It’s getting tougher and tougher to become immortal.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame last weekend announced stricter voting rules for recently retired players, reducing the maximum time they can stay on the ballot from 15 to 10 years. Not every ballplayer can get a plaque in Cooperstown, of course. As Syndrome, the villain in the Disney-Pixar film The Incredibles puts it, “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”
This new rule would have booted such late bloomer Hall of Famers as Ralph Kiner (15 year wait), Duke Snider (11 years), Bruce Sutter (13 years), Jim Rice (15 years), and Bert Blyleven (14 years). But perhaps their supporters would have voted for them during Year Nine if the deadlines had been different then.
As it attempts to slam the door on future borderline candidates, the Baseball Hall of Fame will still face the same level of second guessing as the judges for Olympic skiing or figure skating. What separates the Great from the Almost-Great?
On Sunday, while Cooperstown enshrined one of its largest induction classes in recent memory, I was thinking about one of my childhood favorites who didn’t make it—a guy whose name sounds more like a Cap’n Crunch cereal flavor than a ballplayer. Kansas City Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry was one of the most dominant closers of the 1980s, being the first pitcher in history to rack up two 40-save seasons and who finished second or third in the Cy Young voting for four straight years (1982-85).