Keep Shoeless Joe Jackson out of the Hall of Fame!

"Gambling-related sins must stand at the apex of the disciplinary scale"

By Salon Staff

Published June 19, 2000 7:03PM (EDT)

Headline BY GARY KAUFMAN (06/15/00)

Gary Kaufman, in his piece endorsing Hall of Fame induction for Joe Jackson, lists three reasons why Jackson should be enshrined:

1. He was banned by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a "vicious little fool who ruled baseball by whim."

2. Other baseball games during the period were surely thrown as well.

3. The Hall of Fame, in Kaufman's words, "should be about achievement on the field," and presumably not about character.

All three arguments are seriously flawed. If we use Kaufman's logic, we could conveniently eliminate the Constitution because it was ratified by slaveholders -- after all, surely holding humans in bondage is a sin equal to or greater than promoting segregation. Moreover, we don't release convicted criminals because crimes similar to theirs are unsolved. Finally, the Hall of Fame rules state that selection "shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." Agreeing to throw World Series games violates at least four of these six criteria. If Kaufman would like these criteria changed, perhaps he should put forward a relevant argument.

When considered in the kindest light, Jackson still undermined the competitive integrity that sustains his industry by facilitating a conspiracy to fix games. Baseball does not need to validate this behavior by conveniently forgetting it.

-- Owen Rodgers

Baseball statistics god Bill James says it best: There are things in any profession that, while not illegal, are incompatible with the demands of that profession. Example: if you are a psychiatrist, sleeping with a patient will not get you in any trouble with the courts, but it will cause you considerable difficulty with the APA.

Yes, Joe Jackson and Pete Rose are immortals in their sport. They also admitted to gambling-related violations, whether conspiring to throw games or bet on them. On a social scale, this might not rank with the egregious displays of drug-related excess of a Daryl Strawberry or Tim Raines. But while baseball should have some sort of penalties for drug use (and it does), gambling-related sins must stand at the apex of the disciplinary scale, because they involve tampering with the fundamental integrity of the game.

Joe Jackson and Pete Rose are not wanting for fame or recognition. To induct them into the Hall of Fame would be a blow to professional sports at large, not just baseball. It would undermine the idea that the game as it is played on the field is fair, legitimate and not predetermined (except in the case of large-market teams and the World Series). Then again, compare the ratings of baseball to those of WWF "Monday Night RAW," and maybe you'll discover that people just don't care that much about integrity in their sporting events.

-- Jon Morton

Salon Staff

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