Baseball’s Hall of Fame Still Matters

After all the scandals that have beset baseball, the Hall of Fame still sets a high standard

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Tim Roske / AP

Hall of Fame inductee Barry Larkin views a Jackie Robinson exhibit during a tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. on May 5, 2012.

This Sunday, the 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame class will be inducted. The Hall of Fame has come under some critique lately from Bryant Gumbel, who is lobbying for the inclusion of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. This years inductees are Barry Larkin, long-time Cincinnati Reds star shortstop, and posthumously Ron Santo of the Chicago Cubs. Together, they span a wide swath of baseball history and are representative of a game with class.

The Hall of Fame still embodies a gold standard. On major issues such as the doping scandals, people look to the Hall to mark the high road — and they did. It’s also those who subscribe to its standard, those who are fans of the game from its earliest days to today’s game, who keep it relevant.

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These fans know both Barry Larkin and Ron Santo, even when they framed very different eras. Larkin was an early inductee, not that many years out of uniform, one which always belonged to the Cincinnati Reds. He is also now in the consciousness of baseball as an analyst and color commentator for ESPN. Today’s fans know him as well as those who saw him come up in 1986, and Larkin, in his expansive spirit, has said that he’s going to have a party in Cincy for those who can’t make it to Cooperstown this weekend to share the celebration with the city.

Then there is Ron Santo, who had a stellar career with the Cubs and afterwards was the ultimate cheerleader for his organization and the game. He called the Cubs games right up until his passing and never a moment did he waver from his loyalty. Fans from the earliest Cubs days to today fought passionately for “Ronnie” to be inducted in the Hall after he fell short in votes in the past. My time playing for the Cubs while he was the announcer only confirmed that he was a great ambassador and that the Hall would shine brighter with him in it.

Larkin and Santo are more than great players; they are walking markers of time, carrying with them the hopes and spirit of cities, towns, fans, teammates and even opponents. The Hall inducts players who in turn connect the dots between all generations of the game. And everyone who loves the game pays attention to this day, knowing that this gold standard has been passed on, once again. It’s an amazing feat that the Hall has been able to maintain this integrity, and the sport is better for it.

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