Off Base

Jim Caple

Pitching Probables
Injuries: AL | NL
Power Alley
All-Time Stats
Message Board
Minor Leagues
MLB en espanol

Jim Caple
Peter Gammons
Joe Morgan
Rob Neyer
John Sickels
Jayson Stark
ESPN Auctions
Monday, August 26
Dubya won't get this vote

By Jim Caple

Baseball's all-time hits leader is not eligible for the Hall of Fame but the man who traded away Sammy Sosa is.

That's right. While Pete Rose remains on baseball's permanently ineligible list, President George W. Bush is among 60 non-players being considered this month by a screening committee for inclusion on the Hall of Fame veterans' ballot. I'm one of the Committee members who must pick exactly 15 people (no more, no less) from those 60 by the end of the week. The 15 we choose will have their names placed on the ballot presented to the Hall of Fame veterans' committee. That committee is made up largely of the living members of the Hall of Fame and they will decide this winter which, if any, of the 15 join them in Cooperstown.

... if the intent is to honor Bush for his contributions to the country, I would say that electing him president was a pretty damn good honor. And if we want to honor him further, we can vote for him in 2004.

All this is part of the much-needed overhaul of the Veterans Committee, which had been too exclusive, too secretive and too swayed by personal relationships (Ted Williams seemed intent on getting every teammate into the Hall). The lists were compiled by 10 veteran baseball writers and historians whom I know and respect. Determining which people I will choose from their lists is intimidating enough; I can't imagine what it was like putting the list together.

But the committee dropped the ball with Bush. He belongs in the Hall of Fame as much as Pete Rose belongs in the White House.

Bush simply doesn't have the most remote qualifications for Cooperstown. His only official association with the game was as a partial owner of the Rangers from 1989-98, when, as he likes to admit, Texas traded Sosa. He also helped arrange taxpayer financing for a new stadium that helped him parlay an approximate $600,000 investment into a $13 million profit when he and his partners sold the team. That's not a qualification for Cooperstown, it's a scandal.

Clearly, Bush is on the list not for what he did in baseball but because he is a popular president. And if the intent is to honor Bush for his contributions to the country, I would say that electing him president was a pretty damn good honor. And if we want to honor him further, we can vote for him in 2004.

But we shouldn't put him in Cooperstown. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, whether you admire Bush and support his policies or not, we can all agree that the Hall of Fame is supposed to be a shrine for baseball, not politics.

The list
A major problem with putting non-players in the Hall of Fame is that many baseball executives and owners are as hated as they are applauded for what they did in the game. Walter O'Malley, Calvin Griffith, Charley Finley, Marvin Miller and Bowie Kuhn made huge impacts on baseball but not many people would look at their plaques and sigh, "Ahhhh, the game was better when he was around." Following is the list of 60 non-players being considered by the screening committee:

Gene Autry, Buzzie Bavasi, Samuel Breadon, Charles Bronfman, August Busch Jr., George W. Bush, Roger Craig, Harry Dalton, Bill Dinneen, Charlie Dressen, Barney Dreyfuss, Chub Feeney, John Fetzer, Charles O. Finley, John Galbreath, Larry Goetz, Calvin Griffith, Fred Haney, Doug Harvey, Garry Hermann.

Whitey Herzog, John Heydler, Ralph Houk, Bob Howsam, Fred Hutchinson, Ewing Kauffman, Bowie Kuhn, Frank Lane, Billy Martin, Gene Mauch, Marvin Miller, Danny Murtaugh, Hank O'Day, Walter O'Malley, Steve O'Neill, Paul Owens, Steve Palermo, Gabe Paul, Joan Payson, Babe Pinelli.

John A. Quinn, Alfred Reach, Beans Reardon, Paul Richards, Cy Rigler, Bill Rigney, Ben Shibe, Charles Somers, Billy Southworth, George Stallings, Bill Summers, Cedric Tallis, Chuck Tanner, Birdie Tebbetts, Patsy Tebeau, Chris Von der Ahe, Lee Weyer, Bill White, Dick Williams, Phil Wrigley.

Besides, even if we want to start honoring presidents for what they did for baseball, Bush must get in line.

You want a president who made a dramatic impact on the game? Had it not been for Franklin Roosevelt, the game probably would have shut down during World War II. Instead, he allowed baseball to continue playing with his famous green light letter, writing, "I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going."

You want a president who worked in the game? Ronald Reagan recreated baseball games on the radio for four summers when he was a young broadcaster and is the only president to wear a major league uniform, portraying Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander in the movie, "The Winning Team." He also played a game with some old-timers on the White House lawn while promoting "National Baseball Month," saying he would like to be able to play every day. "I wouldn't even complain if a stray ball came through the Oval Office window now and then," he said.

You want a president who was a huge baseball fan? Richard Nixon was such a fan that when he greeted astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins from their historic trip to the moon, his initial question was, "Were you told how the All-Star Game turned out?"

You want a President Bush in the Hall of Fame? Dubya's father was the captain of the Yale baseball team that went to the 1947 College World Series. Now, that's something worth mentioning at Cooperstown.

Hey, it's great that George W. Bush is such a devoted baseball fan. It's wonderful that he set up Little League games on the White House lawn and threw out the first pitch at the Little League World Series and last year's World Series. And if we want to honor that at the Hall of Fame by giving him an exhibit in the museum, that's terrific.

But to enshrine him in the Hall alongside Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams? Please. That's almost as ridiculous as giving Roger Clemens the nuclear security code. In fact, the only thing more ridiculous would be putting Al Gore on the wall for inventing the designated hitter.

Of course, if Dubya intervenes in the labor negotiations and gets them to agree to a deal without a strike, I not only say let him in, I'm willing to give his induction speech.

Box score line of the week
Forget Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The most dramatic pitching performance of the summer was provided by two 12-year-olds earning no money and with no endorsement deals. Louisville's Aaron Alvey and Fort Worth's Walker Kelly combined to strike out a record 40 batters in a U.S. semifinal game Wednesday at the Little League World Series.

Kelly struck out 21 batters and allowed two hits while Alvey struck out 19 and held Fort Worth hitless before both pitchers reached Little League's nine-inning maximum. Alvey then moved to shortstop and third base, and homered in the 11th inning to give Louisville the winning margin in its 2-1 victory.

His line:

9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 19 K

Jim Caple is a senior writer for He can be reached at

 More from ESPN...
Jim Caple Archive

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story