I used to be a big baseball fan. In 1968, I was at Tiger Stadium when Detroit pitcher Denny McClain won his 30th game (no pitcher has won 30 games in a season since), and during the World Series that year, my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Olsen allowed us to watch one of the games during school. I later became enamored of the Montreal Expos, and went to La Stade Olympique on many occasions (including Opening Day one year and to see them play the very last major league game in Montreal). I think baseball has lost its allure over time (whether it was interleague play, too many late-night games, or because I found other things to do with my time), but I still follow it enough to have opinions that I foist on unsuspecting people.
Today the sports wires were abuzz with the news that Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. All three are deserving choices. The 500-pound gorilla is, of course, the spectre that steroid use cast over baseball for 10 or 15 years, and its impact on the eligibility of such superstars as Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, who appear unlikely to be elected.
I find myself agreeing with those who think that the Hall of Fame is so sacrosanct place, and possessing such high standards of fortitude that players who used steroids should be exempted from membership. Already on the walls are plaques of such despicable people as Charles Comiskey (whose miserliness contributed to the 1919 Black Sox scandal), Cap Anson (who led the drive to eliminate African-Americans from major league baseball) and Ty Cobb (who was universally loathed by teammates and opponents alike and widely considered to be the diretiest player in baseball). Unless there’s a way to remove those fellows from the Hall of Fame, it strikes me that there has got to be room for the greatest players of the day even assuming, not unreasonably, that they were using performance-enhancing drugs.
If the Hall of Fame measures the greatness of ball-players relative to their peers, then Clemens, Bonds and Sosa (and Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson) should be inducted. If it also measures personal rectitude, then it’s time to stop acting so hypoctritcally and clearing the membership rolls.