The 2022 Hall of Fame vote (baseball)

A-Rod, Big Papi

A-Rod, 2007
A-Rod, 2007

On January 25, 2022, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will “announce the results of its 2022 Hall of Fame vote live from Cooperstown… Any electees will be inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend on Sunday, July 24. they’ll be joined by the previously announced legends.

Of the 30 people on the ballot, 13 of them were on for the first time. Conversely, four players appear for the 10th and final time. They could be elected by a veterans’ committee down the road.

By far, the biggest first-timer is Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod, by many statistical standards, is the best player being voted on. As Wikipedia noted, “Rodriguez amassed a .295 batting average, over 600 home runs (696), over 2,000 runs batted in (RBI), over 2,000 runs scored, over 3,000 hits, and over 300 stolen bases, the only player in MLB history to achieve all of those feats.”

The problem is that he was involved in two performance-enhancing drug scandals. I give him a pass on the steroid use prior to 2004. As then-MLB commissioner Bud Selig noted, “at the time of the testing there were no punishments for this sort of activity.”

However, he was suspended in August 2013 for the rest of the season and all of 2014 for his use of human growth hormones. By then, he should have known better. So, if I were a voter, I would pass on him this year.

Similarly, I’d pass on Manny Ramirez (6th year, 28.2% of the voters last year, with 75% needed for induction), who served a 50-game suspension in 2012 for the second violation of the drug policy.

The 10th and final time

In a flip from last year, I WOULDN’T vote for Curt Shilling (10th year, 71.1%). And it has something to do with his public request not to be on the ballot. After last year’s vote, he touted “presidential election-related conspiracy theories; calling for a declaration of martial law; and comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, to a Nazi.

“After the December 31 voting deadline, Schilling doubled down by tweeting his support of the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, a move that was a bridge too far for some voters who had otherwise continued to support him.” So, no.

Sammy Sosa (10th year, 17.0%) I would vote no. He was a great home run hitter, but too one-dimensional.

Conversely, I would vote YES on the great players
1. Barry Bonds (10th year, 61.8%) and
2. Roger Clemens (10th year, 61.6%)
who operated before Major League Baseball specifically addressed PED.

Who else

3. David Ortiz, (1st year) – Big Papi, “Played 20 seasons with Twins and Red Sox…10-time All-Star Game selection.” And an interesting character. Even though he played for the evil Red Sox.

4. Gary Sheffield (8th year, 40.6%) long and impressive career. A bit of a hothead, and like Bonds and Clemens, in the steroid accusation period

5. Andy Petitte (4th year, 13.7%) – I owned my bias last year.

In fact, everything I said about
6. Todd Helton (4th year, 44.9%)
7. Jeff Kent (9th year, 32.4%)
8. Billy Wagner (7th, 46.4%)
9. Scott Rolen, (5th year, 52.9%)
last year still applies.

10. Jimmy Rollins (1st year) – speed, power, good glove

I have no idea what the actual voters will do, though I expect Ortiz to get in. 

 

Six legends of baseball

Hodges, Kaat, Minoso, O’Neil, Olivo, and Fowler

six legendsSix legends were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on December 5, 2021. “The Early Baseball Era Committee considered a 10-person ballot whose primary contributions came prior to 1950.”

They selected two. I was unfamiliar with Bud Fowler (1858-1913). Jeffrey Michael Laing wrote the book Bud Fowler: Baseball’s First Black Professional.

“Emphasizing the social and cultural contexts for Fowler’s accomplishments on and off the baseball diamond, and his prominence within the history and development of the national pastime, the text builds a convincing case for Fowler as one of the great pioneering figures of the early game.”

He played for the Binghamton Crickets, or Bingos, in the International Association in 1887, though there are no details on the Baseball-Reference site. In the book That Happened Here, George Basler explores how this 19th-century phenom was forced from his team because of racism. (h/t to Cee)

Bud Fowler“Playing second base, his best-known position, he established himself as a star. By the end of June, he was hitting .350, with 42 runs scored, and was acknowledged as the best player on the team. But he was gone only a few days later, after playing only 34 games, when nine white players staged a revolt by signing a letter stating that they would no longer play with a black man… 

“On July 14, two weeks after Fowler’s release in Binghamton, International League club owners — stung by complaints from white players and press comments that it was becoming a ‘colored league’ — voted to approve no more contracts with African-American players. The American Association and National League, two major leagues, followed suit shortly thereafter. The “color line” would last until 1946 when Jackie Robinson began playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.”
Extraordinary effort

Buck O’Neil (1911-2006) was not only a star first baseman and manager in the Negro Leagues but an inexhaustible promotor of its history and legacy. He played primarily with the Kansas City Monarchs. “After his playing days, he worked as a scout and became the first African American coach in Major League Baseball… He played a major role in establishing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO.”

In fact, in 2008, the Hall created the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. It is presented “not more than once every three years to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity, and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil.” He was posthumously named the first recipient.

Golden Days

“The Golden Days Era Committee considered a ballot of 10 candidates whose primary contributions came from 1950-69.” I had baseball cards of all four of these players at some point.

From the first time I saw him, I was captivated by Minnie Minoso (1925-2015), nicknamed “The Cuban Comet”. He was “the first Black Cuban in the major leagues and the first black player in White Sox history. Minoso lead the American League in being hit by a pitch for 10 seasons. He led the league in stolen bases thrice and being caught stealing six times. He played in five decades if you count five games total in 1976 and 1980.

Gil Hodges (1924-1972) was a solid first baseman, mostly for the Dodgers. But managing the 1969 World Series-winning New York Mets probably helped his cause.

My late father-in-law Richard would be pleased with the inclusion of two Minnesota Twins stars.  Tony Oliva was a .304 career hitter and thrice AL batting champ. Pitcher Jim Kaat pitched for a quarter-century and later was a baseball announcer for many years. I thought both deserved to be in the Hall earlier. At least they, who were both born in 1938, are still alive at this writing. Hopefully will be available for their induction in the summer of 2022.

Oh, and I’ll worry about the baseball lockout by the owners on January 31, 2022, but not before.

Musician Nils Lofgren is turning 70

E Street Band and Crazy Horse

Nils LofgrenNils Lofgren is quite possibly a musician you’ve never of, even though he’s in the Rock and Hall of Fame. He’s the epitome of the working musician.

“Along with his work as a solo artist, he has been a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band since 1984, a member of Crazy Horse, and founder/frontman of the band Grin.”

He appears on a number of albums that I own. With Neil Young, that would be After the Gold Rush (1970), Tonight’s the Night (1975), Trans (1982), and Unplugged (February 1993). For Bruce, that would include Live/1975-85 (1986), Tunnel of Love (1987), The Rising (2002), Magic (2007), Working on a Dream (2009), Wrecking Ball (2012), and High Hopes (2014).

But he never became a “star.” He was a two-time member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. “In December 2018 PBS NewsHour aired a 10-minute career retrospective Nils Lofgren: 50 Years of ‘just being a guy in the band.’”

Solo

After his group Grin “failed to hit the big time, and were released by their record company,” he recorded some solo albums. I have exactly one of them.

His eponymous first solo album “was critically praised at the time of its release, most notably in a 1975 Rolling Stone review by Jon Landau. The 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide said it was a ‘tour de force of unquenchable vitality and disarming subtlety.’

“In 2007, nearly 32 years after the release of Nils Lofgren, the album was again praised by Rolling Stone in the ‘Fricke’s Picks’ column, where David Fricke said it was one of 1975’s best albums. The album was on the Billboard 200 chart for nine weeks and peaked at number 141 on May 10, 1975.” #141.

When I was working at FantaCo, running the mail order, some guy at Rykodisc would send me free music. I believe that this album was one of them, although it was re-released in 1990, according to the Wikipedia article, and I left FantaCo in 1988.

Cry Tough (1976) got to #32, I Came To Dance (1977) to #36, Night after Night (1977 live double albums) to #44.

“With mainstream success continuing to elude Lofgren, A and M brought in Bob Ezrin in 1979, to oversee Nils. Ezrin was known for his successes with Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, and Kiss. Lofgren: ‘The label said they wanted to bring in co-writers, and I said that I didn’t do that. Ezrin said, ‘What about Lou Reed?’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah, okay. That would be cool.'” The album reached #54, and he never had another album crack the Top 100 except Night Fades Away (#99 in 1981).

Commercial success isn’t everything

In 2014, he as part of the E Street Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Known for backing Bruce Springsteen in his storied performances, the E Street Band is a gang of musicians bursting with skill, soul, and endurance.”

The Springsteen page notes. “In 1984, following the departure of Steven Van Zandt, Lofgren joined the E Street Band just prior to the launch of the enormous, globetrotting Born in the U.S.A. tour. Throughout the 156-date monster Lofgren became known not only for his scorching guitar work but his gift for stage-worthy acrobatics and theatrics — which makes sense, as in high school Lofgren had been a competitive gymnast.

“Lofgren kept up both roles for the Tunnel of Love Express tour in 1988… And when the E Street Band reconvened in 1999, Springsteen diplomatically answered the question of which guitarist would be brought back into the fold by including both Van Zandt and Lofgren.”

Check out his website. Also this article: Nils Lofgren talks ‘Bonus Tracks,’ Neil Young, Keith Richards and Rolling Stones near miss.” And this one: Nils Lofgren On Playing With Bruce Springsteen And Neil Young, 52 Years On The Road And More.

Songs

When You Dance, I Can Really Love – Neil Young
Back It Up 
If I Say It, It’s So 
Keith, Don’t Go (Ode to the Glimmer Twin)
Valentine – Nils Lofgren & Bruce Springsteen

You should go to Youtube and search Nils Lofgren Bruce Springsteen or Nils Lofgren Neil Young. Oodles of good stuff.

Nils Lofgren turns 70 on June 21.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees for 2021

Billy Preston, Kraftwerk, Todd Rundgren, LL Cool J, finally

Here are two possibly contradictory things. I know that who gets, or doesn’t get, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t equate with their talent, commercial success, or “worthiness.” And, for the most part, I am really quite happy who got in this season. Here was my wish list. Maybe next year for Chaka Khan and Devo.

“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reveals its 2021 Inductees, celebrating the most diverse list of Inductees in the history of the organization.”

Performer Category

go gosTina Turner – for a time, she and Fela Kuti were vying for the top spot on the fan ballot. In the end, Tina won going away. I didn’t vote for her because she was already in, with Ike Turner and I chose to vote for those who weren’t in at all. But I’m not complaining, as I have two of her solo albums.
The Best 

Carole King – she ended up sixth on the five performer ballot. I didn’t vote for her either, as she was in as a songwriter with Gerry Goffin. But no complaints here, even though Tapestry is the only album of hers I own.
Jazzman 

The Go-Go’s – came in third in the fan voting. I voted for them and saw them perform 30 years ago in Albany. 
We Got The Beat 

JAY-Z – near the bottom of the fan vote, but an understandable pick.
Song Cry 

Foo Fighters – in the top five of the fan vote. I didn’t vote for them, primarily because Dave Grohl was already in the Rock Hall with Nirvana. But I like Grohl. He’s been Touring in a Van, Interviewing Rock Stars and; Performing with His Daughter. 
Everlong 

Todd Rundgren – YES! His third time on the ballot is the charm. He’s been my #1 or #2 pick each year. Nazz, Utopia, solo work, plus producing.
Appropriately, Just One Victory 

Early Influence Award

Kraftwerk – it was on the ballot about a dozen times. Not this year, but they got in anyway, and that’s great.
list from J. Eric Smith.

Charley Patton  – Wikipedia says (April 1891 (probable) – April 28, 1934) he was an American Delta blues musician. Considered by many to be the ‘Father of the Delta Blues’, he created an enduring body of American music and inspired most Delta blues musicians.
Spoonful Blues 

Gil Scott-Heron – an inspired choice. In case you don’t know, “his music… influenced and foreshadowed later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo-soul.”
We Almost Lost Detroit 

Musical Excellence Award

This is an odd category. It used to be the “sidemen” award for folks such as Motown’s James Jamerson or Hal Blaine of the Wrecking Crew. But, under the new title, it has included Ringo Starr.

LL Cool J – I’ve been pushing for him for years, and I voted for him this year, but he was in the bottom two of the popular vote.
I Need Love 

Billy Preston – MY FAVORITE CHOICE. Nearly a decade ago, I made the case why he should be included. 
My Sweet Lord (live)

Randy Rhoads – I must admit, I know the name, but not the body of work from Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osborne
Solos 

Ahmet Ertegun Award

Clarence Avant – read the Wikipedia article about the Black Godfather, who made black music more visible.

Yeah, there are more musicians to get in. But I must make my annual appeal for Estelle Axton in this category.

2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

satisfaction

Todd Rundgren Gtr Player 1977On February 10, I received an email: “Hello rock and roll fans! We’re excited to announce this year’s Nominees for induction into the 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

Mary J. Blige, Kate Bush, Devo, Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, JAY-Z, Chaka Khan, Carole King, Fela Kuti, LL Cool J, New York Dolls, Rage Against the Machine, Todd Rundgren, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick.

“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame offers fans the opportunity to participate in the Induction selection process with the Fan Vote. Through April 30, fans can vote every day at rockhall.com, or at the Museum in Cleveland. The top five artists, as selected by the public, will comprise a ‘fans’ ballot’ that will be tallied along with the other ballots to select the 2021 Inductees.

For the past three years, I’ve had this no-doubter.

#TODD RUNDGREN
This is the third year in a row he’s been nominated. Two years ago, I wrote: “I have his albums with the Nazz, Utopia and a number of his solo albums. He’s also produced a chunk of notable albums for others… He’s a wizard, a true star.”
I Saw the Light  

“To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination. Seven out of 16 of the Nominees are on the ballot for the first time, including Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, JAY-Z, Mary J. Blige, Fela Kuti, and Dionne Warwick.”

They got the beat

My next choice: #The GO-GO’S:
They’ve had a resurgence of sorts with a 2020 documentary about “the first all-women group to write their own songs, play their own instruments, and snag a #1 hit.” I’ll admit my bias since I saw them at J.B. Scott’s in Albany back in 1981. They played the entire first album and a non-album B-side.
Our Lips Are Sealed 

I don’t know Iron Maiden’s music very well. But the other first-timers on the list I could make a case for.

Dionne Warwick has no chance with the fans. She does not rock, and while neither did her young cousin Whitney Houston, who has been inducted, Whitney wasn’t doing Bacharach and David. I’m fond of Dionne, and maybe I’ll vote for her down the road.

On the other hand, I was shocked by the votes for the late Fela Kuti, who was leading the pack early. I didn’t think the originator of Afrobeat was that well-known, certainly not in the US. I don’t have any of his albums as such, but I do have Red Hot + Riot, which features his music. If things get close, I might switch to him.

#CHAKA KHAN:
“Chaka Khan was previously nominated both solo and with the band Rufus.”
Frankly, I’m not feeling Rufus for the Hall. But Chaka’s body of work, absolutely. This is her 7th nomination either solo or in the group.
I Feel for You 

“If elected, Carole King and Tina Turner will become the second and third female artists inducted twice, following Stevie Nicks’ 2019 election. If Foo Fighters are inducted, Dave Grohl will also become a twice-inducted performer.” And, I suppose, because there are so many deserving nominees, I won’t be voting for any of these.

Uncontrollable urge

#DEVO
Wikipedia says “their music… mingling kitsch science fiction themes, deadpan surrealist humor, and mordantly satirical social commentary. Who knew how prescient they would be?
Whip It 

Kate Bush, Rage Against the Machine, and especially The New York Dolls would be on my ballot if I had more picks. Mary J. Blige and Jay Z, as first-timers, will get nominated again, I’m sure.

#LL COOL J; Eligible year: 2009
This is his sixth nomination, previously considered in 2010, 2011, 2014, 2018, and 2019. His historic import, I suspect, has been buried a bit by his acting success.
I’m Bad 

You can vote every day, presumably. An “overwhelming” fan response crashed the Fan Vote early the first morning but was fixed in short order.