Fuzzy Math: Bowie Kuhn, Marvin Miller and the Baseball Hall of Fame

There have been many shameful days in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Like the day a bunch of pioneer Negro League Players were voted into the Hall, but the man most responsible for celebrating the Negro League, and one of its greatest players, Buck O’Neil, was left off of the list while a white woman was voted in instead.

Or the day the president of the Hall of the Fame, a former Republican functionary, cancelled a special screening of Bull Durham that was to feature a discussion with Kevin Costner, writer-director Ron Shelton, and co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, because he was afraid Robbins and Sarandon might make anti-Bush statements.

And don’t get me started on the shameful treatment of Ron Santo, Goose Gossage or Dale Murphy.

But let’s forget about all of that. There was a little vote over the weekend, and five new men were added to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

What, you didn’t hear about it? Well, that’s because it was a bit of a veterans-old fogey thing not involving people like Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn.

The new members of the Hall of Fame are former managers Dick Williams (who several years ago got caught playing with his dick in public) and Billy Southworth – both men managed teams to multiple World Series – and former owners Walter O’Malley (the man who moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles) and Barney Dreyfuss (the man most responsible for the World Series as we know it).

The fifth inductee was one Bowie Kuhn. Former commissioner. The man about whom the joke was, he didn’t kill baseball, but he sure tried. But Kuhn getting in is not the outrage. The outrage is that Bowie Kuhn’s now in the Hall, but Marvin Miller, the man who made modern baseball possible, didn’t get elected.

Miller was formerly the head of the baseball player’s union. He’s the man responsible for free agency. And the arbitration system. He’s the man responsible for million dollar player salaries, and he’s the man responsible for franchise values in the hundred of millions of dollars. Every battle Miller fought against Kuhn, he won.

Hank Aaron told the Village Voice, “Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame if the players have to break down the doors to get him in.” And Tom Seaver said, “Marvin's exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a national disgrace.”

There are some who say Miller ranks as one of the most important men in the history of baseball, along with Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth.

And yet Miller can’t get into the Hall, but Bowie Kuhn can.

When asked about the vote, Miller was quoted as saying, “That figures. You really could have done this in advance. ... I think it was rigged, but not to keep me out. It was rigged to bring some of these [others] in.”

Rigged, you say? Surely he’s exaggerating. There’s no way the vote was rigged.

Until, actually, you start looking at the voting procedure.

Last year, when the Veteran’s Committee voted, Miller nearly made it into the Hall, receiving 51 votes. Bowie Kuhn, on the other hand, received only 14 votes. And that committee consisted of all of the living members of the Hall of Fame.

So the rules were changed. The committees were split into three. One group would handle the former players. One group would handle the former managers/umpires. And one group would handle what is known as contributors, such as owners, commissioners, etc. And Miller and Kuhn were put into the contributors committee. And the contributors committee consisted of 12 members. And, you’re going to love this: the committee consisted of two former players, three writers, and seven current or former baseball owners and executives. And seeing how Miller handled the owner/executives, you can just figure how this vote was going to go.

Miller got only three votes, he needed nine. And Kuhn magically got ten.

Kuhn didn’t stand a shot of having the actual living members of the Hall elect him. So suddenly, the rules are changed, and he’s in. Maybe Miller was onto something, after all.

It’s just another shameful day for the Baseball Hall of Fame. – John Royal

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