Category Archives: Skitch Hanson

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Skitch vs. The Fact Zealots

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry: How Winning Lots of Football Games Made Them Good Human Beings. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

blyleven.jpgEver since I published my Hall of Fame column last week, I’ve been getting tons of email, and I’m heartened to know that many of you support my decision to keep the likes of Jeff Bagwell and Bert Blyleven out of Coopersville. However, many more of you disagree. About seven times as many, according to my math. Granted, math was never my strong suit in school. Same goes for science. And English. And shop class. And homeroom.

First of all, I want to apologize if I’ve been slow to respond to your letters. Back in 2005, while checking my work email, I clicked something bad or pressed the wrong key, and it caused a server meltdown at my newspaper. And when I say “meltdown,” I mean that the paper’s servers literally liquified themselves. The IT guys said they’d never seen anything like it. Several of them wept openly.

After that, my boss has tasked one intern with printing out all of my email and reading it out loud to me. I tried to convince my editor that I could read a printout all by myself, but he didn’t want to take any chances. I also told him that doing this every day would leave me a lot less time to write, and he said he was perfectly fine with this.

For the last few days, I’ve had to sit in my office while a 19-year-old college student recites extremely insulting emails. Needless to say, this made me very uncomfortable. Not so much for myself, but for the delicate sensibilities of the young man doing the recitation. Some of the language you people used was so vile, it almost caused him to retch. At first I thought he might be covering up laughter, but the intern assured me he was merely trying to contain his nausea.
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Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: My Job as Hall of Fame Executioner

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book I Wish They All Could Be David Eckstein. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

bagwell.jpgI always hate the very end of the year. It’s so bleak and depressing. You have to put away the Christmas decorations and box up all the
packages your presents came in. The ground is covered with huge banks of dirty snow. The guy who usually plows your driveway can’t do it anymore, because he ran off to Cancun with your wife.

But one thing brightens my day during this season: Hall of Fame voting. It is truly an honor and a privilege to decide who will be enshrined in the hallowed halls of Coopersville. To know that those immortal plaques that hang upon the wall hang there because of you. It’s an amazing thing to behold. At least it will be when I actually get to visit. I tried to go once, got off at the wrong exit, and accidentally spent three days in York, Pennsylvania. Had a great time, but my editor was not pleased by my 5000-word column on the majesty and grandeur of the Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

There’s some truly deserving candidates on this year’s ballot. I think Roberto Alomar is a shoo-in, and I have no problem voting for him now that he’s had a year of eligibility to think about what he did.

I’m hoping this is the year Jack Morris finally gets in, since he was inarguably the greatest pitcher of the 1980s. Of all of his accomplishments, perhaps his biggest is keeping his greatness confined within one decade, rather than straddling several like Bert Blyleven did, which makes it much easier for me recognize said greatness.

Speaking of Blyleven, I always struggle about whether I should vote for him or not. He did have some fantastic years with the Twins and some other teams (can’t remember which ones, exactly). But according to the BBWAA rules, we can only vote for him or Morris. A bit unfair, perhaps, but rules are rules. If I vote for both, they take away my $10-per-flight per diem, and I can’t be caught off guard if I get on a place without complimentary Nutter Butters.

Morris and Alomar are the only people I feel comfortable voting for. We are now at the point where these Hall of Fame ballots include so-called players whose careers flourished in the infamous Steroid Era, which will forever be known as the most sinister, unspeakably dark time in baseball history. Sure, there were decades when black people couldn’t play the game and players were little more than chattel to the owners. But all those things happened many, many years ago, which automatically makes them not as awful as the era of performance enhancement.

So I can’t vote for anyone I suspect of having done steroids. Who do I suspect? I can’t tell you. Why do I suspect them? I’m not sure. What exactly did they do? The answer to that is murky. Where was I when I began to suspect them? Probably at a Perkins, since that’s where I do most of my serious thinking.

Call me old fashioned, but I think the Hall should only welcome in the purest players. And by “pure,” I mean completely unsullied by accusations of PED use. I realize that’s difficult, because nearly every player who ran on a major league field in the 1990s and 2000s has been accused at one time or another, even if in only the most cursory way.

For instance, I once heard Buster Olney say in the press booth, “Hey, I heard Jim Edmonds did steroids…ha ha, just kidding!” Kidding or not, I have to take every accusation seriously, and that’s why you will never see me vote for Edmonds for the Hall. In fact, if I see him walking down the street, I will cross to the opposite side and spit while I do so.

That’s how seriously I take this. I’m sure Buster would agree, if he were still speaking to me. (We’ve been on the outs since we roomed together during the All Star Game one year. He didn’t appreciate giving up his bed to accommodate my vintage white noise machine.)

Certainly, some players are more guilty than others. I’ll never forgive Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for putting on a phony home run show back in 1998. Back then, we were so much more innocent. At the time, I was a mere 20-year newspaper veteran! Mark and Sammy’s longball contest made me feel like a kid again.

When I found out it was all a scam, that made me feel like a kid again, too, but more like the time Tommy Flanagan down the street stole my GI Joe doll, wiped himself with it, and shoved it under my nose. Some wrongs you can never erase from your memory. Some smells, too.

And don’t get me started on Rafael Palmeiro. That fraud lied in front of Congress about taking steroids, and he still wants us all to believe that he never did them. I can’t believe he would think we’re all so gullible, just because we in the press didn’t catch on to him for several decades.

Now, I’m not completely doctrinaire in my opinions. You won’t find a bigger Andy Pettitte fan than me, except perhaps for his mom, and Yankee fans, and Astros fans, too, I guess. But after all those people, there’s me.

I’m fully aware that Andy Pettitte initially lied about steroid use, then said he only used them to recover from injury. Normally, I think there’s no excuse that can pardon steroid use, and yet I believe and forgive him. The deciding factors for me were the fact that he finally came clean after nearly a decade of lying, and he also won several World Series, which I believe proves his character is above reproach.

I admit I had a long internal debate about whether I should vote for Jeff Bagwell. I did my usual Internal Debate ritual, where I lock myself in my study, with only a notepad and seven boxes of Mallomars. I make sure my study does not have any reference materials or internet access, because I don’t want stats or detailed facts to interfere with my arguments. Then I make a quick list of pros and cons. In Bagwell’s case, here’s what I came up with.

PROS
Amazing offensive production for an extended period of time

CONS
Vague, undocumented whispers of PED use
The goatee

Because of this, Bagwell did not get my vote. The case against him as a steroid user is far from airtight. In fact, I can’t remember any serious evidence against him, really, just little rumors here and there. But the fact of the matter is, someone somewhere sort-of and perhaps not entirely seriously accused him. It may be vague and completely unfair, but it’s enough for me. Well, that and the goatee.

I’m aware that Bagwell has denied using steroids many times. But I’m also pretty sure that’s exactly what someone who used steroids would say. I won’t believe him until he says he used them. And then I’ll be forced to never vote for him, because he did steroids.

Are flimsy accusations enough to convict someone of cheating? Certainly not in a court of law. But in the court of Hall of Fame, all players are guilty until proven innocent..Because if you think about it, putting someone into the Hall of Fame is like giving them a death sentence. If you are not absolutely sure they are deserving of such a fate, you can not in good conscience vote for it. And in my book, only the purest of pure deserve 50,000 volts of bronze.

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: I’d Like to Know Where You Got the Potion

We welcome back Skitch Hanson to the Scratchbomb pages. You may know him from his nationally syndicated sports column, “Up the Middle”. You may have also seen him on the ESPN roundtable discussion show, The Loudeners! Or you may have read one of his 107 books, such as Everything You Know Is Right. Without further ado, here’s Skitch to talk about Derek Jeter’s free agent talks.

Thumbnail image for jeterhero.jpgI’m not an excitable person. Just ask anyone who knows me–my kids, my editor, that one guy at the newsstand where I get my USA Today and orange Tic-Tacs. It takes a lot to get me riled up. If I get the wrong order at Taco Bell, I roll with the punches and just eat whatever’s in the bag, even if I get a hard-shell taco. (Crunchy foods make me uncomfortable.) I didn’t even raise a fuss when that strange man showed up in my house and said I couldn’t sleep in my own bed anymore. Oh, I thought about making a scene, but then my wife said he was with her and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Boy, my face would’ve been red if I’d tried to kick him out!

But when I heard about what the Yankees were doing to Derek Jeter, that was enough to send me off the deep end. I’ve been quite cranky and snapping at people all week. Although it may also have to do with the small amount of sleep I’ve been getting lately. The Barcalounger in the den is not too comfortable to sleep on, and it’s hard to nod off with all the noise coming from my bedroom upstairs.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or sleeping on a recliner, here’s the latest chapter in the Derek Jeter Free Agency novella. (Presumably, it will soon be a saga, but I think only qualifies as a shorter work of literature right now.) Word leaked out on Monday that the Yankees think their beloved shortstop is asking for too much money and needs to “drink the reality potion” before negotiating with them any further.

Derek, let me give you a piece of friendly advice: Don’t you dare drink that reality potion! Or truth serum, or factual elixir, or any other sort of mystical beverage that will alter how you perceive this universe. I don’t think we could bear it!

Instead, keep quaffing deeply of that heady brew that makes you think you’re worth a $25 million/6 year deal. As for you, unnamed Yankee front office person, perhaps you’re too quick to drink that Reality Potion. This isn’t reality we’re talking about. It’s baseball, where men get paid millions of dollars to hit balls with sticks. If we all dealt in reality, we’d all be horrified that the Jeters of the world are billionaires and teachers are on food stamps. Do you want to live in a world where we are cognizant of this terrible truth? I sure wouldn’t!

Sports are so wonderful because they keep us from having to drink Reality Potion. Potion? Yuck, sounds too much like medicine. I’d rather eat a big bowl of Hero Sauce, which I imagine looks and tastes a lot like rocky road ice cream. (One of my weaknesses! That and collecting vintage airline pillows.)

If I drank too much Reality Potion, I’d know Derek Jeter is not as quick as he used to be and he’s coming off one of his worst offensive years ever. But that potion’s not the kid of late night snack I crave when it’s 3am and I have to turn the fifth rerun of SportsCenter up extra loud to drown out certain sounds.

I prefer the tasty, calorie-rich Hero Sauce that tells me Derek Jeter is forever young, making spinning catches and getting clutch hits and rescuing a kitten from the Yankee Stadium rafters. I’m not sure that last part actually happened, but as long as I stay away from Reality Potion, I can believe it did.

Reality Potion must also be avoided whenever it looks like Brett Favre is on his last legs, or Michael Jordan might retire. Some might say Favre is already finished, and Jordan has really been retired for years. To those people I say, Why would you want to know what’s really happening? If you want a sour spoonful of Reality Potion, watch the news. If you want the delicious taste of Hero Sauce, you read me.

I found out long ago that when you write a nationally syndicated sports column, reality is usually not your friend. That may seem silly to you, but I didn’t wind up in the same number of newspapers as “Funky Winkerbean” for nothing!

For instance, the Yankees offered Derek Jeter a three-year contract at $15 million a season. Now, if I had Reality Potion with every meal, I might think that this was an insane amount of money, and that paying a baseball player that kind of money when so many people are starving borders on the obscene. And then I might also remember the time my son brought his own special friend named Steve home for Thanksgiving.

That’s why I feast on Hero Sauce, so I can remember that time Jeter flipped the ball to Posada. Hero Sauce tells me he’s worth every single penny the Yankees can spare. He’s worth every penny all of us can spare, and more! I have an old plastic water cooler tank filled with pennies in my basement, Derek. Sometimes I count them to distract my mind when it’s filled with too much Reality Potion, like my wife’s special friend walking through my house wearing only a towel, but you can have it, Derek. You’re worth every single penny in that bottle, which was 7,493 the last time I counted.

Don’t get me wrong: Reality Potion’s fine in small doses, like when I’m doing my taxes or writing a very special column about the dangers of t-shirt cannons. But sometimes you want to curl up with a big bowl of Hero Sauce and forget your troubles. Of course, sometimes “sometimes” turns into a potentially unhealthy length of time. If that ever worries you, you know what the best cure for worries is? More Hero Sauce! Works for me, as far as I know!

“Classic” Scratchbomb: Skitch Hanson on Instant Replay

Thumbnail image for galaragga_joyce.jpgYes, I took a cheap shot at umpire Jim Joyce, whose blown call turned Amrando Galarraga’s perfect game into a one-hitter. But that’s because I’m a jerk who has no pity or shame. The real ire should be directed not at Joyce, but Bud Selig, which has idiotically resisted replay against all technological advances and common sense.

Jim Joyce is considered one of the better umpires in Major League Baseball. We have no reason to believe Joyce would have sabotaged a perfect game to drive an agenda or for personal gain. There was absolutely no incentive for him to blow the call, unless he is secretly the world’s biggest masochist. After the game, he addressed the press (a pretty rare thing for any umpire to do under any circumstances) and sounded completely heartbroken about what had happened.

In other words, a top professional acting at in good faith and with the best of his abilities can still mess up very badly in a very big spot. And technology has advanced to the point where every single person watching the game immediately knows how badly he blew it. Which is why it makes less than zero sense to not have replay available in baseball.

In the absence of replay, everyone wonders how this injustice can be overturned while somehow retaining the game’s “purity”. Because going into a booth for one minute (which is how long it would have taken to overturn Joyce’s call) ruins the game’s magical mystical sepiatone Field of Dreams Wonderboy bullshit aura. By Bud Selig’s logic, a seatbelt ruins the mystique of driving, even if you’ll fly through the windshield without it.

What is truly “impure”: Having instant replay to correct officiating mistakes, like every other sport does, or asking the commissioner to wave a magic wand and declare that Galarraga pitched a perfect game, as if the blown call never happened?

Here’s how you institute replay:

  1. Issue one challenge per team per game. When used, the challenge is expended regardless of whether the team “wins” the challenge or not.
  2. Umpires have the right to refuse a challenge if it appears to be total BS. Otherwise, you’d have managers wasting them to allow a pitcher to warm up or just to be dicks.
  3. Challenges can only be used for fair/foul and safe/out calls. No strike calling.

You can argue on the particulars, of course. But after last night, can you tell me that replay would be any worse than what we have now? Because what we have now is essentially crossing our fingers and hoping everything works out okay. Why not just ask Santa Claus for no umpiring mistakes next year? It makes about as much sense.

However, in the interest of fairness, I felt I should have an opinion from the other side of the fence. So I point you to this op-ed longtime contributor Skitch Hanson wrote during last year’s playoffs, entitled “Making the Right Call on Wrong Calls”. Enjoy!

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Do You Believe in Exciting Olympic Hockey Games?

We welcome back Skitch Hanson to the Scratchbomb pages. You may know him from his nationally syndicated sports column, “Up the Middle”. You may have also seen him on the ESPN roundtable discussion show, Mouth-Talkers! Or you may have read one of his 79 books, such as Playing Catch with My Father, and Other Things I Wish Happened in My Childhood. Without further ado, here’s Skitch to talk about Olympic Hockey.

usahockey.jpgLast night’s Olympic hockey match between the US and Canada was quite the rough-and-tumble contest. A real battle of wills. A hard-nosed, no-holds-barred exhibition of old time hockey.

Or so I’ve heard. I’d forgotten the game was on last night, and when it dawned on me that I was missing it, I couldn’t figure out what channel it was on. My cable system’s supposed to have some sort of an onscreen guide, but you have to be a robot to figure those things out! Plus, the box hasn’t worked too well since my wife accidentally spilled three whole bottles of pinot grigio on it.

By the time I found the game, it was already over and the American players were congratulating one another. Of course, it reminded me of the Miracle on Ice some 20-something years ago. Fittingly enough, I believe last night was actually the anniversary of the USA’s historic victory over the Soviet Union at Mount Placid. I would look up the date, but I seem to have misplaced my Reader’s Digest almanac for that year.

I’ll always remember that game, because it happened during the first Olympics I covered. The day of the game, you could just feel something in the air. Even though nobody in their right mind thought the US could win, you could just feel that something special was about to happen.

Unfortunately, that feeling wasn’t enough to wake me up from a mid-afternoon nap and catch the shuttle bus to the arena. But I was a young go-getter back then, and a few pounds lighter, too–this was back when I could still see my feet. So I briskly walked the 7 miles from my hotel to the hockey game. Security wouldn’t let me into the press booth, because I was late, and because I had sweat so much my body odor was deemed offensive.

So I watched most of the game on the TVs hanging over the concession stands. The energy in the building was unbelievable. This one vendor named Antonio seemed really into it, even though I had to describe the action to him, since he couldn’t see what was going on from his station next to that cube with the heat lamps in it that they use to heat up soft pretzels.

Sure, there are some differences between the miraculous victory at Fort Placid and the one in Vancouver. The Miracle on Ice was a semi-final, and this one was just for a first round bye. And the older team was made up of college kids, while this one is entirely comprised of well-paid professionals. And in 1980, the game was both a Cold War metaphor and a boost to the sagging morale of Carter-era America. Today’s kids probably couldn’t find Russia on a map! I know my son Brad can’t! The doctors think there might be something seriously wrong with him!

My point is, last night, Americans came together to cheer on their country. In this day and age, how many times can we say that? Apart from the Olympics every other year and the occasional dance competition show. Yes, this game brought us together, made us briefly care about hockey, and got us to root against a country that cares about the sport far more than we could ever possibly imagine.

I think that has to count for something. Will it mean much if the US winds up only winning a bronze medal, or no medal at all? I don’t know. But hopefully by then, March Madness will have started.

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Saints and Sinners (But Mostly Saints)

We welcome back Skitch Hanson to the Scratchbomb pages. You may know him from his nationally syndicated sports column, “Up the Middle”. You may have also seen him on the ESPN roundtable discussion show, Mouth-Talkers! Or you may have read one of his 79 books, such as The Greatest Game You Never Saw and Possibly Didn’t Happen at All. Without further ado, here’s Skitch to talk about The Big Game.

Are there any more exciting words in the Sports Universe than “Super Bowl”? Not to this reporter! Except maybe “free buffet” or “case dismissed”. There is no word too big to describe this event. Any newspaper man worth his salt, regardless of beat, must be there to take in the whole spectacle.

Sadly, my editor does not agree with that point of view. He thought my talents were better served trying to write a Super Bowl-related human interest story. “The farther away from Miami, the better,” he said. I guess he’s still peeved at me for what I did the last time I was in Miami for The Big Game.

As you may recall, that was a historic game that pitted two African-American coaches against one another for the first time in Super Bowl history. During the first Media Day press conference, I asked Lovie Smith if he beat Tony Dungy and the Colts, would that be considered Black-on-Black Crime? Some people took offense, but I think Lovie thought it was great. He even ran after me with his arms extended, his fingers grasping toward my throat, as if trying to give me a hug!

I protested my editor’s decision, but there was no budging him. Sometimes, talking to him is like trying to get a word edgewise with my wife! Except my editor doesn’t chuck whiskey bottles at me!

aints.jpgSo I thought to myself, who would make a good human interest story for this Super Bowl? I can’t go to Miami, so that eliminates any of the players actually participating in it. So how about players from the past? And who better to interview than ex-Saints players? Men who had to endure The Aints Years, decades of futility and embarrassment and golden tights.

Unfortunately, other folks had beaten me to the punch. I know it’s hard to believe such an ingenious idea had already been taken by several dozen reporters, but it’s true! By the time I started my research, nearly every person who’d ever put on a New Orleans uniform had already been profiled in one paper or another.

The more obvious targets were not an option anyway. Archie Manning won’t speak to me after that time I accidentally shocked him with a pocket tape recorder and burned off all his hair (look, it grew back, didn’t it, Archie?). And that kicker with the club foot refused to speak to me because I couldn’t remember his name. But even the most obscure former Saints had already been taken by other writers.

The whole process was slow going, because I still do my research the old fashioned way: with a whole lot of elbow grease and shoe leather! And asking the secretary at the office where I can find some out-of-town phone books. The internet may be faster, but it can’t make up for a determined, old school reporter. Plus, the last time I tried to look up something on the internet, I destroyed my computer. If a hard drive can break so easily, it doesn’t sound so “hard” to me! Unless you’re talking about the price to fix it, because that was definitely hard on my wallet, since the newspaper deducted the cost from my paycheck.

Finally, I found a forgotten tight end named Tommy Smith. He was drafted in the third round by New Orleans back in 1987, but never played a single down in the NFL, and retired from the league a few years later.

What a story! Can you imagine the frustration of not being to able to play for one of football’s worst teams? What torture must this man have endured? How did it feel to get so close to his dream and yet still be so far away? Did he lay awake at night thinking of what might have been? And also, how is the postgame spread at The Superdome? Because I’ve heard mixed things.

So I visited Tommy Smith at his home in Abilene, Texas, a ramshackle little cottage on the edge of town. He had an old Chevy up on blocks, and a few sickly dogs running around his weed-filled backyard. It was certainly a hardscrabble existence for Mr. Tommy Smith since leaving the glory of the NFL, if this was his home.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t his home. Turns out it was the home of a Tommy Smith, but not the Tommy Smith I was looking for. In retrospect, I had little evidence I was visiting the right address, or even the right town. But to be fair, I had no evidence that I wasn’t.

The Tommy Smith I found was a shirtless, bearded man who told me to go away because he was too busy “tweakin'”, then used a few words that I can’t reprint in a family newspaper. I asked him who he was rooting for in the Super Bowl, and I think he said “Colts”, but it might have been a burp. Then he slammed his screen door on my fingers and threatened to grab his shotugun.

Still, I think there’s a valuable lesson in here for all of us. My journey to Abilene was a lot like the journey the Saints took to get to the Super Bowl. Years of missteps and blunders and testing the patience of their fans, who wondered if they’d ever pull themselves together. But lo and behold, the Saints have made it to the Super Bowl, and are one big step away from Valhalla.

I did not exactly succeed in my quest to find Tommy Smith, but I did succeed in not getting shot by a meth-crazed indigent. And in a way, I’ve made it to my own Valhalla. A small town named Valhalla, Texas, that is, and its Fresh-Aire Motel on beautiful route 27. They have wi-fi at only $17 a night, and an Applebee’s right across the street. Jackpot!

If there’s another lesson here from the story of me and Saints, it’s this: don’t be too hasty. Stay slow and steady, and success will come. You don’t have to go chasing after the first name that resembles that of the man you’re looking for, especially if that first name is found in a police report.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear a Super Bowl calling me–a super bowl of Russian dressing to accompany my bloomin’ onion, that is!

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: All Hail the Hall!

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. It’s great to hear from him, because the last time I spoke to Skitch, he was getting lost and possibly assaulted at Yankee Stadium.

You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book Playing Stickball with Mickey Mantle, and Other Weird Dreams I Had. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

Each winter, I have a great responsibility. And no, it’s not shoveling the driveway! And no, it’s not picking up my wife from the drunk tank after the office Christmas party!

No, I’m talking about my Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. It is quite an honor to participate in the voting every year and help decide who will be immortalized in Cooperstown. There are no halls in the history of halls that are more hallowed than the Baseball Hall of Fame. Perhaps The Halls of Medicine in the old Halls cough drop commercials, but those ads haven’t been on the air in several years. Or perhaps the Halls of Justice, but that’s more of a concept than an actual place.

No, for an actual, physical set of halls, the ones in Cooperstown are the best. But those halls would mean nothing without the people who inhabit them. Not literally, of course. I mean the legends immortalized there in plaque form, or in a video loop on a TV in the lobby. That’s why I take my voting very seriously. I think long and hard about who gets my vote and who does not, because I know I have a hand in solidifying baseball history.

Unfortunately, this year I was less serious about mailing my ballot in, since I accidentally dropped it behind the Xerox machine some time last month. I would have dug out my ballot, but me and electronic equipment do not get along! Like the time I dropped my laptop in a koi pond and electrocuted several hundred fish! Boy, the people at Benihana’s were not happy about that!

andredawson.jpgI did intend to vote for Andre Dawson, and I’m very glad that he made it in. You could argue there were more deserving candidates than him, and his career was hampered by injuries, and I never got to see him play too often, now that I think about it. But I do remember “Hawk” having one unbelievably awesome year where he won the MVP. You certainly can’t argue with that! At least not until I remember exactly what year that was.

I’m very disappointed that Jack Morris still has not made it to Cooperstown. Because when you talk dominant starting pitchers of the 1980s, you have to talk about Jack Morris. Sure, you have to talk some about other guys first, like Fernando Valenzuela. And Doc Gooden. And Roger Clemens. And Jimmy Key and Frank Viola and Nolan Ryan and Orel Hershiser and Bret Saberhagen and Steve Carlton and Bruce Hurst and Dave Stieb and John Tudor and Mike Scott. But eventually, you have to talk about Jack Morris.

Morris may not have had the gaudy stats that some of those other guys did. But he did have that wonderful 10-inning duel against John Smoltz in game 7 of the 1991 World Series. That’s one of the most famous pitching performances of all time. Plus there were three or four other really great games he pitched whose details escape me right now. That’s good enough for the Hall in my book.

Remember, we’re talking about The Hall of Fame, not The Hall of Obscure Statistics. Bert Blyleven had a great career, but I can’t think of a famous moment involving him. Same goes for Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, and Barry Larkin. Until those guys have a transcendent moment, I can’t in good conscience vote to enshrine them. Unless somebody reminds me of a moment I couldn’t recall. In which case, welcome aboard, fellas!

How do you define a moment? I can’t say. Can you define a beautiful sunrise? The wonder in a child’s eyes? The magic of Christmas? (I hope the folks at Hallmark won’t mind; I adapted those last few lines from a “To a wonderful great-aunt” birthday card.) A moment is a lot like pornography: you know it when you see it. Most moments don’t involve hardcore nudity, of course. At least not in baseball. But I think you get my point.

alomar.jpgAs for Roberto Alomar, who missed The Hall by a few votes, I think that is fair punishment for spitting on an umpire many years ago. I’m aware that the umpire, John Hirschbeck, forgave Alomar publicly for his actions. But to simply let him into Cooperstown on the first ballot would be a slap in the face to all those other players who did not spit on umpires. I’ll be perfectly happy to vote for Alomar on the next ballot, after he’s had a full year to think about what he did.

What kind of message would it send to our kids to let Alomar into the Hall right away? Spitting is never okay. Unless you’ve ingested poison or sour milk, in which case you should expectorate discreetly into a napkin or paper towel.

It’s hard enough to get kids to stop spitting without seeing major league baseball players doing it. My son has been spitting at me ever since Alomar attacked Hirschbeck with his saliva. And he’s 32! He’s still mad at me for missing several birthdays in a row to cover the XFL championship game. I told him that as a reporter, I have a responsibility to cover my beat, and that responsibility doesn’t disappear just because the league hasn’t existed in several years.

We all need to teach our kids–to show our kids–that responsibility is important. We must meet our responsibilities head on, whether they involve voting for the Hall of Fame, or keeping nasty spitters out of that Hall of Fame, or filing stories on sports leagues that have folded, or making sure my wife doesn’t jump bail again. And we must not foist these responsibilities on others, like when I begged the cleaning lady to get my Hall of Fame ballot from behind the copier with her broom.

Being responsible may not get you into Cooperstown. But it will earn you a trip to the Hall of Respect of Your Fellow Humans. That may be an even greater place to be. Except for the fact that you don’t get a plaque and it doesn’t literally exist.