A Cynic's Advice

Pitchers who want to get to Cooperstown should win three hundred games.

Hitters should aim for round numbers, too. Five hundred is a good, round number for homeruns. Seven hundred sixty two is also good, unless almost everybody outside of San Francisco regards you as a cheat, a liar, and a pouty malcontent.

If you want to get into the Hall of Fame you should smile and play along with the baseball writers, most of whom are white and don’t live in San Francisco. Appropriately or not, they are the people who will determine whether you’ll get into the Hall of Fame.

Given that Pete Rose, who accumulated more base hits than anyone in the history of the game, is not in the Hall of Fame, it’s tempting to say that if you want to get to Cooperstown, you shouldn’t bet on baseball. It’s more accurate to say that if you bet on baseball, you shouldn’t place those bets with guys who’ll roll on you. Some of the players in the Hall of Fame who have bet on games have had their indiscretions covered up by a commissioner who felt that publicly disciplining the gamblers would have hurt baseball. Some of the same players are alleged to have conspired to fix games. It would be awkward to name names, but the initials of two of the men who have been mentioned frequently in this context are Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker.

Given that many baseball writers have announced that they will never vote for Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, or Roger Clemens, it might seem that aspirants to the Hall of Fame should avoid performance-enhancing substances, except that at least a couple of generations of Hall of Famers regularly ingested amphetamines, which, in days of yore, were known as “greenies” when they were provided by the team trainers in pill form, and “red juice” when the ingestible was, um, juice.

So on the eve of the 2009 induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, a summary of suggestions about reaching the Hall of Fame might read as follows: Play very well for a long time; cheerfully give the writers what they need; don’t get caught gambling on games, or, if you do, don’t lie badly about it, or, if you do, whether or not you acknowledge that you lied, don’t come across as an angry, bitter thug; don’t get caught using performance-enhancing substances, and if you do get caught, admit whatever your attorney suggests that you admit, avoid the U.S. Congress, and apologize to everybody, especially the children.

Headshot of Bill Littlefield

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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