Wednesday’s announcement of this season’s Hall of Fame inductees will be the culmination of several months of discussion, debate and disagreement. People seem to take the election process very seriously except for those we like to accuse of not taking it seriously enough.
Everyone who loves the sport and celebrates its history has a theory about what the Hall should be and how that theory should be implemented by those in charge. This actually makes the process in place almost ideal and an excellent mirror of how most of us see the game. Taking a large number of people who should know the game and allowing their collective vision of what the Hall should be would theoretically help us to get to some consensus that is not based on a small sample size. Requiring inductees to reach 75% of all votes cast feels close to an ideal process. In a vacuum, small hall and big hall voters can submit their ballots and find some agreement on the best of the best.
The problem is that the process has become politicized over the years and if you’ve been paying attention to our actual political discourse of late, anything else that becomes politicized is likely in deep trouble. The current Hall of Fame voting process has become polarized. It is also subject to whim, speculation, outright lies and various cults of personality. That all makes this time of year full of ranting and raving by people all over the map. We clamor for ‘our’ guys to get in. We rail against the guys we don’t think are deserving. Finally, we ridicule those who disagree with us.
Both the good news and the bad news is that none of it really matters in the grand scheme of things. That’s bad news in the sense that we really, honestly, actually don’t care that much about the Hall of Fame as an institution or as an actual physical building. Attendance at the Hall has been in general decline for more than a decade. If people are going to make a baseball trip, they are much more likely to travel to see actual games. That is not to say that the Hall has no value, but the trek to Cooperstown is more of a once and done than it is something we see as a regular excursion. The only time we really care is for ten weeks each year. From the end of the World Series until the results are announced and then for the week of inductions. That’s the only time we care at all about the Hall of Fame. In spite of how passionate/angry people get during those times, we simply don’t hear about it any other time. Nobody really cares.
That brings us to the good news portion of all of this. If you love baseball and cherish its history you have your own hall of fame in your heart and mind. Think Tim Raines should be in the Hall based on what you saw from him in his career or what you’ve read about him since? He’s in your hall and you can call up your memories anytime you want and relish them over and over. Think Barry Bonds’ numbers are an abomination and stain on the game? He’s not in your hall and you don’t likely think that much about him except for when others mention him.
The best example from my personal experience is that Johnny Callison is in my hall of fame. The very first game I even went to in person was at old Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. We had seats in the right field corner and I had an up close look at Callison. I loved how he looked playing the ball off the corrugated metal that was the right field fence and he hit a home run in that first game I went to. He went on to be one of the Phillies’ best players over the next several seasons, making the All-Star team once and giving me one of my greatest thrills as a kid when he won the 1964 All Star Game with a walkoff home run.
Most of the players in my hall are more traditional stars of the game, but hopefully I have made my point. The results of the voting will be announced Wednesday. Some guys will get in. Some will be denied still/again. Instead of getting caught up in the inevitable controversy and negativity, that might be a good time to retreat to a quiet place with the beverage of your choice and take a trip through your personal hall of fame. Make it a positive experience. Celebrate the game and its history. Enjoy!!