Last night I was sleeping. About 2 pm, give or take, I heard a distinct cough. It woke me and I looked around. Imagine my surprise to see the spirits of John McGraw, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb standing at the foot of my bed. They called me by name saying “We need your help.”
Now, not being a particularly spiritual man I was, to say the least, shocked. I looked around. My wife was sleeping, the cat was curled up on the bed, and there were McGraw, Ruth, and Cobb at the foot of my bed saying again, “We need your help.”
Ok, I’m a sucker for a good nightmare, so I figured I’d go along. “To do what?”
“We want you to fix the Hall of Fame.” It was McGraw doing most of the talking (of course it was).
“Me? Why me?”
“Because you are an influential blogger.”
Now that worried me. Not only were they deluded that I was influential, but they knew what a blog was. “You got blogs in the afterlife?” I asked.
“Quite a bunch.” This was Ruth interrupting as he wolfed down a hot dog. “Yeah, Gehrig calls his ‘Luckiest Ghost’ even.”
“But I’m not influential,” I pointed out. “Try Kortas. He does mostly poetry, but he knows baseball.”
“You want us to get our word out through someone that does poetry?” Cobb snarled the last word particularly nastily.
I looked into Cobb’s eyes and blanched. “I got maybe ten loyal readers and I’m not sure of the sanity of half of them. How about Kevin, or Bill, or Glen? Geez, they have blogs that get more hits than mine. And SportsPhD is smarter than me, just look at his handle,”
“True.” It was McGraw again. “But they’re not goofy enough to be susceptible to listening to ghosts.”
OK, they had me there so I figured I ought to listen.
McGraw began. “First, you have to tell the world that the Hall of Fame has got to define their terms completely so the voters know what ‘good character’ means.”
“I know what that means,” Cobb said, speaking for the first time. “It means you gotta be tough on the ball field and what you do off the field out of uniform doesn’t count.”
“No, Ty,” McGraw snarled (McGraw seemed to snarl a lot), “it means what the Hall Committee says it means and so far they’ve done a lousy job saying anything at all about it. They have to come out and be definite about what it means. They need to take a stand and tell voters what to do about steroids and those other fancy drugs.” He looked straight at me. “We’re not asking for a particular definition, just that they make one. It’s time for them to stand and deliver.” Both Ruth and Cobb saluted.
“OK,” I said. “Define terms. Got it.”
“Second, they have to expand the voting public.”
“The voting public?”
“Hey, nobody said you was hard of hearing.” This from the Babe.
“We’ve come to you to tell you that the voting is all wrong. Many members of the BBWAA haven’t covered baseball since I was managing,” McGraw told me. “Some of them haven’t seen a game since Cobb here was alive. How come they have a vote? Only members currently covering baseball, and I don’t mean just going to opening day and then not seeing another game all year and trying to pass that off as covering the game, get a vote. Everyone else doesn’t get a vote.”
“I thought I heard you say “expand” the voting public,” I commented. I was finally getting used to McGraw, Ruth, and Cobb being in my bedroom so I was getting correspondingly bolder. “You just cut the voters by a bunch.”
McGraw was obviously exasperated at me and I feared one of his tirades, but he only shook his head. “You finished?” he growled.
I nodded, knowing now to never interrupt John McGraw again.
“OK, then we open up the voting to radio and TV types who cover the game. You think the guys who call games don’t know a good player from a bad one? We let the governing people at SABR have some votes. You think they don’t know the game? I gotta admit I don’t understand WAR from Peace or adjusted whatever from maladjusted whatever, but they seem to know what they’re talking about. You got all that?”
I nodded again. I’d decided my earlier instinct to not talk when McGraw was holding forth was the best policy.
“Now, they gotta get rid of this 10 vote rule. How many guys did you tell your readers you would vote for, sixteen right?”
I was stunned. “You read my blog?”
“Yeah,” Ruth said. “We wuz looking over the shoulder of some guy reading it while he was eatin’ a jelly donut. Gee, I miss those. You got any?”
This time I shook my head. “Damn,” Ruth muttered.
McGraw took up his monologue again. “And you got to vote for 10 only. Wouldn’t you have liked to have a chance to vote for all 16, especially if it would help keep them on the ballot?”
“Of course I would.”
“And how many you want for next year.”
I thought for a second. “Probably 15 or so.”
“Then here’s your chance.”
“And you gotta tell them to quit counting blank ballots. Some jerk wants to send in a blank ballot, OK by us, but they gotta just set it aside and not count it in the tally. Got that?”
I nodded again.
“You gotta do this for us. You gotta do it for the game. We’re getting hell from George Halas because his Hall of Fame does a better job of electing people. You know how hard it is to put up with a football man in full gloat?”
“And McGraw won’t let me beat him up,” Cobb said.
“We’re not supposed to do that in the hereafter,” McGraw said. For a second I thought Cobb was going to attack him. Ultimately he didn’t.
McGraw looked over at me. “You got all that?”
“Good, then go back to sleep.”
They were gone. I lay there stunned. I looked over at my wife and nudged her. “Hey guess what?”
She mumbled something that sounded a lot like “I’ve got a headache, dear”, but I nudged her again. She woke up, glared at me, then at the alarm clock. “You do know it’s 2:30, don’t you?”
“Guess what happened to me?”
“Can’t it wait ’til the morning?”
“No.” And I told her everything.
“You want me to buy that?” she asked.
“If you buy that, I’ve got a bridge in New Jersey you can buy. Now go to sleep.”
I lay there a while contemplating what just happened to me. Was it real? Was it a dream? I wasn’t sure, but suddenly I had a craving for a jelly donut.