Tomorrow Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Posthumously, Joe "Flash" Gordon will be inducted as well. If I remember the details correctly, Jim Rice is being inducted in his final year of eligibility, twenty years following his retirement with the Boston Red Sox, and Rickey Henderson is being inducted on his first ballot and first year of eligibility.
What I find most interesting about the hall of fame induction process is how two players that may not have been teammates or even liked each other in their playing days, become two guys with complete respect for one another and the shared experience of induction. This first impressed me in 2007 when Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. entered the hall together. Of course, they shared something else that is very rare in baseball these days--they both spent their entire careers with one franchise (Padres and Orioles, respectively). There time as analysts the season they were inducted also solidified them in my mind as a pair in baseball, despite them having never played on the same team. I can't help but wonder if Rice and Henderson being inducted together won't do the same.
I was too young to watch or remember Jim Rice's career, but I watched Rickey Henderson for many years while he played for various teams. Most of my memories of Rickey are from his days in a New York Mets uniform. That would have been the season Rickey was voted the National League's comeback player of the year. Thinking of Rickey's years in New York, certainly not necessarily the franchises he was most known for, I have thought quite a bit about the really extraordinary hitters who have gone to the Mets in their final years, perhaps the two most notable with the Mets now being Gary Sheffield and Carlos Delgado.
Enough with my reminiscing, Keith Olbermann, the newsman no longer known so much for his sports work, has a fabulous series of posts as he visited this Cooperstown this weekend and will watch the inductions of Rice, Henderson and Gordon tomorrow. The Cooperstown Flood, Cooperstown: Saturday, and Cooperstown: Saturday Evening are all great reads.
And with the weekend in Cooperstown has risen more discussion on the matter of the steroid era and how players who played in the steroid-clouded era will be treated on their respective ballots. If Ozzie Smith and Hank Aaron are any indication, there will be some sort of way of noting those who cheated the game. It's unfortunate that players under suspicion will even be eligible for induction, but I'm afraid that steroid use in baseball was once so rampant that there's no way of telling who it reached.