HOF: Commissioners – by G. Scott Thomas

Okay, the pitch clock has labored out properly. The shift ban, too.

However attempt to title one other excellent choice made by Rob Manfred throughout his reign as commissioner (2015 to the current). It’s exhausting to give you something, isn’t it?

Regardless of. Manfred will finally be rewarded with a plaque within the Nationwide Baseball Corridor of Fame.

5 of his predecessors served at the very least half a decade as commissioner. All 5 have been subsequently inducted into the corridor.

It’s a lock that Manfred’s profession will probably be capped with the identical honor. Consider it as a lifetime achievement award, baseball’s model of a gold watch.

There’s no compelling justification for the inclusion of commissioners within the corridor’s gallery. Youngsters don’t scurry round to search out Bowie Kuhn’s plaque. Outdated-timers don’t really feel goosebumps on the sight of Glad Chandler or Ford Frick. For those who ponder the tales of the 5 inductees, as we are going to beneath, you begin to surprise how they ever bought elected.

But there they’re in Cooperstown. And Rob Manfred will probably be there, too. Sometime.

Learn concerning the Corridor of Fame’s checkered historical past (and unsure future)

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Kenesaw Mountain Landis was admitted to the Corridor of Fame in a snap election a few weeks after his dying from a coronary thrombosis in November 1944.

A number of facets of his document have been glossed over within the haste to enshrine him. Many homeowners — it doesn’t matter what they mentioned in public — privately disparaged his chilly demeanor, erratic mood, and dictatorial conduct. In addition they conceded that Landis’s accomplishments have been restricted in scope. The previous federal decide served as baseball’s commissioner for almost 1 / 4 of a century (1920-1944), but he did little to advance the game.

It’s true that he completely banned the Black Sox for fixing the 1919 World Collection, an act at all times depicted with Landis within the function of Superman, singlehandedly rescuing the nationwide pastime. However baseball’s enhanced reputation within the Twenties owed extra to the incandescence of its new stars (particularly Babe Ruth) and the strong well being of the economic system than to any ruling issued by the commissioner.

Landis completed little of a constructive nature after handing down the Black Sox choice. The years handed, and he made no effort to enhance baseball’s administration or increase its viewers. Homeowners usually requested for steering on difficult points. “Do it, and I’ll rule on it,” he invariably replied. He at all times considered himself as a decide, not a frontrunner.

America’s inhabitants soared by 30 p.c throughout his tenure — including 32 million residents — but Landis did nothing to increase baseball’s footprint. The identical 16 golf equipment performed in the identical 10 Northeastern and Midwestern cities when he took workplace and when he died.

He instinctively opposed most improvements, together with night time baseball and farm methods, although he was not at all times in a position to block them. Civil rights emerged as an vital concern in his later years, but Landis quietly labored to forestall integration of the most important leagues.

Baseball’s third commissioner was the second to be admitted to Cooperstown, successful the approval of the Veterans Committee in 1970.

Ford Frick was an amiable ex-sportswriter whose credo was as transient because it was stodgy: “Change the established order solely when there’s a compelling cause for a change.”

Frick completed little throughout his 14 years as the sport’s supreme boss (1951-1965), a lot to the displeasure of critics corresponding to maverick proprietor Invoice Veeck. “Ford Frick doesn’t attempt to do the mistaken factor,” Veeck as soon as mentioned. “Given the selection between doing one thing proper or one thing mistaken, Frick will normally start by doing as little as attainable.”

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The Veterans Committee stunned most observers when it inducted Albert “Happy” Chandler in 1982. The verbose governor and senator from Kentucky, who served as commissioner between Landis and Frick (1945-1951), had irritated a big variety of house owners and sportswriters throughout his tenure.

“He was a totally uninhibited man and naturally developed enemies,” wrote Shirley Povich of the Washington Publish. These foes prevented Chandler from securing a second time period in workplace, incomes his lasting enmity. “If I’d identified the snakepit I used to be entering into,” he as soon as mentioned of the commissionership, “I’d have handed.”

Chandler did little in workplace to justify his choice, because the Corridor of Fame found when designing his plaque. There was just about nothing concrete to quote, so Chandler’s description — simply 38 phrases lengthy — was padded with a recitation of his political profession and a platitudinous salute to “his broad concern for all phases of the sport.”

Bowie Kuhn served as commissioner from 1969 to 1984. His chief accomplishment — a phrase that maybe needs to be encased in citation marks — was to muddle his approach by 5 work stoppages.

Marvin Miller, the chief director of the gamers’ union, continuously outwitted Kuhn, a indisputable fact that the Veterans Committee selected to disregard. It rejected Miller throughout the identical assembly at which it elected Kuhn. “That’s like placing Wile E. Coyote within the Corridor of Fame as an alternative of the Street Runner,” laughed former pitcher Jim Bouton.

Miller, who died in 2012, was lastly added to the corridor in 2020. Hanging his plaque in the identical gallery the place Kuhn had resided for a dozen years was an act of “subversive greatness,” mentioned Jeff Katz, a baseball creator and former mayor of Cooperstown.

A number of members of the Baseball Writers’ Affiliation of America have been angered by the Period Committee’s choice to induct Bud Selig, whose time period as commissioner (1998-2015) included the so-called steroid period.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle accused Selig of turning a blind eye to baseball’s drug disaster. She known as it “mindless to maintain steroid guys out when the enablers are within the Corridor of Fame. I now will maintain my nostril and vote for gamers I consider cheated.”

Peter Botte of the New York Day by day Information echoed Slusser’s willingness to assist Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens within the wake of Selig’s admission. “I at all times thought it will take a confirmed consumer getting in for me to rethink my stance,” Botte wrote. “It seems the impetus was a lot greater on baseball’s masthead.”

The Corridor of Fame went to nice lengths to justify Selig’s election, cramming 102 phrases onto his plaque, 4 occasions as many as Landis obtained. The textual content on his plaque is so tightly squeezed that it’s almost illegible.

Not that many followers are wanting.