Finale of Baseball Tonight Discussion

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Last week, the Sport Management Club at Syracuse University hosted two of ESPN's Senior Baseball writers, Tim Kurkjian and Jayson Stark, for a discussion on Major League Baseball. This is the fourth and final part of the discussion.

If you haven't read the other posts on this here are the links: Part I. Part II. Part III.

Q: The National Baseball Hall of Fame is very concerned about whether they have lost a generation of fans because of things like late-night games. What do you think?

TK: I am concerned that we have lost fans. I know my own children didn’t see a World Series game from beginning to end until last year. After the Yankees clinched last week, I looked at my watch and it was 1 o’clock in the morning. But how many people were up? I know all of you college kids were, because you never sleep anyway. But TV runs the show. The games did start earlier this year. They went from 8:20 to 7:57, a whopping 23 minutes. But I remember when I was in 6th grade, my teacher essentially canceled class so we could watch the Cardinals play the Red Sox in the World Series. And to a 6th grader who loved baseball that was absolutely amazing.

JS: I think it was revealing that Selig has been talking about it and talking about it. He said he was going to try and get an afternoon game in the World Series on the Saturday, and then nothing happened. I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

Q: What do you think about Pete Rose getting into the Hall of Fame?

TK: Personally, I would vote for him if he came up on our ballot. As it seems that his transgressions occurred as a manager and not a player, I would vote him in as a player. Plenty of people disagree with me, including Frank Robinson. When I wrote that I would vote for him if he came on the ballot, Robinson yelled at me for about five minutes. He said that if Rose is ever inducted, he will never go back to the Hall for any reason. One old-time scout once told me, “if Rose killed man, it would be less of a violation than him betting on the game.” He told me I couldn’t understand because I wasn’t around back in the days after the Black Sox scandal where we almost lost the game forever. I don’t think it is going to happen as long as Selig is the commissioner and especially if the Veterans Committee (living Hall of Famers) has anything to say about it.

JS: Now that it’s been 15 years since he played, it’s not up to the writers, it’s up to the Veterans Committee. And the Veterans Committee answer is, “Hell no.” They will not go for it under any circumstances. There was a lot of talk around the time of the All-Century team announcement with Rose meeting with Selig. Rose turned down a compromise offered to him that he could be partially reinstated in that he would appear on the ballot but he would never allow to be part of a team again; coach, manager, front office executive. Rose turned it down because he wanted it all, he wanted full reinstatement. If he had taken that deal, he would have appeared on our ballot, and I believe he would have gotten in. But now that it’s up to the Veterans Committee, it won’t happen.

Q: What is your opinion on the exclusivity of the Hall of Fame?

TK: I believe that if you are a Hall of Famer, you are always a Hall of Famer. There are some guys who simply do not vote for people in the first year because they say, “Joe DiMaggio didn’t get in the first year, so I’m not voting for this player his first year!” That is absolutely ridiculous because the system was completely different back then. But it’s not like the players are playing between their first and sixth year on the ballot that is going to change my mind, unless I go back and find some statistic that changes my mind. I usually vote for somewhere between 5-9 players, and this year I may vote for 10 because I think there are 10 Hall of Famers on the ballot.

JS: By the time Jim Rice was inducted, he hadn’t gotten a hit in 20 years. The fact that he went from 59% in year 10 on the ballot, to being over 75% at year 15, I’m like, “What changed?” And I don’t see why we need to do this for 15 years? It makes no sense. If he is a Hall of Famer, why is he a Hall of Famer one year, but not another? We could do this in 5 or 10 years at the most, because there’s guys like Rice and Bert Blylevan who have to go through this year after year.

Q: What was the favorite moment or story you covered in baseball?

TK: Mine was the day that Cal Ripken, Jr. broke the consecutive games played record. It was more than just the record; it was a story of family and commitment. I got to know him while working for the Baltimore Sun and outsiders just didn’t understand what the big deal was. There was a writer from Toronto who came in just to cover the record breaking and he came up to me and asked, “What’s the big deal with this.” I told him to come back after the 5th inning. So the top of the 5th ends and the game is official, he’s broken the record. The drop the “1” down on 2,131 and the place goes crazy. And then, after being shoved out there by his teammates, Cal goes on this victory lap around the stadium. He was shaking hands and pointing at people in the stands. He was pointing at those fans that were there all the time. He knew a lot of their names, and if he didn’t know their names, he sure recognized their faces. They suspended the game for 22 minutes as Cal went around the stadium. It was a story about a homegrown kid who broke the record that would never be broken. The Toronto writer came over in the bottom of the 5th, and he had been moved to tears,

JS: Well, one of mine is that day, as well, but for a different reason. I was one of those outsiders coming in and trying to figure out what the big deal was. But this was in 1995, right after the strike had ended, and I saw this magnificent scene and it showed how the game could recover. A few months later, two Phillies, Mike Schmidt and Richie Ashburn were inducted into the Hall of Fame together and I went to cover it. It was the largest crowd the Hall had ever had at an induction ceremony. There were fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, grandparents and grandchildren all there. It showed that, despite all that had gone on the year before, people still loved baseball.

Well that concludes all the write-ups on Tim Kurkjian and Jayson Stark's visit to Syracuse University. John's in the Bahamas for the next couple of days, where it is about 50 degrees warmer than it is here in Syracuse. So I'll be updating with news on Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols winning the MVP's in their respective leagues once that news is made official. With this being Thanksgiving week, I'll be sure to mention some rumors and news from the Hot Stove, as well as some opinions on potential targets.



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