Q Just what is the Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee?
A Depending on the ax you choose to grind, the Veterans Committee, which last week voted Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski (right) and Negro league pitcher Hilton Smith into Cooperstown, is either: a) a savvy body of insiders who right the wrongs of the baseball writers who elect recent retirees to the Hall; or b) an old-boy network that lets its unelected cronies in through the back door. Either way, it's an obscure group that's responsible for 149 of Cooperstown's 253 members.
The committee is composed of five Hall of Fame players, five baseball execs and five members of the media or baseball historians. Each year it can elect one player who's been retired at least 23 years, one 19th-century player, one Negro leaguer and one executive, manager or umpire. Ostensibly the committee uses the same selection standards as the writers, but inductees like Mazeroski—who never received more than 42% of the writers' votes (75% is required for election)—have led some to question the committee's agenda. Personal connections seem to go a long way. "Almost nobody has seen Maz play as many games as I have," says committee chairman Joe Brown, the Pirates' G.M. for all 17 years Mazeroski played in Pittsburgh. "Every man in the Veterans Committee has spent a lifetime in baseball. We have much more knowledge of players who have slipped through the cracks."