The incarceration of Pete Rose brought baseball moralists out of the woodwork by the thousands and kicked off a lively debate.
The question at the time was this:
Should a convicted felon be allowed entrance into the Hall of Fame?
It was a legitimate question with legitimate arguments on both sides, but the answer didn't figure to arrive until Rose's name was placed on the ballot in 1992 and the approximately 450 voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America had their say.
Now, there is speculation that an answer will come much sooner than that, when a committee of nine meets in December or January to review the Hall of Fame selection process.
Hall of Fame director Edward Stack has convened the committee to examine selection procedures and review the Rules for Election. That, in itself, is not unusual, but the curious timing of the review has at least two committee members wondering whether Rose's Hall of Fame eligibility is going to get lost in a hidden agenda.
"Suddenly, this happens a year before a guy who could be a sticky issue is a candidate," BBWAA executive secretary Jack Lang said. "It has every indication of being an attempt to keep Pete Rose off the ballot."
The review has been scheduled ostensibly because of inconsistencies in the selection process. Hall of Fame candidates are chosen by a screening committee, then must be named on 75 percent of the ballots cast to get into Cooperstown. Players passed over in the BBWAA voting eventually can be elected by the Hall of Fame Veterans xTC Committee, which includes longtime baseball executives, baseball writers and former players.
Though no specific rules changes have been discussed, there has been talk about altering the eligibility requirements to prevent the induction of players who have been banned from baseball.
"That's been a suggestion made by some of the baseball writers," said Hall of Fame associate director Bill Guilfoile. "Whether that will come up for discussion, I don't know."
But Lang said that he has heard no such sentiment from any member of the BBWAA, and fellow committee member Frank Dolson of the Philadelphia Inquirer said recently that he feared the rules review was just an excuse to try to get Rose off the ballot.
"I don't know if it's a sham," Dolson told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "but I suspect that it is."
The board of directors of the Hall of Fame has the power to alter the rules at its discretion, but Lang and Dolson say that the BBWAA's traditional role in the selection process should not be circumvented by rules that would keep specific players off the ballot.
It would seem more logical to allow a committee of 450 to elect a player by a 75 percent vote than to allow a committee of nine to reject him by a simple majority, but it could happen.
"I think the thing should be left up to the writers," Lang said. "We'll be the heroes or villains if Rose gets in or doesn't get in. It has always been the writers who decide, and they [the Hall's board of directors] have never questioned anybody the BBWAA has selected."
There are some loopholes in the selection process that the BBWAA would like to see reviewed, however.
"The Veterans Committee has admitted players who were soundly rejected by the BBWAA voting body," Lang said, "so the BBWAA would like to see tougher eligibility requirements for candidates who have been passed over in the balloting.
"The Veterans Committee selected Rick Ferrell, although he got only five votes in all the years he was on the ballot," Lang said. "We think they should have to come reasonably close to the 75 percent requirement. I've been asked to propose that nobody be considered by the Veterans Committee who did not get at least 66 2/3 percent of the vote in any one year."
That proposal doesn't figure to be embraced by the Veterans Committee, but it does show that the BBWAA is committed to keeping the Hall of Fame a very exclusive place.
The Philadelphia Phillies did Mickey Tettleton a big favor when they signed catcher Darren Daulton to a three-year contract worth $6.75 million, but that doesn't figure to change the chemistry of Tettleton's negotiations with the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles can feign outrage if they want to, but Daulton turned down a three-year, $6.6 million offer during the regular season. This contract was no great surprise.
"I don't know if it helps us as far as the Baltimore Orioles are concerned, but it certainly helps us as far as Mickey Tettleton is concerned," said agent Tony Attanasio. "It simply reaffirms for us that there is a market out there for catchers in Mickey's class."
Tettleton's offensive numbers are comparable to Daulton's (his two-year numbers are much better, in fact), but the Orioles have been unwilling to discuss a multiyear contract. They have, in essence, asked Tettleton to go out and make the best deal he can, then bring it back and give them a chance to match it.