Here we go, folks--sing along with me. . . .
As anyone knows who pays close attention
To America's favorite game,
The announcers and writers do not have a "wing"
In the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.
Despite all the protests of well-meaning fans
And colleagues of mikemen and scribes,
The announcers and writers do not have a "wing,"
So take note of my snide diatribes.
Jon Miller won a well-deserved Frick Award
And Bill Madden's time came for the Spink,
But Hall of Fame status is different
Though that's not what they'd like you to think.
Hall of Famers have plaques in the gallery,
Two hundred ninety-two in all,
While the mikemen and scribes have a little display
In a side-room just down the hall.
Yet Hall of Famer is what they called Miller
On ESPN Sunday night,
And Madden's newspaper quoted Madden detailing
Why his induction was such a delight.
They ought to know better, and maybe they do
But cannot resist extra glory.
It's a pretty delusion and pardon the confusion--
I'm just partial to the truth of the story.
While they say they're alongside Aaron and Ruth
I ask you to remember one thing:
They're great, but Frick 'n' Spink winners
Do not have a Hall of Fame wing.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The responses to my diatribe last week were of two types. Some said "right on!" while others said "yeah, you're right, but since everyone thinks Miller and Madden were elected, either you should get over it or the Hall of Fame should just go ahead and make them Hall of Famers."
I was still curious about what would happen on the ESPN Sunday night game. Sure enough, it took less than an inning for Orel Hershiser to say something to Joe Morgan about "the Hall of Famer to our right." It took the rest of the game for Morgan to say nothing to dispel that misconception. I wasn't surprised, just disappointed.
Somehow I wasn't prepared for the link someone sent me to a 90-second tape of Madden talking about how "I was elected back in December" and how great it was "to be inducted in Cooperstown." I don't know why I expected the writer to know better than the broadcaster. Maybe it was the part of Madden's speech at the induction where he declared, "The printed word is forever, the ready reference to the game's rich history preserved forever." As Orwell wrote, "History is written by the winners." Madden won an award, and he's entitled to write whatever history he wants. The library at the Hall of Fame contains a sizable file labeled "Phantoms," full of accounts of people who claimed to have played major league baseball, but who didn't. Their histories have been written, too.
As Peter Morris noted, there is one writer in the Hall of Fame, one who was elected for being a writer. That was Henry Chadwick, elected in 1938 as a "pioneer" of the game. Born in England, Chadwick wrote annual guides before men were even paid to play the game, spent several decades writing columns and guides championing the game, and, oh yeah, invented the box score. Top that, Bill Madden! Also, as I pointed out last week, many Hall of Fame players have had long broadcasting careers, and it might be that remaining in the public eye for decades after their playing careers ended was a factor in the eventual elections of Phil Rizzuto, Richie Ashburn, and others to the Hall of Fame. But note: their plaques make no mention of their broacasting careers. They were elected as players. And Chadwick never received the Spink Award.
At this point, my fondest wish is for Dizzy Dean to win the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting. Dean has been on the ballot for at least the last few years. Fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt has also been nominated in the past. Think about that for a minute. What do you suppose the meeting was like at which Dean was first nominated for the award?
"Uh, how about that Dizzy Dean? Sure he had this semi-literate style and he didn't always tell the folks at home what was happening, but he did 'The Game of the Week' and he was a huge factor in popularizing baseball on television for nearly two decades."
"Yeah, he's a good candidate and maybe he even deserves the award. But we can't nominate him."
"Because he's already in the Hall of Fame."
"Suppose he's elected. Writers and announcers will fall off the edge of the world. What kind of headline would they write: 'Dizzy Dean First To Be Elected Twice To Same Hall of Fame'?"
"They would know better than that, wouldn't they?"
"Apparently not. They keep saying that the Frick and Spink Award winners have been elected. If they keep saying it, either they believe it or they're deliberately perpetrating a hoax."
"Yes, but we know better. We can't let other people's ignorance prevent us from doing the right thing. If we think he deserves to be nominated, let's nominate him."
"Fine. I'm just warning you. If Dean wins the award, heads will spin. They won't know what to think. They'll wonder how we can induct someone who's already been inducted?"
I don't know if that's how the conversation went, but Dean and Hoyt have been on the ballot, and they might not be the last elected members of the Hall of Fame to be nominated. So whoever did the nominating experienced no confusion on the point. Hall of Fame election is one thing; winning a Frick or Spink Award is another. They are not the same thing, or there would be no reason to risk re-inducting someone.
That's why I hope Dean wins the Frick Award, and the sooner the better. I think that's what it will take to make people blink and think and realize the implications. I suppose, however, that the "knights of the keyboard" would find a way to explain that Dean was the first man to be enshrined in both wings. I suppose, in a nation which has already had a President who was never elected to federal office, anything is possible.
That's also, of course, while I still hold out the hope that people can be enlightened about the difference between winning an award and winning election to the Hall of Fame. Awards are great, and some are more significant than others, but you either won something or you didn't. Do you think Leonardo DiCaprio and Jim Carrey go around bragging to people about winning Oscars? I doubt it, because it's on the public record that they didn't, and they know better than to trumpet something that didn't happen. What they did win was the Golden Globe Award (DiCaprio for "The Aviator" and Carrey for "The Truman Show").
The year Carrey won the Golden Globe, he wasn't even nominated for an Oscar. So I'm going to give him credit for acknowledging the difference between winning one thing while not even being considered for another thing. That kind of distinction is apparently lost on Bill Madden, Jon Miller, and others. They should be justly proud of winning what they did win; they're both terrific at what they do. But neither has even been on a ballot for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Two different things, folks. Keep that in mind as you join me in rooting for Dizzy Dean to make history as the first Hall of Famer to be honored with the Frick Award.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Let's finish off with a little more poetry to sum up the situation. If Grantland Rice wasn't already turning over in his grave from my opening effort, he might be soon.
O sports fans! It's time to get busy--
Screw your congressman: re-elect Dizzy!
Though he's already enshrined--or is he?
What's the diff--let's re-elect Dizzy!
Let the powers-that-be at the Hall of Fame
Decide where it's best to lay the blame
When people hear Bill Madden's name
And think that he achieved the same
Immortal status in this game
As Ruth, Mays, Aaron, or whoever you name.
Still, you know that this character Ruth
Was rowdy, sex-crazed, and uncouth,
While Madden breathes nothing but truth,
So maybe he's nobler than Ruth.
Just keep in mind that no writer or talker will ever mean as much to baseball as or be a true Hall of Famer like The Babe
No matter how many awards he wins, and you heard it here from Gabe.