April 1, 2011
New York- With the Barry Bonds perjury trial in full-swing, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig revealed today, in a press release issued by spokesperson, Pat Courtney, a plan to address the possible Cooperstown inductions of tainted steroid-era stars like Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire.
The plan, drafted by Selig with input from Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson and Chairman Jane Forbes Clark, revolves around putting all players from the steroid-era on a separate ballot that will be sent each year to all BBWAA members with Hall of Fame voting privileges. The voting process will be identical to the one in place for the traditional ballot that BBWAA writers already receive annually. In essence, Selig proposes that the two-ballot system will help distinguish the steroid-era stars from the Hall-of-Famers considered “clean” by all standards.
In the spirit of still honoring their play, but keeping the likes of widely acknowledged cheaters like Bonds, Clemens and others further separate from the already enshrined Cooperstown immortals, Selig also proposes that the bronze plaques of inducted steroid-era stars not hang in the main gallery. The plaques of Barry Bonds and others would be featured in the near-by “Halper Gallery.”
That gallery, dedicated in 1998 to famous collector Barry Halper, is located a few hundred feet from the museum’s main gallery featuring the plaques of Hall of Famers. Although the Halper Gallery will still be easily accessible to visitors, it will also help maintain an appropriate distance between the disgraced stars and legitimate HOFers.
Selig’s announcement also addresses recent controversies over MLB’s purchases of fake memorabilia and artifacts from Halper, the deceased New York Yankees partner. In 1998, MLB and the Hall of Fame paid Halper close to $8 million for nearly 200 items from his now infamous collection. But last year, items from that purchase, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s 1919 jersey and “Black Betsy” bat, turned out to be fakes. Other fakes included Mickey Mantle’s rookie Yankee jersey and Ty Cobb’s personal diary, which the FBI and expert Ron Keurajian determined was a forgery originating from the collection of Cobb biographer Al Stump.
Selig said, “Since Barry Halper sold us those artifacts and we donated them to the Hall, we’ve been looking to put those counterfeit items to good use. Now, in honoring players who are thought to have put up fake numbers in the game, their Hall of Fame plaques can hang next to exhibits of some of the greatest fake artifacts of all-time. Additionally, we won’t have to remove the name of our old friend Barry Halper from the gallery the Hall named for him.
Hall President Jeff Idelson said that Halper’s fake memorabilia would not be the only artifacts exhibited in the gallery. Idelson also announced the museum would bring back the popular 1999 exhibition “The Great American Home Run Chase,” which honored sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for saving the game via their home-run exploits after the 1994 strike.
Equipment used by Sosa and McGwire (including a corked Sosa bat) will be brought up from the Hall’s basement to join Barry Bonds’ record-breaking home run ball, which was donated by clothing designer Mark Ekko. Hall spokesperson Brad Horn said Cooperstown officials are also in negotiations with Clemens’ ex-trainer, Brian McNamee, for a donation of the needles and syringes that are entered into evidence in the upcoming Clemens perjury trial. Horn confirmed that Barry Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson, did not return calls to honor a similar request.
Hall Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark, who originally talked the MLB owners into buying Halper’s items, said, “We had Barry Halper’s fake “Shoeless Joe” jersey on display for baseball fans for nearly a decade before we were told it was bogus. The players who chose to take performance enhancing drugs also fooled baseball fans for over a decade. Now we can tell the story of both situations with both fake artifacts and artifacts tied to what many consider fake statistics in the record books.” Clark also added, “My grandfather founded the Hall of Fame with a fake artifact as the central item in the collection, the Abner Doubleday baseball. Mr. Selig’s plan continues this important tradition here in Cooperstown.”
Selig, who last year made public his belief that Abner Doubleday invented baseball, confirmed that the Doubleday Ball will also be displayed in the Halper Gallery along with the bronze plaques. “When I stated that Doubleday invented baseball last year, commentator Keith Olbermann said the Hall of Fame should wish the Doubleday Ball into a corn-field. Now he can wish it into the Halper Gallery,” said Selig.
The Commissioner also added that he could envision the plaques of Clemens, McGwire and Sosa hanging in the gallery someday. “Sammy, Mark and Rocket did so much for the game during my tenure, they deserve recognition in Cooperstown for their efforts. This new plan we are instituting with the Hall of Fame will make this recognition a reality.” Selig is also giving a special dispensation for the two players in the era who did not take PED’s, Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter. “I’m pretty sure they’re clean. So, Jeter and Griffey will be on the traditional ballot when they are eligible,” said Selig.
Selig did not mention or address the possibility of voiding the banishment’s of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson or Pete Rose for enshrinement in the Halper Gallery. Selig did mention, however, that Jackson’s fake “Black Sox” jersey will be displayed with a ball inscribed by Pete Rose to Barry Halper which reads: “I’m sorry I bet on baseball.”
Selig also announced that MLB executives from the steroid-era, including himself will also be featured on the ballot for Halper Gallery plaques. Selig said, “If I should be lucky enough to be honored with a plaque like the great Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, I’d be proud to hang mine in the Halper Gallery with the players I helped develop and nurture during my tenure as Commissioner.”
In addition, MLB said that, aside from Howard Bryant, all baseball writers covering the game during the steroid-era would not be eligible for a J.G. Taylor Spink Award. Instead, a new award for those writers would be instituted by the new year. Selig said a blue- ribbon panel headed by Bob Costas and Bill Madden would determine who to name the award for. Sources indicate the award will likely be named for Jay Mariotti.
Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark revealed one other plan for the inductions of steroid-era stars. “The announcement of the second-ballot inductions will be revealed the first week in January on Deadspin and the ceremonies for the players’ enshrinement in the Halper Gallery will follow in February during the Village of Cooperstown’s Winter Carnival festival. Upper Deck has agreed to sponsor a life size ice-sculpture of each inductee. These inductions will surely draw a crowd in our off-season and give the winter tourism business in Cooperstown a real shot in the ass,” Clark said.