Posnanski: Hall of Fame is ‘tone deaf’

redding

Joe Posnanski agrees — Cannonball Dick Redding should be in the Hall.

Joe Posnanski is one of the most respected and most trusted sportswriters in the country, and his blog is one of the most popular online sources for incisive, informative opinions and points of view regarding the modern sports scene.

But in addition to covering current sports like a January blizzard covers the landscape of my hometown of Rah-cha-cha, Joe also frequently addresses issues from our nation’s sportive past and the traditions history has handed down to us.

And one such subject he’s been especially vocal and passionate about is the continued lack of appreciation, respect and knowledge about the Negro Leagues. That includes the Baseball Hall of Fame’s ongoing refusal to re-open its doors to segregation-era African-American players, managers and executives, a subject on which I’ve decided to focus this year in my blog. (I’ve penned a few posts about this already, such as here and here.)

Over the last week, I’ve been extremely fortunate and grateful to conduct an email Q&A with Posnanski about his thoughts concerning the Hall of Fame situation. I was going to synthesize an article about the interview, but since his answers are so incredible, I decided to post the back-and-forth verbatim. I hope you enjoyed it like I did, and I hope it generates some retrospection and discussion. (My questions are in bold, his answers and regular type.)

Do you think the HOF’s current exclusionary policy, as it was outlined to me by a Hall official for my blog, regarding segregation-era African-American baseball figures is fair, especially given that the Hall still maintains a Pre-Integration Committee for white major leaguers from that period?

I think the Hall of Fame is really tone deaf on this topic, based first on the obvious fact that they have a group actually named “Pre-Integration Committee” in charge of trying to pick through the leftovers and elect white Major League players into the Hall of Fame. It’s such a bad look for an institution that celebrates the history of the game. White baseball before 1947 is disproportionately represented in the Hall of Fame already and I have absolutely no idea why they would have a biennial committee especially designed to elect more Major Leaguers from that time.

As far as Negro Leagues players, as everyone knows, 10 years ago the Hall of Fame attempted to put the leagues to rest by hiring a committee of academics and historians and giving them carte blanche power to elect as many Negro Leaguers as they wanted. I do believe it was a well-intentioned attempt to give the Negro Leagues one big Hall of Fame celebration, though it did not turn out that way for various reasons. I suspect the average baseball fan could not name even one of the 17 people elected, though they probably do remember that Buck O’Neil was not elected (and Minnie Minoso was not elected either). So that didn’t work out.

I think the Hall of Fame made a mistake by simply closing the book on the Negro Leagues. That said, if they were going to do that, it would look a lot better if they also would close the book entirely on pre-1947 baseball.

Should the Hall of Fame change that policy to once again allow Negro Leaguers to be considered? Why or why not? And if you feel it should be changed, would it even be feasible at this point?

I think if they are going to have a Pre-Integration Committee they must also include Negro Leaguers. But, as mentioned, I don’t think they should have a Pre-Integration committee at all. I think the Hall should focus much more on the time period after 1947. I would argue that there are at least 10 players from the expansion era who are much better candidates than any player they can find now pre-1947 in black or white baseball. The 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are dramatically underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion.

Do you think there are still segregation-era African-American baseball figures who are qualified for the Hall? If so, how many would you estimate, and who are some of the people you would recommend?

I do think there are some who are qualified, absolutely, especially if you use the Veteran’s Committee Standard. How many Negro Leaguers were the equivalent of George Kelly or Rube Marquard? Dozens, probably.

But should that be the standard? Probably not. Those were mistakes. I would say the vast majority of truly great Negro League players are in the Hall of Fame. I obviously believe Buck O’Neil should be in the Hall of Fame for his lifelong contribution to the game but the Hall of Fame has done a wonderful job honoring him. He’s the only figure, I believe, to have a statue in the Hall of Fame. There’s a prestigious award named for him. I commend the Hall for the way they’ve kept Buck’s memory alive.

allenN

Newt Allen (from the NLBM)

I think Minnie Minoso should be in the Hall, but not for his Negro Leagues time.
Buck always felt like Newt Allen should been the Hall of Fame — he was a terrific second baseman. Quincy Trouppe was a terrific defensive catcher, Bingo DeMoss was another great second baseman, Oliver Marcell was called ‘The Ghost” and played a terrific third base. There are some others: Dick Lundy, Cannonball Dick Redding and so on. Any of these and perhaps a half dozen more would certainly enhance the Hall of Fame. But, again, to be fair, I do believe that the very best Negro Leagues players are in the Hall of Fame.

What about the arguments in favor of keeping the policy the same, i.e. there aren’t enough concrete stats, the quality of play was less than in the majors, let’s keep this in the past and let bygones be bygones, etc.?

Well, I don’t buy any those arguments. There aren’t concrete stats but we have plenty of ways to discover and rediscover the greatest players in the Negro Leagues. The quality of play argument is ridiculous and easily disproven — look at the flood of all-time great players to go from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues in the first decade of Integration. Was ANYONE in the Major Leagues as good as Willie Mays? Henry Aaron? Jackie Robinson? Don Newcombe won an MVP award. Minnie Minoso immediately became a star and even an aging Monte Irvin was one of the best players in Major League baseball. On and on and on.

I don’t see any viable argument for continuing a whites-only Pre-Integration Committee and pronouncing that the book closed on the Negro Leagues. There’s just no justification for that. But, again, I would be in favor of the Hall of Fame putting a lot more emphasis on post-1947 baseball.

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2 thoughts on “Posnanski: Hall of Fame is ‘tone deaf’

  1. Pingback: Baseball bloodline: the Duncans | The Negro Leagues Up Close

  2. Pingback: The Hall opens up once again! | The Negro Leagues Up Close

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