By David Mullen
Lost in the hype of the NFL’s Super Bowl LII and in MLB’s lackluster hot stove league offseason, where owners are being accused of collusion and players and agents are being blamed for greed, were the announcements of the 2018 Hall of Fame classes of the respective leagues.
The highest honor bestowed upon retirees of the two most popular spectator sports pointed out the different criteria used by the selection committees.
The newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4, are linebackers Robert Brazile, Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis, safety Brian Dawkins, guard Jerry Kramer, wide receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, and contributor Bobby Beathard. The Pro Football Hall of Fame selections tend to be based on statistics, but were not without controversy.
Lewis was a dominating defensive force. He was named All-Pro eight times, was twice Defensive Player of the Year by Associated Press and was awarded Super Bowl XLVII MVP. He was noted for being aggressive on and off the field. In 2000, Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the stabbing deaths of two men. The NFL seemed to overlook the conviction.
Former Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens played 16 seasons (mostly with the San Francisco 49ers), caught 1,078 passes and scored 153 touchdowns. But in the days of 24-hour sports networks, Owens became a walking sound bite. His stellar play was often overshadowed by his constant rants that included post-game tears in the locker room.
At 6 feet 4 inches, 210 pounds, Moss was the prototypical wide receiver. He played for 14 seasons, was Offensive Rookie of the Year, had two 100-catch seasons and had a NFL record 23 touchdown receptions in 2007. Except for fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, he may have been the best receiver ever to play the game. But he was known as aloof and a troublemaker on the field. No one can forget when he mocked the fans in Green Bay with a “fake moon” after a touchdown catch.
Despite the indisputable statistical achievements by Lewis, Owens and Moss, getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is easier than being named for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Stats matter in baseball, but personality and off-field aplomb are also big factors. Model citizenship is taken into consideration along with model play.
Six new members joined the Baseball Hall of Fame recently and will be inducted on Saturday, July 29. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America elected longtime Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, former Texas Ranger Vladimir Guerrero, power hitter Jim Thome and reliever Trevor Hoffman. The Modern Era committee had earlier voted in shortstop Alan Trammell and starting pitcher Jack Morris.
All six players have impeccable reputations to go along with their stellar careers. Jones played 19 seasons, all with the Braves, hit .303 and won the 1999 MVP.
Guerrero finished in the top 10 of MVP voting six times, winning in 2004. Thome hit 612 home runs and was beloved by teammates and the press. Hoffman had 601 saves in 18 seasons, second only to all-time New York Yankees great Mariano Rivera.
Among the six inductees, only Jones and Thome were first ballot Hall-of-Famers. Moss and Lewis were first ballot choices. A case could be made that based on their off-field reputations, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America would have made them wait.
The writers are making the great Edgar Martinez wait because he was primarily a designated hitter, a position adopted by the American League in 1973. The best player of all-time Barry Bonds and arguably the best starting pitcher Roger Clemens remain out of the Baseball Hall of Fame because of PED use.
All-time hits leader Pete Rose has never even been on the Hall of Fame ballot because he gambled on baseball.
Two different games. Two different Hall of Fames. And clearly, two different sets of criteria.