There could not be a greater contrast between the baseball news to start this last week and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony that will take place on Sunday in Cooperstown, New York.
On the one hand, we have the first portion of the Bigoenesis PED scandal hammer dropping on the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun. Bear in mind that Braun was once supposedly a poster child for helping to bring Major League Baseball back from the abyss of all the previous drug-related negativity. On the other hand, after 77 years of Hall of Fame elections, one man has finally reached that pinnacle, 123 years after his playing career ended.
Ryan Braun is currently representing the worst of everything the last two generations of major league players have had to offer: Cheating the sport and especially the hard-working fans that pay the freight, cheating teammates and opponents alike, cheating the record book and those who endow awards upon the game, and to compound all that; he lied in the broad light of Arizona spring training in 2012 about all of it. Abusing the substances was worse than lying, because that gave him the reason to lie in the first place, but he created a mess for everyone involved and damaged the careers of a sample collector and an arbitrator in the process.
Deacon White had a major league career, dating back to near the beginnings of professional baseball, from 1871-1890. A consistently good left-handed hitter, he was a pioneer in the use of a catcher’s mask, showed versatility at 1st base and in the outfield, but played the majority of his time as a bare-handed 3rd baseman. He was not good in the field at third and this was probably what kept him out of the Hall to date. However, it should be noted that, after all this time, he is the only primary 3rd baseman of Major League Baseball’s first 30 years in the 19th Century to finally reach the Hall of Fame.
In the haphazard earliest days of contract revolvers and gambling associates in the original National Association, no one questioned White’s integrity. In 1889, the Detroit Wolverines of the NL tried to sell Jack Rowe and White to Pittsburgh and White balked mightily. “No man can sell my carcass, unless I get at least half.” With those words, Deacon White bolted the reserve clause of the NL in 1890 for the Buffalo Bisons of the Players League at the end of his career. He was among many of the game’s most prominent players to take that action for that season. More telling is why Jim White, a native of tiny Caton in western New YorkState, bore the nickname “Deacon.” Unlike many if not most his contemporaries, he did not curse, drink, or smoke. The difference between the upright Deacon, who lived to age 91 and a Ryan Braun, could not be more striking. Look at who the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee finally chose for 2013.