Friday, July 20, 2012


Another magical Sunday afternoon with the Baseball Reliquary and its Shrine of the Eternals ceremony has come and gone, marking the midpoint of both the calendar year and the baseball season...the memories of a rapt audience, engaging speakers, and the combination of offbeat humor and unconditional love will linger as always.

My old BBBA partner in crime G. Jay Walker (sometimes referred to as the Albert Speer of the BBBA...) attended the ceremony with me, arriving via the always unpredictable San Diego-Los Angeles Amtrak "connection" (a route that invariably adds thirty to sixty extra minutes of travel time to its purported schedule...Jay always promises to study the phenomenon, but I think he already knows that there are some things that simply can't be reduced to mere understanding, and that this is one of them).

Jay has been a Reliquary member and voter for more than a decade (as opposed to yours truly, who recused himself back in the day when Dick Allen had not yet been inducted into the Eternals lest I lose all sense of perspective and find a way to stuff the ballot box--fortunately, that proved to be unnecessary); he has always been active in identifying and suggesting potential candidates for the Shrine, and as the great anti-institution gets further into its teenage years, he is becoming more engaged with how the Shrine's unique combination of elements will continue to produce the quality of inductees that's been the case over the first fourteen years.

As he says, we now have 42 inductees, and it's important for the idea of a viable "alternative Hall of Fame" that the next 42 inductees represent the same level of je ne sais quoi as the first 42. (Or something like that--you can correct me later, always do!!)

However one phrases it, it's a legitimate issue. There is always the possibility that an organization built on a delicately balanced conceit, as the Reliquary most definitely is, can misplace that razor-sharp sensibility which makes its activities so special. In terms of the Shrine, it can start selecting individuals who are simply pale reflections of its former inductees, or who are more caricature than character. It's a tricky business, and while Terry Cannon, Buddy Kilchesty and the Reliquary voters have been well-nigh perfect thus far, there's always a chance that they'll "fall off the wagon." As Jay notes, the issue is keeping the effort locked in on Eternals, as opposed to the "Shrine of the Somewhat Interesting."

So, with that in mind, here are ten individuals who have yet to receive a slot on the Shrine of the Eternals ballot who, in our occasionally humble opinion, are deserving of consideration by the voters. This list originated with Jay, but as always (and you may wince now, Mr. Walker...) I have made a few modifications to it. (Jay also created a list of ten currently on the ballot who in one way or another fail the "Eternal/Somewhat Interesting" dichotomy, but these will be passed along to the Reliquary honchos--honchoes??--privately so as to not publicly demean those folks whom we think deserve the hook.)


The great walkman of Connie Mack's third Philadelphia Athletics dynasty (1929-31). In an earlier post, we discussed players who had more walks than hits in a season. Bishop did it six times, all without benefit of the type of power that would make pitchers take extra care in locating their pitches. Max passes the Reliquary "extremity" test with ease, and possesses one of the game's most intriguing nicknames--"Camera Eye."


The Reliquary's tender heartstrings were made to order for Tony C., one of the ultimate "might have been" players in baseball history. A true "star-crossed" star, a man worth celebrating due to--and in spite of--his tragic life.


The tricky business of the Reliquary can be located here, where a player with skills and achievements that seem to be too subtle for any voter combination at the Hall of Fame can be a "point of correction" at the hands of the Reliquary voters. Hernandez clearly falls in this category and is an exemplary candidate, but what's tricky is that sometimes the Hall of Fame wises up, and too much overlap between the Hall and the Shrine is not a good idea. Also--it's important to have living representatives to attend your ceremony.


With the enshrinement of Dr. Frank Jobe, it's almost a certainty that the man most closely associated to him in terms of baseball will not be far behind. John's story is a complete match for the Shrine, and even if the Hall of Fame eventually wises up and inducts him, it will be in some part due to his amazing career resurrection after what was at the time a "Hail Mary" surgical procedure. We figure that Tommy will be accepting his own plaque in Pasadena in 2014.


The Reliquary voters have been generous in enshrining writers--Roger Angell, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Lester Rodney--and Lardner is arguably the greatest of the early baseball scribes. He should be elected if only to see if the person or persons unknown who send up his classic character Jack Keefe at the Baseball Think Factory will come to Pasadena and make themselves known.


How did a .250 hitting catcher become a hitting coach? How did he become such a good hitting coach? Unfortunately, Charlie died young (in 1984, at the age of 50), so he can't tell us himself. But it's a compelling story, and the Reliquary's Shrine is just the place for such stories.


A giant of Japanese baseball, Nomura hit more homers than any other catcher in history--heck, he hit more homers than any two other catchers in history, he's been a successful manager, but around the world it's (Saduharo) "Oh and Who?" The Reliquary voters might want to consider rectifying that situation.


Though a good bit of his "modern baseball strategy" will make the "advanced metrics" addicts grab their needles, Richards had an incredible career as a kind of "permanent floating underdog," regularly spinning gold from dross, and lining his pockets with cash by hustling countless victims on the golf course.


Why Vin? Because the Reliquary is, in part, a West Coast/L.A. kind of organization. Because he represents the type of legacy and link from organization to fan that one could only hope existed for each and every team. Because he has been, and (thank God) continues to be, an Eternal.

And because we want Arnold Hano to introduce him at the ceremony (you'll need to read our essay at the Hardball Times to understand this reference...)!


A brilliant idea from Jay. Charles Somers was the money man that made it possible for the American League to not only come into existence, but do so with sufficient panache to change the face of baseball into what we know it to be. Ban Johnson is the man who gets the recognition, but even he knew that what he accomplished could not have happened without Somers.

So there you go...ten who deserve their shot at eternity, Baseball Reliquary-style. All of these folk will fulfill the elusive but palpable combination of qualities that exemplify a bonafide Eternal. We hope that the voters and the incomparable brain trust who bring us their unique perspective on the game will not be put off by our more-aggressive-than-usual (huh??) advocacy. Which is a nicer way of saying "put these guys in--or else!" (Or is it??)

Our great thanks to the Baseball Reliquary for continuing to be the anti-institution that we need it to be.