• Paul L. Schneiderman

The Current Baseball Hall of Fame Debates and a Proposal



As a sports fan, one of my favorite subjects are the sports hall of fame debates. The sports hall

of fame subjects can certainly get people going with some very passionate debates when it

comes to who should be in or not in the respective hall of fames.


(We also cannot forget that the music and entertainment hall of fames also present some

interesting debates, well, I am going to study some of the non-sports hall of fame debates more

later. But will not get into them here.)


The current sports hottest Hall of Fame debate in early 2022 it is the baseball hall of fame

debate involving players linked to performance enhancing drugs (PED) such as Roger Clemens,

Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro. Another aspect of this baseball

hall debate involves a discussion about the baseball hall of fame character clause and whether a

particular player with very controversial views should be in the hall of fame, one such player is

Curt Schilling.


On my ‘Sports Untold’ podcast I get some different opinions about whether players who are

linked to PEDs should be in the baseball hall of fame. The Mariners clubhouse reporter,

Shannon Drayer, is uncomfortable with the premise that a cheater should be allowed in the

baseball hall of fame. I interviewed the well-known sportswriter Jeff Pearlman in 2018; Jeff

spoke out even more adamantly than Shannon in favor of keeping PED users out of the baseball

hall of fame. I could tell that Shannon and Jeff have their minds pretty much made up on this

subject.


I see the hall of fame selection process differently than these two distinguished folks, but I

respect their opinions.


Mariners’ broadcaster Dave Sims is more open minded to the hall of fame case that Barry

Bonds and Roger Clemens have than Shannon and Jeff. When I pointed out to Dave that

Clemens and Bonds were both ultimately not convicted in their criminal cases arising out of

steroids issues, Dave sees this as a valid point. Dave commented in my interview with him in

late 2021 that he thinks it will probably be many years from now- perhaps not in our lifetimes-

when a veterans committee decides to induct some of the aforementioned baseball players.

(When I interviewed Dave in 2019 and 2021, he had some informed thoughts about various

other Hall of Fame candidates such as Felix Hernandez and Dick Allen.)


Another guest I had on my show is the famous lawyer, Harvard Law Professor emeritus Alan

Dershowitz. I interviewed Dershowitz in January 2021. We discussed the baseball hall of fame in

one part of the interview.


Let me digress here for a moment or two, the first question I asked Dershowitz is a question

about a fictional hall of fame. My question was intended to be a light introductory question, yet

it went in a bit of a different direction!


I asked Dershowitz if a national lawyers hall of fame existed and if this fictional lawyer’s hall of

fame required the lawyer inductee to select a university uniform to represent him or her in this

hall of fame, what college uniform would Dersh select? Dersh said that he would pick Brooklyn

College the college he attended, not Yale Law School where he attended or Harvard Law School

the university he taught at for decades. Dersh went on to say that although he is probably the

greatest criminal appellate attorney in the history of the country because of political

correctness he would never be inducted into a lawyer’s hall of fame.


Some of my listeners found Dersh’s answer pretty funny in how seriously he took a question

about a fictional hall of fame and his prospects of getting in! Well, I should have more on my

entertaining and fascinating 30-minute conversation with Dersh in some future blogs.


Back now to the baseball hall of fame. Dershowitz has written and discussed political

correctness and censorship over the years, he believes that Curt Schilling, the famous pitcher, is

not being fairly considered for the hall of fame because many of the Hall of Fame writers

despise Schilling’s political views. I asked Dershowitz if the character clause in the Hall of Fame

consideration criteria is grounds to keep Schilling out of the hall of fame, Dershowitz bluntly

answered that he does not believe that character should be in the baseball hall of fame criteria,

and that Schilling’s strengths as a baseball pitcher is enough for him to merit selection in the

Cooperstown Hall of Fame.


Dershowitz is on to something. The character clause is something that is hard to take literally in

the first place when we consider that some not-very-good people such as Ty Cobb are in the

baseball hall of fame. How far does the character criteria go in the baseball hall of fame, does it

include reckless driving, adultery, and just being a testy person? The character clause does give

hall of fame voters, the selected baseball writers, perhaps too much subjective discretion to

keep a player out on character and lack of likeability grounds.


Recently, I had Chuck Powell of Seattle’s KJR AM 950 on my show on the 112th edition. I asked

Chuck about the hall of fame character clause. Chuck is another guest who believes that the

character clause should be scrapped in hall of fame consideration. Chuck opines that hall of

fame is being ruined by the voters using their own subjectivity in keeping out some talented

players. Chuck had a lot more interesting points to add on the baseball hall selection debate.


As I communicated to Chuck, ultimately, these halls of fames are museums that are setup to

preserve history. Many distinct types of museums recognize and honor famous people with

descriptions about the pros and cons of a person’s legacy, this gives the visitors of a museum

the opportunity at the museum to learn more about a person and a historical period.


While each had their own imperfections, the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Pete

Rose were amazing players. I tend to take the point of view that there is a way to honor and

preserve greatness, and at the same time, provide an intellectually honest and historically

honest viewpoint about a person who is being profiled in a public museum. So, I say these

players should be in the hall of fame, along with exhibits that allow future generations to learn

more about their controversies. I doubt that the baseball establishment wants the baseball hall

of fame to be critical of the subjects honored and controversies that have occurred in the sport

of baseball. Nonetheless, a path to hall of fame admission, with a further description about the

era and the controversies, seems to be an intellectually honest path to recognize greatness and

some of the drawbacks of various great baseball figures.


I suppose this is sort of a middle ground approach, that is, Hall of Fame admission with

something of an asterisk about the controversies and historical period of the hall of fame

inductee. Chuck Powell also expressed approval to this general museum concept that I have in

mind in how the hall of fame should honor can some of these controversial former players.


Keeping the likes of Bonds, Clemens, Rose, and Schilling completely out of the baseball hall of

fame is not giving an accurate presentation of who were truly the best players in the game

during different eras. There is a legitimate way for the baseball hall of fame to properly

recognize the greatness of a subject and openly address the person’s controversies.