Because the committee considers only borderline candidates—after all, the writers vote in the most obvious ones—its task should be difficult and shutouts should not be a surprise. And although the Veterans Committee rejected all 41 eligible candidates, including 26 former players who had already failed to be inducted by the writers 15 times, that hardly renders it moot, as some critics claimed. The Veterans' vote, like the writers', is a fluid process that requires time. Gary Carter, for instance, received only 42% of the vote in his first year on the writers' ballot It wasn't until last year, on his sixth try, that he reached the 75% required for enshrinement Each year brought more perspective on Carter's career, and his candidacy gradually gathered momentum.
The 85-man Veterans Committee (58 Hall of Fame players, managers and executives; 25 Hall of Fame writers and broadcasters; and two holdovers from the old Veterans Committee) now knows that Gil Hodges (62%), Doug Harvey (61%), Tony Oliva (59%) and Ron Santo (57%) are considered most worthy by its membership. "Maybe," Morgan said of his colleagues, "they'll say, 'I missed that guy,' [and reconsider on the next vote]."
Because no one considers the writers infallible, the current committee serves an important purpose. Hodges is exactly the type of player the committee should be considering. Over 15 years the former Dodgers first baseman received more total votes from the writers than any other man not enshrined. He outpolled 24 future Hall of Famers during his years on the ballot Since Hodges came off the ballot in 1984, the Hall has admitted fellow first basemen Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda—yet Hodges had better on-base and slugging percentages than Perez, and made more All-Star teams and had more 30-homer seasons than Perez and Cepeda. Hodges also managed the 1969 Mets to one of the most shocking world championships in history, a contribution that could not be taken into account during his time on the writers' ballot.
The Veterans Committee will vote again on players in 2005 and managers, umpires and executives in 2007. Said Morgan, "You have to give the process a chance."
Orioles Move On after Tragedy
A Grim Reminder For Skipper
Steve Bechler's number 51 is painted in a black circle on the right-centerfield wall of the stadium at the Orioles' spring-training complex in Fort Lauderdale, and each member of the team wears a small black patch bearing that number on the right sleeve of his jersey. Those reminders of the death of Belcher, 23, from multisystem organ failure on Feb. 17, linger in camp even as the team is moving forward. They are especially eerie for manager Mike Hargrove, who was me Indians' skipper in 1993 when relief pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews died in a boating accident during spring training. "If you try to figure out why it happened twice, it drives you nuts," Hargrove says. "This has brought back all the old, bad feelings."
Bechler's case is different from the deaths of Olin, a leader on the field and in the clubhouse, who had been Cleveland's closer in '92, and Crews, a six-year vet who had just come over from the Dodgers, which racked Hargrove and the Indians all season. A righthanded pitching prospect with just three major league appearances, Bechler was expected to spend the season at Triple A Ottawa and was not yet an integral figure in Baltimore's clubhouse. "While Steve's death does affect us, it may not be something that's out there all the time," Hargrove says. "We've been able to take the tragedy and put it in a place where it needs to be put, so we can go on with our lives. Most of our people have been able to do that."
—Daniel G. Habib
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