Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Baseball Hall of Fame

Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,” dies at 83

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Ernie Banks died last night at the age of 83.

Banks played his entire career for the Chicago Cubs. He was their first-ever African-American player, was an All-Star 14 times, won a Gold Glove as a shortstop in 1960, won two MVP awards in 1958 and 1959, and won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1967. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 on the first ballot. And he also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Banks had a remarkable career (check out this article from Yahoo Sports’ “Big League Stew” blog if you don’t believe me). He was a trailblazer, both as a player and as a coach.

But it’s not because of any of those things that I felt so terrible when I heard the news that Ernie Banks had died.

Banks was a quality individual, you see. He was one of those people who made you smile, simply by being around him. And he was the best ambassador for his beloved Cubs they’d ever had — hence his nickname, “Mr. Cub” — much less Major League Baseball as a whole.

Banks never went to the playoffs with his Cubs, but he always believed he would go — and nearly did in 1969, the year of the Cubs’ epic collapse. Because of his positive attitude, people loved being around him. And he enjoyed talking to the media, mostly because he saw it as a privilege rather than an obstacle. (Check out these great quotes as listed by the Chicago Tribune.)

Ernie Banks, quite simply, was a hero. He didn’t see himself that way, of course, but heroes never do.

I mourn his passing deeply.

2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Leaves More Questions than Answers

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Folks, for the second year in a row, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, is at the center of a scandal.

Last year, of course, the big scandal was that no one was voted into the Hall whatsoever (I wrote about that here).  But this year’s scandal is nearly as bad, considering — despite big names such as seven-time Most Valuable Player Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award Winner Roger Clemens being on the ballot again, the Baseball Writers of America voted only for three men — Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas, all first-time nominees — and ignored everyone else.

Mind you, Glavine, Maddux and Thomas were all deserving candidates. I’m glad they got in. But I’m frustrated that Bonds and Clemens didn’t even get 40 percent of the vote, all because the BBWAA would rather punish alleged steroid users than celebrate great players.

This hypocritical attitude has already forced 3,000 hit club member Rafael Palmeiro off the ballot (he didn’t get the required five percent to stay eligible), has caused former All-Stars Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s candidacies to be largely ignored despite their memorable home run record race in 1998 that reinvigorated baseball, and has caused Bonds and Clemens to wonder if the BBWAA will ever allow either one of them into the Hall, either.

And I’m not the only one wondering about this. Keith Olbermann, on his ESPN sports show last night, asked again why the BBWAA insists on behaving in this fashion. (Granted, Olbermann is much more miffed about 3,000 hit club member Craig Biggio once again falling short of the Hall, this time by a mere two votes, than by the exclusions of Clemens or Bonds. But the point is much the same.) Olbermann believes at bare minimum that the BBWAA should allow voters to vote for more than ten people, the current maximum.

Here’s a sample of a few other good blogs on the subject, the first coming from writer Jonathan Weber at The Ballclub, a blog devoted to the New York Mets that in this case discusses the case for catcher Mike Piazza in detail:

But once again, the argument revolves around who didn’t get in, and central among the snubbed is Mike Piazza. Piazza’s credentials don’t need to be discussed. Neither do those for the similarly snubbed Craig Biggio or any of the others who probably should be taking their rightful place in Cooperstown’s hallowed halls.

The issue obviously lies in the voting process, and how those 571 individuals choose to cast their votes. It becomes, then, a rather subjective process and a bias against certain players who might have rubbed one, or several, of those 571 the wrong way. Or, however many of those 571 that choose to vote based on some archaic principle that only makes sense to them. Invariably, we get stories like the ballot holder from Los Angeles who voted for Jack Morrisand nobody else. Of course, what ends up happening is that Craig Biggio, who should be a Hall of Famer whether you feel he’s a compiler or not, falls 0.2% shy of election, and Mike Piazza falls 12.8% short.

Neither Biggio or Piazza has been specifically implicated of any wrongdoing. . . Piazza’s problem is basically guilt by association—though he’s never failed a drug test and never been specifically implicated for steroid use, he’s of that era so the suspicion will follow whether he’s guilty or not. At this point, if you haven’t gotten a smoking gun on Piazza, you’re probably not going to, because there really aren’t any guns left for the players of that era.

(Emphasis and ellipsis by BC)

This blog from St. Louis Cardinal writer Ray DeRousse points out the real problems with leaving Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, and the others out of the Hall:

Imagine it is the year 2114. A young boy from San Francisco visits Cooperstown with his family. The kid strolls through its corridors, gazing with wonder at the memorabilia enshrined in glass and the bronze faces of baseball’s greatest players staring back at him along its hallowed halls. Slowly, his excitement turns to confusion.

“Dad, where is Barry Bonds?” asks the boy.

The father stops, temporary stumped. “He’s not here,” he responds carefully. “Barry Bonds is not allowed to be in here.”

This confuses the boy even more . . .

Is this really the kind of conversation we want in the corridors of Cooperstown 100 years from now? Apparently the writers charged with voting players into the Hall of Fame do, as they used yesterday’s election ballot to strongly rebuke several players of the PED generation . . . (including) Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro.

(Links to Baseball Reference removed because they’re already extant in this article, and ellipses added to condense quote — BC)

Even Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan, with whom I’ve had my differences, wrote this:

As one side seethed about the indignity of Greg Maddux failing to show up on 16 Hall of Fame ballots and another side bellowed about the shame of Dan Le Batard giving his vote to Deadspin readers and another wallowed in the misery of Craig Biggio falling two votes shy of induction and the entire operation reached levels of rage and fulmination and wrath that have turned sports debate today into the modern-day Cuyahoga, a conflagrant river of pollution, a harrowing fact fell to the background.

The man who may be the greatest hitter ever and the man who may be the greatest pitcher ever are going backward in their efforts to join the Hall in which they belong.

If Passan, a man who’s seething hatred of Brewers OF Ryan Braun is already legendary due to Braun’s PED use (and subsequent cover-up of same), can say this, why can’t the rest of the baseball writers?

Oh, wait.  At least a few have, including Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt, who admitted to voting for Bonds, Clemens, and a number of others (he didn’t vote for Palmeiro as Palmeiro failed a drug test).

But it’s obvious that many in the BBWAA are retaliating against supposed PED users, though there’s another factor in play — that ten-vote rule — that Haudricourt discusses here.

My view is simple. Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Piazza, and Biggio are all clearly Hall of Famers and should’ve been elected into the Hall right away. But because the BBWAA seems to want to be punitive, these men aren’t getting into the Hall.

How do you fix this? Olbermann’s suggestions (referenced in this article by the Washington Post) of adding people like Bill James, some sportscasters like Vin Scully (perhaps Brewers-own sportscaster Bob Uecker might qualify for a vote due to his fifty-plus years in baseball?), and even a fan vote counting for one percent overall sound like a step in the right direction.

But one thing is clear: this must be fixed.

Because this is wrong.

Finally! Ron Santo Makes the Hall of Fame

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Folks, it is with great pleasure that I finally get to say this: former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo has finally made it into the Hall of Fame via the Veterans Committee (made up of former major league baseball players already in the Hall of Fame).  Santo was a nine-time All-Star, won five Gold Gloves for his fielding prowess, and hit 342 home runs in an age where that number meant something.  He was a career .277 hitter — again, this was in an era where there were many outstanding pitchers, before much of the expansion that diluted major league talent — and hit 30 or more home runs between 1964 and 1967.  (Or, if you are mathematically challenged as I sometimes am, that means Santo hit 30 or more HRs for four years straight.  That’s tough to do.)

Santo also was a well-known broadcaster for the Cubs for twenty years, until his death in 2010.  He was known for vocalizing when things went poorly — “Oh, no!  Oh, jeez!  Oh, man!” and the like — and also cheered when things went well.  (Even-handed, he was not.)  But fans loved him — including this Brewers fan — because Santo wore his heart on his sleeve and unabashedly loved both baseball and his Cubs.

See this link for further details:;_ylt=AqFJrda2AKMBjVKWqsB0AUIRvLYF?slug=ap-halloffame

Santo also was one of the very first players to admit he had diabetes.  He was a hero to many precisely because he was open about his struggle; as Brooks Robinson alluded to (quoted in the Yahoo! Sports article I referenced):

“He’s just a terrific guy, he’s baseball through and through, he’s done a lot for the game of baseball in his career, and he’s been though a lot of hardships physically and he was just a terrific player,” he said. “He certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame. A long time coming. No one knows the reason he didn’t get in when the writers were voting, but this process we have has been the fairest, I think.” (emphasis mine — BC)

Santo was loyal, loved baseball, and was definitely someone the “common man” (sometimes called the “fan on the street”) could root for as he had problems, was open and honest about sharing them, yet never let them get him down.  I am glad, for Santo’s family and for baseball fans everywhere, that Santo has finally received his due — better late than never — as it’s great to finally be able to write these words:

Ron Santo (3B) — Chicago Cubs.  Inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, 2012.**


** Yes, this means that Santo is the first-announced member of the Class of 2012.  He’s been voted on in 2011, yes.  But he’ll still be a member of the Class of ’12.

** By the way, all the emphasis on the word “finally” is deliberate.  Santo’s omission from the HoF was a curious one — nearly as curious as the continuing omission of Buck O’Neal — and the only word that came to mind was the one I (over)used — finally.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 5, 2011 at 11:48 pm