A lot of people want to argue whether baseball’s steroid users – or players strongly suspected of steroid use – should be in the Hall of Fame, and there are seemingly two answers to this question: “Yes, they should be,” and, “No, they should not.”
Well, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks is somewhere in the middle.
“I think we should have a separate Hall of Fame for those players,” Banks said. “They should be in, yes. They should be in, to me. I think all of them.”
If this year’s Hall of Fame ballot is any indication, however, those players don’t have much of a shot. Roger Clemens got just 35.4 percent of the vote, Barry Bonds got 35.4 percent, Mark McGwire got 11 percent, Sammy Sosa got 7.2 percent and Rafael Palmeiro got just 4.4 percent – meaning he will not be on the ballot next year.
Players must receive at least 75 percent of the vote to be elected and must receive at least five percent of the vote to remain on the ballot.
“It’s disappointing,” Banks said. “I love all the guys. I love all of them that played – Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and all those guys. I just love those guys. I think athletes are the best people around. They just love the game and they promote (it), and (they) help kids and they help their families and their communities. They’re very nice people.
“I hate to see this,” Banks continued. “I really do hate to see all this happen and (see) a lot of these players denied being elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame.”
Banks, 83, was elected into Cooperstown – on his first ballot, no less – in 1977. He played 19 seasons – all for the Chicago Cubs – and was a 14-time All-Star, two-time home run champion, two-time RBI champion and won back-to-back MVP awards in 1958 and 1959.
He hit 512 home runs and was voted to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team along wit two other shortstops: Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken, Jr.
In short, his opinion matters.
Banks is often associated with the words, “Let’s play two.” The saying originated in 1967 on a day when the Cubs were to play a game at Wrigley Field in scorching hot weather. Banks walked into the clubhouse, saw how so many of his teammates were dreading the heat and uttered the three-word phrase that came to define his career.
Banks’ teammates thought he was crazy.
And yet, Banks – or “Mr. Cub,” as was known – got the last laugh. According to him, he is only player in major league history to play his entire career for one team, one owner and one major. He also played all of his home games both in the same stadium and during the day.
“I’m the only athlete who’s ever done that,” he said.
Still, while Banks is at peace with his playing days, he wishes the greats of the Steroid Era would get their due.
“I regret that these players are not eligible to go in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “They’re great athletes, they could play very well and they did a lot to help their communities and their cities and the game of baseball.”