The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its new members today. Three players got in, and all were highly and wonderfully deserving -- Greg Maddux (who began his career with the Cubs, who idiotically let him go, though he rejoined the team later) and Tom Glavine, both 300-game winners, and former White Sox Frank Thomas.
The most teeth-gnashing candidate was likely Craig Biggio who got 74.8% of the vote, but to get enshrined you needed 75%. He missed by 2 votes. (This is ties Nellie Fox and Pie Traynor for the smallest margin. Both of them subsequently got in, as I assume Biggio will. For what it's worth, I still have my Nelson Fox autographed model baseball glove -- he was on the Chicago White Sox -- and I like to think I played a part in his selection. Or at the very least showed great taste at a young age.)
Noteworthy is that three of the greatest home run champions -- Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa -- all were NOT elected, and finished low on the list. Obviously the reason was because of allegations of illegal steroid use, which not enough voters could get past.
But what stood out highly for me was a non-player selection. That was for Roger Angell being named the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for sportswriting. Why it stood out for me is a simple question -- What took them so long???!
I'm stunned that Roger Angell hadn't received that award before. Roger Angell was a senior editor at The New Yorker magazine, and every year would write a recap of the baseball season. It's widely considered some of the most elegant, thoughtful, near-poetic writing about baseball ever -- and some of the best writing, period. His work has been collected in books, and he's been put on a pedestal among baseball writers for 30-40 years. AND...he's 93 years old. Thank goodness he was still around to receive the award. What in the world were they thinking all those decades??
When told of the award, Angell said, "I was surprised to find out how much I secretly hoped this would happen because I was very moved and startled and extremely pleased. And I thought it wouldn't happen because I'm not a member of the Baseball Writers, which is nothing against the wonderful Baseball Writers Association, but I've been hoping to be a member somehow for for many years but it never seemed to be within reach. This brings me closer."
(The BWA limits its membership to writers on daily newspapers, wire services and some Internet sites. However, membership is not a requirement to get this Hall of Fame award.)
He added, "Anyway, I was really pleased and I'm very, very happy. And I'm stunned."
I'm stunned, too. That it took so long.
If you want to see the full article about Roger Angell's selection, you can read it here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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