The Scrapbook notes with concern that the baseball world seems to have had its nerves shattered last week. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America, whose members vote on admission to the Hall of Fame in Coopers-town, chose not to admit any living players at its annual induction ceremony. Nothing like this has happened since 1960, and it means that seven-time Cy Young Award-winner Roger Clemens, home-run king Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro will not be -inducted this year. And may not be inducted for a very long time, if ever.
Of course, everybody knows the reason: Clemens, Bonds, et al. have been accused of steroid use during their stellar careers, a taint the writers felt was sufficient to exclude players who, under other circumstances, would have been swiftly admitted to the Hall of Fame. The New York Times chose to dramatize their exclusion by printing a mostly blank Sports section front page, headlined “And the Inductees Are . . . ”
The Scrapbook readily acknowledges that this whole subject is, to quote President Obama, above our pay grade. The Hall of Fame, lest we forget, is a private enterprise. We are content to allow the baseball world to sort out (or not sort out) this problem.
The Scrapbook does, however, have one small suggestion. The whole notion of a Hall of Fame is slightly problematical—like the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes, it fails to recognize achievement as often as it succeeds—and, in a curious way, can diminish as much as exalt. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, for example, seems to have inducted just about everybody who ever recorded a Top 40 hit.
To be sure, we don’t take the Rock and Roll (or even the Baseball) Hall of Fame too seriously; but perhaps the results would be more satisfying if the verdict on fame were not being pronounced by one’s contemporaries. Clemens, Bonds, and Sosa, for instance, were active players as recently as 2007. Shouldn’t there be a slightly longer interval between playing and immortality—say, a quarter-century or more?
On that note, we were gratified to see that one of the people who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer is Jacob Ruppert, onetime owner of the New Yankees, who brought Babe Ruth to New York and built Yankee Stadium. Colonel Ruppert died in 1939, 74 years ago. Sounds like about the right waiting period.