By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
On Feb. 1, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. begins its latest chapter in honouring and preserving Canadian baseball history by announcing its newest round of inductees.
We don't know who is on the list of possible inductees but we assume that recently retired players such as Ryan Dempster and Jason Bay, both B.C. natives, would be upfront and centre on the minds of the 24 selectors. They recently passed the three-year waiting period.
I have written and tweeted several times in the past that Blue Jays legendary pitcher Jimmy Key is long overdue for election into the Canadian hall and so is Bill Stoneman, he of two no-hitters fame and an Expos' front-office administrator for close to 20 years. Somewhere in there, former major-league pitcher Eric Gagné should be a name bandied around by voters. Same goes for Expos pitching legend Pedro Martinez and former Jays GM Gord Ash.
I have a number of nominations on the table and perhaps at some point, they will get elected. Those people are former Expos' pitchers Steve Renko and Bryn Smith, former Expos scout Bill MacKenzie, former Jays scout Wayne Morgan and former Baseball Canada president Cas Pielak, who was also an International Amateur Baseball Federation vice-president.
But we don't know if Dempster, Bay, Key, Stoneman, Gagné, Martinez and Ash are even on the list facing the voters. That is all kept a secret. My thought is that the Hall of Fame should show much more transparency and openness by trotting out a news release a month before each inductee announcement, listing some possible inductees. I don't think that would be hard to do.
Director of operations Scott Crawford traditionally pre-releases the names of possible candidates for the Tip O'Neill Award for top Canadian so why not do the same for possible inductees?
By issuing a news release in advance of the announcement, the Hall engages fans in talking about it and chatting about it around the water cooler and gets media folks to talk about it in newspapers and on radio and television. What it would do is drum up interest in the Hall, interest that the hall so badly needs.
Instead, there is a secrecy that surrounds the Hall. That is not the way it should be. It leaves an air of something minor league. Should it be called the St. Marys Baseball Hall of Fame? If this organization wants to be known as the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, then it needs to be more open and transparent. Until this happens, the Hall will always be Canadian in name only.
Unlike the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, which releases names of eligible players several months before the voter results are announced, the Canadian hall keeps any names close to the vest. Are Blue Jays legends Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield on the list? We don't know.
We have been told that the selection committee requested that the ballot constituents be kept confidential.
The Hall prides itself on allowing a regular person to nominate a player or individual for consideration but that same person or reporter is not apprised of any other names on the voters' list. It doesn't make sense.
What has also been kept a secret is the fact the Hall of Fame boasts a veterans' committee that considers the plight of people who don't qualify for induction through the regular selection committee. These people on the veterans committee are studied only by the Hall's 15-member board of directors headed by chair Adam Stephens. The Cooperstown hall publicly makes it known it has a veterans' committee studying some names overlooked by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
This is all wonderful that the St. Marys hall has another committee that looks at people overlooked by the regular voting selectors. But it wouldn't hurt to unlock this secret and let the public know that this veterans committee actually exists. And the names of people being considered by the veterans committee should also be made public. What harm is there in releasing names?
Bill Atkinson, the pride of Chatham, Ont., is one individual being studied by the veterans committee after he was passed over by regular voters. Among the others up for consideration by the vets group include San Diego Chicken mascot Ted Giannoulas, former Blue Jay Paul Molitor, 1984 Expo Pete Rose, Expos broadcasting legend Jacques Doucet, scout, coach and manager Orv Franchuk and turn of the 20th century pitcher Rube Vickers, who so happens to be a native of St. Marys.
Doucet already has ties already to the Hall because he's a past winner of the Hall's Jack Graney media award.
The selection committee is also an unpublicized group of figures but it does has representatives from all across Canada. The Hall's board of directors is the exact opposite with mostly representation from Ontario but unlike the selection committee, its members are listed publicly on the Hall of Fame's website. The board of directors should take a clue/cue from the selection committee and bring in more members from across the country to make it a truly national board.
As we sift through these flaws in the Hall's operation, we await the voting results Feb. 1. A joyous day. Then even more enjoyment will come on the Hall's signature event of June 16 when all of them will be inducted.