Curt Schilling was good at baseball. He’s also a colossal asshole. Where does that leave us?
The term “hallowed ground” has had every ounce of drama squeezed from it since Abe Lincoln first used the term in the Gettysburg Address (his exact words were “we cannot hallow this ground”). Since that point, the phrase has been used to describe any place that seems sacred, regardless of whether or not it meets the criteria for being “hallowed”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the “hallowed” gatekeeper, nor am I one to give much thought to literary clichés, but when a term reserved for only the most highly revered places is overused, it loses value. We cannot group The National Baseball Hall of Fame in with every undeserving place that has been coined a “hallowed ground”.
I first (and last) visited the Hall of Fame in the summer of 2017, on Father’s Day to be exact. I was spending a summer in upstate New York playing collegiate summer baseball, and in order to escape the purgatory that is summer ball I took a trip to Cooperstown with my friend and his parents. I‘ve always loved and been fascinated by baseball history, and the Hall of Fame is Mecca. To be totally honest, I don’t remember too much about the Hall, but I do remember the plaque gallery and let me tell you something. If any place in the world is deserving of the term “hallowed ground”, it’s the National Baseball Hall of Fame plaque gallery. That shit is hallowed as fuck.
When I walked, or I should say ran, through the gallery (like a school child at recess) I was bouncing from wall to wall taking pictures of all the different plaques. Ted Williams! Lou Gehrig — a fellow Columbia baseball alumnus! Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg — my Jewish brethren! I know it sounds sappy, but I was emotional in that room. I must’ve stared at Babe Ruth’s plaque for 20 minutes without blinking. And when I saw Ty Cobb’s plaque, right next to the Bambino’s, I read every word. God damn Ty Cobb was a great baseball player, but his accomplishments were muted in my mind by the fact that he was a known scumbag. He slid spikes up on the field and physically abused his wife off it. But everyone knows that, and his plaque still hangs.
While I think we should abhor the Georgia Peach’s personality, I don’t think we should remove him from the Hall. Overlooking his accomplishments would be a disservice to the game’s history. We should, however, acknowledge the fact that he was a colossal asshole, and work to prevent men like him from entering the Hall of Fame in the future. It’s 2021, not 1936 (not that the era excuses Ty Cobb’s behavior) and men who act like Ty Cobb today should not be given the highest honor in baseball — let alone any honors.
That was a very, very long-winded way for me to get to Curt Schilling, the man who was denied entrance to the Hall of Fame today. He received 71.1% of votes, short of the 75% it takes to be inducted. I’m not going to get into statistics because, frankly, it’s widely accepted that Schilling’s nazi-memorabilia-collecting ass put together a very, very strong career on the mound. To be blunt, I really don’t care. This case, in my opinion, should function as a reverse-Cobb. Curt Schilling is not deserving of entering the Hall of Fame in 2021, but we should begrudgingly acknowledge that he was a great pitcher. In today’s day and age, where common decency is valued by anyone with a brain, being a great pitcher isn’t enough to warrant celebration and an honorary ceremony.
Oh, and by the way, don’t you dare conflate this argument with steroids or Pete Rose. This is about posting Hitler memes and agreeing with tweets insinuating journalists should be hung, among many other instances of degeneracy. This is about being a decent human being in a world that is desperate for more decent human beings. It’s not politics, it’s being a goddamn lunatic and an asshole. The criteria for being a Hall of Famer can and should change.
Given Curt Schilling’s abstention from next year’s Hall of Fame ballot, it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to worry about this conversation anymore. He can whine all he wants, but he won’t be setting foot onto any hallowed ground any time soon.**
I really don’t have much more to say. This isn’t a persuasive essay, nor do I have a word quota to meet. There’s really no agenda for me except to get my thoughts down in a (somewhat) organized manner. I guess the moral of the story is don’t be a slime ball of a human and then, and only then, should you be judged on play alone.
**Since the time of writing, the BBWAA has denied Schilling’s request to be left off the ballot (which is hilarious), so it looks like this entire paragraph is irrelevant now.