Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Throw Ty Cobb out of the Hall of Fame if Barry Bonds can't get in
I’m on a mission to get Ty Cobb (December 18, 1886 – July 17, 1961) kicked out of the Hall of Fame.
I know it’s ridiculous to suggest that the hall dismiss arguably the greatest baseball player of all time. He was inducted as a member of the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, receiving 222 out of a possible 226 votes.
Cobb set 90 Major League Baseball records, including the highest career batting average (.367) and the most career batting titles with 12. He held records for half a century after his retirement, including most career hits (4,191), most career runs (2,246), most games played (3,035) and most stolen bases (892). When discussing the legends of baseball, Cobb and Babe Ruth are the first to come to mind.
I have a good argument to kick both of them out of the Hall of Fame. I’m willing to let it slide if the Hall of Fame votes Barry Bonds in as a member.
You can’t do that! I can hear the echoes bouncing off the walls at Cooperstown. Bonds is a cheater. He defrauded the integrity of the game by juicing up with steroids. That’s what sportswriters are using to justify keeping one of the best ever to play out of the Hall of Fame.
Bonds has become the poster boy of a corrupt era. He’s not the only player to juice up. The list is so long that it’s tough finding a person who passes the smell test. To his credit, Bonds has credible statistics prior to his head enlarging and body pumping up to resemble a NFL linebacker.
MLB may need a poster boy to distance itself from the juice era. I get that, but I refuse to allow it to happen without calling the league on its hypocrisy in claiming innocence of all things pre steroids.
The truth is both Cobb and Ruth were racist. Cobb’s racism is documented in Al Stump’s book Cobb: The Life and Times of the Meanest Man Who Ever Played Baseball. In 1994, the book was used as the basis for Cobb, a film starring Tommy Lee Jones as Cobb. Cobb’s racism is trumped only by his fits of rage and violent playing style.
Ruth was no better than Cobb. Ruth was known for his racism, womanizing and mean ways with fans. Both Ruth and Cobb made it into the Hall of Fame because of their play on the field. Fans are now asked to measure the worth of players based on their reputations off the field. We’re also challenged to consider the cultural context in which the bigots from the past played.
Cobb apologists argue that the “Georgia Peach” was no different than his peers. Cobb was born and reared within a racist Southern environment, and shouldn’t be ridiculed for being like everyone else. Implied in condoning Cobb’s ways, based on the context of a racist society, is the negation of how he and others benefitted from the policy that prohibited the inclusion of black players.
In other words, Cobb, Ruth and others were great, in part, because of the cultural norms of the day. They thrived, in part, because of racism. Despite the advantages of living within a culture that affirmed and celebrated his game - despite the advantage of bigotry - we allow bigots in the Hall of Fame. We’re told it’s not Cobb’s fault. It was normative for the day.
The rules are altered with Bonds. The aftermath of the steroid era exposed how vast it was used. Not only was it used, the league allowed it to happen. I was not illegal. The Commissioner, owners, managers, coaches and players were all complicit in the management of steroids, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine and other drugs. Players assumed they needed the juice to compete.
It was part of the culture of baseball.
Like Cobb, Bonds lived within a historical context that normalized what we consider horrific. The difference is Cobb, and the other racist, are inducted into the Hall of Fame, while Bonds is denied entry for doing what was normal for his era.
Fans of the game will argue a difference between racism and steroids. They argue that the integrity of the game is compromised by drugs. Given baseball is a game of numbers, how can we stand by numbers smeared by performance enhancing drugs? Can we credit those who are awarded for playing with an advantage?
This is when my blood begins to boil. Aren’t the numbers of Cobb, Ruth, Musial and Williams blemished by who wasn’t allowed to play the game? Should we authenticate the play of those who lived within a culture that honored their position of white privilege, allow them into the Hall of Fame despite that advantage, while denying entry to others who played within a culture that affirmed similar advantage?
Like I said, I’m calling for the Hall of Fame to throw Cobb out of the Hall of Fame. If he’s allowed to stay as a racist, then nothing that follows will bear meaning. The game was tarnished by race and the league allowed it to happen.
Now we’re told to honor the integrity of the game.
Don’t make me cuss!