Today marks the national revival of the debate over performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Oh yeah, it also is the day to reveal the men who will enter the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Yesterday, I watched a special on the 40 greatest players not in the Hall of Fame. A few were steroid-era players, like Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds. However, many were players who competed before the steroid era, or early in that era-- like Tony Oliva, Minnie Minoso, and my personal favorite for the list-- Jack Morris. One of the people they interviewed say Morris should get in falone or his performance in that remarkable Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. In an era where the relief pitcher was established, Morris threw 10 innings of stellar baseball, before his team could win the game 7 battle over the Atlanta Braves. Plus, Bonds deserves be in-- because he was a Hall of Fame caliber player for the Pirates before the PED's kicked in.
Finally, one of the 40 names they mentioned was Buck O'Neil. The Negro Leagues player and manager should be in-- but not for his contributions in the Negro Leagues. Not to say he wasn't a quality player-- his records show he more than held his own for the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1930's, 40's and 50's-- but for his work after the Negro Leagues. In an era of segregation, he was one of Major League Baseball's greatest scouts, and was the majors' first black bench coach, for the Chicago Cubs in 1962. His memory was-- and is-- revered in his adopted hometown of Kansas City...and finally, he became an overnight star at 81, thanks to a little documentary called "Baseball." He came up short in a 2008 special Hall of Fame vote. But was he bitter? Not outwardly. Even though he wasn't elected, he has been honored by the Hall of Fame. Who introduced the Negro Leaguers who WERE placed in the Hall of Fame at that Cooperstown ceremony? Buck O'Neil. Who has a Hall of Fame lifetime achievement award named after him? Yep, good ol' Buck. O'Neil passed away in 2009 at the age of 94...never knowing the ultimate honor of a later life that was filled with deserved accolades. Do the right thing-- close the circle--and put ol' Buck in the actual Hall of Fame. And while you are at it, look at Bonds, McGwire, and Clemens-- not for their steroid era numbers, but for contributions to the game-- especially BEFORE the steroid era began.
That's my take-- I'm Tom Lee.