We recently got the news that David Ortiz was selected to join the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
David is often known as “Big Popi” and I celebrate his election to the Hall of Fame.
But today’s Hall of Fame news isn’t about David Ortiz getting in, but those who didn’t. When a player retires from playing baseball he is eligible for the Hall of Fame as long as he has played for ten seasons and has been retired for five.
In the early 2000s baseball produced several players who produced incredible numbers, particularly in home runs. It didn’t take long for the public to suspect or assume that their numbers may have been enhanced by steroids that artificially built muscles that inflated their statistics. When we discuss this we naturally look at Barry Bonds, Curt Shilling, Roger Clemens, and others.
This raises an interesting question: Does a baseball player earn his place in the Hall of Fame only because of his record or is it more complex? Do morals matter?
Ty Cobb (1886-1961) was inducted in the first class of the Hall of Fame in 1936. He grew up in Georgia and played for the Detroit Tigers and never lost his hatred for African Americans. Civil Rights and Racial Equality never mattered in his life and it never mattered in his election to the Hall of Fame.
Conversely, Shoeless Joe Jackson (1887-1951) was denied. He had an extraordinary career but was accused, along with seven other teammates, of conspiracy to purposely lose the 1919 World Series. It’s often called the Black Sox Scandal. He was banned from baseball for life and denied entry to the hall.
Also, Pete Rose (b.1941) was also banned from baseball and denied entry into the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds.
I think morals matter. We have halls of fame to inspire future generations. Members show the rewards of hard work and discipline, but I also believe they should model leadership. Everyone on this list put up Hall of Fame numbers but were also good people.
- Christy Mathewson (1880-1925) was often called the “Christian Gentleman.”
- Babe Ruth (1895-1948) showed us that even though his father gave up on him and placed him in an orphanage, he could work hard and never lose his affection for sick children.
- Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) proved not only that a Black man could play major league baseball but he could do that while not responding to the racial discrimination he experienced.
I could go on and on. But I support the exclusion of Barry Bonds, Curt Shilling and Roger Clemens because I don’t want future generations of baseball players to believe that you can cheat you way into the Hall.