Usually, the annual Hall of Fame celebrations in Cooperstown, New York, are vibrant and full of life as crowds gather to watch the newest inductees into baseball lore.
On Sunday, however, there was none of that.
The three Hall of Fame inductees this year – New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O’Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White — are all dead.
Nobody took the stage, nobody made a speech, and nobody celebrated during what was supposed to be a glorious day for baseball.
Instead, the talk around Cooperstown was all about performance-enhancing drugs and the evil that it has brought upon the game for the last decade and a half.
Barry Bonds. Mark McGwire. Roger Clemens.
Those are the three names that stand out on the list of players eligible for the Hall of Fame that did not get voted in this year, and probably won’t get in for a while.
Curt Schilling. Mike Piazza. Sammy Sosa.
The list goes on and on.
Tim Raines. Jeff Bagwell. Rafael Palmeiro.
How the hell did not a single one of these players make it into the Hall of Fame?
Look up their stats, they speak for themselves.
But also Google their names, followed by “steroids,” and read the numerous accusations and/or denials.
That is the tough dilemma that voters face. Should suspected cheaters have a place next to the all-time greats like Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron, who did things the right way? Is it fair to just wipe out an entire era of legendary players and keep them from entering Cooperstown?
I say it isn’t fair.
The Hall of Fame is a celebration of baseball history. Go to its website, and you’ll see in red, capital letters in the top right corner, “Preserving history. Honoring Excellence. Connecting Generations.”
Was Bonds breaking the home run record for a career as well as a single season not historical? Was the McGwire-Sosa home run chase in 1998 not a moment of excellence that captivated the nation and brought life back into the game of baseball?
How about Schilling’s “Bloody Sock” game? Or Piazza hitting the dramatic home run after 9/11 that had the entire country cheering?
Were these guys using steroids and other performance-enhancers while these memorable moments were happening? Probably, and it is despicable to think back and believe that these heroes — our heroes — were cheating their way to glory.
But that doesn’t matter. Not in the context of putting them in the Hall of Fame.
These players, from Bonds to Piazza, were all a part of history — baseball history — and keeping them out of the Hall of Fame because they used PEDs does a disservice to the game.
Ten years from now, people new to the game of baseball will ask, “Why isn’t the all-time home run leader in the Hall of Fame?” Or perhaps, “Why hasn’t a guy who had over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs been voted in to Cooperstown”?
The only answer anyone will be able to come up with is that they used performance-enhancing drugs and therefore don’t deserve the honor.
Hopefully, that conversation doesn’t have to happen. Hopefully in the not-so-distant-future, voters will put aside their opinions and prejudices and look at the historical significance of these players.
Because if you just look at the memories and achievements that they gave the game baseball on the field, there’s no denying that they are all Hall of Fame worthy.