F. Dale Lolley Column

Doors to Hall of Fame should be open to all

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In the aftermath of Wednesday’s voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame, a number of current Hall of Fame members spoke out regarding the status of some of the so-called cheaters in the sport.


And it wasn’t pretty.


“I think the steroids guys that are under suspicion got too many votes,” Hall of Fame closer Rich Gossage told the Associated Press. “I don’t know why they’re making this such a question and why there’s so much debate. To me, they cheated. Are we going to reward these guys?”


At this point, the answer would appear to be no.


This year, the media members who vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame didn’t give any player enough votes to achieve enshrinement. It was just the second time in the last 40 years that no player received enough votes.


Why?


“I feel honored to be in the Hall of Fame,” Detroit Tigers outfielder Al Kaline said to the AP. “And I would’ve felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were.”


Talk about sanctimonious.


After all, are we to believe that no player currently in the hall has ever stolen another team’s sign, scuffed a baseball, thrown a spitball, corked a bat or did any of 100 different things that could be considered cheating?


That is highly doubtful.


Ty Cobb, one of the members of the original hall class, was by all accounts a despicable human being. Yet no one has an issue with him being in the hall.


Since the late 1980s, steroids and performance enhancers have been a big part of baseball, so much so that some estimates had well over half of the players in the game taking them at one point.


But that is nothing new.


Anabolic steroids were first synthesized in the 1930s. It wasn’t until 1976, when they were banned by the International Olympic Committee, that they began to become illegal in sports.


So in 40 years between the time they were discovered and first made illegal by the IOC, steroids were ignored by baseball players?


That’s a bit hard to believe, considering the use of anabolic steroids was rampant in the 1960s and ’70s in Olympic sports, and yes, even football, where members of the Pittsburgh Steelers and other teams were taking them.


Because players such as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire started breaking records and later admitted to their use, they are not worthy of Hall of Fame induction?


The problem with that train of thought is no one knows for sure who was using and who wasn’t.


Can we honestly say we know beyond certainty that some players were using and others were not? In the case of some of the players who were using, sure, we know. They have admitted it, or it has been proven in court.


For others, we just don’t know, and probably never will.


McGwire, Bonds, Clemens and Sosa were some of the greatest players of their era. That’s what the Hall of Fame is supposed to honor.


The latest era just happened to include the open use of performance enhancers.


Perhaps Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt said it best, “Curt Schilling made a good point; everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use.”


Indeed.


But are we going to go the next 20 years and not induct any players?


That’s unlikely. In fact, the voters already have put other members of the “steroid” generation in the hall.


Treat them all the same. Either you look at all the players for what they did on the baseball field and enshrine them, or you don’t enshrine anyone who played in the steroid era.


It’s that simple.



F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com.


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