Why Do Obvious HOF Picks Have to Wait 5 Years?



Why Do Obvious HOF Picks Have to Wait 5 Years for Induction into their respective Halls of Immortal Honor in baseball, football, basketball, and hockey? We are only able to speak for baseball, but no one spoke for basketball – or any of the other North American “Big Four” professional team sports when a caller to the Charlie Palillo Sports Show on AM Radio 790 late Monday afternoon.

The caller stridently wanted to know why Kobe Bryant had to wait another five years from 2016, his last and 20th season with the LA Lakers, to be enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame – when it was already so obvious that he was deserving of that honor now?

Palillo politely sloughed it off to the three other big sports following baseball’s example for the sake of even giving the historical perspective of a little time to the formal induction, even to the obvious picks, while giving the marginal candidates who may have finished with a hot performance season implicitly a little more time for objective analysis of worthiness in their total careers.

While Palillo’s answer was good, if not heard well by the caller, it was incomplete as far as baseball is concerned.

Baseball doesn’t want HOF inductees changing their minds about retirement the following spring – and then taking leave during the August of an active season as a player, manager, or coach to be anointed with their new royal titles as “Hall of Famers” in Cooperstown.

When Tommy Lasorda was selected for Baseball HOF induction in 1997 for his longtime successful managerial record with the LA Dodgers, the Veteran’s Committee told Lasorda that their choice of him was dependent upon him retiring and staying retired, if he also thought he was also ready to receive the nod. Lasorda jubilantly agreed to the condition.

The Veterans Committee in baseball is not restricted by the five-year waiting period, even though most of their selections are way beyond that time frame and often already in the cemetery by the the time they are picked by this group. We are not sure what the rush on LaSorda’s induction was really all about. Maybe the Dodgers needed the Vet’s Committee to help them force Tommy Boy into retirement.

The Baseball HOF does not want its members continuing in an active way on the field once they have been accorded the induction honor. To the best of my knowledge, it is more of a “code of honor” condition than a baseball law, but its doubtful that recent HOF managers Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, or Bobby Cox will ever appear on the field again as managers, especially too – at their presently advanced ages.

When the great Roberto Clemente died in a plane on a humanitarian aid air flight to Nicaragua to help earthquake victims on December 31, 1972, the five-year waiting period was waived in his case and he was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1973. There was no practical reason to delay the honor in the case of a true all time baseball great.

If baseball, or any other sport, wants to keep its “immortals” separately enshrined away from those who are still out there grinding little and big change into the stats and flow of each sport’s record books and culture, the Pecan Park Eagle has no problem whatsoever with that rarified aspiration.



Closing Note: It’s American League 3 – Chicago Cubs 1 in the bottom of the 3rd in the All Star Game. The game is being played in the NL park of the San Diego Padres, but the AL is dressed in their respective home team uniforms and batting last as the home team. All I know is that the FOX TV guys are saying the venue has nothing to do with determining the home team in the All Star Game. They said that this was just the AL’s turn to host the game, even if the NL crowd doesn’t make it sound or feel like a home game.

You gotta hand it to these guys who end up as Commissioners of Baseball. They really know how to market the game of baseball to the hearts of fans, don’t they?


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

















2 Responses to “Why Do Obvious HOF Picks Have to Wait 5 Years?”

  1. jeff share Says:

    Very interesting topic. I remember Gretzky was put in the hockey HoF right after he retired. I’ve always thought that if a career was so outstanding beyond all others the five-year rule should be waived in his honor. Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Mariano Rivera, Ken Griffey Jr., going back Sandy Koufax, Mays, Aaron, etc. In some cases, it might encourage great players to hang ’em up before staying around too long, i.e. Steve Carlton. Its a good topic for discussion.

  2. gregclucas Says:

    Bill essentially answered the question. The sports want to make sure the players are retired. And having some perspective makes a difference. Fans tend to get too excited about their personal favorites. Jeff Bagwell will likely (if past trends are followed) make the vote for the Hall of Fame next January and when one considers all the great players of the past his wait has been probably about right. His career was a Hall of Fame career, but it wasn’t likely “first team.” (The equalizing factor is that once one is inducted into the Hall few pay any mention or even remember when he was inducted. All are Hall of Famers.)

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