Mark Lamster | Essays

What Baseball’s Hall of Fame and a Communist Museum Have in Common

During this afternoon's telecast of the Yankees-Red Sox ballgame, discussion naturally turned to the fate of Manny Ramirez, who retired yesterday after failing a drug test for the third time. Ken Rosenthal, a Fox reporter who has the privilege of voting in Hall of Fame elections, stated he would not cast a ballot for Ramirez. I suspect this is the majority position among voters, even though Manny, by the numbers, is clearly qualified for induction. Those not voting for Manny will presumably not vote for other players who've tested positive for the use of performance enhancing drugs, among them Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Roger Clemens (also all-time performers) and such likely inductees as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, etc. I'm not interested in rehearsing the various arguments over the effects of steroids and what punishment, if any, these players deserve. But I am curious as to what is going to happen in the coming years, when the Hall of Fame is forced to construct a history of the game in which the best players of an entire generation are largely absent, or somehow vilified. What of the great Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, of which so many of those players were a part? The museum's curators, whom I know to be serious historians, are going to have a very tough job. I hope they will not follow the path of curators at China's recently opened national history museum in Beijing. As the Times reported earlier this week, that museum's directors have chosen to entirely suppress material considered unpalatable. 

The Hall of Fame, like that Chinese museum, has a propagandistic function; it was created very intentionally as a promotional vehicle for Major League baseball. (On this subject, see the conclusion of John Thorn's masterly history, Baseball in the Garden of Eden, published last month.)Promoting baseball isn't necessarily a bad thing. That said, the Hall has an obligation to tell baseball's history, and not sweep it under the carpet.  

Comments [4]

That's a shrewd observation. Baseball will be reckoning with the after effects of the steroid area for a long time.

I didn't catch Ken Rosenthal's insistence today that he won't be voting for Manny Ramirez to go to the HOF, but I hope he was humble about it and not indignant. A lot of these baseball writers and sportscasters who are taking the moral highground on this issue seem disingenuous to me. In fact, I'd like to see/hear a clip reel of all the games over the years in which Ramirez played and for which Rosenthal provided commentary. I bet you'd hear a lot of Rosenthal extolling Ramirez's virtues every time he had a big hit.

It may be true that many of these players did a bad thing by taking steroids, but then it's also true that when this activity was at its feverish pitch, many writers and sportscasters did a bad thing by not raising the issue at all. Ramirez's guilt here is not black and white. I'm saying this and I hate the Red Sox and hated Ramirez when he played for them.
Khoi Vinh

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Joe Moran

It does not appear that the Lamster is a baseball fan. Comparing the Hall of Fame to a Chinese Museum is obscene. Has he ever been to Cooperstown, taken the tour, taken a little League Baseball team as a coach to play in the Field of Dreams tournament, I think not!

The fact that many of the sports writers have not been players and seek to wield a false power over the HOF candidate selection process is disturbing. These players give them their lively hood, something to criticize from an elevated booth and at the expense of the players.

Has the Lamster or any other writer tried to hit a baseball, or better yet a 90-95 mph fastball, or even better, hit one while using steroids which cause your vision to quiver. Most of the supplements used, which were not illegal when they were used (big fact always left out of commentaries like Mr. Lamster's) were to help the muscle repair it self quicker after workouts--or games.

I guess my attitude is with the fact that the baseball Hall of Fame is not a Chinese Museum -- the writers should put the players in with their story---- the game is hard to play good but really difficult to play great--- the Hall of Famer's played better than great! LA Mike, out.
LA Mike

It does not appear that the LA Mike has a brian. Comparing the ability to write to playing a sport is obscene. Has he ever been to a library, taken a class, taken the time to consider interesting and important issues and construct a coherent argument that opens up the possibility for discussion, I think not!

The fact that many comment makers have not been thinkers and seek to wield a false comprehension over the point of an article is disturbing. These writers give them their discourse, something to take or leave as you wish, and at the expense of no one (not even baseball players if you’d read the article properly).

Has the LA Mike or any other commenter tried to think about how histories are constructed, or better yet what consequences there are for promoting certain kinds of values over others, or even better, considered that this article is not having a go at baseball, merely raising the question of its historical representation. Most of the points raised, which were not critical when they were used (big fact always left out of comments like Mr. Mike’s) were to help the reader think about what function museums and hall of fame have in forming our historical narratives.

I guess my attitude is with the fact that the baseball Hall of Fame is not a Chinese Museum -- and other such incoherent sentences ---- knowing that Mike obsesses about sport and is disturbed by the Chinese --- the article by Lamster is far more moderate than he mades out! LA Mike, out and proud.

Jobs | May 22