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African American future baseball Hall of Fame inductees; an unclear picture

Frank Thomas
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn

Hall of Fame voting members of the Baseball Writers Association chose three former players for induction on July 26 in Cooperstown; Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas, an African American.

Thomas’ induction is important because the picture for African American future inductees is unclear. The alleged use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) by former players and the decreasing number of African Americans currently in the Major Leagues makes the number of African American future inductees uncertain.

His second year on the ballot, Major League career home run leader Barry Bonds received only 34.7% of the writers’ votes in the 2014 selection process due to his reported use of PEDs (Mitchell Report, BALCO). Needing 75% of the writers’ votes for induction, Bond’s career in their opinion is tainted by the alleged use of PEDs and his Hall of Fame induction is uncertain.

Although not linked to using PEDs, Fred McGriff has suffered for playing during the era. With what some say are borderline statistics for the Hall of Fame, 493 home runs and 1,550 RBI, the taint of the era may tip the scale for him not being inducted. McGriff received only 11.7% of the votes in 2014, his fifth year on the ballot.

With 509 home runs and 1,676 RBI, Gary Sheffield’s his first year of induction eligibility will be 2015. However, his name is included in the Mitchell Report alleging use of PEDs and he will probably get fewer votes than Bonds.
For now, the only two African American players certain for the Hall of Fame are Ken Griffey, Jr. and Derek Jeter. With 630 home runs, 1,836 RBI, and no PED baggage; Griffey should be a first ballot, first year eligibility, Hall of Fame inductee in 2016. Jeter, retiring after this season with more than 3,000 hits, should be a first ballot selection in 2020.

It is too early to tell if the small number of current African American Major League stars, David Price, Justin Upton, or Andrew McCutchen for example, will have Hall of Fame careers.

As time passes and the cloud of PED use fades, the chances for Bonds and Sheffield’s induction should increase. Also Major League Baseball’s current program to get more African American kids to play the game, Reviving Baseball in the Inter Cities (RBI), will identify more players hopefully like Griffey and Jeter. But, all this is a picture far into the future.

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