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A Moving Farewell to Hank Aaron + No New Inductees In Cooperstown (updated on Feb 2)

For those who missed it, I am glad that mlb.com has put up a link to the very moving Hank Aaron memorial MLBTV broadcast live from Atlanta on Tuesday Jan 26.  So many heartfelt emotions were expressed.  Here's a partial list.

 

"I wanted to be like him, to dream like him," remembered former outfielder Marquis Grissom.

 

"Chipper, I fear no man when I have a bat in my hand," was Aaron's answer to a question posed by Hall of Famer Chipper Jones about tough pitchers he faced. 

 

Dusty Baker told how Hank promised his mother that he would take care of him when he turned down a college athletic scholarship to play for the Braves. Hank followed through, sometimes providing tough love.

 

Fighting back tears, current Braves manager Brian Snitker thanked Aaron for giving him his first managing job in 1982 when Hank was farm director.  He always cared about everyone on the roster, Snitzer said, especially the grinders who didn't have the big bonuses. 

 

John Smoltz told a story that epitomized the competiveness at the heart of the Hall of Famer. In Cooperstown not long ago, Aaron, Joe Morgan, and Frank Robinson were using walkers to get to a function.  Someone playfully shouted, "Down the stretch they come!"

 

With a look in his eye that Smoltz never forgot, Aaron roared from behind to win that race.

 

RIP to those three gallant men and all of the 10 Hall of Famers lost in last 10 months.

Long live Willie Mays who will be 90 on May 6 and is the oldest living Hall of Famer.

 

As expected the Hall of Fame announced on January 26 that the baseball writers have not elected any new members.  Curt Schilling again came closest falling 16 votes short.

 

As a post-season performer, he was excellent, playing big roles in the 2001 Diamondback and 2004 Red Sox world titles.  He also is the only pitcher in history to have over 3000 strikeouts with fewer than 750 walks.  

 

But if the "character" clause means anything - I understand many feel it doesn't belong - Schilling's incendiary right-wing comments have undoubtedly cost him votes. He supported the January 6th insurrection of the Capitol and is known to possess quite a collection of Nazi memorabilia. 

 

He now wants to have his name removed from the next ballot, the last year he and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be eligible.  He says he is "mentally done" and will entrust his immortality to the veterans committees.

 

Interestingly, Marvin Miller, who was elected posthumously last year, also asked numerous times to have his name removed from the ballot.  Jane Forbes Clark, chairperson of the Hall of Fame, refused those requests, but has indicated she may be open to Schilling's wish.

 

Certainly no one in the establishment wants to sit through a possibly explosive tirade from the right by the volatile righthander.  Fear of what Marvin Miller might have said from the left was a definite factor in why he wasn't voted in during his lifetime.

 

I probably won't live to see the day when a functioning majority of those in power realize that a baseball diamond is a wonderful model for good governance. But I hope youngsters take heed:  You can hit an occasional homer down the foul lines but up the middle and into the gaps is the best route to success.    

 

The Hall of Fame's induction ceremony will be held on Sunday July 25th, dependent on sufficient recovery from the pandemic.  Last year's winners will be honored:

Derek Jeter and Larry Walker and the veteran committee selections Marvin Miller and Ted Simmons.

 

The broadcasters enshrined will be last year's winner Ken "Hawk" Harrelson - proving you can go a long way with schtick - and Al Michaels. The writers will be last year's winner the late Nick Cafardo and the estimable Dick Kaegel. This ceremony will likely be held on Saturday Jan 24.  

 

Looking forward to new players on the 2021 ballot, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz are the huge names on the ballot.  Though neither failed any tests for PEDs, rumors circulate widely around them, especially A-Rod.

 

RHP Tim Hudson seems like a possible "clean" candidate.  Had great years with contending Braves and Athletics teams and the W-L record really grabs me: 222-133, 3.49 ERA in a PED time, good BB-K ratio 917/2080.  Only 1-4 in 7 post-seasons but a decent 3.69 ERA and steady 22-53 walk-strikeout ratio.

 

Torii Hunter with 2478 hits, great defense, and definite leadership qualifications will deserve some attention. The .277 BA and .331 on-base percentage will be used against him.

 

Let the arguments begin. But morphing Monty Python, Argument is fine, Abuse is in another room and not in my house. 

 

Looking ahead to February, I still believe that the greatest sentence in the English language is:  "The pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training."  But with the pandemic still sweeping through Arizona, local authorities have urged MLB to push back the opening of the camps until late February.

 

No word yet on whether MLB will respond to this plea.  And no signs that the warring camps of MLB management and an angry MLBPA not interested in any curtailed season and cut pay are any closer to basic rules for 2021 - eg. whether the NL will use the DH - let alone a new Basic Agreement that expires the end of 2021. 

 

Always remember: Take it easy but take it, and always stay positive, test negative!  Got my first vaccine shot relatively easily on Jan 23 with second one slated for Lincoln's birthday (my mothers' 119th) Feb 12.  

 

 

 

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Three Cheers for Frank Robinson and Mark Shields (corrected version)

A lot of coverage was given last week to MLB's decision to bestow retroactively

major league status to several of the domestic Negro Leagues that existed before and up to 1948. Newly-found box scores unearthed by indefatigble researchers influenced the decision.

 
It is too bad that stats from the last years of the Negro leagues through 1959 were not included. If available, stats from the winter leagues in Latin America would have been very eye-opening, too. 


I do find a problem of mixing in stats from leagues that played 80 or 90 games a season with the 154 game season major league season that existed since 1903.  I have no problem with a statement against segregation.  

 
Here's another idea that I hope is considered by the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Why not name the MVP trophies after Frank Robinson?

 
The name of baseball's first commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis was recently removed from its MVP trophies, mainly because of his role in enforcing the color line. Why not name the trophy after Frank Robinson?

 
He is the only player ever to win the MVP in both leagues, the Cincinnati Reds in 1961 and the Baltimore Orioles in 1966.  He was a first ballot Hall of Famer with unquestionable numbers:  21 year career, .294 BA, .537 SA, 2943 H, 586 HR, 1829 R, 1812 RBI.  

 
He also managed contending teams in both leagues and served as a major league executive for several seasons. His Hall of Fame acceptance speech is one of the most moving I've ever read.  

 
He deserves to be immortalized in this trophy.  He passed on in February 2019.  In an earlier post I thought he was one of the far-too-many Hall of Famers who left us in 2020. 

 
Happily, liberal political commentator Mark Shields, 83, is still with us. But he retired last Friday Dec 18 from his long-running Friday night gig opposite David Brooks on the PBS NewsHour.  

 
After a feature filled with praise from his colleagues, Shields said that his father would have been happy with it and his mother "would have liked to believe it." He expressed optimism that President-elect Biden can succeed in bringing the country closer together.

 

In a closing moment, Shields quoted from Dick Tuck, famed in his day as a prankster against Richard Nixon.  When Tuck ran for office himself and lost a close election, he said, "The people have spoken, the bastards." 

 
Unfortunately, President number 45 is refusing to accept defeat.  We'll have to sweat nervously up to noon on Jan. 20.

 
I do hope for the day soon when this #45 will recede into unpleasant memory and we can think of the truly immortal #45's like Pedro Martinez and Tug McGraw. I'm sure I'm missing some 45's so please suggest others.  


Here's to a healthy happy holiday season for all and the return somehow to normality or normalcy at some point in 2021. (Warren Harding coined the word "normalcy" and I usually avoid it. But hey for all his failings he was about as liberal as any President on racial issues and he did release socialist Eugene Debs from prison.)   

 

Normalcy won't return unless people follow simple public health guidelines.  Alas, nothing is simple anymore. 

 
That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it!

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