Hall of Fame's Last Class With Class?
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Here's hoping everybody enjoyed Sunday's National Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony. The only rat they could smell was Whitey Herzog.
The White Rat was inducted, and everyone was cheered. Starting next year the scent of steroids will be in the air, and there's no telling how people will react to those vermin.
Could Rafael Palmeiro get up and wave his finger at the crowd? Jeff Bagwell deserves to give an acceptance speech based on his numbers, but are they real?
Who knows, which is why Sunday was special and sad.
Nobody has ever accused Doug Harvey, Herzog or Andre Dawson (from left to right in above photo) of taking performance-enhancing drugs. The Class of 2010 is the last one we can cheer for with a clear conscience.
"You guys belong up here," John Fogerty told the Hall of Famers sitting behind him.
He'd just performed "Centerfield," baseball's unofficial anthem. The song has been played about 14.2 million times at baseball parks over the past 25 years.
The bat-guitar Fogerty used is also going into the Hall. He's a legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, but Fogerty still felt sheepish sharing the stage with Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson and Henry Aaron.
"Everyone's home run champion," is how emcee George Grande introduced the Hammer.
Wait, isn't Barry Bonds the all-time home run champ?
The dilemma will truly arrive next year for voters, fans and Hall of Famers. Bud Selig was on stage Sunday, and thankfully didn't try to dance when Fogerty cranked up his tune.
If only he'd gotten out of his easy chair 15 years ago, 2011 wouldn't look so potentially awkward. Selig proudly announced last week that minor leagues will start testing for Human Growth Hormone.
Thanks, Bud. The Steroid Era may have ended in baseball. It's just beginning for the Hall of Fame.
The Hall has managed to shun Mark McGwire so far, but he was a lone and trailblazing pariah. Pretty much everybody on the ballot for the next 20 years will be an admitted or suspected juicer.
Some, like Palmeiro, we're sure of. Others, like Bagwell, may merely be guilty by association.
They'll headline next year's questionable class of candidates. Then in 2013 the Three Horsemen of the Hall of Fame Apocalypse arrive on the ballot.
Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa.
How can they get in?
How can they not?
Will fans throw roses on stage or used syringes?
And what about down the road when Alex Rodriguez comes knocking?
"Whether those players are Hall of Fame worthy, that remains to be seen," Dawson said. "But if my mind doesn't escape me, integrity is still a big part of the game."
No, your mind doesn't escape you. The newest member of the Hall of Fame probably spoke for most of the club. The members weren't all angels, but they all got in the old-fashioned way.
Without a personal trainer injecting PEDs in their butts.
What drugs they may have taken probably hurt their careers. A hit of speed may have helped, but it only allowed them to play up to their ability. Steroids let players excel beyond God's natural plan.
Asking Bob Feller about Bonds is like asking Fogerty if Milli Vanilli should get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
(In case you're too young or embarrassed to admit you sang along to "Blame It On The Rain," Milli Vanilli lip-synced its way to fame and Grammys in the mid-80s. In honor of Bonds, the duo later changed its name to Cream and Clear).
Feller was inducted in 1962. He's 91 now, but he still makes it a point to participate in Hall of Fame Weekend every July. The parade down Main Street won't be quite the same if the World War II hero doesn't wave from a convertible.
Feller, Jim Bunning and Carlton Fisk are among those who've said PED users shouldn't be in the Hall. Goose Gossage says he'll boycott the induction ceremony if a known juicer gets in.
Aaron's a bit more pragmatic, saying PED users should come to Cooperstown with an asterisk. Some say there should be one Hall of Fame for clean players and one for the cheats.
What we have is a growing snowball of questions, issues and arguing. Not to mention the possibility of Gossage getting up and throwing a fastball at Bonds.
Now that would be an induction ceremony to see, for all the wrong reasons. Sunday's was worthwhile for all the right reasons.
Herzog was a great manager, Harvey was a legendary umpire and Dawson wore a fabulous pastel-striped tie.
More importantly, he showed up as a rookie in 1977 weighing 180 pounds. Approximately 438 home runs, 1,591 RBI and 314 steals later, the Hawk still weighed 180 pounds.
Dawson got to Cooperstown the old-fashioned way, but Sunday marked the end of the innocence. The people on stage deserved to be there, and were serenaded by another Hall of Famer.
From now on, Milli Vanilli should perform.