This was originally published in The Athletic....
Cincinnati is the place where a good baseball Hall of Fame argument comes to die. You don’t believe me? Walk into a local sports bar and start talking about why the one voter who didn’t vote for Derek Jeter is a lunatic, or list the merits of Larry Walker’s Hall of Fame case. Then let me know how far you get without someone dragging Pete Rose’s name into the discussion.
Do you believe that Curt Schilling should be a slam dunk for Cooperstown in 2021? Have you joined the growing movement in favor of Scott Rolen being the next former Red to be inducted? Do you feel as I do that Andruw Jones, one of the 10 most talented human beings I’ve ever seen play baseball, has a better HOF case than he’s given credit for?
You’re better off making those arguments elsewhere because the second you bring up why certain former ballplayers should be in, the total buzzkill of the topic of Rose’s baseball banishment and Cooperstown exclusion is forthcoming.
Your uncle’s Facebook posts on presidential impeachment cover fresher ground than when someone tries to shoehorn Pete into any Hall of Fame discussion. Yet I can’t tell you how many times I, as someone who loves a good should-he-be-in-or-out debate, have had the conversation come to an instant end because someone wants to bring up the most tired topic in all of sports.
Here’s the thing: There is actually a baseball Hall of Fame omission that Reds fans should be fired up about, or at least willing to discuss with greater frequency than Rose’s self-made baseball exile. It’s not Rose, and although I’ll gladly speak on his behalf whenever someone tells me that Omar Vizquel is Hall-worthy, it’s not Davey Concepcion either.
It isn’t even Dave Parker, and I revere The Cobra. It is galling to me that Harold Baines made it in last summer, not because of any ill feelings toward Baines, but because Parker was a better, more well-rounded player. But no, it’s not Dave Parker.
The Hall of Fame’s most glaring and egregious omission involves the architect of the Big Red Machine.
It is astounding that Bob Howsam’s plaque isn’t in Cooperstown. The general manager during the Reds’ most famed period, who helped build teams that many consider the greatest of all-time, died 12 years ago without ever getting baseball’s highest honor. The 1970s were arguably the most significant age in the sport’s history, with changes to the game that in many ways mirrored the cultural shift happening to the country as a whole. The ’70s brought free agency and the designated hitter along with evening games in the World Series. The spread of Astroturf brought enormous changes to the way baseball was played, and had a lasting impact on how teams were constructed. It was a time in which Major League Baseball and many of its teams still had a stranglehold on the collective consciousness of American sports fans, with players and teams that remain iconic.
The ’70s Reds may have lacked the color of Charley Finley’s Oakland teams that won three straight World Series from 1972 to 1974 or George Steinbrenner’s Bronx Zoo Yankees clubs that won consecutive titles in 1977 and 1978, but no big-league outfit is more identified with the era than Howsam’s Reds.
His list of accomplishments is ridiculous. The Reds finished with a losing record just once while winning five division titles from 1970 through 1976, captured four National League pennants and won the World Series in 1975 and 1976 during Howsam’s 11 seasons. The ’70s Reds are iconic, with a legacy that’s both fiercely defended by those who were here for it and passed down as required learning to those of us who wish we would have been.
To read the entire piece, go to The Athletic.