The Baseball Hall of Fame is not your Hall of Fame.
It does not matter that you love baseball; it does not matter that you have an opinion on the designated hitter; and it most definitely does not matter that you think, definitively, that Barry Bonds and/or Pete Rose deserve to be enshrined tomorrow or must be kept out of the hallowed halls forever, even beyond the End of Days.
Your Hall of Fame debates do not matter. Your opinions of steroid users and the proper targets for blame for the performance-enhancing era of the 1990s and early 2000s – whether the players, the media, the fans, or Bud Selig himself – do not matter. Your righteous indignation, annoyance, and anger at the latest BBWAA Hall of Fame voting results do not matter.
The Baseball Hall of Fame and Base Ball Writers Association of America have made this loud and clear: You are irrelevant.
For you, an honest to goodness baseball fan, it’s similar to flying in a plane. You’re admiring the sights, remembering enjoyable past flights, looking forward to the destination, and then suddenly you’re being tossed about in violent fits of turbulence, sending you pelting downward. And you realize that no matter how comfortable you felt before, you never truly were in control, and now it is all too apparent that you were utterly powerless all along. You were only along for the ride, that’s all.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is considered sacred, hallowed, revered, a place that every baseball player, manager, umpire and executive should aspire to. It is also located in Cooperstown, New York, which is a gorgeous little town that gained baseball’s supposed Valhalla through fraudulent means. It has been well and truly proven that Cooperstown was not the birthplace of baseball; in fact, there is no true birthplace of baseball. Abner Doubleday, similarly, may have been an American war hero, but he was not an inventor of the national pastime.
The Hall of Fame is a private institution, unconnected to Major League Baseball. It affiliated itself with the BBWAA to determine worthy Hall of Fame inductees, then it set up a special Veterans Committee to determine worthy Hall of Famers overlooked by the BBWAA, and then it set up special panels (a Pre-Integration Era panel this year, for instance) to determine worthy Hall of Famers overlooked by the BBWAA and Veterans Committee.
And you take its word, somehow, as gospel. You believe that the Hall of Fame exists to honor baseball’s glorious (albeit scandal-scarred) history, to exalt the visages of The Babe, the Big Train, the Iron Horse, the Say Hey Kid, Hammerin’ Hank, the Yankee Clipper, the Splendid Splinter, Mr. Cub, Stan the Man, and Tom Terrific. You envision entering the room of inductees with your family at your side, ready to see all of the immortals side by side.
But the room is crowded with names like Tommy McCarthy, Jack Chesbro, Rube Marquard, Chick Hafey, Ross Barnes, Travis Jackson, and Lloyd Waner, none of them regarded highly by today’s discerning minds, all of them bronzed as equally as Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax, and Cal Ripken, Jr. You are ordered to believe there is something special about all of these men (and one woman, Effa Manley), something that made them ineffably better than their contemporaries.
And you are also ordered to believe that none of the recent crop of candidates – not Craig Biggio nor Tim Raines, Roger Clemens nor Barry Bonds, Alan Trammell nor Jack Morris, Mark McGwire nor Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling nor Lee Smith – deserves to be in this room.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is not yours.