Yesterday, the Baseball Hall of Fame enshrined its three newest members: a catcher, and umpire, and an owner who have been dead for a combined 226 years. The BBWAA's thank-you note from the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce will not be forthcoming.
For the first time since 1965, no living ballplayers were elected to the Hall of Fame, despite the presence on the ballot of Hall Of Famers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, Mike Piazza, and Edgar Martinez, among others. Instead, pilgrims to Middle-Of-Nowhere, N.Y., took in speeches from the following luminaries: the great-grandson of Deacon White, the grandnephew of Hank O'Day, and the great-grandniece of Jacob Ruppert.
The photo above, from the AP, is misleading as to the size of the crowd. It was taken some time before the start of the ceremony, as fans staked out a good spot. But there was no need to get there early.
Many of the members of the crowd announced as 2,500 came disguised as folding chairs and patches of grass.
We would love to show you more pictures of the event, but the AP only has two pictures of the crowd (Getty did not send a photographer this year). The one above, and this one, of fans waiting out the one-hour rain delay before the start of the program. Yes, it rained, because of course it rained on this sad induction ceremony.
The absence of the steroid-era stars was unignorable. Dennis McNamara, O'Day's grandnephew, even made reference to it in his speech:
"The lesson of Hank O'Day is to do your best with honesty and integrity. This is a lesson known to these Hall of Famers behind me, and might be in the minds of some players not elected."
Except baseball has never been a game played only with honesty or integrity, to say nothing of those ambitious enough to play it at its highest level. What's at issue isn't a slow tourism weekend, or even the recognition of chemistry-aided statistics, but the very purpose of the Hall of Fame itself. Should it a red-brick temple to an idealized game, or a museum presenting a dispassionate, educational, and complete history of an important slice of Americana? The baseball writers made their preference known by their lightly inked ballots. The fans voted by staying away from Cooperstown.