A Plea To The Hall Of Fame
A Plea To The Hall Of Fame
By Tyler Maher
This article was printed in the IBWAA Newsletter (Here’s The Pitch) and is shared with permission.
As a baseball fan, nothing gets me riled up like the Hall of Fame. I have a lot of issues with it, from its politics and double standards to the questionable selections of its Veterans Committees. I spend far too much time thinking about it, writing about it, and arguing about it, especially during the winter months when there’s not much else to talk about.
What bothers me most about the Hall of Fame, though, is how long it takes some players to be inducted. Sometimes, it takes so long that they’re not elected until after they’ve died, which, barring a tragic, untimely death (i.e. Roberto Clemente or Roy Halladay), is totally unfair. A player deserves to have his day in Cooperstown and spend the rest of his life as a Hall of Famer. To deny him that honor repeatedly while he’s alive, to make him suffer disappointment year after year after year, is torturous enough. Enshrining him after he’s gone is just cruel.
So when Dick Allen passed away last month, I couldn’t help but feel angry at the Hall of Fame again. Allen, many people have come to realize, had a Cooperstown-caliber career. While controversial during his playing days, Allen was baseball’s best hitter on a league and park-adjusted basis for over a decade. His career 156 OPS+ is tied with Willie Mays and Frank Thomas for 19th all-time, and according to FanGraphs nobody created more offensive value from 1964-1974 than Allen, who out-produced legendary contemporaries such as Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Willie McCovey, and Carl Yastrzemski.
It galls me, then, that Allen still hasn’t been elected to the Hall of Fame, especially when lesser players such as Jim Rice and Harold Baines have gotten plaques in recent years. After hanging up his spikes in 1977, Allen spent 43 years waiting for a call that never came. He came painfully close in 2014, falling one vote shy on the Golden Era Committee (since renamed the Golden Days Committee) ballot, making his case all the more heartbreaking.
The committee was supposed to meet again in 2020, but postponed their vote until 2021 so that they could meet in-person. This proved to be a devastating blow for Allen, who passed away the day after they were originally scheduled to vote. The committee’s refusal to meet virtually this year was especially unfair given that most of the living men they’ll be voting on are already in their eighties.
Unfortunately, Allen’s sad story is a familiar one. Between BBWAA ballots and Veterans Committee votes, Ron Santo was up for election 21 times before he finally got in – a year after passing away. Minnie Minoso was considered 17 times before passing away in 2015, just months after the Golden Era Committee failed to elect him. How many times is the Hall of Fame going to let somebody pass away before deciding he’s worthy of induction? How many times does the same lesson need to be re-learned?
Enough is enough; there needs to be a greater sense of urgency to elect players while they’re still alive to enjoy it. Committees reviewing players further in the past should meet more frequently, like every other year, then go back to meeting every four or five years once there are no longer any living candidates from that era. If a player is known to have a serious medical condition, consider holding a special election for him. Don’t leave him waiting on Cooperstown’s doorstep, only to decide after the fact that it’s okay for him to come in.
Tyler Maher is a former writer for MLB.com based in Boston who spends way too much time thinking about the Hall of Fame.