In the wake of the recent decision to change the name of Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street, writers like me are wondering if the National Baseball Hall of Fame will follow a similar path. Hall of Famer Cap Anson, the first player to reach 3,000 hits (though that’s debatable), is largely responsible for segregation in baseball. Then there’s Hall of Famer George Weiss, who was general manager for the New York Yankees and New York Mets. According to the book Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee, Weiss allegedly once said out loud at a cocktail party that he “would never allow a black man to wear a Yankee uniform.” So it is possible that we might see the Hall of Fame remove inductees like Anson and Weiss? The short answer is no.
This notion is difficult to consider. On one hand, no one wants racists in the Hall of Fame. On the other hand, do we risk erasing history? Many writers say no. “…without them we wouldn’t be able to understand history,” says baseball writer Don Tincher. “I’m not a big fan of destroying the past even if we don’t like it. We need to use things like that to teach others.”
“I think the HOF should simply be based on merit, how they played and performed in the game,” says Erik Sherman, author of Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond. “If we start going down a path of who was a model citizen and who was not, it becomes a slippery slope.”
It’s safe to assume that removing inductees from the Baseball Hall of Fame would quickly become a catastrophe. The Hall of Fame could remove Anson and Weiss. However, calls for the removal of other players would make all the inductees vulnerable, making the Hall of Fame a shrine of questionable morals instead of a shrine to baseball talent.
We Won’t See the Hall of Fame Remove Controversial Inductees, but The BBWAA Will Keep them Out
We likely won’t see the Hall of Fame remove inductees anytime soon. It’s fair to say though that there’s a few eligible former players who won’t make it in because of their inflammatory views and ideas. In the summer of 2015, Curt Schilling sent a tweet equating Muslim extremists with Nazi Germany. Schilling, a six-time All-Star and three-time World Series Champion, received 45% of the vote in 2016, thirty points fewer than needed for induction. While he received 51.2% this year, one cannot deny that Schilling’s inflammatory comments are hurting his chances for induction.
In my opinion, Schilling’s inability to get enough votes for induction reflects the Baseball Writers Association of America’s (BBWAA) belief that there is no more room for players with controversial views in the Hall of Fame. Many make the valid argument that consideration for induction should rely solely on their numbers and actions on the field. But where do you draw the line?
I’m not calling Schilling a bigot; I really don’t think he is. But it’s hard to look past his comments. Major League Baseball wants to promote and celebrate diversity and inclusion. With that said, I can’t see someone like Schilling getting inducted. The MLB doesn’t really have a say in who gets inducted each year. However, it’s clear that the induction of players whose views contradict Major League Baseball’s policy on diversity and inclusion could become a can of worms that the Hall of Fame and the MLB don’t want to open.
The Baseball Hall of Fame probably won’t go the way the City of Boston did with renaming Yawkey Way. It’s also unlikely we’ll see the Hall of Fame remove any players. But that doesn’t mean that the BBWAA and the Veterans Committee won’t scrutinize future candidates. Their opinions, regardless of whether they have anything to do with baseball or not, shouldn’t parallel someone like George Weiss’.