Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baseball Writers Stand Up for Baseball's Brand and More

The Commissioner didn't do it.
The players union didn't do it.
God knows that Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa didn't do it.
But the baseball writers did it. They stood up for the game that so many others profess to love yet in fact denigrate with their behavior. They did it by refusing to honor an entire generation of ball players that included many who cheated and soiled the game. They kept these players out of the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, and with that action, they showed more integrity than many others in the game.
My son, who is a pretty fair sportsman himself, said to me, "When are we going to stop the pretense that athletes are role models?" Fair question. But there is one difference with the Baseball Hall of Fame. Like it or not, the criteria for admission to the Hall has always included "character, sportsmanship and integrity." Has that clause been overlooked in the past? Certainly. In fact, right from the beginning, when the reprehensible Ty Cobb was among the first inductees. Yes, Ty Cobb, who used to sharpen his spikes so he could injure opposing players when he slid into them, was enshrined. Ty Cobb, who went into the stands to confront a heckler and when he discovered was an invalid beat the tar out of him anyway, is synonymous with baseball's freshman class. But we were all taught as kids that two wrongs don't make a right, and why not stand up for the integrity of the game now?

We have had too many instances in society of how we shave our principles to fit them into our particular and immediate needs. The revelations that reveal the speciousness of our entry into war. The backroom deals that grease the political gears but rob the citizens ultimately paying the bills. Don't report the child abuse or it will hurt the university. Or the Church. All executed with a nod and a wink, dismissed with phrases like "boys will be boys," and "everyone does it." In the meantime, the ones who played clean suffered in terms of reduced pay and lesser fame.

Tom Verducci of, who votes for the Hall of Fame, states his case more eloquently and with more authority than I can. He sees his vote as a sacred trust that few are honored to exercise. Baseball players and others involved should also feel such honor with all the fame and riches that the game bestows on them. But unlike Mr. Verducci, they have generally chosen to look the other way as the game was diminished by a steady drip of mendacity.The baseball writers focused their attention with this well-deserved slap in the face. Maybe we should all pay attention and shine a similar light into other quarters.

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