Decision Day at Cooperstown

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The eyes of the baseball world annually center on a small town near Syracuse, New York. The actual ceremony is in July, but every year in early January while the population of Cooperstown, New York freezes from the cold alone if they’re not buried in snow, the decisions are made as to who will stand on the podium next summer. An absurd 32 men’s names are on the ballot. 4 have an actual chance, two more  would have if not engulfed in the filth of performance enhancing drugs. Two closers and one DH will probably be left off because men in their positions  seldom get put in.

The 4 best chances from what I’ve been reading  go to Ken Griffey JR., Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Rains. I have a problem with putting Griffey in because of his vast falloff in productivity after being traded to the Reds. After 2000, he was only an All-Star twice-2004 (when he couldn’t play due to injury) and 2007. His last gold glove or silver slugger were in 1999. His 630 home runs have to be devalued because he played in the steroid era when a nonentity named Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs. He never approached  Willie Mays who hit 660 home runs while playing in cavernous ball parks and missing two years to serve in the Army. Griffey will be a sleeper if he makes it.

To me Piazza and Bagwell should make it before Griffey. I won’t claim to be the world’s biggest Piazza fan but you don’t have to make a case in his favor. Bagwell is obvious and should have gotten in with teammate Craig Biggio. Tim Rock Rains had mad game (great talent)  and would already be in if he hadn’t spent a dozen years  in that particular baseball purgatory, Montreal. All 3 of his Allstar appearances were as an Expo. He was on 3 World Series winners-2 in New York, one with the 2005 White Sox as a coach. Nobody outside_ the Hall has more steals than he, and I think tonight may see the correction of that oversight. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will continue to be left out, hopefully permanently. Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner are closers and as such their chances are limited. If one gets in ever it will be Hoffman. Edgar Martinez probably will remain an outsider because of his status as a career DH. If you get the MLB network, the announcements are to be made official at 6 PM Eastern Time tonight.

A handful of baseball men have birthdays today. A couple of them are best known as members of the Reds. Norm Charlton is 53. He was one of the infamous “Nasty Boys,” with Rob Dibble and Randy Myers. In fact Charlton performed in the Queen City only from 1988-1992 and made one World Series in 1990. After 1992 he bounced more than a hot check, serving 3 separate tours of duty in Seattle in between stopovers in other cities.

Another famous Red, Don Gullet is 65 today. His is essentially a cruel story. Other than in sports it’s difficult to be finished at the age of 27 but that is Gullet’s case. The Reds took him in round 1 of the 1969 draft, and incredibly advanced  him to the majors the next season, at 19. The Reds lost that World Series and the one in 1972, but won the 1975 and ’76 fall classics with Gullet pitching beautifully. In 1977 he did well with the Yankees but as early  as that World Series which the Yankees won it became clear he had a troubled shoulder. Very few pitchers survived that particular trouble then, and he wasn’t one of the few. He never pitched again after 1978. He was the Reds’ pitching coach from 1993 to 2005.

Ralph Branca is 90 today. Born Ralph Theodore Joseph Branca in Mt. Vernon, New York he joined Brooklynn at 18 during World War II. He pitched until 1956 but will always be remembered for throwing the 1951 pitch Bobby Thomson hit, aka The Shot Heard Round the World.  Gordon McClendon broadcast that event live on the Liberty Radio Network. A dozen years later, on KLIF radio in Dallas McClendon  told his listeners the results of the other Shot Heard Round the World, the one that killed President Kennedy. Branca and Mays are two players I know to still be alive from the game of October 3, 1951.

One Hall of Famer was born on this day. Early Wynn was born Jan. 6, 1920 and died in 1999. He was with the Senators as early as 1939, and pitched for both the 1954 Indians and 1959 White Sox which lost their respective World Series. He finished with an even 300 wins. He won 20 in 1959, becoming the third oldest pitcher to do so. The others were Cy Young and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Wynn was a pitching coach after baseball, then a broadcaster for the Bluejays (1977-80) and the White Sox (1982-83) A final note about Wynn: of his competitive nature he was quoted as saying “I’d knock down my grandmother if she dug in on me.” Later, Jim Bouton borrowed the line and used it in “Ball Four” concerning his pitching coach Sal Magley, and I’ve been known to use it concerning Bob Gibson.

Happy Birthday to all in baseball who celebrate it on this day.  Tomorrow I’ll have my thoughts about those who are chosen tonight.

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