By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) The Baseball Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony this past weekend. But if you happened to miss it, well, you didn’t miss much.
That’s because no one got in.
No one living at least, as for the first time since 1965, there wasn’t a single breathing inductee on stage in Cooperstown, N.Y., to bask in applause and share inspiring tales from his glory days on the diamond.
“Instead,” the New York Times wrote on Monday, “in a rain-delayed and sparsely attended ceremony that underscored the lingering damage that performance-enhancing drugs have inflicted on America’s national pastime, the three men who were enshrined have been dead since the 1930s.”
And Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa – the trio of steroid-tainted superstars who were in their first year of eligibility, but shut out from the Hall – might as well be in the eyes of most baseball fans.
One year ago, I wrote that I wanted to see baseball’s Hall of Fame voters impose a one-year ban on inductions as a nod to the integrity of the game – or what’s left of it, at least.
In turn, I was satisfied back in January when the Hall announced that not only had Bonds, Clemens and Sosa failed to make the cut, but so too had new HOF hopefuls Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling, along with everyone else still on the ballot from Mark McGwire to Jack Morris.
Cooperstown, in my opinion, needed a fallow summer to cleanse the PED palate. But while the sport is already again mired in the mess that is Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and the Biogenesis scandal, the good news is that next summer should be a feel-good feast for baseball fans.
Especially those from Chicago.
That’s because former Cubs and White Sox greats Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas are likely to be inducted into the Hall in their first year on the ballot, along with Maddux’s longtime teammate in Atlanta, Tom Glavine. With no hints of steroid accusations attached to their names, consider those men to be the opposites of – and the antidote to – the “PED Three” of Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.
With such beloved – and presumably clean – big names on the ballot, next summer’s scene in Cooperstown should be a far cry the 2,500 fans that the Hall estimated as the attendance this past Sunday to see Jacob Ruppert, the Yankees’ owner from 1915-1939; umpire Hank O’Day, who officiated at the first World Series in 1903; and Deacon White, a 19th-century catcher and infielder, inducted.
The New York Times wrote that supposed attendance of 2,500 “seemed kind, and it was well below the usual 10,000 to 15,000” and it was miniscule compared to the 75,000 who showed up six summers ago when Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn were ushered into the Hall of Fame. Heck, even up on stage, only 32 Hall of Famers appeared for the ceremony, which usually draws 40 to 50 of them.
Also eligible for enshrinement in 2014 are managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa, along with holdovers such as Biggio (who was almost elected this year) and Morris (who will be in his final year of eligibility). If inducted, those men will surely help draw fans as well, although the Hall of Fame voters had best think long and hard about ushering in LaRussa considering his ties to high-profile PED users in both Oakland and St. Louis.
Regardless, though, the Summer of ’14 in Cooperstown should be a whole lot luckier than ’13 was. Baseball could use some good news – and good times – and it’s pleasing to know that Chicago baseball in the form of Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux should be able to help provide it.
Now, if we can just make it through the 12 months of Chicago baseball until then.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.