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Ohio Governor John Kasich goes to bat for Al Oliver with the Hall of Fame

Nov 16, 2012, 8:54 AM EDT

Al Oliver

Warning. Long story ahead. But it’s the offseason and I’m bored and anyone who has read my stuff over the past 5+ years know that I tend to do this between November and February.

I’m not exactly a huge fan of my governor, John Kasich. He’s OK. A nice man and, despite his best efforts, has done little if any harm to my state, but I didn’t vote for him in 2010 and, unless the Democrats put up a real tomato can next time around, I likely won’t vote for him in 2014.  But I will give him this: the man follows through. Before the baseball part of this, a rambling story from my youth:

Back in 1993, when I was a college sophomore, a couple of friends of mine and I took part in some little global affairs conference for honors students at Ohio State. Think of it as a mini-model United Nations or something. Teams of four were given a topic of global interest and were asked to give some sort of presentation on it. John Kasich, who was then a congressman, was the keynote speaker at the event. Before the presentations he gave some talk about how bad it was that the incoming Clinton Administration was seemingly all wimpy and rudderless when it came to defense and foreign policy.

That year the topic of the conference was some vague question about whether rising nationalism in Eastern Europe in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union was a good thing. My teammates and I found this boring, so rather than answer the question we decided to come up with a military solution to the war in the former Yugoslavia, which was in no way a part of the question the conference organizers were asking.

We dove into it with the enthusiasm and flaming ignorance and naivete that only college sophomores can muster. I’ll spare you the details, but the upshot is that while every other team gave carefully-worded and politically correct answers about “balance” and “sensitivity” with respect to the varied cultures of the former Soviet satellite countries, our presentation was solely concerned with bombing the living crap out of anyone who did not love and embrace peace. We didn’t even give a nod to internationalism in our warmongering: it was to be a United States mission only.  It was truly something that only kids who watched a lot of “Iron Eagle” and “Red Dawn” on HBO in the 1980s could have put together. And it was glorious. At one point, due to us misreading an old DoD map, we had Trieste, Italy as a bombing target.

The judges and organizers of the event — scholars and diplomats who were committed to peace in an uncertain world — listened to our presentation with jaws agape. I’m sure at some point someone was asked where in the hell these little Reaganite warmongers came from, but we were oblivious to their horror. Someone weakly thanked us. We left the stage and gave each other high fives. And then we didn’t win any awards or anything at the end and felt totally ripped off about that.

Feeling slighted, we decided to print out our presentation and send it to Congressman Kasich’s office, attaching a cover letter that basically said “We were inspired by your talk at the conference. You’re right, Clinton doesn’t have a plan. Here’s ours. Feel free to use it and let us know if you want any other ideas.”  We had this vision that we’d be hired to be some sort of secret military think tank because, dudes, genius like this doesn’t grow on trees.

A couple of weeks later someone from Congressman Kasich’s office actually called me in my dorm room. I assumed he wanted to give us jobs, so I riffed about a few other equally-awesome proposals we had and explained how deciding the fate of the world like this our calling, just as much as it was America’s.  He thanked me and hung up. We never heard from him or Kasich again.  In hindsight I think he was more interested in making sure my friends and I weren’t some sort of crazy, homegrown terrorists in training.

But the biggest takeaway from all of this — other than the fact that we were actually right about what would end the crap going on in the former Yugoslavia — was that John Kasich, whatever his faults, follows through.

And so it is with baseball too.  For, once upon a time, Pittsburgh native and Pirates fan John Kasich told former Pirates star — and Ohio native — Al Oliver that he would do whatever he could to support Oliver’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame.  And he has now done that, writing the Baseball Hall of Fame on Oliver’s behalf and following through with Oliver just like he did with those dumb kids back in 1993:

Ohio Governor John Kasich has gone to bat for former Pittsburgh Pirates great and Portsmouth native Al Oliver, by writing a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame, urging Oliver’s election. Now, the Hall has responded with a response to Kasich.

“We thank you for taking the time to write and share your recommendation and suggestion with us,” Brad Horn, Senior Director of Communications and Education, said. “Your letter will become part of materials that are available to members of the Historical Overview Committee and the Era committees that consider candidates for Hall of Fame election.”

Based on his quotes in the story, Oliver was clearly surprised and impressed that Kasich followed through like that. Which, even if you don’t have anything positive to say about Kasich’s policies, is pretty damn admirable. I’m guessing, however, that Oliver’s chances of making the Hall of Fame are far less than the chances that a crazy, half-cocked military proposal cooked up by four 19 year-old kids would one day be adopted by NATO.

OK. Gonna go see if there’s any actual baseball news going down.

  1. indaburg - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    Can’t go wrong with a foreign policy of bomb the shit out of it.

    Al Oliver is an interesting case. He’s one of those players in the gray zone. He’s almost Hall of Fame worthy.

    • schlom - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:08 PM

      Rubble don’t cause trouble.

  2. missthemexpos - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Only played 2 seasons with Montreal but he won the batting title with the Expos in 82. Great player who finished in the top 10 in batting average 9 different times. I think the biggest thing that has hampered his HOF chances was that he was overshadowed during his Pittsburgh time by Willie Stargell.

  3. contraryguy - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    John Kasich… [facepalm]. For what it’s worth, I didn’t vote for him either.

    Al Oliver, native of Portsmouth, huh would’ve never know that. Looking at the other facts and tidbits on his BBRef page, it seems he’s only appeared on one Hall of Fame ballot, gaining 4.3% of votes in 1991 (not enough votes to keep him on the ballot). .300 career batter, RoY runner-up to Ted Sizemore in 1969, led league in doubles a couple of times. Good long career, but probably not HoF.

  4. Francisco (FC) - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    There’s something about being 19 that makes you think you’re always right, that you’re invincible AND immortal.

    • cur68 - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:28 PM


  5. wpjohnson - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    I believe Kasich deserves a bit more credit than you tend to give him. As for Oliver, it seems that he was somewhat blackballed from baseball while he still had a couple of good years left in his bat. He would probably have reached 3,000 hits which is automatic inclusion in the H of F.

    There are a lot of members of the Hall with lesser credentials than Oliver.

    • shynessismyelguapo - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      I’m going to disagree with your assesment of Oliver. His final season, at age 38, he hit .252/.287/.357 while largely playing DH. I can’t imagine a team would have been ecstatic to have a now-39 year old DH/1B who played so horribly the year before.

  6. simon94022 - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    I have no real opinion about the sentiments expressed in this post, but this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a bad politician referred to as “a real tomato can.”

    Nicely done.

  7. godofwine330 - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    Oh, man. An Iron Eagle reference. I remember that movie. “Chappie!!!!!” I am 35, and I remember that movie and loved it. I may go home and watch it. The 80’s and 90’s were great for movies.

  8. papacrick - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    John kasich is the man. I used to caddy for him at this high end golf club in Florida and can say he is a genuinely nice guy. He even offered my buddy a job working on some Fox News show. I had no idea who the hell he was but he always remembered my name and where I went to school even though I’m from Michigan

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