Tuesday, April 8, 2014


An uncharitable analysis of the Baseball Reliquary's inductees in their "alt.hall-of-fame" (Shrine of the Eternals) is that they're a bunch of bleeding hearts--a group of "sob sisters" fixated on cripples and freaks and weirdos.

That's the fixed view of the world rearing its ugly head, of course. What Terry Cannon and Buddy Kilchesty and Ben Sakoguchi (the Reliquary's mysterious fellow traveler) know is that there's more than one way to skin a meritocracy. Much of it has to do with the power of a semi-secret ballot.

Reliquary voters--whose population has shifted over the years, BTW: Terry Cannon estimated that there has been more than 50% turnover in the membership ranks since the organization was founded nineteen years ago--continue to seek out adversity as a signature element in defining what Martin Luther King called "the content of their character." 

That said, they aren't doing it as often in the past five years (20% of the Shrine inductees since 2008 are "adversity" candidates, as opposed to 47% in the first ten years).

Our two subjects here--William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy (deafness) and Jim Abbott (physical deformity)--were part of the Reliquary's early push for "adversity" candidates. While voters in recent years have shifted toward individuals who possess qualities that fall more into "extremity" and "otherness," this shouldn't be taken to mean that "adversity" is somehow diminished. 

Ultimately, we can expect that these three qualities/forces will prove to be virtually equal in their impact on the overall voting results.

As regards the "cripples" epithet--the fact that players such as Abbott and Hoy and Pete Gray could become major league players is testament to the indomitability of the human spirit. 

Such is not a "bleeding heart" consideration. It's fundamental to social evolution. The day we dismiss such effort and yearning within ourselves is the day we die as a civilization.

This is something that the Reliquary, its voting group, and Ben Sakoguchi recognize and put into play on every day in their season of living. Ben captures a singular visual expression on the faces of Hoy and Abbott in these "orange crate art" painting--engaged yet faraway, caught up in the moment of performing well despite the odds. 

These two were alive in ways that most never are. Two players separated by nearly a century, with all the changes that such a time frame implies--and yet both of them show, in their eyes, the same calm engagement, the same calling, the quiet yet steely determination to succeed despite the odds.