Time now, perhaps,to call a halt to the Baseball Hall of Fame balloting lest the mechanics of thevoting elevate to the Cooperstown shrine grist, of ball players who don'tproperly belong. The dangers of the annual ballot are now becomingapparent.
Succeedingelections have been skimming the cream off the top of the player lists, whichare now so thinned out that players who couldn't command a half dozen votes afew years back have vaulted among the leaders in the balloting. It could leadto a gradual cheapening of the honor of being in the Hall of Fame.
It is significantthat players who weren't deemed worthy of Cooperstown and were steadilyrejected in the voting a few years ago are now being dragooned into the Hall ofFame. Their stature hasn't increased, obviously, but the standards are beinglowered by the demand that somebody must be voted for each year.
The situationcalls for a pause of a few years in the voting to permit fame to catch up withsome of the players, or vice versa. There are some names near the top of thelist like Hank Greenberg and Joe Cronin who deserve enshrinement, but most ofthe other current leaders are pale company for such as theCobb-Speaker-Johnson-Ruth-Mathewson immortality.
It is apparent,too, that the game, currently, isn't producing the giant-type performer of thepast. I would be reluctant to name more than three players now in the game whohonestly deserve enshrinement at Cooperstown at the level on which the Hall ofFame was originally established.
Stan Musial willcertainly qualify for Cooperstown at the end of his playing career and so willTed Williams and Bob Feller. They are the only stick-outs in the majors.Consistent stardom ought to be a prime requisite for Cooperstown. Even such afine pitcher as Bob Lemon doesn't have a big enough spread. To suggest such asWillie Mays for Cooperstown after one good season, sensational as it was, wouldbe to profane the entire Hall of Fame array. Willie could make it by puttingtogether some more like that.
This is not toquarrel with the induction of the latest four into the H. of F. DiMaggiocertainly deserved the honor, and so did Ted Lyons and Gabby Hartnett. DazzyVance, in my opinion, didn't quite rate with that trio, but that is mereopinion. Beginning next year, however, promotion to the Hall of Fame couldbecome almost automatic, because candidates will be moving up almost bydefault.
It was onSeptember 28, 1938 that Hartnett took his biggest stride toward the Hall ofFame. That was the day the Cubs were trying to win the pennant from thePirates, who had led the National League since July 12 and already had theirWorld Series tickets printed. In a little more than a month, the Cubs hadgained nine games on Pittsburgh.
The Pirates stillheld a half-game lead that fateful day in Chicago. The score was tied in theninth 5-5, two were out, Hartnett was up for the Cubs and Mace Brown had acount of two strikes, no balls against him. The next pitch: Home run into theleft field bleachers and the Cubs wound up as pennant winners.
Clark Griffithonce upon a time was talking about catchers. That old National League-hater,who wouldn't concede that the NL was even a major league, finally made astartling admission. "Best catcher in baseball," he whispered as ifafraid of being overheard, "is that feller Hartnett, even if he is in theother league."