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Hall of Fame
SI senior writer Paul Zimmerman, one of 36 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters, reflects on last Saturday's election of New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
The Hall of Fame was at a crossroads when Lawrence Taylor's name came up. Those of us who favored Taylor's election argued that the Hall's bylaws are clear: A player is to be judged on what he did on the field, period. The anti-Taylor faction felt that the bylaws are wrong, that football, like baseball, should have a good-citizenship requirement for Hall candidates.
About a dozen selectors, including me, spoke up for Taylor. "Are we the morality police?" one asked. Another said, "Let's try not to play God; let's play football." Four voters spoke against Taylor. One of them said, "We talk here as if football were not part of society," which pretty well expressed the foursome's objection. One selector, Jerry Green of the Detroit News, admitted later that he'd changed his vote after hearing the arguments, particularly those that dealt with respect for our bylaws. Green had wanted to vote no on LT, but he abstained, which gets counted as a yes vote. That might have swung the election, though we'll never know because the official tally isn't made public. What matters is that Taylor made the Hall, along with running back Eric Dicker-son, tight end Ozzie Newsome and offensive linemen Tom Mack and Billy Shaw.
At the end of the session, a proposal to add a character clause to the Hall's bylaws was put to a vote. Its proponents said, in effect, We might have lost this one, but at least we can keep future LTs out. The proposal failed 24-11, with one abstention. Pro football's concept of what characterizes a Hall of Famer remains distinctly different from baseball's.
Taylor's on-field excellence and dedication to the game have been rewarded. I can only hope the honor we paid him rubs off on his personal life, which has been a mess.
Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson's lousy off-season got worse last week when his former first base coach sent him a $1,400 bill for vodka, whiskey, beer, food and cleaning expenses. Johnson, who admitted in November that he had lied for years about having served in Vietnam, bunked in the Safety Harbor, Fla., house of then Toronto first base coach Jack Hubbard and his wife, Terry, during spring training last year. After the season Toronto fired Hubbard, who was soon hired by the New York Yankees as a senior adviser. The Hubbards then fired off the $1,400 invoice to Jays general manager Gord Ash, who forwarded it to Johnson.
"I've had enough of the Hubbards," Johnson told the Toronto Globe and Mail last week. "Who sends you a bill for vodka, whiskey and beer? Are the Hubbards trying to tell Ash that I'm a drinker or something? Let me share something with you. Every day after spring training last year, I took Jack Hubbard out, and we'd have a few pops. Not once—not once—did he go to his pocket to pay for the drinks."
Hubbard, speaking through Yankees p.r. director Rick Cerrone, calls the matter "private and personal." The Blue Jays and Yankees will meet for the first time this spring on March 4 in Tampa. So far, no fireworks are scheduled.