That's IT. I'm done - and I couldn't be happier.
I've let go of my anger surrounding the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
I love a friendly and logical debate regarding the admittance policies for our game's highest honor. Like most things in life, black and white fades into gray for a great many things - including the comparisons between baseball players throughout history. Statistics can be mixed with memories, feelings and perceptions. Some things can be measured while other aspects are completely subjective. And when you only allow these musings of a select few to determine a very real, quanitifiable and final outcome?
Controversy will always ensue.
Heck, I've even jumped into the ring with my own two cents. My views have changed since then, and I consider myself to be a fairly steady and consistent person when it comes to my beliefs and views on the world around me. This personal shift alone has been enough to slap me in the face and say, 'let it go.'
And let it go, I have.
Now, I look forward to each and every Hall of Fame announcement. I fill in my own fictitious ballot and relish the great conversations and debates on TV and radio while the BBWAA have their votes tallied. I get to relive all of my childhood memories involving each of the players, whether they are elected or not. That's a precious gift that isn't dependent on votes.
In fact, for the first time in 15 years, I get to shrug off some weight and stress that has encumbered me since I first began to hope for something that always seemed a little improbable. I can make peace with that failure of fruition and move on, focusing on the positives instead of the negatives or, worse, the 'could have's' and 'should have's'.
More on that in a later post. For now, I'd like to honor this year's class with a little help from the Ryan's Pitch Collection!
The Unit. Randy Johnson. Man, this guy was larger than life for a young collector and baseball fan like me. Heck, he was larger than life for most of the guys he played with! I had a good buddy when I was growing up that was also a great baseball player. In fact, he ended up playing in college and made a trip to the College World Series. A great guy - and he was HUGE, too! So, for awhile, we all called him the Unit.
I can remember watching John Kruk make us all laugh in the '93 All-Star Game when a fireball from Johnson flew errantly over Kruk's head.
Or who can forget when Johnson's old Expo teammate and lefty, Larry Walker, turned his helmet around backwards and took a pitch as a right-hander in the '97 All-Star Game?
Randy Johnson was a helluva pitcher, one of the finest I was lucky enough to watch pitch as a youngster, and is very deserving of his election. Oddly, Johnson (as well as the rest of this class) never held much power within the hobby and by power, I mean card "value." Yes, a truly relative term in so many ways, but you all know what I mean. His cards were never "hot" or considered the "must have" items among my friends. We knew who he was and how awesome he was...and yet, the cardboard appreciation just never carried over for The Unit.
I wonder why that is? Because he was an Expo/Mariner/D-Back, perhaps? Doesn't explain The Kid's place in the Hobby. Of course, pitchers were/are always, in most cases, treated differently than home run hitters. Especially in The Unit's time...
Anyways, I went digging through my old collection and came up with these two beauties. 1989 Donruss was a colorful treat back then and these black/blue/purple bruisers are an EXCELLENT example. The hallowed "Rated Rookie" logo still makes me smile today - I love it. And int his case, it works really well with the Expos' blue. Not a great picture of The Unit by any stretch, but I dig this card. Wouldn't you know, I didn't even find these two (now) HOF RC's in my rows (upon rows) of top-loaded "good" cards from my youth. Nope, no room for one of the fiercest pitchers of the day when you have guys like Chad Mattola, Tim Salmon and Brien Taylor to reserve top-loaders for. Yep, found these two Johnson rookie cards completely raw, in a little 200 or 300-ct box of random cards. No penny sleeve. Nothing.
But not any more.
I'm sorry, Randy. Please forgive me and step out into the light...
Next, we have John Smoltz. Loved Smoltz as a Braves fan, of course. He helped guide us through the early years of nearly-but-not-quite dynasty success after years of mediocrity in the 80's. Part of a rotation for the ages, Smoltzy now joins Glavine, Maddux and Bobby Cox as wonderfully nostalgic reminders of my sports-crazy youth.
It's been just as wonderful to listen to Smoltz call ball games for Fox this past season, too. By all accounts, he is a great human being. Charitable with his time for good causes, he is also an avid golfer - my second favorite sport. While my claim to fame is an ancient high school match-up with Bubba Watson, Smoltz is a very close friend with Tiger Woods. I was watching MLB Netowrk the other day and he stated that he's probably played around fifty rounds with Tiger since they became friends. Tiger has been quoted as saying that he believes Smoltz to be the finest golfer he's played with that is not on the PGA. Powerful compliment, right there.
I could go down the long list of accomplishments from Smoltz's career but I'll leave you with this little factoid: he plays the accordion, just like my grandfather did. Need I say more?
After digging through the archives, I found these two Upper Deck cards - which I find to be very, very nice-looking cards. Man, Upper Deck really blew our minds in 1989, didn't they?! Unlike The Unit, these two HOF RCs were respectfully tucked into weird looking, yellow-tinted top-loaders.
I don't know if I have any Pedro Martinez cards. Seriously, not a clue. I wish I did and I promise to be on the lookout for them when I conduct cardboard expeditions...but I make no promises. I can verify that there are no Pedro's in my rows of "top-loaded good players", but the fact that he's a Red Sox and not named Boggs, Yaz, Clemens, Greenwell, Fisk or Rice means that he very well might be drifting in the abyss of the dreaded COMMONS box!
Don't get me wrong, it would be great to discover some of his cards! I had the privilege of watching Pedro face Pettitte at Fenway back in '03. It was one of the finest pitching match-ups I've ever seen in person and extra special to witness in such a historic setting.
Doesn't hurt that the Yanks won, too.
Now, the Astros' KILLER B? That's a different story. I can vividly recall chasing down Biggio cards with gusto and relishing them in my collection. The Astros weren't my team but boy, were they fun to watch and collect! I can picture several in my head without even looking.
Here they are!
Oh my. Wait a second.....NO Biggio cards in the "top-loaded good players" section? This can't be!? Surely, I picked up some Biggio cards along the way. I remember the name. I remember the team...I remember...well, what exactly DO I remember? I know, let's check my alpabetized "Star Player Album"!
Here we are with
...so next should be....Boggs?!
Seriously!? Do I not have ANY Biggio cards, RC or not? Have my memories betrayed me THAT much?
My friends, a serious excavation into the cardboard tar pits is in order after this deficient HOF post. No Pedro and no Biggio is both unbelievable and unacceptable. I'm not sure what I'm most upset with- my memory or my adolescent baseball card judgment calls.
This is an OUTRAGE!
I take it back - my anger is NOT gone when it comes to the MLB HOF. It is back with a fervor! This will not stand! This injustice will not STAND! I want Pedro and I want Biggio and I want...I want....I want to step back and smile and enjoy this moment. This is the kind of faux-anger I can handle. Cardboard anger will trump current-event anger every time, and in so many ways. I can actually DO SOMETHING about my lack of Biggio's and Pedro's.
I can't, on the other hand, do a darn thing about the BBWAA!
And you know what? I'm finally okay with that. Congratulations to this year's inductees! I look forward to the induction ceremony in July and what looks like some fun pursuit of (affordable, for once) HOF cardboard to plug holes in my collection in the coming months.
Let the hunt begin!
Thanks for reading -