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© St. Petersburg Times, published June 2, 2002
You say you want to see Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame. Well, doesn't everyone?
Don't even bring it up. It's no fun to debate Pete Rose anymore. Everyone who isn't named Bud Selig agrees when it comes to Pete Rose. What's left to talk about?
You say you've signed the Shoeless Joe Jackson petition. Tell somebody else. Yeah, Yeah. You say you're behind Dale Murphy and Jose Canseco and Roger Maris. Well, good luck.
That's the thing. More or less, everyone agrees who ought to go into the Hall.
If you want to spark a debate, there's a better idea.
Let's vote some people out.
I'm serious. The Halls of Fame, all of them, are stuffed to the gills with a lot of guys named Ned. Forgive me, but isn't the first qualification to get into the Hall of Fame, well, fame? Should you have to stand around for hours, scratching your head and trying to figure out if this guy was a star shortstop or the guy who first suggested to put peanuts in Cracker Jack?
Here's what we do. We raise the standards on the inside of the Halls to what they have become on the outside. We make a little room. We have a garage sale.
As a society, isn't this is what we do for fun? We vote people off the island. We eliminate the weakest link. We judge the unfit dating partner. We break a guy's sword in half and cast him out of the fort. We contract.
Why should the Halls of Fame be any different? Why not take a fresh look at history and tell a player, "Yep. You're history all right."
Start with baseball's Hall of Fame, perhaps the most prestigious Hall because it's the most difficult to make.
Now, grab Cap Anson's plaque.
Now, throw it into the street.
Don't you feel better already?
This isn't to say Anson wasn't a great player. Hieroglyphics of the era he played in seem to suggest he was quite the huckleberry. There for a while, Anson even had 3,000 hits, until historians checked their math and said, wait, it's only 2,995.
So why vote him out? Because it can be argued that Anson hurt baseball far more than he helped it.
In the 1880s, it was Anson who saw a black player named Moses Fleetwood Walker on the diamond and proclaimed, "Get that n----- off the field." Over the next several years, Anson campaigned against black players in baseball, leading the fight for the leagues adopting a color barrier that would last for almost 50 years.
Now, tell me how much Rose's conduct hurt the game in comparison to Anson, who led a campaign that cost fans the chance to see Josh Gibson, Buck O'Neill and Cool Papa Bell.
Who else? I toss out Tinker, Evers and Chance, who are in the Hall of Fame because they fit a nice rhyme scheme. Statistically, none of the three belong. I toss out Jesse Haines, a pitcher who won 210 games in 19 seasons. I toss out Ford Frick, who did little in his time as commissioner but attach an asterisk to Maris' name.
Are you with me?
We're going to vote Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash and Duane Eddy out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
We're going to vote Vanderbilt and Arkansas out of the SEC.
We're going to vote Pat Sajak, Pee-Wee Herman and Leonard Nimoy off the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
We're going to vote Debby Boone, Christopher Cross and the Starland Vocal Band off the list of Best New Artists.
When it comes to the U.S. soccer Hall of Fame, I'm going to vote out everyone who wrote me a nasty e-mail in the past few days. That pretty much leaves the '99 women's team and Sylvester Stallone, who was quite the lad in the movie Victory.
As far as the Basketball Hall of Fame, I'm starting with Sergei Belov, who was part of the '72 Russian team that won the gold medal in the strangest, worst-officiated title ever. Hey, it's inAmerica. Sergei can come in when we get our gold medals.
Who else? Let's vote out Walter Kennedy, Ernie Schmidt (one of his teams was the Denver Piggly Wigglies, no lie), Walt Bellamy and John Russell. Oh, and Joan Crawford, because she's too easy to confuse with the actor who hated wire clothes hangers. One question: Why are there no Mayans in the basketball Hall?
The NHL? We would love to kick out Gil Stein, who once humbly appointed himself into the Hall, but we've been beaten to the punch. So let's start with Lord Stanley, who once kicked in 50 bucks to buy a bowl. These days, you can't get a good seat for that; old Stan bought immortality. (Idea: Auction off a spot in the Hall on eBay.)
After that, it's the boot for former president John Ziegler, who didn't even contribute 50 bucks. Then we toss ex-Leafs owner Harold Ballard and ex-players Bob Pulford, Clint Smith and, just to say his name, Dit Clapper. I am willing to debate Bobby Hull who, when last heard, was talking about what a nifty guy that Hitler was.
We're going to vote Unforgiven, Terms of Endearment, Oliver! and Titanic off the list of Best Picture winners.
We're going to vote David Lee Roth off the list of touring U.S. musicians.
We're going to vote Dancing in the Dark off Bruce Springsteen's Grestest Hits.
Now, of course, we come to the NFL.
And O.J. Simpson's bust.
This is where we auction off the right to drop it from a tall building and watch it break. Why? Do you really have to ask?
Who else? We boot Ray Flaherty, Hugh Ray and Cliff Battles. We toss former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who was the last NFL owner to integrate his team.
Then I vote out Al Davis, who has spent so much time suing the league you wonder why he's been honored by it.
Tell you what, Al. We'll put the bust halfway between Oakland and Los Angeles. You find it.
Provided, of course, California hasn't been voted out of the country.