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Those inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame are regarded as baseball royalty. Players who are inducted are gods among men and are granted access to what many call baseball heaven. But, the Hall of Fame is riddled with controversy over who gets in. To be inducted, players must be voted in by a committee of writers and must meet many qualifications.
As players from the steroid era become eligible for the Hall of Fame, there is the question of why players who broke the rules of baseball are inducted into the Hall? Joe Jackson and Pete Rose played the game at a superior level but are banned from the Hall because they bet on baseball. Where do the MLB and the Hall of Fame committee draw the line on what acts deserve lifetime bans from baseball and rejection from the Hall of Fame?
Betting on Baseball has been Taboo since the Black Sox Scandal of the 1919 world series. The Chicago White Sox had been paid to throw the world series and baseball has not been the same since. The 1919 White Sox team changed baseball by giving it its first major case of gambling and fixing games. Kennesaw Mountain Landis was the judge who presided over the hearing and became the first commissioner of baseball. As commissioner, he immediately worked to “clean up baseball” by expelling all eight White Sox who had been acquitted and focused on “gamblers” and “outsiders” as those responsible for ruining the game of baseball (Bachin 2003).
Eight men were acquitted but banned from baseball forever by Landis. Of those eight men, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson ranges as one of the most iconic. Jackson posted a career batting average of .356 which is third all time. Also, Jackson’s numbers from the world series suggest that he never planned on losing those games. He posted a .375 average which was the highest for both teams (Pruitt 2018).
Pete Rose is another case that involves gambling. On the field, it is just to say that Pete has earned his way into the Hall (Mitchell 1999). He holds MLB records for most career hits, most career games played, and is the only player to play at least 500 games at five different positions. Yes, it is true that Pete Rose bet on baseball, but many believe that he never bet against his team. In fact, there is evidence that he always bet on his team to win.
Rose also posted a career batting average of .303 which puts him ahead of 2017 Hall of Fame inductees Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, and Tim Raines’s who all have career batting averages below .300 (“Hall of Fame Batting Register”). So, why have I compared Rose to these three players? These three 2017 inductees are all suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s).
Players will push their bodies to the limit to attain peak performance on the field. For some, this may mean using drugs to enhance their performance on the field. Baseball was thriving due to players using these drugs. Baseball had become a hitter’s game in the steroid era and home runs became more and more common. The long ball drew in large crowds waiting to see the next batter drive one out of the yard.
PED’s put players above the rest of those who worked hard and played by the rules. But, there is not as big of an outrage over this compared to gambling. It is plausible to think that this is because gambling ruins the game of baseball and PED’s may be helping it. Gambling leads to fixing games and this leads to doubt in whether fans are watching a real game or a fixed game. This would ruin attendance and cause the game’s popularity to plummet. PED’s, however, draw fans in. They bring massive crowds to the ballpark in anticipation of seeing pitchers throw 100 mph fastballs and hitters crushing 450-foot home runs.
The question remains about what is a proper reason to keep a Hall of Fame caliber player out? Though there are players who have used PED’s that are still denied entry into the Hall of Fame, such as Barry Bonds, there is still the possibility that other cheaters, like Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens, could make it in. All players mentioned are incredible athletes but have still broken the rules of the game.
Who is to say PED users should be allowed in the Hall when players like Jackson and Rose are not? Hall of Fame votes are based on the opinions of writers on the selection committee and it is unknown how their stance on PED’s will change in the future. Joe Jackson and Pete Rose will remain out of the Hall of Fame but baseball fans know they have earned a spot in it.
Bachin, R. (2003). At the Nexus of Labor and Leisure: Baseball, Nativism, and the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Journal of Social History, 36(4), 941-962. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790358
“Hall of Fame Batting Register.” Baseball-Reference.com. Accessed April 24, 2018. https://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/hof_batting.shtml.
Mitchell, Cleta Deatherage. “The Rise of America’s Two National Pastimes: Baseball and the Law.” Michigan Law Review 97, no. 6 (1999): 2042-061. doi:10.2307/1290242.
Pruitt, Sarah. “Did Shoeless Joe Jackson Conspire to Throw the 1919 World Series?” History.com. February 20, 2013. Accessed April 24, 2018. https://www.history.com/news/ask-history/did-shoeless-joe-jackson-conspire-to-throw-the-1919-world-series.