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Life Lessons

What the Hall of Fame Voting Means

To hear some people react to the Hall of Fame voting, you would think that the writers had attacked all that is pure and good.

Not so, said my friend and mentor, Fred Down. Fred saw lots of baseball in his time, including Babe Ruth in the flesh, and survived long enough to regale young sports writers with stories and perspective.

Fred would say this about the fact that no one received enough votes from the writers to qualify for induction next summer in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“The Hall of Fame is a publicity vehicle for baseball. It is not High Mass.”

For those of you either not of the Catholic faith or old enough to remember such rites, High Mass was a very elaborate form of what goes on in church on Sunday. You don’t hear the phrase much anymore.

And, unfortunately, since Fred died years ago, you don’t get to hear his wisdom on baseball, either. Though a voter himself, he never saw anything sacred about the Hall of Fame. He would discuss baseball, Ruth and the Hall, but always over a shot and a beer, never with incense and candles.

Fred’s ballot came under criticism in 1988, when he was one of nine writers who returned a signed ballot without voting for anyone. The math left pitcher Jim Bunning just short of election and, though he was later to be voted in by the Veterans Committee, Bunning said at the time, “They (the writers) were obviously trying to keep people out, instead of let people in.”

In his own mannered way, Fred said that wasn’t true at all. “I just did what they asked me to do,” he explained. “I looked at the ballot, checked off the people who I thought should be in the Hall of Fame, signed it and returned it.”

Two of my UPI colleagues joined Fred in his blank vote, which made for interesting baseball talk on the office. And that’s the point. The Hall of Fame voting has people talking about baseball in the middle of winter.

It’s no co-incidence that the announcement comes roughly halfway between the end of the Word Series and Opening Day.

The Hall of Fame is just a publicity vehicle for baseball. And a good one.

But it’s not High Mass.


2 comments for “What the Hall of Fame Voting Means”

  1. Always wonderful to hear about Freddie and other legends from our shared career past. Nicely done, Mike.

    BTW,who were the other blank ballot Unipressers??

    Posted by cathrine wolf | January 10, 2013, 7:39 pm
  2. Hi, Cathy!

    Thank you for the feedback. The others were (I believe) Fred Lief and Richard L. Shook

    Posted by Coach Tully | January 14, 2013, 2:17 pm

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