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04 January, 2011

The Baseball Hall of Fame Pyramid

  Thanks to Bill Simmons, many of you are familiar with the concept of
the Hall of Fame pyramid. He used it in his Book of Basketball and
wrote about it in a column 9 years ago. It was an idea hatched by my
dad and is one of my favorite concepts to discuss.
 So on the eve of the next selection of inductees, let me let you in on
how it works and begin the debate of who should be among the elite of the elite.

The day was June 14, 1997.
It was the second day in the history of interleague play and the Mets were
hosting the Boston Red Sox. The series was the first between the two 
teams since their historic World Series battle in 1986.
To mark the occasion my father flew in from California, Bill  drove down
from Boston and we headed into Shea Stadium on I-95 on a beautiful, 
early summer day.
  I'm not sure how or why the topic of the Hall of Fame came up. It 
certainly wasn't because Mark Clark was toeing the rubber for the Mets
that day. But none-the-less, it did. Dad took this opportunity to unveil his
thoughts on what the Hall should be... a pyramid. 
  Bill and I sat in the back seat of the rented Cadillac and stared at my dad 
as if he had suggested we jump from the moving car. A pyramid? What 
exactly does a pyramid have to do with baseball? 
  My dad went on to explain the concept. As it is presently constructed, the
Hall has one room with all the player's plaques. They are divided up by
induction class, but they are basically all side-by-side.
In dad's pyramid scheme (no, not that kind) there would be 5 floors. 
The 1st floor would be filled with veteran's committee inductees and guys 
who were borderline inductees.
As you proceed from the 1st to the 5th floor, the quality of player improves.
And on the top floor, the best of the best. The beauty of the plan is your 
visit to the Hall would crescendo. Entering the 5th floor would be like 
entering Nirvana. The other great part of the plan is it now takes the thing
we all love about the Hall and doubles it, arguing. You not only get
to debate if someone is a Hall of Famer, but you get to argue about what 
floor they should be on.
  Embracing the concept of the pyramid, dad, Bill and I  began assigning
players to certain floors. You could spend a week trying to figure this out. 
Depending on how the toll booths at the Whitestone bridge were looking, 
a week wasn't out of the question. Regardless, it's a question that requires
deep thinking before answering.

 Fast forward 10 1/2 years.  

There are currently 203 players inducted in Cooperstown. So if you 
take the top 10%, you can put the 20 greatest Hall of Famers ever on
the fifth floor. Sounds like a good way to start. 
  I summoned the help of 6 of my most ernest baseball fan friends,
including 3 who have Hall of Fame votes, and my dad of course, and
asked them to submit me their list. They told me creating their list was
impossible and cussed me out for making them even have to think 
about it. In other words, they loved every second of the agonizing 
internal debate. 
  Here is an aggregate list of their submissions, as well as my own,
with the number next to the players name indicating how many lists 
he appeared on:   

Me, Tom Seaver and my dad in front of Seaver's plaque
in the Hall of Fame. Good times!
Aaron            (8)
Cobb             (8)
DiMaggio      (8)
Gehrig           (8)
Hornsby        (8)
W. Johnson   (8)
Mays             (8)
Musial           (8)
Ruth              (8)
Wagner         (8)
Williams        (8)
Young           (8)
Alexander      (7)
Foxx              (6) 
Mathewson    (6)
Mantle           (5)
Seaver           (5)
me holding Jerry Koosman's hat
from the '69 World Series.
I know... a little TOO excited
Spahn            (5)
Bench            (4) 
Grove            (4)
Schmidt         (4)
F Robinson   (3)
Clemente       (2)
Henderson    (2)
Koufax          (2)
Speaker         (2)
Carlton          (1)
Gibson          (1)
Greenberg     (1)
Ripken          (1)
J. Robinson   (1) 

That's a pretty good working list. 12 guys everyone agrees on,
a solid next 6 and then you get down to Bench, Grove and Schmidt for the last 2 spots. 
Every year when players are inducted, they would be assigned
a level by a special committee.
So, in time, the top floor will expand. 
Without tackling the touchy topic of steroids, I could see Greg Maddux,
Ken Griffey, Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera as guys who
would get serious 5th floor consideration in the next few years.
Guys could also be penalized a floor or two for their steroid
use or "evidence" of use. Bonds and Clemens are two guys 
everyone says "were already Hall of Famers without using steroids,"
so maybe instead of getting on the 5th floor, they end up on the 3rd or 4th. 
  I go to Cooperstown every summer and love my visits to the Hall. And
every summer I stand outside the entrance and look at the relatively 
nondescript building that houses the history of our great game and wonder
"what if..." 
  By the way, the Mets won the game thanks in large part to
Mark Clark hitting a homer off Tim Wakefield and taking a no-hitter
into the 8th. Had he actually thrown the 1st no-no in Mets history,
dad and I would've put him on the 5th floor on the spot. 

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