Monday, December 3, 2007

This wouldn’t happen if Bowie Kuhn were alive ...

Before I get into my snarkfest about the Veterans Committee’s vote released today, I have some Tim Raines links to pass along to you. One blog on my list of regular haunts (semi-regular since he deals with other sports than baseball and hockey) is Neate Sager’s excellent Out of Left Field. He’s commented extensively on Tim Raines’ HOF qualifications. The first, from the beginning of the year is GETTING SERIOUS FOR A MOMENT: RAINES' HALL OF FAME CASE SOLID AS A ROCK and a more recent one is entitled SOLID AS A ROCK BUT ITS COMPLEX. If you love Tim Raines, be sure to take a look.

Now then…

Walter O Malley and Bowie Kuhn voted in while Marvin Miller garners just 25% support?

There are so many different versions about the Dodgers flight west. Nowadays it is fashionable to blame parks and highway czar Robert Moses for driving O Malley out, however Bill Veeck stated repeatedly that he deliberately made demands that made it impossible for Moses to agree to O Malley’s conditions. According to Veeck, O Malley had his sights set on Los Angeles even before the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first (and only) World Series.

To make sure that it would look like he had no choice but go to Los Angeles O Malley in effect told Moses to build him a stadium on a certain tract of land in Brooklyn and for all intents and purposes give it to him. He convinced Horace Stoneham to come along because the Giants were legitimately in financial distress and was beloved by other NL owners. He needed Stoneham (1) it would make the shift west an easier sell because it would be financially onerous on other teams to travel to the coast for just one series and (2) the NL wouldn’t turn down Stoneham because of his legitimate problems.

O Malley had been getting his ducks in a row for years to make L.A. happen. He later royally screwed the AL’s expansion west in the early 1960s. Then commissioner Ford Frick stated loud, long and repeatedly that New York and Los Angeles were “open cities,” meaning that a National League team could expand into New York without the Yankees being able to block it and the American League could expand into Los Angeles and the Dodgers too would be unable to do likewise.

However, Frick was said to be a “National League commissioner,” which meant that if Frick had to make a decision where he had to choose between AL and NL interests, well the AL would be just about out of luck.

Of course, the “open city” concept was fair to both leagues. The National League voted to expand into New York and the Mets were born. The Yankees said nary a peep -- after all, Frick had said New York was an “open city.” The American League voted to expand into Los Angeles and suddenly Walter O'Malley started to squawk. O'Malley wanted to be the one to choose the ownership group, to choose where they would play (Wrigley Field, which seated a little over 20,000), and to dictate their television rights. In addition, when O'Malley’s new park was finished at Chavez Ravine, the new team would have to sign an outrageous lease to play there until the Angels could build a park of their own. Finally, he wanted indemnities to the tune of $350,000 (this is the early 1960’s remember).

Well the Yankees got zip for allowing the Mets into their market, and the Dodgers got pretty much everything O'Malley asked for. Frick did his pal O'Malley a favor by making New York an "open city" for the National League but not doing the same thing for the American League in Los Angeles.

So, we’re letting a guy who obliterated a beloved institution (the Brooklyn Dodgers) and screwed the Angels and the AL (after the junior circuit held up its end of the bargain as respects New York) into the Hall of Fame?

Speaking of which …

During Bowie Kuhn’s commissionership is was common knowledge that O Malley was pulling Kuhn’s strings. If this was the case, doesn’t it stand to reason that the boneheaded way management dealt with the fledgling MLBPA is as much O Malley’s fault as Kuhn’s? Even Marvin Miller referred to O Malley as ‘baseball’s real czar’ Kuhn was his ‘messenger boy.’

Had the MLBPA been crushed and O Malley’s power base maintained (later through son Peter) how much further would MLB have fallen behind other professional sports? Miller was a force for change, O Malley and Kuhn, the oppressive, lurching status quo.

You cannot recount the various failures of Bowie Kuhn without keeping in mind who was giving him his marching orders. I’m not here to say that Kuhn and O Malley were not deserving of the honour but rather that Miller did far more for the game. It’s like having third basemen Troy Glaus, Scott Rolen and Alex Rodriguez on the ballot and voting in Glaus and Rolen while leaving A-Rod out.

A final thought; the title of this post is “This wouldn’t happen if Bowie Kuhn were alive …” that’s the thing, Kuhn died recently and that gives him a sympathy vote that has helped a lot of deceased individuals finally receive baseball’s highest honour.

It’s stupid, honour people while they’re still alive to enjoy it. Here’s something that always strikes me as hilarious. Here is a link for a company called “Fortress Personal Mausoleums”. One selling point is ‘it’s never too late for a Fortress.’ The ad goes on to demonstrate a family exhuming a seven year old grave to place the remains in ‘a Fortress’. O.K. now, let’s think about this a moment; grandma has been in the ground for years oblivious to the fact that she’s six feet under. Her loving family thinks her adipoceral remains would be much happier above ground where she can continue to saponify in a nice dry ‘Fortress Personal Mausoleum.’

Do you think ol’ grandma gives a rip one way or the other? This is tossing at least several grand away when dear old granny has not uttered a single peep complaining about the current location of her corporeal remains. When she shuffled off her mortal coil, thousands upon thousands of dollars were used to buy a casket, headstone, burial vault, plot, embalming services and usage of a funeral home and hearse.

The ingrate never bothered to say thank you either. Seven years hence, they decide that her final resting place is inadequate so it’s time for a resurrection of sorts to give her a new resting place--much nicer than the old one. Did she say thanks? Nope--the self-absorbed soap (grand) mummy was too busy ignoring this activity choosing to stay completely, utterly, and totally dead--completely oblivious to it all.

Meanwhile kids are going to bed hungry--if they have a home at all and various children’s services are being cut back. That money could be used to aid the living instead of looking after somebody who clearly is beyond all help. Heck, if you've got that much money to spend, give it to charity, sponsor a scholarship in grandma's name--anything so long as it benefits the living.

Well, sadly, the Hall of Fame is like that. When candidates are alive and well they wait year, after year, after friggin’ year hoping their accomplishments will be one day recognized. Kick the ol’ bucket and it’s plaque time for ol’ Bowie and Walt while Marvin Miller has to try to stay alive another two years if he hopes to experience the honour.

The dead can wait--the living cannot. The voters just gave O Malley and Kuhn the equivalent of a ‘Fortress Personal Mausoleum’ something they really don’t need and will never know that they have. Meanwhile the ones who can appreciate the honour have to die before folks realize their legacy.

Once again, the Hall of Fame has proven to be a colossal joke.

Postscript: The MLBPA executive director Don Fehr's comment on the vote:

“It was very disappointing to learn this morning that, once again, Marvin Miller was not elected to the Hall of Fame. Over the entire scope of the last half of the Twentieth Century no other individual had as much influence on the game of baseball as did Marvin Miller. Under his leadership, the Major League Baseball Players Association became an effective and forceful representative of the Players, and the Players, acting together, were able to successfully obtain appropriate working conditions. That the MLBPA remains an effective representative of the Players today, more than a quarter century after Marvin retired, is a testament to the enduring quality of the organization he and the Players created.

“Because he was the Players' voice, and represented them vigorously, Marvin Miller was the owners' adversary. This time around, a majority of those voting were owner representatives, and results of the vote demonstrate the effect that had. In the last vote, Marvin received 63% of the votes, this time he got 25%. By contrast, Bowie Kuhn received 17% of the votes last time, but got 83% this time.

“The failure to elect Marvin Miller is an unfortunate and regrettable decision. Without question, the Hall of Fame is poorer for it.”

Amen.

Best Regards

John

1 comment:

Pete Toms said...

HOF debates don't interest me and I don't have a definite opinion on whether Raines or Miller should be inducted. No surprise though that Miller wasn't chosen. The Veterans Committee was re jigged such that 7 of the 12 are management representatives. Prior to the vote Miller told Murray Chass that he didn't think the new composition of the Vets Committee was a reflection of their desire to exclude him but rather, "...it makes sense to have a group like this because they are a management-oriented group voting on management people. If you have a number of management people and you want to get some of them in, it makes sense to have a list of voters who are a jury of peers of these people....They’re a perfect group to make a decision. It breaks down, though, if I’m one of the candidates. They are not a jury of my peers but a jury of my antagonists.”

I do have a definite opinion that Miller & Fehr - particularly Miller - changed MLB for the better.