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The Hall of Fame: it's all about the money

Jul 23, 2009, 9:21 AM EST

Next time you hear Hall of Famers spout off about how the steroids cheats should be kept out, keep in mind that it may very well be more than the alleged integrity of the institution that they’re
protecting. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame can mean lots and lots of cash:

On the day Mr. Gossage’s election was announced, in mid-January
2007, I spent several hours with him and his agent, Andrew Levy. Their
cellphones never stopped ringing. Mr. Gossage bantered with George
Brett, Joe Torre and other baseball friends who called to offer
congratulations. Meanwhile, Mr. Levy furiously fielded business offers.
“Until now, he’s been getting between $7,500 and $10,000 per speech,”
Mr. Levy told me. “Today, his price just tripled.” The Goose had laid a
golden egg . . .

. . . In recent years the money pot has grown as the Hall of Fame,
which produces and markets its own line of merchandise, has been forced
to give 30% of the profits to its inductees. According to Marvin
Miller, very likely the world’s greatest expert on baseball economics,
this helps explain why the Veterans Committee, composed of Hall of
Famers, consistently refuses to exercise its mandate to elect
previously overlooked old-timers. “Nobody wants to dilute the value of
his stock,” Mr. Miller told me.

And it’s not as if it’s only the people on the inside who are treating
this like a business. As the article notes, the most famous of those on
the outside looking in — Ron Santo, Bert Blyleven, the estate of
Shoeless Joe Jackson and Davy Concepcion — all have what amounts to
professional lobbying and P.R. representation working for them.
Jackson’s heirs, the article tells us, can expect a boost of of a half
million bucks a year in marketing opportunities if and when he’s ever
inducted. Joe Morgan isn’t even the craziest guy out there campaigning
for Concepcion: “The government of Venezuela hired Washington lobbyist
Tim Gay to mount a Hall of Fame campaign for Hugo Chávez’s favorite
shortstop, Dave Concepcion.”

Given this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, you’re going
to hear a ton about this allegedly august institution. About who is
outside looking in. About who deserves to be there and who doesn’t.
About how allowing Barry Bonds and his fellow travellers in would
simply corrupt the place. Don’t take it seriously. Because while the
Hall of Fame is a great museum, the Hall of Fame induction game is a
business like anything else, and it’s owed just as much reverence as
Wal-Mart, Google, Congress or any other useful yet ultimately
self-interested institution.

(Thanks to Neate Sager for the link)

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