Every year a hubbub is made about who is or isn’t getting inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I get why, and I won’t try and be the contrarian arguing that I don’t care. I most certainly do care about certain players, coaches, and personalities getting their just due. That’s what matters the most, those who were great being recognized for their greatness. For many years now, I mean probably since the very inception of the NBHoF, it’s been questionable at best if the greatest baseball players, coaches, and personalities were getting their just due.
The biggest problem with the Hall is that it is meant to represent the entirety of the professional game of baseball but it’s actually come to only represent what happens in affiliated leagues. Specifically, the only recognition being doled out on a regular basis are to those who are associated with Major League Baseball. To take it a step further being associated with MLB isn’t enough, your actual MLB stats or results are all that is taken into consideration.
None of this would be a problem if not for the fact that the Hall has positioned itself not just as the MLB or affiliated league hall of fame, but as the hall of fame for all of baseball. You’ll see some of this on a trip to Cooperstown, New York. There are random trinkets, exhibits, and game items from unaffiliated leagues. It’s important that these items are included in the NBHoF, especially if they actually want to be viewed as the museum for baseball’s history.
Having the game-used items from Kelsie Whitmore, Stacey Piagno, and Anna Kimbrell in the museum to honor their time spent playing with the Sonoma Stompers of the Pacific Association is a good attraction and certainly worthy of honor. However, even their inclusion shows where the Hall fails as an organization. They present those three as the first to have played professional men’s ball since Mamie Johnson and Toni Stone and the Negro Leagues. That’s not true though, and it is the job of the organization that wants to present itself as the historical endpoint for all-important baseball events to know about someone like Ila Borders or Tiffany Brooks.
The truth of the matter is that for all intents and purposes the NBHoF has become nothing more than a publicity wing for affiliated ball. There is a rich baseball history in Latin America, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and other stops around the globe. They are barely given a seat at the table, and for the most part, unaffiliated leagues are afterthoughts nowadays when it comes to the NBHoF. The job of an organization like the Hall shouldn’t just be to honor the very best of affiliated ball but to acknowledge and honor the best from baseball all over the globe.
I understand that there is the issue of talent level and that MLB being, rightfully, considered the top of the top talent-wise means that playing in a major league is essential to be inducted as a player. However, that hasn’t always been true. We know for a fact that the baseball being played in Cuba and Mexico in the early 1900s was at worst on-par with what was being played in MLB. We also know that because MLB gets to decide what is and isn’t a major league that the Negro major leagues have never gotten the treatment they deserve. There shouldn’t need to be a special committee to get Negro League players into the NBHoF. If they were great enough to get in then they should be in, having them relegated to inclusion via committee brands them with an otherness that is not needed.
I don’t get excited as I should for NBHoF inductions these days, haven’t for many years. It’s a very flawed organization that perpetuates the status quo that MLB desperately craves. Professional baseball as a whole deserves to be celebrated, not just the major leagues and whatever MLB has deemed worthy of celebration. It’s pretty clear that the Hall has no intention of changing their ways and that’s why for the good of baseball there should be a new hall of fame altogether. One that embraces all of professional baseball and honors those who deserve to be honored, regardless of their ties to MLB. They need to be removed from the stink of being MLB’s sock puppets. If that doesn’t happen just go ahead and rename the NBHoF to the MLB Hall of Fame, at least it’s a more honest name.
Lead photo courtesy of Jim McIsaac – Getty Images