From a sportswriter’s notebook

Reform needed in Baseball Hall of Fame selections

notebookThe Ken Griffey Jr.-Mike Piazza two-person Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF) class of 2016 induction is this weekend in Cooperstown, New York. Unfortunately, again there still are persons — Tony Oliva, Dick Allen and Buck O’Neil, just to name a few — who deserve a plaque there but as yet have been denied.

John Tuberty earlier this month introduced his “seven changes” in the HOF election process in his Tubbs Baseball Blog (tubbsbaseballblog.blogspot.com). Following are some excerpts from his list:

  1. Separate player and non-player elections. Both Oliva and Allen got nearly 69 percent of the votes, while at least 75 percent is needed for election. O’Neil was not among the 17 Negro Leaguers elected in a 2006 special election by a Black baseball committee despite being “largely viewed as the face of the Negro Leagues” during his life, wrote Tuberty. O’Neil’s name hasn’t appeared on an HOF ballot since 2014 — he got 56 and 50 percent respectively in 2011 and 2014.

Oliva and Allen are “frustratingly close to being voted” into the Hall, continued Tuberty. He argues for more continuity among the voters, who include living HOFers, managers, front office execs, veteran baseball writers and historians.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) last year instituted a rule that writers who haven’t actively covered baseball in over 10 years are no longer eligible as HOF voters. Tuberty says that has helped, but more continuity in the voting body would help candidates and “increase support from one election to another and ultimately being voted in.”

  1. A “historical overview committee” should be established that would include both baseball writers and historians as members.
  2. Establish a “special sub-committee” to look at Negro League and pre-Negro Leagues candidates and stop “using Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier as its end date,” Tuberty suggested. He also advocated that more sub-committees and multiple elections be held as opposed to the one annually held in the wintertime.
  3. Hold HOF runoff elections whenever no candidate makes the required 75 percent threshold.

Tuberty’s suggestions are worth considering. This reporter for years has contended that some players aren’t in the Hall because of subjective reasons by some writers holding personal grudges, etc. against a particular player (Allen); or not taking into account a player’s entire body of work (Oliva); or using unnecessary reasons for not voting a person in, such as that they never played in the majors (O’Neil); or any number of unrelated reasons, including not voting.

Along with purging voters’ rolls for inactive writers, we would go one step further — have only those living Hall members, and a selected group of former and present players, managers and coaches (on a rotating basis, in this case) be the only voters. Who’s better to evaluate a player’s true contribution to the game but a player, manager or coach? Some writers’ only baseball playing experience is from playing video baseball from a couch potato position.

Certainly changes in HOF voting are needed. But until such time, those eligible voters must do a better job of electing deserving players and not leaving others out of Cooperstown.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

One Comment on “From a sportswriter’s notebook”

  1. Charles, the name of John Wesley Donaldson must be added to your list, his legacy has, as they say, “Faded Away.” From 1908-1940 he played in over 130 cities in Minnesota and over 550 in the US and Canada. Contemporaries said he belonged in the major leagues! His number of segregated wins and strikeouts are more than any pitcher in the history of the game. The critics and skeptics say he was just ordinary because they fail to accept his physical ability made him unique — one hundred years ago. The Donaldson Network (johndonaldson.bravehost.com) has proven his greatness by illuminating his accomplishments. Film footage exists on the site of him pitching. Take a look for yourself! Decide for yourself! Google Him! We have the data we have the proof! It is ALL there.
    The current HOF process marginalizes John Donaldson and many others from being considered for their rightful place in history. Yet year after year “Pre-Integration” candidates for the HOF emerge. Your article reiterates good suggestions, but until the HOF realizes that doing the right thing in this case is a part of their mission we will all have to sit and wait. Allowing more segregated players will not make the Hall any less of an important museum to visit, it will show the enormous impact these men had on the game that has so often bonded our nation. Sadly the changes will probably come later than sooner…if ever.

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