Baseball Has a Special Hall
A couple of thoughts on the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies this weekend. There are plenty of halls of fame – almost every organization, sport, high school and boy scout troupe has one. Being elected into any professional sport’s hall of fame is an honor of course, but some are certainly more prestigious and more glamorous than other. I’ve been to a number of them, and without doubt the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is the best. Part of the reason is the history. The Baseball Hall goes back to the mid 1800’s when no one was even sure what baseball really was. The rules were strange, the equipment was almost non existent, but it was the genesis for future American sports. Despite the fact that it pre-dates all of the other sports in this country, the Baseball Hall of Fame is almost tiny. Just a handful of rooms with plaques on the walls of the 312 people now enshrined in Cooperstown. That’s it, 312 people, and that includes the 6 that were inducted this weekend. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has 280 inductees but it only dates back to 1963. The Basketball Hall of Fame has 164 members but it goes back just a bit further, to 1959. Hockey has 240 members and goes back to 1945.
Baseball has 80 years on those sports. It is without doubt the most exclusive club of all of the Halls. Seventy-five percent of the voters have to chose you and if no one reaches that number, then no one gets in that year. That has happened on several occasions. It happened as recently as 2013 when Barry Bonds and Roger Clements didn’t get elected. The Pro Football Hall has a minimum of 3 players each year and up to seven. Basketball has no limits. In 1993 there were 8 people inducted. That’s what makes the baseball Hall so special.
This year it was rare. Six people were inducted, three former players, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas and three former managers, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa. Six people in one year–and none of them as “old timers” is extremely rare. I remember being in Cooperstown in 1999 when Nolan Ryan was inducted as the first Ranger to be elected. I walked through the halls and was shocked at how small and intimate the place was. Just simple plaques for each player, nothing showy, and great memorabilia from milestones in the history of the game.
Of all the greats that are in the building, from Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb from the original class, to Mickey Mantle and Tom Seaver and Greg Maddux (this year), not one of them was a unanimous choice. Not even The Babe got 100% of the votes…now that’s exclusive. Baseball does a lot of things wrong in my book. Still having two leagues, one with and one without a designated hitter is ludicrous, but they got the Hall of Fame right. It should be reserved for the very best. Not just the very good and not the “three year phenom,” but for a career of excellence. The six new members this weekend should feel especially proud that they have been honored.
A side note: Congratulations to Eric Nadel for receiving the Ford Frick Broadcasting Award and being inducted into the Hall of Fame this past weekend. After 36 years of calling mostly bad Rangers baseball, Nadel certainly deserves to have his name enshrined just like the other 6. I don’t know those other guys, but Eric is one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet and I couldn’t be happier for him.