Richard Sandomir on another deceased Yankees owner who belongs in Cooperstown:
- Since George Steinbrenner’s death last week, the momentum for his Hall of Fame candidacy has accelerated. His case is strong: the Boss redefined baseball’s economic landscape by exploiting free agency with abandon, and his teams won seven World Series in 37 years, more than any owner already enshrined in Cooperstown.
Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC anchor and baseball historian, said at Old-Timers’ Day last Saturday that Steinbrenner is so deserving that veterans committee voters should convene this winter rather than wait until the next scheduled election in late 2011.
But if Steinbrenner is deserving, what about Jacob Ruppert, his most important predecessor?
Yes, what about Ruppert? A few years ago I came up with a list of 12 deserving Hall of Fame candidates, only four of whom were players (Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, Ron Santo, Alan Trammell). The other eight included just one owner:
- Jacob Ruppert: Ruppert, who owned (or co-owned) the Yankees from 1915 through 1938, is perhaps as responsible as anyone for the Yankees' dynastic ways. Ed Barrow, Ruppert's general manager for many years, is in the Hall of Fame. Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy, Ruppert's managers, both are in the Hall of Fame. Of course, many of Ruppert's players -- Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio, to name just a few -- are in the Hall of Fame. So why not Ruppert himself?
Frankly, everyone associated with the Hall of Fame should be embarrassed that Tom Yawkey -- with exactly zero World Series championships in 44 years as Red Sox owner -- has a plaque in Cooperstown, and Jacob Ruppert doesn't. Historically speaking, what exactly did Yawkey do? He rebuilt Fenway Park and outlasted the Braves to keep Boston for himself. He hired whoever was responsible for snagging Ted Williams. And he was the last major-league owner to spurn the talents of African-American baseball players.
Sorry. Not sure where all that came from. Realistically, arguing for Ruppert by way of Yawkey is like arguing for Boog Powell by way of George Kelly. Which is to say, it's not a compelling argument at all.
The point isn't that Ruppert was a better owner and a more significant historical figure than Yawkey. The point is that Ruppert probably trumps at least half of the other owners already in the Hall.
Granted, there aren't many. But Ruppert was an active owner for about 25 years; so was George Steinbrenner. And for each of Steinbrenner's many accomplishments, I can find one for Ruppert.
I don't know that some sort of special meeting should be called this winter, with the sole aim of electing Steinbrenner to the Hall of Fame. This winter, next winter ... the Hall could definitely use the boost, but the exact timing isn't all that important. Go ahead, though: Forget about the suspensions and the felony conviction, and enshrine The Boss. Why not enshrine The Colonel at the same time, though? Seems perfectly fitting.