By Rick Telander
January 9, 2014
Former baseball players Tom Glavine (3-L), Greg Maddox (4-L) and Frank Thomas (5-L), the newest electees to the Baseball Hall of Fame, speak during a press conference about their inductions at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, New York, USA, 09 January 2014. EPA/JASON SZENES 2
NEW YORK — They walked into the Vanderbilt Room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and it all just looked right.
Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas — the newly elected 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame members — took their seats at the dais for this first news conference before their official induction into the Cooperstown shrine in July.
“Obviously, I’d like to thank the writers for picking me,’’ said Maddux, winner of 355 games, four Cy Young Awards, 18 Gold Gloves. “I appreciate it. Very humbling experience, like Tom said.’’
Yes, Glavine had started by thanking the writers. And Thomas would say, “For me, I’ve got to thank the writers. I’m overjoyed, overwhelmed.‘’
Thank you, fellows. We’ll take that. I’ll take that.
And thank you for being who you are.
It’s been a mess for the last decade, this Hall of Fame voting, undermined by the flowing cesspool of performance-enhancing drug use, rumors of such, innuendo, suspicion, anger, and the sad, empty sense of betrayal.
All of you who believe you could do a better job than the Baseball Writers’ Association of America writers do in picking the greatest sportsmanlike baseball players of recent times please stand down. A dunce can look at stats. But the Hall of Fame is about stats and integrity.
You want to vote for Barry Bonds? Sammy Sosa? Roger Clemens?
Some Hall voters do vote for them, believing I suppose, that in a morals-free, un-subpoenaed world everybody is a cheater. I don’t. I will never vote for the obvious dopers.
But these three men before us now — a lefty pitcher, a righty pitcher, a huge slugger — seem pure. We’ll never know anything for sure anymore. But these guys seem to have done it for real, on their own, the right way.
Maddux and Glavine, then with the Braves, made their famous, hilarious — and far too prescient — TV ad for Nike in 1998, stating, before being shot down by bimbo fan Heather Locklear, “Chicks dig the long ball!’’ Also in that ad was the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire, hitting long balls and flexing his biceps on a billboard like the hero he never was.
Juicer McGwire got just 11 percent of the Hall votes this year. He’s sinking fast from a 23.7 percent high in 2010 and soon will likely join cheater/home-run hitter Rafael Palmeiro and drop below the 5 percent mark and exit the ballot entirely.
Palmeiro and McGwire have 1,152 home runs between them. Incredible. And they’ll never get voted into the Hall. Because, at some point, rules must mean something. Which brings us back to Glavine, Maddux and Thomas.
Their stats are overwhelming and great, as they need to be. As Hall president Jeff Idelson will say of the 211 player plaques in Cooperstown: roughly one player out of a hundred — of the 18,000 players who have worn major-league jerseys — are voted in.
Do the math. That’s like one Hall of Famer for every millionth kid who picked up a ball or bat in the sandlot.
But more than that, in this dubious era, Glavine, Maddux and Thomas have brought back some faith in, let’s just call it integrity.
Thomas, who had his wife and five kids in attendance, said afterward, “I’ve talked with Hall of Famers, and they say our legacy is what we own. They don’t want anything tainted in Cooperstown. They’re harsh about it.’’
Of himself and PEDs, he said, “At any early age I said, ‘I will not do that to my body.’ Never tempted.’’
Maddux and steroids?
The mind snickers. Six feet tall, about 185 pounds, with a portion of that being beer gut, Maddux looked like Mr. Peepers in a ball cap.
Yes, looks have become important in this You-Figure-Out-The-Roiders Era, which, by the way, isn’t over.
Maddux said he hoped to retire as a Cub, but that little San Diego deal at the end was too good to pass up.
“Wrigley Field, when the wind’s blowing in, it’s a beautiful thing,’’ said perhaps the smartest right-handed pitcher in history.