I was reminded of all this with the release of The Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, and with the discussion of whether Roger Clemens and/or Barry Bonds should or would eventually go into the Hall of Fame.
Because, for now at least, I have difficulty getting worked up about Hall of Fame discussions or ignoring the fact that the Hall has jumped the shark. Buck O’Neil is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame; Barney Dreyfuss soon will be. And we’re supposed to take this institution seriously?
You probably aren’t familiar with Dreyfuss, which is entirely the point. He was the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1900-32, which has utterly no relevance to modern baseball fans, but didn’t prevent the Veterans Committee from electing him a couple weeks ago.
Dreyfuss’ fellow members in the Class of 2008: Bowie Kuhn, Walter O’Malley, Billy Southworth and Dick Williams. Each of these men played a role in the history of the game, but it’s likely that nobody ever paid a single cent to watch a baseball game because of them.
O’Neil, on the other hand, rekindled a love for baseball in countless people. Yet when a special committee elected 17 Negro Leagues figures to the Hall in 2006 - the final election of people from the Negro Leagues - they didn’t see fit to honor Buck O’Neil.