01/06/2003 11:22 PM ET
HOF to determine caps
Call it a tip of the cap to the modern ballplayer's mobility.
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
For the first time, the National Baseball Hall of Fame is emphasizing its right to determine which team cap adorns the plaques of multi-team inductees, a reflection of the modern vagabond game.
The Hall of Fame Museum, which operates independently of MLB, always held that prerogative but players were given a wide berth. Last year, the Hall's Board of Directors put its foot down on this issue.
Although the player's choice is still encouraged, the Museum, its spokesman says, "retains the final one."
This is particularly topical with this year's election. Of the 33 players listed on the 2003 ballot, only four spent their entire careers with one team.
None of the four -- Don Mattingly, Dave Concepcion, Alan Trammell, Jim Rice -- is given a bona fide chance at selection.
The most likely inductees are more typical of today's mobile baseball society. Eddie Murray shared his 21-year career among five teams, Gary Carter divided 19 seasons among four teams and Lee Smith wore eight different uniforms in his 18 seasons.
One possible retro exception is Ryne Sandberg who, albeit appearing in the Majors with two teams, had only six at-bats with the Phillies prior to embarking on 15 stellar seasons with the Cubs.
"The sole objective is for the logo selection to clearly represent where a player most definitely made his mark," said Hall of Fame Vice-President Jeff Idelson. "We've always had that right, but now it's being emphasized by the Board, given that we're in the era of free agency."
While the Hall's action was not in response to any particular development, the choice of induction wardrobe had in fact been bartered in the past.
Dave Winfield chose a San Diego cap for his 2001 induction, 21 years after his last at-bat for the Padres, with whom he played the first 7 1/2 seasons of his 21-season career. Concurrent with his induction, Winfield was appointed a vice-president of the club, whose president at the time, Larry Lucchino, did not deny that perks were offered to influence his choice.
Years earlier, the Yankees were reported to have given Reggie Jackson a six-figure bonus for his induction with an interlocking NY cap.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.