If the decision had been up to the Negro Leagues’ club owners and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Monte Irvin would have been the first African-American to re-break baseball’s unconscionable colour line in the 1940s. Irvin—who died Monday night at 96, following a long and distinguished baseball life—was the one who turned the opportunity down.
If only the Internet Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s balloting counted for the real thing, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza would be joined by Edgar Martinez at the Cooperstown podium come July. The IBWAA’s annual exercise voted for Piazza two years ago and for Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines last year, so they weren’t on this year’s IBWAA ballot.
But Griffey and Martinez were on the ballot. I’d have been very hard pressed to see my fellow IBWAA writers not vote Griffey in, though we did something the Baseball Writers Association of America couldn’t quite do for Junior—we voted him yes unanimously, after all.
The only question around Ken Griffey, Jr.’s election to the Hall of Fame was not whether he’d be elected in his first year on the ballot but by how much. If injuries kept him from obliterating the career home run record he once looked like a lock to smash, they didn’t keep him from getting 99.3 percent of the vote, obliterating Tom Seaver’s record for the highest such percentage.
Recently, I replied to a correspondent by saying, among other things, that the number one concern for the world champion Royals this winter would probably be finding a way to keep Alex Gordon. And though it looked for a spell as though that might prove somewhere between difficult and impossible, the Royals found it.