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
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
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.