aaron (97.83), George Brett (98.19), Ty Cobb (98.23), Cal Ripken Jr.(98.53), Nolan Ryan (98.79) and Tom Seaver (98.84).

All three players were extremely deserving, no doubt about it, but many people feel that a couple of players who were just as “deserving” didn’t get enough recognition.

None more so than Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote, falling a mere two votes shy of the 75 percent necessary for induction. Biggio becomes the third player to miss getting in by two or fewer votes, joining Pie Traynor and Nellie Fox, who both eventually made it into the Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza is another player that didn’t earn enough of the vote to be elected, but could’ve easily been elected in. Piazza’s percentage, as with Biggio, was likely hurt by the great amount of talent on this year’s ballot, but it’s still surprising to me that he didn’t come a bit closer.

Nonetheless, both Biggio and Piazza will likely be voted in next year.

Players who may not ever be elected, however, include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who all saw drops in percentages from last year, and are all linked in one way or another to performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). Clemens was the top vote getter of them all, but received just 35.4 percent of the vote, down from 37.6 percent in 2013 — no where near the percentage needed. Rafael Palmeiro, who is also associated to PED’s, didn’t even receive the necessary 5 percent to remain on the ballot for next year, getting just 4.4 percent.

Palmeiro is one of 16 players from this year who will not be on the ballot for next year. Those players include the likes of Eric Gagne and Kenny Rogers, among others, who were good players but not good enough for the Hall of Fame. Jack Morris will also not be returning next year, as although he received 61.5 percent of the vote, this was his 15th and final year of eligibility.

Looking forward to the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra will all be making their first appearance, and that could make it tough for really good players such as Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent, who received 20.3 percent and 15.2 percent of the vote this year, respectively, to make much progress. Only time will tell how the voters decide.

But one thing is for sure: Next year’s Hall of Fame class has the potential to be even more exciting than this one. And that’s truly saying a lot after the memorable class of 2014.

2014 Hall of Fame Ballot: If I Had A Vote

The 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is loaded with stars. (There are 36 players in all, with 19 of them being first ballot players.) Whether the player has been on the ballot for numerous years or is a newcomer, there are far too many players for me to give my take on them all. Therefore, I’m only going to be discussing the players I’d vote for if I had a vote, and provide my reasoning for each.

The first player on my ballot would have to be Greg Maddux. 2499811_crop_650x440 Maddux, who will go down in history as one of the best pitchers the game of baseball has ever seen, racked up a total of 355 wins over the course of his 23-year career. As if that wasn’t enough to make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Maddux also put together a stat line of 3,371 strikeouts, to go along with an ERA of 3.16, and 4 straight Cy Young winning seasons. In addition, Maddux holds the record for most Gold Glove awards with 18, and should be one of the highest vote getters in Hall of Fame voting history.

The second vote on my ballot goes to Frank Thomas. 50825152_crop_650x440 Thomas put together an incredible career, and would be an automatic pick for the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for the steroid era in which he played. But despite that, I feel Thomas will get in as a first ballot player, and rightfully so, seeing that he was never directly connected to PED’s. Blasting 521 home runs in his 19-year career, totaling 1,704 RBI’s, “The Big Hurt” has some of the best stats seen on the ballot in years (with the exception of Barry Bonds). With a .301 batting average to go along with his amazing numbers, and two career MVP’s, Thomas should receive the second most votes from the 2014 ballot, after Greg Maddux.

The next player I have is Tom Glavine. mlb_a_glavine_576 Glavine, as with Greg Maddux, is one of only 24 pitchers to have put together 300 or more career wins (305), done in his 22 seasons in the major leagues. Anytime a pitcher accomplishes this great feat, it’s almost a no brainer that they’re a Hall of Fame player, as a 300 game winner is nearly unheard of nowadays. Glavine also has two Cy Young awards and 2,607 strikeouts to go along with his other impressive numbers, and that, in my mind, should earn him a spot in Cooperstown.

The fourth player on my ballot is Mike Piazza. 345595_crop_650x440 Piazza doesn’t have the most impressive numbers of the players on this year’s ballot, however, the stats that he put together over his career, although not good enough for a first ballot vote, are good enough for the Hall of Fame, in this his second year on the ballot. In my mind, despite barely surpassing the 2,000 hit mark and sitting 90th all time in terms of RBI’s, Piazza put together one of the best ever careers for a catcher. He is fourth on the list of catchers in baseball history for most RBI’s and leads all catchers in home runs. When you combine it all together, it makes Piazza a Hall of Fame player.

The final player I would vote for from this year’s ballot is Craig Biggio. biggio Biggio was the top vote getter of the players on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 68.2 percent of the vote, which saw no players getting the necessary 75 percent to be elected. Biggio should get in this time around — many believe he should’ve been a first ballot Hall of Famer — as his 3,060 career hits put him on a list with just 27 other players who have compiled 3,000 or more hits. Biggio’s 291 career homers and 1,175 RBI’s are low for a Hall of Fame player, however, there is a very good case for making an exception for Biggio making it into the Hall.

Unfortunately, with all of the great players this year, I decided to leave off a few of the really good players from my ballot, including Jack Morris (who is in his last year of eligibility), Tim Raines, Don Mattingly, etc., even though I could’ve easily included them. I just didn’t think they were good enough to make the cut this year. In addition, I’ve excluded Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rogers Clemens, among others traced to PED’s, not based solely on their PED use, but merely because I don’t feel they should get in this time around. Not yet. Maybe not even at all. I haven’t fully decided how I feel.

Though you may disagree with some of the players I feel are Hall of Fame worthy and with some of the players I left off my ballot, it’s just the way I feel and how I see things. Now, I want to hear from you. Of the players on the 2014 ballot, who do you want to see get elected along side of Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa in July? Cast your vote below for the number of players from the 2014 ballot that you would vote into the Hall of Fame, and feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Torre, LaRussa and Cox Elected to the Hall of Fame

With around a month remaining until the players’ portion of the 2014 Hall of Fame class is announced on January 8th, there’s still plenty of time left to debate which players deserve to make it in this time around. (I’ll give my take a few days before.)

But while we don’t yet know the players who will be elected in 2014, the baseball world found out on Monday that Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox will be among those inducted as part of the 2014 class.

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Voted in by a unanimous vote of the Expansion Era Committee, Torre, LaRussa and Cox are all very deserving — each winning over 2,000 games in their managerial careers — but that doesn’t stop controversy from surrounding the vote. Not controversy that the three shouldn’t have gotten in, but that another name or two on the ballot should’ve been voted in.

The ballot, consisting of twelve of the games’ great players, managers, and other baseball figures, included Tommy John, Ted Simmons, Dave Parker, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Dan Quisenberry, George Steinbrenner, Marvin Miller and Billy Martin, as other candidates for the Hall of Fame besides Torre, LaRussa and Cox. But no one besides the three elected received more than six votes. (The necessary number for election is twelve.)

In my opinion, Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner should’ve been elected, as they did a lot for the game of baseball, and were important figures of their time, but in the end, it is what it is. While I disagree with them not getting the votes to be elected, I’m not going to talk about them that much, because I want to spend time discussing the three managers that made it in.

Joe Torre managed a total of 29 seasons, spending time with the Mets, Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers, however, his most memorable years came with the New York Yankees. With the Yankees, Torre led his team to four World Series championships — three straight from 1998-2000. Torre was named Manager of the Year twice in his career, and finishes fifth all time in terms of wins, with 2,326.

Tony La Russa shared his time between the White Sox, Athletic’s and Cardinals, managing for a total of 33 seasons. LaRussa was voted Manager of the Year four times, leading his teams to three World Series titles — one with the A’s and two with the Cardinals. Winning 100 or more games in a season four times, LaRussa sits third all time in wins, with 2,728.

Bobby Cox managed for 29 seasons, between the Braves and Blue Jays. Cox took the Braves to 14 straight playoff seasons — the one thing that stands out most in my mind — and was a player favorite. Four-time Manager of the Year, Cox led the Braves to a 1995 World Series title — the only one of his career — and finished fourth all time in victories, with 2,504.

I was fortunate enough to have seen two of the three Hall of Fame mangers, manage — Bobby Cox four times, and Joe Torre twice. Though I never witnessed a game that Tony LaRussa managed, I saw him on the field during the 2012 All-Star workouts, before the Home Run Derby, in Kansas City, Missouri. Nearly everyone took the time to talk with LaRussa, who had retired the previous season, and it was an impressive sight to witness, with the obvious respect they had for him.

All three managers are well respected, and are deserving of the Hall of Fame.

Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox will be inducted on July 27th, in Cooperstown, NY.

No Players Elected To the Baseball Hall of Fame

The announcement was made Wednesday afternoon that, for the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) failed to elect a single player, from the 2013 ballot, into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This causing a vast amount of controversy among the baseball world, as everyone seems to have a different opinion in regards to the voting results.

There are those who are glad that no players got in, there are those who are upset that no players got in, and then there are guys like me, who fall somewhere in between. I’m not all that upset that not a single player received the required 75% of the vote needed to get into the Hall of Fame, but, at the same time, I would’ve liked to have seen at least a couple of guys make it into the HOF, from the 2013 ballot.

But it is what it is; there’s always next year.

Bonds-Rocket-hofWhat it comes down to for me is the fact that this didn’t have to happen. Had the ‘Steroid Era’ never of occurred, the likes of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds would’ve been first ballot Hall of Famers, no question about it. Instead, they might not ever get in, as they only received 37.6% and 36.2% of the vote, respectively, this time around. For them to eventually get a plaque in the Hall of Fame, they will have to amass double the number of votes they did in this year’s vote, and I just don’t see that happening.

While they each have an additional 14 years of eligibility, I feel the voters have already made up their minds, for the most part. While a few members of the BBWAA might’ve merely held off in voting for Bonds and Clemens, in this their first year, just to prove a point, and might end up voting for them eventually, either you think Bonds and Clemens should get into the Hall of Fame or you think they shouldn’t. End of story.

But where does that leave the rest of the players from that era? Guys like Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling, who were never proven to have taken anything, but fall under the cloud of suspicion due to the era in which they played. Well, I see it like this:

They pretty much fall into the same category as those connected to PED use. Either the voters are going to vote for them, or they aren’t. There’s not much grey area here, as far as I can see, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the voters aren’t going on suspicion alone and just decided not to vote in Biggio, Piazza and Schilling this time around for one reason or another. For the sake of the Hall of Fame, I surely hope so. Leaving out Biggio, Piazza and Schilling would be a real shame.

The other main player I’d like to talk about, that many people feel should be a HOF’er, but didn’t make the cut yet again this year, is Jack Morris. Morris was a great player, but, in my mind, he’s not Hall of Fame worthy.

jack_morris-thumb-250x375-4861The thing that gets me the most when people try to make a case for Morris, is their tendency to use the intimidation factor as the reason they feel he deserves to get in; that you didn’t want to face Morris in any given situation. But it’s not the Hall of Intimidation, it’s the Hall of Fame. The place where the games’ all-time greats get enshrined to forever be seen by generations of baseball fans to come. To me, a career 3.90 ERA just doesn’t cut it. Thus, I agree with Morris not getting in–this being his 14th time on the ballot.

While the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot saw no players receiving the necessary number of votes needed to get elected, there are multiple players set to be added to the ballot in 2014 who are shoo-ins to get in on the first go around.

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are three of the favorites to do just that, with some making the same case for guys like Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent. We’ll just have to wait to see, but no matter what happens, there are sure to be at least a few players who get into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

In addition to the near certainty that several players will be voted in in 2014, next year’s vote should tell the tale once and for all of whether or not Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens stand even a slight chance of ever getting into the Hall of Fame.

If their percentages jump a large amount–due to BBWAA members voting for them that didn’t in 2013–they might have a shot of getting in, several years down the road. If they fail to receive greater than a few more percentage points, however, I’d say it’s a lost cause for two of the best players to every play the game of Major League Baseball.

MLB Hall of Famers I’ve Seen In Person

With the 2013 Hall of Fame class set to be announced tomorrow at Noon, on MLB Network, I thought it would be fun to post a blog entry on all of the Hall of Fame players I’ve ever seen in person. If my memory serves me correctly, I’ve only encountered a total of nine members of the baseball Hall of Fame. Furthermore–an interesting point to make–every HOF encounter I can recall ever having has taken place within the past seven months.

I might be forgetting a player I saw in one of the earlier years of my life, but I’m fairly sure that the following are the only HOF players I’ve been lucky enough to see in person:

JOHNNY BENCH-JOE MORGAN

Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan were the first two members of the Hall of Fame that I can recall seeing. Admittedly, I was around 100 feet away from them, but it still counts, as we were all in the same live scenario at the same time. This particular interaction came on June 23, 2012, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (If you’d like to read all about the entire day–where I actually got to shake hands, and take pictures, with several Reds’ HOF’ers–feel free to check it out HERE.)

Basically, as far as Bench’s and Morgan’s purpose goes for being in ‘Cincy’, Sean Casey and Dan Driessen were at Great American Ballpark with the sole purpose being that they were getting officially inducted into the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame. The Reds decided to bring back a couple dozen members of their HOF, and Morgan and Bench happened to be two of the players they brought out to the ballpark:

DSCN4717I realize it’s not the most flattering picture, but it’s the only one I took of the two of them together. In case you can’t tell, Johnny Bench is the one in the white shirt, putting on his jacket, and Joe Morgan is the one just to the left of him; also putting on his jacket.

The next six Hall of Fame encounters I’ve had came while on a trip out to Kansas City, Missouri, to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby:

CAL RIPKEN JR.-TONY GWYNN

I ran into Cal Ripken Jr. at around 6:30 in the morning, on July 9, 2012, shortly after chatting with Ryan Howard. Ripken was surrounded by several media members at the time and was having a conversation with Manny Machado:

DSCN4809Cal Ripken Jr. is on the right. (Manny Machado is on the left.)

I could’ve (and should’ve) waited until Ripken was finished doing was he was doing and approached him to ask for an autograph, but, in addition to it being early in the morning–with me still being half asleep–I regretfully neglected to take a ball card of Ripken out to Kansas City. I still kick myself about it, but you can’t go back in time. Perhaps I’ll run into Ripken again sometime down the road, but if not, at least I’ll always have the memory of our encounter.

My Tony Gwynn sighting came just a few hours later, only a couple hundred feet away from where my Cal Ripken Jr. encounter had occurred. Gwynn was set to sign autographs for an endless line of fans–many of which had been in line for a couple of hours–and I, in anticipation of his arrival, positioned myself off to the side of the crowd, as I waited for Gwynn. I ended up standing there for what seemed like forever, as Gwynn didn’t show up until 45 minutes after his scheduled appearance time. I was tempted to leave about 30 minutes into the wait, but I’m glad I didn’t. The extra 15 minutes of patience allowed me to be able to add another HOF’er to the list, as well as get a picture:

DSCN4870A bit obvious which one is Tony Gwynn.

BARRY LARKIN-REGGIE JACKSON-HANK AARON-GEORGE BRETT

Barry Larkin would be the next Hall of Famer I would come across while out in Kansas City. Just to the right of where I took in most of the All-Star workout day’s batting practice, Larkin was hard at work, as an episode of ‘Baseball Tonight’ was being filmed. There’s not much more I can say about my Larkin sighting, so I’ll go ahead and leave you with a photo:

DSCN4899Barry Larkin is the one just to the left of Terry Francona.

Reggie Jackson has the most interesting story (in my mind) of any other HOF player I’ve ever seen in person. My first (notice I said *first*) sighting of Jackson came shortly before the start of the home run derby, when he made his way out onto the field to throw out the first pitch:

DSCN5026Reggie Jackson, folks.

It was great to see such a great player–one of only four to ever hit three home runs in a World Series game–in person, but little did I know, at the time, that this story would only get better from there. The next morning, I was sitting in the Kansas City airport terminal, when who walks by? Reggie Jackson. That’s right, Mr. October himself just so happened to be on the same flight (he was in first class) as I was. How cool is that?! It’ll be hard to ever top the encounter I had with Jackson out in KC, but you never know….

Jumping back to the day before I saw Jackson in the airport terminal–with it still being July 9th–the next Hall of Famer I spotted was Hank Aaron. It wasn’t the best sighting ever, as it took me at least 30 seconds to locate him, after he was shown on the center field jumbotron, and I ended up with only a 5 second, or so, sighting; leading to a blurry photo:

DSCN5038Hank Aaron is the one in the white shirt, above the MLB.com sign, with his hand in the air.

Aaron is arguably the best player I saw out in Kansas City; perhaps the best of all the HOF’ers I’ve ever seen in person.

The last HOF encounter I had, on my trip to Kansas City, was George Brett. I first spotted Brett down by the field when he made his was to the broadcasting table to do an interview/play-by-play type thing, during a portion of the derby. Brett wasn’t out for long, thus I don’t have anything all that interesting to talk about, but he was, however, out in the open long enough for me to take a photo:

DSCN5061George Brett is the guy in the white shirt.

RYNE SANDBERG

The most recent story I have of a face-to-face encounter with me and a Hall of Fame member occurred on July 18, 2012, in Durham, North Carolina. The Lehigh Valley Ironpigs were in town taking on the Durham Bulls and Sandberg just so happened to be managing the visiting Ironpigs. Unlike the eight HOF’ers I had seen before, I was actually successful in getting an autograph from Sandberg–two if you want to be technical:

DSCN5493

The autographs I was able to get from Ryne Sandberg. (The Sharpie was running out.)

It was easier than I thought it would be, as I found it unusually simple to work my way down by the dugout, and to my surprise, Sandberg signed for nearly ten minutes; so that certainly helped out as well. I forgot to bring along my camera to this particular game, so you’ll have to take my word for it that I met Sandberg. (I suppose the above autographs are proof enough.)

So there you have it. Those are the nine Hall of Famers that I can remember seeing in person. If Mark McGwire, Bernie Williams and/or Sandy Alomar end up having their names called tomorrow, when the 2013 Hall of Fame voting results are announced, I can add anywhere from one to three more names to the list, as I’ve seen all three players before.

I have a feeling, however, that I’ll be stuck at nine players until at least the 2014 vote.

How many MLB Hall of Famers have you seen in person? I’d love to hear your answer, with the story behind it (if there is one), in the comments section below.

2013 Hall of Fame Ballot; If I Had A Vote

Before I begin, let me first point out that of the 37 players on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, I’m only going to be discussing my thoughts on six of them: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa; with whether or not I believe they belong among the games’ all time greats in the Hall of Fame. Statistically, they’re all worthy of the Hall, however, because of their connection to performance enhancing drugs (PED’s), proven or suspected, it makes it one of the most difficult and controversial H.O.F. votes in years.

Having retired from Major League Baseball way back at the conclusion of the 2007 season, I’ve had a fairly long time to think about whether or not these select first year ballot players are worthy of a plaque in the Hall of Fame. But five years doesn’t seem long enough, as it’s now time to make a decision, and, even with hour after hour of debate, it’s still difficult to decide one way or another.

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To make it as clear as I possibly can, of how I went about deciding whether or not I believe the six previously listed players are HOF’ers, I’ve decided to give a general overview of the pros and cons I see to the three different options you have when going about this year’s Hall of Fame vote:

OPTION 1: LEAVE ALL OF THEM OUT

This seems absurd to me, but it’s an option nonetheless, so I had to include it. The only good thing about this is that by choosing to keep all six out of the Hall of Fame you ensure that no player that used PED’s gets inducted in. Since we aren’t 100 percent sure whether or not the suspected users did or didn’t use drugs, this is the safe route to take. However, it’s also the wrong route, in my opinion. Leaving out every single one of these players could possibly be keeping out a player who never allowed any drugs into their system whatsoever. While we aren’t sure if there even are any, it’s truly not fair to punish those who could have very well never broken the rules, just because you feel they might have. So, while this is in fact an option, it’s just not right to keep out so many great players.

OPTION 2: LET A PORTION OF THEM IN

Although a little more practical than option one, I still don’t feel this is what needs to be done. Sure, by keeping out the players who were connected to drug use while allowing in those who were merely suspected, you make it fair for the players who might’ve never done anything wrong. However, you could also be allowing a player into the H.O.F. who was just lucky enough to never get caught. That doesn’t seem right to me. Electing to take this option runs the risk of allowing in someone who used drugs, while keeping out someone who did the exact same thing but just so happened to get caught. We don’t know for sure who used and who didn’t, so I feel they should all share in the same fate. Either let them all in, or keep them all out; and you already know how I feel about leaving them all out.

OPTION 3: LET ALL OF THEM IN

This is the best possible option, in my opinion. Yes, I’m aware that by doing this you’re allowing in players who were connected to drug use, but I don’t see another way to truly make sure the great players of that era are allowed in, without holding a grudge against one side or the other. Letting them all in makes sure that you keep it fair for the suspected users while also keeping it fair for the players who were actually connected. Leaving them all out isn’t fair to those who didn’t use, and letting the ones who were suspected in while leaving the ones who were connected out doesn’t seem fair either. I know it might seem as if the players connected to drug use don’t deserve a fair vote, but the way I see it, they do.

Those who used drugs throughout the ‘Steroid Era’ certainly made things very complicated.

Up until a few days ago, I never would’ve gone with option three. I was fairly adamant that any player who was connected to drug use shouldn’t be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Those players cheated; plain and simple. However, the more I think about it, due to the lack of evidence against those players who were merely suspected of using a PED, in the end, I couldn’t go with my original mindset. baseball-hall-of-fame

Now, I’m sure many of you (perhaps all of you?) disagree with my take on the matter, but I hope you at least understand, to a point, where I’m coming from (if I haven’t already confused the heck out of you). Due to the poor drug testing policy throughout the late 1980’s up through the early 2000’s’, we will never know for sure exactly which players did, and which players didn’t, use performance enhancing drugs. Therefore, if I had a vote, I would vote for every one of them to get into the Hall of Fame.

There are some people who say that if you allow players into the Hall of Fame that are connected to (or suspected of) PED’s, that you should place them in a separate wing, or, at the very least, add an asterisk next to their name. I really don’t see the need. Any true baseball fan who makes the trek to Cooperstown–a few years from now or 100 years down the road–will know the history of the ‘Steroid Era’, if they’re honestly true fans. They’ll know what each player did or didn’t do, and they’ll each have their own feelings as to whether they feel each player belongs in the Hall of Fame. Let them decide how they feel for themselves.

In the end, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Biggio, Piazza and Schilling are still some of the greatest players in the history of the game. Do I think any of them will get in this time around? Absolutely not. Do I think any of them will get in a few years down the road? I truly hope so. Keeping out this batch of players because of the unknown just wouldn’t be right. But then again, if you’ll look back at the history of Hall of Fame voting, the right thing hasn’t always been done.

Should Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Biggio, Piazza and Sosa ever be allowed into the Hall of Fame? Cast your vote (you can vote for as many players as you want):

If you wouldn’t let any in, leave a comment below with your reasoning.

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