First, an admission.
I grew up worshipping baseball.
I wasn’t a fan. I was a fanatic, a child of the ’50s in the metropolitan New York area where I could watch Willie Mays patrol center field on one day, Mickey Mantle hit baseballs from the Bronx to Staten Island on others, where I could watch a pigeon-toed Jackie Robinson dance daringly down the third base line before stealing home.
Yeah, I saw Satchel Paige pitch and Leo Durocher manage and with it all, watching the game change from the ”50s and into the ’60s when, late in the decade my obsession became a profession. I know that I was able to understand what made the people who played the game tick and what differentiated a Hall of Fame player from one who wasn’t.
Which is why, as the Hall of Fame vote was announced on Wednesday and it turned out that my pompous baseball writing brethren elected no one from a ballot that included probably the greatest player and greatest pitcher that ever lived among a host of other players who reeked of the definition of greatness, I was thrown for such a loss.
Having been close enough in my role as a traveling beat writer, which allowed enough flying, drinking and carousing with those who played the game as well as those who today are voters on the Hall of Fame, I have enough insight to know the moral fibers of their 20s and 30s as athletes are far different than those now being displayed by many who played and an equally high percentage who wrote today.
Win the game always was the mantra by which they lived, be they scuffing a baseball or stealing a sign, loading a bat or putting baseballs in cold storage before a game. It all happened.
Baseball wasn’t a morality play. If you could get away with it, you did it … and if the technology of the world changed from the primitive weight training that began to take hold in the 1970s to andro shakes that Mark McGwire drank, that was as much of a way of getting a competitive edge as knowing that you did not have to worry about a hitter if you buzzed him up and in his first trip to the plate in the series.
You cannot tell me, no matter what moral standard you use, that there was not any Hall of Fame player on a ballot in which the top vote getters were Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines … and that doesn’t even get into the most pressing questions of the day which are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
Did they use performance-enhancing drugs?
No question. I speak first hand having been the first Pittsburgh reporter to have interviewed Bonds as a kid out of Arizona State and having that physique to compare to the 73-home run hitter who was undoubtedly a product of better hitting through chemistry.
But know what, his competitors were doing the same thing … Sosa and McGwire and who knows who else, to say nothing of the pitchers trying to get him out and the fielders running down the balls he was hitting.
If the Baseball Hall of Fame is to reflect the history of the game as it was played — and policed — then it must also reflect the production, heroics and greatness of Bonds, of Clemens, even of Pete Rose, who never was shown to be a cheater as a player.
As far as meeting their maker at a future date, that reflects something of a higher meaning than can be bestowed upon human beings simply for the way they performed in their professions, be they players or writers or whatever direction our life may take us.
One cannot simply act as if these men who thrilled so many of us, who actually saved the game at a time when its popularity had slipped badly, did not exist. In truth, even if you don’t want to compare their feats to those who came before them and did not have the benefit of PEDs, they were the best of those who did make use of these items that were not against any rules of baseball.
My only conclusion is that if Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are not Hall of Fame baseball players, there’s no need for any others such Greg Maddox or Derek Jeter or whomever to play in the future.
The house is full in Cooperstown now and no one else need apply.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter@bhertzel.
First, an admission.
Berner, Hess lead W.Va. Open
Threatening weather did not strike Wednesday, and it was a cool, breezy start to the 81st West Virginia Open played on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs.
WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting
West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.
Holgorsen’s program hits turning point
You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.
WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees
Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
“Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”
Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success
In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant
Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.
The 80-year-old Star City resident led the Mountaineers to a 30-4 record as the starter from 1952-1955. Percentage-wise, it’s clearly the best-ever record by a QB in school annals.
Wyant, a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, came here after graduating with honors from Weston High School. That’s where WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis signed him to a four-year scholarship.
Texas’ Strong prefers not talking about national title
Charlie Strong riled up plenty of Texas fans during a statewide spring tour by saying the Longhorns wouldn’t be in the national championship game.
The new coach toned down his honest assessment in future stops, then said Tuesday in his first appearance at Big 12 media days that he prefers not even talking about championships.
NMHS hopes new playing surface generates excitement
The St. Louis Rams coined the nickname “The Greatest Show on Turf” for their collective group or multiple Hall of Famer-caliber players in during the 1999-2001 seasons. If Rams can run on turf, why not Huskies?
FSU's Barfield, Jean-Charles named preseason All-Americans
Chris Barfield and Jacob Jean-Charles earn preseason honors by being named to the USA College Football Division II Preseason All-American team.
Baylor coach isn't buying schedule strength argument
The College Football Playoff committee has vowed that strength of schedule will be a major criteria when selecting the four teams.
- More Sports Headlines
- Berner, Hess lead W.Va. Open