Chi Chi Rodriguez is in a hall of fame and Pete Rose isn't, which is why I've never been a fan of such establishments. Sports halls of fame are too political and too subjective, and because of the pressure brought on by annual balloting, too many players who were pretty darned good but not truly great are inducted.
The best thing about the World Golf Hall of Fame, which held its grand opening last weekend in St. Augustine, Fla., is the LPGA wing. Now merged into a much-needed, all-encompassing golf hall of fame, the LPGA's version is the only bona fide pantheon because induction is based on a statistical standard. An LPGA player must have 30 victories, including two majors, or she doesn't get in. It's that simple.
Amy Alcott and Beth Daniel, two of the best women golfers in history, are agonizingly close. Alcott needs only one more win, while Daniel is short a major. If their induction were put to a vote, the way it is in other sports, they would be elected tomorrow. But the LPGA, and only the LPGA, sticks to a higher standard. As a result, the 14 women enshrined in St. Augustine are all wheat and no chaff.
Too bad the LPGA concept isn't used elsewhere. Based purely on statistics, Pete Rose would be a Hall of Famer instead of a political prisoner. Even Hank Aaron, the alltime home run king, couldn't escape the politics of the baseball writers when his name first appeared on the ballot, in 1982. Incredibly, Aaron was not a unanimous selection. I knew a retired newspaperman (veteran writers vote for life) who didn't vote for Aaron, and I asked him why. " Babe Ruth didn't get in unanimously, so nobody should," the old man said. Yeah, I thought, that's how to run a hall of fame.
The subjectivism that's obvious in some of the PGA Tour's choices is troubling. Take Chi Chi, a 1992 inductee. In 21 years on the regular Tour, he won only eight times and never in a major. Rodriguez had a nice seven-year run on the Senior tour, during which he racked up 22 wins and became a star, but that's not a hall of fame accomplishment. Besides, if we're counting Senior victories, then Miller Barber (23), Bob Charles (22) and Don January (22) should be in, too. Obviously, Rodriguez was elected because of his charity work and because he's a goodwill ambassador for the game—much like two other Hall of Famers, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Using this rationale, I expect Hootie and the Blowfish, Michael Jordan and Earl Woods to be voted in next.
Although this year's inductees, Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller, are deserving, the PGA Tour ought to show some guts and establish meaningful entrance criteria. As things stand now, a Tour player must be 40 and have 10 victories or two majors to get on the ballot. (Not surprisingly, the Tour counts the Players Championship as a major.) Seniors must have 20 wins or five majors combined from the two tours. Under those standards, Andy Bean, Frank Beard, Ed Dudley, Wayne Levi and Mark McCumber appeared on last year's ballot.
I suggest that the Tour consider these mini-mums: 25 wins including two majors or 30 victories and one major, and you're a Hall of Famer. (Grudgingly, I would count the Players as a major.) Playing on a winning Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team would count as a win, as would European and Australian tour victories. Every third win in Japan or South Africa would count, but Senior tour victories wouldn't.
Under these guidelines old-timers such as Lloyd Mangrum (36 victories, including a U.S. Open—how is he not in?), Leo Diegel (30 wins, two PGAs) and Henry Pi-card (28, two majors) would be in. Active players like Greg Norman (73 wins, two majors), Lanny Wadkins (30 victories, counting five Ryder Cup wins, plus a major), Tom Kite (22 victories, two majors, including his '89 Players victory, and four Ryder Cup wins) and Nick Price (35 wins, 10 of them in South Africa, and two majors) would also be members. Ben Crenshaw would be in the same boat as Alcott, one victory short.
There's no chance that the PGA Tour will do anything the LPGA thought of first, so when this year's ballot comes in the mail, I'll have to settle for writing in the seven players named above who qualified under my proposal. It's just too bad we have to vote at all.