I've spent the last several days rummaging through the mounds of cards that I have just laying around. You know the ones I'm talking about, the ones that we all have that we're going to sort some day but never seem to get to. Most of them are from the "junk wax", steroid era. That hasn't stopped me from looking fondly at some of these cards and saying "thanks for the memories." As I sorted and reminisced it made me wonder how many of these guys will eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown and how many of them will ride off into obscurity. If they're lucky they might be the answer to some odd trivia question like "Who was the winning-est pitcher of the 1980s?"
What makes a Hall of Famer? There are certain milestones that until the steroid era guaranteed enshrinement. That's not the case anymore. The best example of numbers being crushed by steroids is Barry Bonds. The idea of the all-time home run leader never making it to Cooperstown is a real possibility. Bond's is not the only player to get bitten by the steroid bug. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Raphael Palmeiro are among a long list of guys with great number that may never see the hallowed halls.
What makes a Hall of Famer? Some greats of the game are barred from The Hall because they may have been greats on the field, but they weren't so great off of the field. Pete Rose and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson are a pair of guys that had great numbers but their off the field antics will probably cost them a little piece of immortality. "Shoeless" Joe died in 1951 and is still not in The Hall today. His lack of enshrinement just goes to show how much baseball fans love their game and how long their memories can be.
What makes a Hall of Famer? There are guys like Mark Grace, Dale Murphy, Mark Fidrych, and many, many more that have been great ambassadors for the game, but their plaques don't hang in Cooperstown. Aside from being good guys they all had an impact on the game. Grace put up over 2000 hits over 16 seasons and has a lifetime batting average of .303. Murphy hit 398 home runs in his 18 season and was the face of Atlanta Braves baseball for a decade. Fidrych was the 1976 Rookie of the year, an amazing feat for a pitcher. His career may have been cut short by injury but "The Bird" was always an ambassador for the game.
What makes a Hall of Famer? It's not pure skill, lots of guys have that. It's not work ethic, lots of guys have that. It's not being a great guy, lots of guys are. So what makes a Hall of Famer? I think it's a perfect combination of all of these traits and a smattering of luck. We can argue for decades about who should and who shouldn't be in The Hall of Fame but the fact is that it is an honor reserved for the best of the best. Who do you think has been overlooked?