The artwork on the top of the first page of this blogsite contains a courthouse and baseball players, but law generally gets the nod when I post; since I started this site years ago there are 324 lawyer posts and only 18 about baseball. But today they announced those elected to Cooperstown and three of the players noted in the article have Boston Red Sox roots. Not one of them made the cut, but for seemingly different reasons.
Closest to election was Curt Schilling, who won two World Series with the Sox and gained instant fame for pitching with blood oozing onto his sock. I think the stocking is at Cooperstown though Schilling is not (yet). He came closest with almost 70% of the vote (you need 75%) and had over 200 wins during 19 big-league years (although his win-loss ratio was not impressive). Was it that Schilling was not good enough to be admitted, or that his politics were offensive, or that an odor lingers over his use of tens of millions of dollars of Rhode Island taxpayer money in his gaming company which fell bankrupt?
Roger Clemens, the best pitcher of his generation even before the alleged doping, received less than 60%, although that was an improvement. Since he was superior when no one doped and then again in competition with many who doped, seems to me he was just better and should be admitted. Certainly he was electric when on the Fenway mound, creating the kind of buzz that only superstars engender; reminded me of Robinson on the bases, of Musial at the plate, of Mantle just standing there (before his knees took him down).
Far far behind was Manny Ramirez, low 20%s. All about the narcotics. Manny was a great hitter although I never could buy into forgiving so many things because it was just “Manny being Manny.” (Is it an excuse that Nero was just being Nero when Rome burned down?) To my mind, Manny should never be elected for a different reason which was he was a non-team player. I recall being in the park one day when he was called off the bench against the Yankees when he was supposed to be rested and clearly did not want to hit. He stood in the batters box, bat held loosely, stomach sort of slouched outward, and took three straight strikes down the middle at a critical point. I know the idea of the athlete as hero is antiquated, it is just a job with a short time line, and some bums are making millions a year, but part of my baseball myth is that those I love have to at least appear to love the game, the team, the fans paying a buck-and-a-half for a decent seat at Fenway. My baggage I know, but I am carrying it and will never support Manny for the HOF. Not that anyone is asking me….
The first time I went through Cooperstown was in 1952 or 1953. I was a kid and a nut Dodger fan. It took only a half hour. There were so few players then with plaques on the wall. And I knew virtually all of them although I was a kid and many played in the 1880s and 1890s. Baseball was still mythic then, and I could dream. Today the Hall is still a bit stodgy and boring, and although I have lived through the careers of many many of the additions, it is to me a good deal less interesting. Maybe it is just the years, not being a kid. Maybe it was all explained away in the Ken Burns documentary, so dripping in nostalgia hat you had to laugh at yourself. Maybe it’s the paychecks which seem — unseemly. Although a good friend reminds me it is entertainment and filling seats and take a look at what singers and actors earn.
In all events, if you visit Cooperstown bring your sneakers. It’s a long walk down those plaque-filled corridors these days.