The opposite-field home run Jim Thome stroked to left on Monday night re-ignited what seems to be every baseball fan’s passion — a debate about who belongs in the Hall of Fame.
To me, Thome is indisputable — one of eight men to hit 600 homers and the second fastest to the milestone (in terms of at bats). Obviously, many of you disagree.
I do agree completely about a lot of the enshrined Hall of Famers being marginal at best. But that’s what happens when you have a political process. It's an election, after all.
A number of Hall members got in via personal lobbying. When Ted Williams chaired the Veterans Committee in the 1980s, the first thing he did was get in his old Red Sox roommate, Bobby Doerr.
Then Stan Musial got in his old roommate, Red Schoendienst. Then Yogi Berra and Bill White got in Scooter Rizzuto, Yogi’s old Yankee running mate. (White, briefly a Phillie in the 1960s, was a long-time Yankees’ broadcaster).
Another batch of Famers got in the Hall because of their long service as broadcasters — Hank Kiner first and foremost. Had the one-dimensional slugger broadcast the Pirates for decades, instead of the Mets, having led the NL in homers for seven straight years while in Pittsburgh would have meant nothing. As it was, Kiner got in only in the final year of his 20-year eligibility period.
Other former players who were aided by their post-playing years in the broadcasting business were Don Drysdale (who actually belongs), and Rich Ashburn, who would never have made it without his decades of bonding with Phillies fans via the airwaves.
Then there’s the New York connection. Pee Wee Reese is one who got in almost solely because he played in New York. Kiner is in because he broadcast in New York. Bill Mazeroski is in because he hit the most famous homer in baseball history against New York.
And so it goes. There are dozens such stories.
Finally, here’s a vote for the eligible guy who most deserves to get in — Jack Morris. The righthander rung up the most wins in the decade of the 80s and was the MVP of Detroit’s 1984 World Series victory. He was dominant in Minnesota’s World Championship in 1991 and finished his career with 254 wins, including a 21-6 season for Toronto in 1992, when he was 37.
As Ashburn’s fans asked, in an immortal slogan that helped propell Whitey's election, “Why the Hall not?”
Contact Don McKee at firstname.lastname@example.org