Paul Hagen will be Hall alone

Hagen
Hagen
Posted: January 11, 2013

WHEN PAUL HAGEN was named the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing" last month, he never gave it a thought that he just might be the only living person to be honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame during induction weekend, July 26-28 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

But that will be the case.

With steroid-linked stars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa eligible for the first time, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America didn't vote in a single player. Thus, the only inductees will be Jacob Ruppert, Hank O'Day and Deacon White. Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek will be saluted with the Ford C. Frick Award. Ruppert, O'Day and White were selected by the Veterans Committee's preintegration committee; they were dead by the time the first induction weekend was held in Cooperstown in 1939. And Cheek died in October 2005.

"This is such a strange year," said Hagen, who covered the Phillies and baseball for the Daily News for 25 years. "They split the Veterans Committee into different eras and it just so happens that this year they did the real ancient guys."

It's going to be a quieter weekend in Cooperstown this year as there is no real draw, the one player that fans from his city have always wanted to see get in.

"In 1996, the last time no players were elected, [former Orioles manager] Earl Weaver and [former Phillies pitcher] Jim Bunning got in through the Veterans Committee," Hagen said. "They were good names. A lot of people came up from Baltimore to see Earl Weaver and it was kind of like a normal weekend.

"I covered the weekend that Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn went in, and that was crazy. And the weekend that Mike Schmidt and Rich Ashburn went in, and that was crazy. I think it's going to be a lot quieter [this year]."

Next year will be different as former Atlanta Braves aces Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are expected to go in together, much like the Yankees' Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford in 1974 and Schmidt and Ashburn in 1995.

But Hagen is well aware of the situation and why no players were voted in by the BBWAA.

"I think that a lot of voters can't bring themselves to vote for anybody who was associated with the steroid era, and I respect that," Hagen said.

Hagen went on to say that there have been many other eras - such as the deadball era; the World War II era, when most of the great players were in the armed forces; and now the steroid era - when the level of talent and competition had come into question, so you vote accordingly.

It's not like Cooperstown will be deserted on induction weekend. Many baseball fans make the quiet village in upstate New York a destination come late July as do at least 50 Hall of Famers. So there will be people present for the ceremonies. It's just that there will be nobody there coming to see their hometown hero.

Unless you're a Hagen. Enjoying the weekend will be Hagen's wife Karen, daughter Emily and son Danby.

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