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An Anson Point-Counterpoint

Brilliant Reader D had a comment about the Cap Anson Hall of Fame post that I wanted to address. I don’t mean to embarrass him D — his point is interesting, even if I disagree with it. He invokes Bill James in it, and I was curious about what Bill himself thinks. So I post both D’s comment and Bill’s response:

First D:

My feeling is summed up by something Bill James wrote in “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?”

Paraphrased, it’s roughly this: You don’t memorialize the worst parts of your history by bestowing your highest honor on them.

That’s the difference between Cap Anson and Oscar Charleston: Charleston’s case for the Hall is murky and difficult to judge precisely because of players and managers like Anson. Enshrining Anson is bestowing your highest honor on someone who made it difficult if not impossible to accurately determine who the greatest players in baseball history actually are, and who represented a trend in society that, while accepted then, is rightly deplored now.

To continue the analogy, if you can overlook Anson’s racism, why not overlook Hal Chase’s corruption? Each man in his way did his part to harm the game, and I don’t see that it makes much sense to reward Anson over Chase just because the outlook that considered Chase’s actions reprehensible existed while he lived, while the outlook that considered Anson’s actions reprehensible didn’t exist while he was alive and influential.

And Bill’s response:

Well, he is taking some things that I have said, some principles that I have asserted, and ignoring others, and reaching a conclusion that I strongly disagree with. Cap Anson was a racist, Henry Ford was a bigot, Richard Wagner a raging anti-Semite.

If you leave Anson out of a Hall of Fame, how would you justify including Ty Cobb?      Cobb was certainly a MORE virulent racist than was Anson. Tris Speaker and Rogers Hornsby were members of the KKK. If Dizzy Dean had lived another six months he would have been indicted for fraud.

Some players had sexist attitudes. Mickey Mantle and many other superstars have used women as sex toys and treated them with complete disrespect (although it should be pointed out that there is also a strong tradition of superstars who have NOT done this — Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, etc.). Is this less wrong than racism, or is it merely that we have not yet reached a consensus to condemn it?

In the eyes of God, I doubt that I am a better person than Cap Anson. Self-righteousness is a poor foundation for a philosophy.

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99 Responses to An Anson Point-Counterpoint

  1. 543 says:

    I agree with including Anson, and, in other argument, Clemens, Bonds, A-Rod and others, because they were, undoubtedly, great players.

    The problem is we’ll never know what part of the greatness was due to PED. 10%? 40%

    Because of that I don’t feel comfortable saying Clemens was better than Maddux, because I think Clemens without PED was no better than Maddux, but that’s just what I think. I really don’t know.

    Same with Bonds vs Ruth or Mays or Williams

    Or A-Rod vs Honus Wagner.

  2. D Wintheiser says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, and I’m only embarassed to the degree that I’ll have to recheck the original quote to review the context.

    I think Bill (can I call him ‘Bill’ now?) makes a good point about where you draw the line — if you kick out a bunch of players just for being ‘bad’, then you’re not left with very many actually talented players. (I remember a similar point made in an Abstract in the context of a fictional meeting of the brain-trust of the San Diego Padres where, given the opportunity to get a young version of any player in baseball history, they go for Danny Thompson because he doesn’t provoke any moral outrage.)

    I still feel though, through the Jackie Robinson story at a minimum, that baseball has put itself into the position of having a closer relationship with the struggle to achieve racial equality than it has to, say, the struggle to not have their players commit fraud to support themselves after retirement. It just seems like a bigger issue and one that should be at least addressed rather than just dismissed.

    Sexism in baseball isn’t as big an issue — yet — but will be in the future, especially once women start playing on MLB teams. Even more to the point, would homophobia cause some players to be kicked out of the Hall once gay players are commonplace? These questions will come up in the future, though we don’t worry about them much right now.

    One other point — I think there’s a distinction to be made between having Anson and Cobb in a Hall where they were put in by folks who didn’t bother with their racism because it didn’t matter to them, and having us put them in a new Hall in spite of their racism, knowing full well what it meant to the baseball of their time. By re-memorializing them, we’re basically accepting the decision of that prior generation, and I’m not entirely comfortable with that.

    Just my thoughts.

    • Your point is well taken. This is not the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is the BR Hall of Fame, and there is no reason that the standards of behavior that were considered acceptable for inclusion in the former must be acceptable for inclusion in the later.

    • Unknown says:

      I think there’s nuance in both sides. On the one hand, I would love it if we could expunge racism, sexism, and bigotry from our baseball history. It’s so pervasive, even today (and I’m not saying this is just in America, either). It’s nice to watch a baseball game and forget, however briefly, about the rest of the crap that we as humans do to each other.

      On the other hand, I think there’s a way for us to include racists, bigots, and sexists, but we have to tell the *WHOLE* story. It’s very hard to do this, and I’m not trying to say it would be easy to portray Babe Ruth just as a human being. It would require some very high editorial standards for the hall of fame.

      I would like to hope that the hall could live up to these standards, and that they could present the lives of these men in such a way that the presentation would make people step back and think, even for a second, about the state of race relations in America, or whether or not a LGBT people should be treated differently, or whether it’s okay to be sexist.

      I would like to hope that, once again, baseball could lead the way here the way it once accepted black men into the game.

    • Unknown says:

      Is there a distinction between Cobb, a racist thug, and Anson, who imprinted his racism on the game as a deep stain for over a generation? I get the idea that the Hall of Fame ballot shouldn’t be a forum for moral grandstanding. On the other hand, didn’t Anson do actual harm to the game we’re trying to celebrate in a way no other player was in a posittion to do? Can we go beyond character judgement to assessment of overall negative impact on the game?

  3. Corey Miller says:

    My take on the character clause: apply it only to the living. I’m fine with not recognizing Bonds, Rose etc in their lifetimes as I can understand the desire to not HONOR them. However, to fail to RECOGNIZE their accomplishments on the field forever is to diminish the Hall of Fame. So it seems to me a reasonable compromise to re-examine players after their passing via a special committee which only examines their baseball accomplishments without taking into account character, or lack there of. After all, Joe Jackson was banned for life, not damned for eternity… that decision is well beyond the Commissioner’s pay grade.

    • Rob Smith says:

      You miss the point that continuing to ban Joe Jackson (and the other Black Sox) sends a strong message to others that might gamble on baseball. One that Pete Rose chose to ignore to his own peril. While I’m not saying that others may have gambled on baseball over the years, it’s notable that the number of occurrences is tiny enough to have avoided detection over the past 90 years. Most players seem to have received the message. Pete Rose is a continuation of said message. This is what happens to you if you gamble on baseball.

  4. Ross Holden says:

    Speaking of Dizzy Dean, he’s only at 55% on the BR vote. I voted for him. Seems like he had a great peak just not the longevity. Not quite Koufax, but not far off.
    Is he at such a low % because he really just doesn’t match up or because of character issues?

    • David says:

      My guess is that it has a lot more to do with him being potentially the most obscure MLB-tenured player featured in these polls so far than it has to do with anything regarding his statistics. But that’s just a guess.

    • clashfan says:

      I would think Gehringer more obscure, but that’s just me. I agree with Ross, that the longevity just wasn’t there.

  5. tycobb420 says:

    It’s taken me some time to come to this conclusion: I think the Hall of Fame should include Cap Anson, Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and any other on-the-field great with dubious or worse moral credentials. Why? Because they are undoubtedly part of the game’s history and contributed on the field in the requisite way.

    These guys are and will always be better known than many, many of the men actually in the HOF. By their very exclusion, they occupy a tier above the HOF itself. Include them and outline their flaws on their plaques. Memorialize why they were so controversial a selection in their own time, but leave some space to add thoughts later. When times and mores change and revisions, for better or worse, are necessary.

    • clashfan says:

      The Hall of Fame does not recognize fame; it confers it.

      Rose broke the game’s unbreakable rule, committed the Original Sin. His actions called the integrity of the game into question. I’m okay with a lifetime ban.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Agree with clashfan. Rose’s banning has nothing at all to do with his moral character… which, of course, is very low. It has to do with gambling on baseball, and the continuation of baseball looking at that as the worst, most unforgiveable sin. The Black Sox scandal was 100 years ago, but if the Black Sox were not banned for life by Landis, baseball might be a sideshow like professional wrestling… or, it may not exist at all. Commissioners tend to remember things like that even if many people today do not.

    • Michael says:

      I am fine with banning Rose from an association with baseball as a coach, manager, consultant, and so on. But he belongs in the Hall of Fame. So does Shoeless Joe Jackson. As for the players who used PED’s, part of the problem, as noted above, is determining the importance of the steroids. I think we can all agree that McGwire wouldn’t have been in the conversation without steroids, but Bonds and Clemens were great players before or without them.

    • BobDD says:

      I do not really like ambiguity, but with Rose . . .

      Pete Rose had a HoF career, yet if we put him in the HoF, then gambling on Baseball is no longer completely forbidden. Which is more important? To give honor to a player’s accomplishments, or to maintain that gambling on baseball can never be tolerated? I’d vote the latter. These two options are mutually exclusive, even after someone’s death (ala Joe Jackson). Joe Jackson has been known to have been a good enough ballplayer to make the HoF otherwise ever since it started, so his fame has not really died out – so that’s who Pete Rose is and will be. Can we really put him in the HoF and tell every ballplayer that he is a one-time exception, but if anyone else ever gambles on the game, we will really really really give him a painful wedgie? A so-called exception in legal terms is called a precedent.

      On Cap Anson, as a pioneer his warts would not necessarily be disqualifying. But as another commenter pointed out, if we were starting the Hall today, it would matter in a way it did not earlier. I would think we would want to be as sure as possible of his actual guilt first, but then I believe it to overall be as much a negative mark upon our whole society that we allowed such, as upon the one we wish to vilify (be the scapegoat). It’s handy to blame MLB and several personalities that popped their head above the whack-a-moley line with their antics of 60+ years ago, but the question “How could they have done such a thing?” might well be asked “How could we have let such a thing happen?” And no Nuremberg replies allowed.

    • John Gale says:

      Re: BobDD: That’s a false argument. If he’s banned from every other aspect of the game, putting him in the Hall (with a requisite comment about gambling on the plague) does not suddenly legalize gambling. Anyone who gets caught is still subject to a lifetime ban. But airbrushing history (and yes, that is exactly what this is, even if it’s not particularly effective) is not good for anyone.

      Also, re: Michael: I don’t “agree” about anything with regards to McGwire. I really don’t know how great he would or wouldn’t have been without PEDs. I just have to go by what he did within the context of his era. To me, he’s in. And I think the “he was a Hall of Famer before he cheated” argument is the least principled. I strongly disagree with those who would refuse to vote for anyone who used PEDs, but at least they’re consistent (though I’m fairly certain at least one PEDer is/will get in already). The hair splitters aren’t.

    • BobDD says:

      Nonsense. Joe Jackson has not been airbrushed from history.

    • John Gale says:

      Pay attention. It’s an *attempt* to airbrush. I didn’t say it worked.

    • Unknown says:

      And since we’re celebrating notoriety let’s induct pennant winners Jeffrey Maier and Steve Bartman. They’re famous, and who are we to judge?

  6. djangoz says:

    1) I’m enjoying the voting and the discussion, but Joe you are giving your reader/voters too much credit. Plenty of us did not vote for Oscar Charleston or Cap Anson because they played a long time ago and we don’t know them very well, not because of any feelings about their moral character. Still, your concern about us certainly led to an interesting post from you, even if the impetus was largely false.

    2) I have no problem with Bonds, Clemens, etc. being mentioned in the HOF or being a part of an exhibit. You can mention people and talk about them and display their gloves and uniforms and everything else without putting them in the HOF as elected members. Not electing them is not “whitewashing” history. That is way too broad a brush to be using in this context.

    3) Yes, we get to decide what is immoral and too much. It is part of what makes the discussions so rich. And there is no black and white line. One player can do something terrible, but be sooooo good on the field and/or likable and they will get in. Another player does something a shade less terrible, isn’t quite as good a player and maybe not as well liked and they will not be elected. That judgement of the finer shades of degrees is wonderfully human.

    One persistent meme that I abhor is the notion that we should “not judge”. It’s utter bollocks. We judge and evaluate and split hairs and have impressions of people all the time. It is a vital and important part of being human. Often an athlete is very upset that they have been judged unfairly! Haven’t they won championships and played their sport incredibly well?!? Yes…but we can hear the way they talk, see the smirk on their face, and understand just from their body language that they’re a royal horse’s ass. They’re angry not that they have been judged unfairly but that they have been seen and seen clearly. A-Rod, Lance Armstrong, Kobe and to some extent LeBron James all come to mind. They have varying degrees of character flaws and oddities, but no matter how much press they do we can see so much more about them. It can’t be covered up. And all of those things come to bear when people vote for the HOF. Good! It makes the HOF deliciously human.

    • Nick Smith says:

      The problem is that not voting for someone “because they played a long time ago and we don’t know them very well” is a terrible, terrible, terrible rationale. Why not look them up and make up your own mind from there? Granted, Charleston doesn’t have much of a statistical record, so most of what we have is contemporary accounts.
      Anson, Roberts, Vaughan etc. do have statistical records, however, which leaves absolutely no excuse for anyone to vote blind on this poll.

    • Concur with Nick. It would take a minute or two to look up Charlie Gehringer’s Baseball-Reference card, think, “Holy shit, that 2B-man was awesome!” and then vote for him.

      If you don’t have the time to spend a few minutes on each player, especially those you don’t know, then don’t freaking vote at all!

    • Wilbur says:

      I’ve had the same reaction to many BBWA voters for the Hall of Fame, who clearly have had little real expertise on the subject. In fact, so much so that several years ago I realized to care about who was in or out was foolish, that it meant nothing when a large number of the voters were ill-suited to fulfill their role.

      Many of the Brilliant Readers aren’t so brilliant either. And that’s fine. It’s not something to be taken seriously.

    • djangoz says:

      Of course, it’s a terrible rationale. The point is that internet polls are generally going to be meaningless. And even more so when you only put up a name. Joe could substantially change the results just by putting a simple career stat line next to each name.

      All these polls show is what a small subsection of the population thinks on first glance. It’s kind of fun. But I’ll bet good money that most of the 2,000+ voters did not do research before each of their picks. So who gets the votes: modern players and players with an enduring story. Why would that be a surprise? Joe’s mistake was thinking that he saw a deeper pattern happening, which I’m confident is not the case.

      And while we’re at it – Joe, if you happen to be reading this, could you PLEASE fix the format for your polls?! Grey text on a white background is awfully hard to read and anytime a selection gets 5-20% we have no idea who it is or what the vote total is because the color doesn’t fill in to give is a contrasting background to read it against.

  7. I recently met an old man who, as young man, knew Ty Cobb when Cobb was an old man. He dated Cobb’s granddaughter, and did little jobs for Cobb from time to time. And he had nothing but kind words to say about Ty Cobb. Which is not to say that Cobb was an angel, but there are different sides to people, and people who make a business out of judging people often have their own agendas at work. I loved Bill’s comment that he wasn’t necessarily a better man than Cap Anson. Neither am I.

    But if you read Bill’s writings, he does seem to draw the line at cheating. He has written that Joe Jackson should be allowed in the Hall only after everybody else who ever played got in. His take down on the nefarious career of Hal Chase was legendary. He has said, rather sensibly, that players who took steroids before they were banned by baseball weren’t technically cheating, and I think he’s right—you can’t break a rule that didn’t exist yet, and so Bonds and Clemens and the other big names of the steroid era should be Hall of Famers—but I wonder how he feels about the A-Rods and the Brauns who got caught using steroids years after a line had been drawn to ban them. Should they be Hall of Famers?

    • Rob Smith says:

      I may be mistaken, but I thought that PEDs were technically illegal, but since they didn’t test for them, it was a pretty soft unenforceable rule. I’m sure others will comment and clarify whether my take is correct, or not.

    • djangoz says:

      I’m a better person than Cap Anson and I bet most of us are. It’s silly to say otherwise.

      Ty Cobb was nice to his grandaughter’s boyfriend – great. Big deal. I’m sure Martha Stewart is nice to her dogs, but she’s a horrible person to most human beings.

      By the way, Rick, I bet you judge people every day. Who you want to work with, who you have as friends, who you buy things from…why you’re just one big, evil judger! I guess you must have an agenda…

    • Naliamegod says:

      From what I’ve read, Ty Cobb legitimately was a much different man in his later years than his young days. He basically lived the last few years as a philanthropist and openly pro-integration. All evidence points that he figured out how to handle this demons in his later life.

  8. Scott says:

    One thing people tend to forget about baseball is that it has always been a reflection of it’s times. We might criticize MLB’s segregation during Babe Ruth’s playing days (while oddly lionizing the equally segregated negro leagues, a group of black owned businesses in black communities that Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson destroyed) but it’s unfair to say Ruth should be looked at as less of a player because he rarely faced black athletes, and never in official games. He played when and where he did, and his career is honest when looked at through the prism of his own time and place. We may feel racism is unacceptable, at least in some ways, but being against racism is a fairly new and novel idea historically, and it’s difficult to criticize people who were doing what was normal at their time. The same is at least a little true about old school womanizers. In a time and place when women were looked at as inferior, somewhere between a permanent servant class and chattel it’s a little harder to judge someone for treating women roughly the same way their society did.

    We have much different attitudes on racism and misogyny than our predecessors did, and it’s as unfair to judge them based on what we now believe as it would be to judge them for their lack of skill surfing the web and playing video games. We do have a long way to go on a lot of things, racism and sexism included. An Eagles WR recently learned about the danger of crossing certain double standards, and from writing a weekly blog post on Danica Patrick’s historic NASCAR season I have been exposed to the real depths of misogyny funneling through the internet. I think it’s fair to judge people today for holding these negative and harmful views because they should know better, they have at least been exposed to a viewpoint that (should) show them a better way.

    I look at PED users in a much different light. They knew what they were doing was completely unacceptable to most people. The storms over Olympic steroid scandals had already proved this out, and while baseball not only didn’t have an anti PED rule and for at least a small stretch conspired with the players union to conceal rampant drug abuse among players the actions of the players themselves speaks volumes. They concealed their activities, sometimes going to great lengths to do so, and consistently lied whenever the subject came up. Can you imagine Ty Cobb pretending he liked the idea of allowing black players into the majors in an interview, or Mickey Mantle telling a congressional committee he’d never kissed a girl or gotten drunk in a bar?

    • Wilbur says:

      “Can you imagine Ty Cobb pretending he liked the idea of allowing black players into the majors in an interview …”

      Funny, Cobb did exactly that in a 1952 published interview, where he explicitly endorsed the notion of black players being free to play in the major or minor leagues, being held to the same standards as white players.

      Cap Anson was unavailable for comment.

  9. Ed says:

    I’m curious about this Dizzy Dean fraud thing. What did he do? I can’t find anything about it.

    • He convinced the world he didn’t exist.

    • Me too. “Dizzy Dean Fraud” doesn’t bring anything relevant up on Google. Joe, could you ask Bill James to elaborate?

    • OK, I think I tracked down what this refers to. When Denny McLain was caught up in gambling investigations (both SI and Penthouse (?!) wrote exposes on this in 1970), it appears that Dizzy Dean was on the periphery of the investigation. I think eventually Dizzy was a snitch for the Feds when they busted up a Detroit gambling ring and there was some rumor that he was involved. I don’t know why Bill James suggested that the government was going to turn on him and indict him, but that is the most likely what he is referring to.


    • Mark says:

      But Dean was elected to the Hall in 1953, long before this particular incident came up. By the way, I loved the part where some Detroit hoodlum stomped on McClain’s foot for welching on a bet or something.

  10. James says:

    I can’t speak for today’s voters, but I think that today, more voters would think twice about voting in Ty Cobb than they did in 1936.

    • James says:

      Also, Bill James’s question,

      “Is [sexism] less wrong than racism, or is it merely that we have not yet reached a consensus to condemn it?”

      doesn’t seem to be relevant. We don’t know how today’s voters would think of Mantle’s, or of his contemporary’s, womanizing. They didn’t get to vote on him. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t vote for Cap Anson, but suggesting that modern HOF voters should vote for Anson because Mantle is a womanizer seems ridiculous.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I would put Cobb in a different category than Cap Anson. Cobb was a racist, but it also seemed that he didn’t like many people of any race. He was just a miserable and mean spirited person. Cap Anson, it seems, used his influence to keep blacks out of baseball. To me, that’s worse than a flaw in a personal preference. Lots of people have those… they don’t like gays, blacks, whites, old people, kids, teens, or whatever. It’s not right, but it’s real common…. and in most cases, doesn’t add up to much if they are not actively doing something wrong to those people. Using your influence to exclude a class of people from earning a living is an entirely different category. I can see the case being made that Cap Anson doesn’t deserve the HOF because of his active efforts to wrong blacks. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with it, but it’s certainly a stronger argument than attacking someone’s character… which we could do to most anyone on some level.

    • LargeBill says:

      It seems on Cobb that many people (most of whom were born after Cobb had died) have bought into a caricature of him. We takes a few highlights (or in his case lowlights) of a persons life and create an image in our minds that the person is 100% a reflection of those brief moments in their life. I doubt Cobb spent every day being “miserable and mean spirited.” However, books aren’t sold based on describing the boring parts of someones life. The exciting or newsworthy tidbits or gossip about Cobb (and others) got more print and it is all anyone think of when his name is raised.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think his numerous assaults on blacks, an assault on a disabled man, whipping his own son for flunking out of college, two divorces and the universal hatred of him by both opponents and teammates say his “caricature” is pretty accurate.

  11. prophet says:

    My personal viewpoint is that elite athletes will push any limits that are set on them in the name of competition. As long as the risk is solely to them, I don’t see it as a moral plague on society that must be eradicated in the name of fair competition. Striving to improve yourself, even at the risk of your health(1), just doesn’t seem like a heinous crime to me. Technology and medicine will likely continue to improve as long as we play sports – why have we decided that pharmaceutical enhancements are taboo, but surgery is not? What will we do when someone who was treated with gene therapy enters the league?

    Bottom line, I see trying to make yourself better as acceptable, but trying to make others worse or barring them as wrong. Thus I draw a line between PED users (A-Rod, Bonds, Aaron [amphetamines], etc.), whose actions only risked themselves; and Rose, Anson, and Jackson, whose actions risked others.

    1. There is considerable evidence that the health risks of uncontrolled PED usage are even overstated, while the risks of PED usage under the care of competent medical authorities are minimal (for example, steroids are used as part of various anti-aging therapies).

  12. Yeager says:

    Sheesh Joe, you don’t like the regular Hall of Fame, you don’t like the BR Hall of Fame… just make your own darn Hall of Fame and be done with it already.

  13. So let’s say Tiger Woods played baseball instead of golf. His treatment of women seems rather similar to Mickey Mantle’s, so what would that mean to his HOF candidacy? I think nothing at all. It think the voters would say, his disrespect for his wife and women in general has nothing to do with his greatness as a player. And we wouldn’t judge his morality at all.

    I have a very hard time with judging the morality of people born over a century and a half ago. Abraham Lincoln’s views on race would most likely be considered pretty backward if you dropped him into the world we live in today, yet were obviously quite progressive for his day and age. The same holds true for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Should we take all 3 off Mount Rushmore?

  14. Ron Zucker says:

    There is a fundamental difference between sexism and racism in MLB. Racism changed the sport, in that it limited who could play. Mantle being a sexist didn’t, unless unbeknownst to me there was a large population of amazing, talented woman players who were kept from competing at the highest level through his actions. If that is true, then kick him out. But it’s not.

    This isn’t a judgment about what he did as a person. It’s a judgment about the effect his behavior had on the game. And it’s part and parcel of the same thing Mr. James himself says about Shoeless Joe. His behavior hurt the game to such a degree that his on field exploits don’t matter. Someone who worked tirelessly to ensure that African Americans could not participate in MLB damaged the game, damaged the African American players, and damaged the nature of records.

    So first put in Pete Rose, whose gambling only happened AFTER he played. Put in Bonds and Clemens, who were the best players of their era, no less exceptional than Cap Anson. Hell, put in Shoeless Joe, though I’m unsure if his play was as much better than his contemporaries as some of these others. Then, if you want to, go back and think about the totality of what Anson accomplished. He tarnished the game. He was the best player of his era. Which overwhelms.

    But comparing racism that hurt the game to sexism that didn’t is simply demeaning to both the game and to sexism. Sexism is just as important to how I judge a person. But we’re not judging a person. We’re judging the effect on baseball. I stand by leaving Anson off my list.

    • Rob Smith says:

      This was logical…. that you would only judge bad acts as they impacted the game…. until you somehow exempted Rose’s behavior and potential damage to the game, just because he did it as a Manager…. which is actually worse as a Manager because a Manager can have more impact on a game than a single player (with the possible exception of a starting pitcher)… if he wants to throw a game…. then you proceeded to except steroids users and other gambling cheats. Apparently your point wasn’t really anything to do with a player’s impact to the game. It had more to do with your drawing your own blurred lines on what’s acceptable vs. unacceptable. I think that’s the biggest problem in this debate. Baseball has drawn it’s lines, logically I might add, at gambling and PED usage, as have HOF voters. Why is that so tough to understand?

    • djangoz says:

      You’re leaving out one important difference: we treat racism as very serious and abhorrent problem in our modern culture (thankfully) and we tolerate and laugh at sexism (unfortunately).

      If that were to change, which I hope it does, then I think we could see a different view on all of this in the future.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Explain to me how sexism has anything to do with the HOF. To the best of my knowledge, Marge Schott is not on the HOF ballot.

    • djangoz says:

      It’s morally reprehensible.

      If a player were a pedophile I’m sure that would be a factor in HOF voting.

    • clashfan says:

      Maybe it would, djangoz. That’s got nothing to do with sexism. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘sexism’ anyway. Womanizing? As long as everyone consents, who cares? Making obnoxious comments about women? I don’t like it, but it’s not gonna make me think a guy’s not a Hall of Famer.

      Also, there’s a difference between Anson and Cobb. Anson worked hard to keep blacks out of the game, and may have turned the tide on that front. Cobb was racist, no doubt, but that’s a personal failing and did not greatly affect the game itself.

  15. Perks says:

    A behavioral trait is not what D was talking about. Whether Bill said it or not, D’s point is still that Cap directly influenced the depletion of talent in the game of baseball.

  16. Alejo says:

    In Cap Anson’s day racism was popular and considered normal, even decent, in many parts of America. It was also normal to be an angry, violent man (as Charleston apparently was) or even combine both qualities (see Cobb, Ty). Nowadays these behaviors are unacceptable in a professional athlete.
    Gambling however, was never accepted, hence the punishment given to the Black Sox.
    In our present doping has become unacceptable and Bonds, Clemens, etc are facing the consequences of breaking rules they knew existed. Amphetamine users from the sixties were never ostracized because of doping or because of being rumoured about as an greenie user (see Mays, Willie).
    So my guess is that a person must be judged in the context of the time he lived in. Judging the past by our present values is a bit misguided.
    In that sense, maybe it is fine to have Anson, Charleston and Cobb if the HoF, and it is also fine to have Shoeless, Rose and Bonds out. Even if all of them had failings, only the latter didn’t live up to the standards of their day.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I don’t see this as having anything to do with the customs of the time/standards of the day. Baseball has never banned players for being racists, bad guys, misogynists or misc. douchebags. They started banning players for gambling 100 years ago. They more recently started suspending players for PED usage…. after a protracted battle with the players union, which was filled with PED users who didn’t want testing…. and after looking the other way for 10-20 years possibly because lots of Homeruns were what the fans wanted.

    • John Gale says:

      I see what you’re saying. But while PEDs were technically against the rules, they weren’t unacceptable by any stretch of the imagination. They were ignored, if not tacitly encouraged. If someone gets caught now, I don’t have much sympathy for them. But there had never been a player who was denied entry into the Hall of Fame or something equally punitive due to PEDs. I’m not defending what the players did. I just think we have to keep things in their proper context.

  17. pgaskill says:

    >> So first put in Pete Rose, whose gambling only happened AFTER he played.

    Is that really true? I don’t have the established facts in front of the right now, so you could well be right. But don’t forget that he was a PLAYER-manager for some time. So even if he wasn’t gambling while he was only a player, not a manager at all (which I’m not sure about: maybe he was, maybe not), I’d always thought that he was gambling during the time he was a player-manager. Do we have an established set of dates?

    • Rob Smith says:

      True. He was only caught gambling on his team when he was a Manager (not sure about the Player/Manager part). There may not be evidence that he did so as a player or Player/manager…. but that doesn’t mean he didn’t. I certainly wouldn’t take Rose’s word for it either.

  18. sourcreamus says:

    It’s not the nice guy hall of fame it is the baseball hall of fame. What matters is how they played baseball. We have monuments in Washington to people who owned slaves. We have a day off to honor a man who serially cheated on his wife and had communist sympathies. Not because we honor slave owning or cheating on your wife but because they did other great things.
    Cap Anson, Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Pete Rose were great baseball players and that is all that should matter for a baseball hall of fame. That does not mean we think they were great people or that we want our kids emulating them. Being in the baseball hall of fame means you were a great baseball player, nothing more, nothing less.

    • John Gale says:

      Well said. I completely agree.

    • Rob Smith says:

      You miss the point entirely. Pete Rose and Joe Jackson aren’t banned from the HOF because they’re bad people. They are banned because they bet on baseball. Jackson took money from gamblers to throw a World Series in which his team was a heavy favorite. Rose bet on his own games while manager of the Reds. We know that Rose has, at times, accumulated heavy gambling debts to bookies. We only have his word that he never threw a game. A word that isn’t worth a plugged nickel.

    • John Gale says:

      I didn’t miss your point. I just think that the point you and others are making is entirely unpersuasive. Nobody is debating whether or not they gambled on baseball and/or were complicit in a fixed World Series. Everyone knows that. Were they all-time great players, yes or no? That is the only question that should be relevant when deciding which players should be in the Hall of Fame.

      No one is condoning their behavior or saying they should be allowed to manage (in Rose’s case–Jackson has obviously been dead for a long time). But I fail to see what is gained by pretending that they weren’t greats by keeping them out of the Hall. And no, referencing them in the history but keeping them out otherwise doesn’t cut it. Memorializing only the worst parts of anyone’s life is unfair and all attempts to do so should be dismissed with contempt.

    • sourcreamus says:

      Now I completely agree with you. It is entirely just for Rose and Jackson to have been banned for life. Neither man could be trusted to maintain the integrity of the game. However, the hall of fame is about recognizing baseball careers. Pretending that Rose and Jackson did not have great careers has no point. Rose lost millions of dollars because of the ban, and lost a chance to be around the game he loves so much. No one could claim he has not been punished even if he gets into the hall of fame.

  19. Chip S. says:

    The argument that Anson was simply a man of his times defames the many whites who supported the rights of players of color back in the 1880s. Supposedly the NY Giants had some interest in signing Moses Fleetwood Walker and George Stovey when they played for Newark in the integrated International League. Reportedly Anson rallied support within the National League to prevent the signing of any black players. This isn’t some minor aspect of Anson’s personal life akin to womanizing or just being an ill-tempered jerk. It’s an essential part of his legacy to MLB.

    I don’t see how it’s possible to argue that Anson’s actions didn’t substantially affect the integrity of the game at a critical juncture in its history. Ty Cobb played no comparable role, AFAIK.

    One problem with this exercise is that you’re asking your readers to cast a simple yes/no vote, when what’s at least as important is what text would be on the plaques of people like Cap Anson. I might be willing to vote for him provided that, in addition to his stats, the story of his role in the imposition of apartheid in baseball took up most of the space on his plaque.

  20. Regarding Pete Rose vs PED users. Gambling addiction is widely recognized as a medical issue. PED addiction? I think PED use is a conscious, rational choice. (Are there any medical studies about this?) Did (does) Pete have a medical problem? If so, should that keep him out of the HOF?

  21. Editor says:

    It’s absurd to look back at the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the politically correct eyes of today. Here’s the phrase: “A mature understanding of our nation’s past is more important than a falsification of history.” Mark Twain used the n-word. Should he be in no literary Hall of Fame? Harry S. Truman was known to use it also. What are you going to do, give him an asterisk or take his portrait out of the White House? I don’t know anything about Cap Anson, and don’t care, but those who would judge him for his off-field activities, vis a vis HOF inclusion or not, are falsifying history and imposing their OWN intolerances on everyone else.

    Proven cheating on the scale that we see with steroids in baseball? Simple. Strike the statistics from the appropriate years. If its true that Alex Rodriguez has been illegally dirty all his career, then delete the stats he compiled during those years, and if he still qualifies for the HOF, so be it. Same with all the admitted or proven steroids users in the sport. If you don’t do that, you sanction cheating.

    Pete Rose? Simple, too, although I don’t think betting on one’s own team while a manager should disqualify him from the HOF. Slap him on the wrist if you must – hasn’t the man been punished enough for acts that didn’t hurt the game, only himself? – and by all means retain your illusion that nobody else in baseball bets on their games. Elect him to the HOF now, but with the proviso that he not be installed until after his death. There’s your lifetime ban, if you must have it. As far as I know, Rose didn’t cheat when he played (any more than anyone else) and to exclude him for “the principle of the thing” is absurd as well. Just as absurd as shutting out Cap Anson, who evidently, like millions upon millions of Americans, used language people today don’t like.

    In other words, get the “Thought Police” entirely out of the equation, punish known cheaters in a measured way, and give Mr. Rose the due he earned.

    • clashfan says:

      “punish known cheaters in a measured way, and give Mr. Rose the due he earned.”

      Rule 21 (d):

      (d) BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.

      Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

    • Editor says:

      Yes, I understand the rule and the reasons for it. The distinction I should have made was that Rose bet on his team to win – that being the difference. I know the rules don’t allow for that either, I’m just saying I would feel completely different if he had he bet on his team to lose.

    • Editor says:

      Yes, I understand the rule and the reasons for it. The distinction I should have made was that Rose bet on his team to win – that being the difference. I know the rules don’t allow for that either, I’m just saying I would feel completely different if he had he bet on his team to lose.

    • clashfan says:

      You sure he didn’t? I’m not. You gonna take his word for it?

      Besides, we know he got in deep with bookies. What if they start to pressure him?

      It could be anything. Leave a guy in for too long. Rest a couple guys on the same day. Set the defense a shade too wrong.

      He bets on the Reds on Tuesday but not on Wednesday. The bookies might think he knows something, and it affects the line.

      So many ways it can go wrong. No betting on baseball, especially when it involves your team.

    • Luis says:

      Editor, you should’ve stopped after the first paragraph.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Clash fan, thank you sir. You have the final word.

    • denopac says:

      He bets on the Reds on Tuesday but not on Wednesday. The bookies might think he knows something, and it affects the line.

      Rose never bet on the Reds when Bill Gullickson was pitching.

    • clashfan says:

      Thanks, Rob, but I’m of the lady persuasion.

  22. invitro says:

    Is it possible to simply believe that Anson’s positive contributions to the game outweigh his negative contributions?

    • clashfan says:

      Yes, sure. I do. Others take the position that Anson’s active push to keep out black players harmed the game more than his being a great player and an ambassador helped it. It’s not an unreasonable stance.

  23. shaggy says:

    Being a racist has nothing to do with how one played the game on the field.

    PEDs are cheating on the field. Cheating makes one in eligible in every game – sport. No PEDs in the hall of fame. They cheated.

  24. Schmutt says:


    There should be an option to vote for none. When I tried to just click “vote” without selecting anyone, it wouldn’t let me.

  25. Butch says:

    A thought occurred to me the other day about “punishing” the players (we think) took steroids:

    Should the sportswriters and broadcasters who covered the 1990s also be punished?

    We condemn Bud Selig because he knew, or should have known, but turned a blind eye. What about the people who covered the players on a daily basis, who were in the locker rooms with them, who saw their bodies dramatically change from one season to the next?

    Should they be in the Hall of Fame?

    • Wilbur says:

      Technically, they’re not in the HOF. They are not HOF inductees. Rather, they received an award for which they are recognized in a separate wing of the Hall.

    • Editor says:

      You may be right. But the deterrents in place for steroids are corrupted by a unweidly multiplicity of rules and CBA agreements. My solution is simple and deadly effective – strike the appropriate stats of anyone convicted. End of story. Harsh in some eyes, yes, but it would be a measured, and not an arbitrary, punishment like the current sanctions. This punishment fits the crime exactly and would surely be a more effective deterrent. If Rodriguez had known he was risking his numbers, maybe he would have not juiced. Who knows? He sure doesn’t need the money. I would even favor forfeiting the appropriate year’s salary, although the league is far to weak to really stand up to the union.

      Regarding Rose, I admit defeat. I was wrong and several people pointed out why.
      I get it. But I still think his incredible accomplishments on the field should
      be recognized, and that “elect-him-now-but-delay-induction-until-after-his death” is a reasonable compromise.

    • clashfan says:

      Editor, would you recommend the same punishment for anyone known to cheat?

    • Editor says:

      There’s a large difference between “convicted” and “known to cheat.” I guess there would have to be some sort of tribunal set up, but I think a formal legal process should be undergone – evidence, witnesses, testimony, etc. in order to assure both sides of all of their rights. I’m not saying it’s a perfect idea, just better than what is in place now. And of course there’s the problem of striking stats – if you take away a season’s stats (which were earned illegally)I don’t know how you’d account for others involved – for instance if an opposing pitcher struck out someone whose stats were later invalidated, would the pitcher lost the strikeout also?

  26. Naliamegod says:

    The difference between the people James mentioned and Anson, is that none of them harmed the game of baseball in the long run. Hell, Cobb and Speaker actually come out better in the overall picture as they actually were pro-integration in their later lives and Speaker mentored Larry Dobby.

    Those players didn’t play a role in keeping out an entire group of people out of the game: Anson did.

  27. Rob Smith says:

    This HOF voting thing is starting to come apart. For it to work, the people voting need to be educated. And if they aren’t, they need to visit before voting. Currently we have:

    Al Simmons – at 59% – a LIFETIME .334/.535/.915 hitter who finished in the top 11 for MVP voting 8 times. (His career was largely pre-All Star game) 68.6 WAR

    Duke Snider – at 73% – a LIFETIME .295/.540/.919 hitter, 407 HRs. 8 time all star. 66.5 WAR

    Don Drysdale – at 65% – 209-166 2.95, Cy Young, 8 time All Star, 121 ERA+, 61.2 WAR despite retiring at age 32

    Old Hoss Radbourn – at 70% – 309-194 in just 11 years, including a 59 and a 48 win season. 73.5 WAR. No awards in his day.

    Dave Winfield – at 72% – .283/.475/.827 with 465 HRs. 12 time all star, 7 gold gloves, 7 Top 10 MVP finishes. 64 WAR

    Hoyt Wilhelm – at 68% – 2.52 ERA, 147 ERA+ The original “relief” pitcher and one of the first to dominate with the knuckle ball.

    Gary Carter is sitting at 75%. Widely regarded as one of the Top 5 (or so) catchers ever. 11 Time AS.

    I won’t go on…. but the point is…. not all of these guys are out…. even if you have a small hall. So, either people are being trolls or they are ignorant of baseball history.

    • Jamie says:

      This is largely how I feel. I could see not voting for some of these guys (I did not vote for Wilhelm, it being too hard to rack up enough value as a RP, seems similar to voting in a utility infielder), but most of these guys are obvious choices. Carter is certainly a top 5 catcher, and has an argument as best ever, though Bench probably edges him out, and both Pudges being right there with Carter for 2nd. That is inner circle material.
      Winfield, Sandberg, Simmons and others should be doing far better here as well. And the guys from the 80s don’t seem to be helped at all from playing semi recently. The BRHOF seems destined to be a 25-30 person club. That is far too small of a Hall, with some who have made it seeming less deserving than those who wont, Palmer and Ryan seeming less deserving to me than Carter and Niekro.

    • invitro says:

      I’m not sure how it can be a 25-30 person club when it already has 44 persons. And only 75 have been nominated.

    • jkak says:

      So Rob, anyone who does not share your opinion that HOF-worthiness is to be determined solely on the basis of the numbers in BR, interpreted the way you interpret them, is either ignorant or a troll?

    • clashfan says:

      jkak, how would you determine a Hall of Famer? Because what would some of those guys have to do to earn a BRHOF vote?

      I mean, if someone doesn’t like WAR, fine–but Snider had over 400 HRs. Old Hoss had over 300 Ws.

      We all use numbers to define worthiness. It’s just a question of which numbers.

    • jkak says:

      I agree, clashfan, we all use numbers, though each of us has different interpretations of the numbers. And we all employ subjectiveness of some sort. But even people with a passion for baseball will disagree on some matters.

      My point is simply that it is ignorant and trollish for one person to state that anyone who disagrees with him is ignorant or trollish.

  28. clashfan says:

    I had to look up Billy Williams, but when I did–man! Impressive career.

    Jim Rice was borderline, but I thought he’d do a little better. Hawk, too.

    And what does Kevin Brown have to do?

    • Rob Smith says:

      I was four years old living in Chicago, watching pre lights Wrigley games after pre school. I fell in love with Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and the rest of the gang and became a huge Cubs and baseball fan at a young age. Of course I voted for Billy Williams too, Though his stats are more borderline than some of the others. Of course, he played in a dead ball era, so he should get some pluses for that.

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