Thursday, 7 February 2008

I call shenanigans on the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Local sports hack Dick Griffin reported Friday that fan favourite and four-time Jay Tony Fernandez will be the marquee name at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's 2008 induction ceremony on June 28.

Just setting the record straight on a few things here:

* Tony Fernandez was one of top 3 favourite Jays of the 1980s; I probably wouldn't walk through hell in a gasoline suit to say hi and shake his hand, but I'd certainly make the drive up to St. Mary's
* I strongly support the idea of commemorating players, broadcasters, coaches, executives and whathaveyou who contributed to the growth of the game in Canada, regardless of whether they were Canadian or simply worked here.
* Seeing as how the MLB has only 40 years of history in the Great White North, I realize we don't have a huge pool of candidates to choose from for our own hall. That being said, I won't make any derisory comments about inducting someone like former Dodger Billy Harris, whose greatest career achievement was "sitting beside Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella."
* Having the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary's, a pleasant little town just 30 minutes from North London (the part of the city that doesn't smell like crackers), is pretty convenient for yours truly

Now that all the smiles and sunshine are out of the way, let me get to the meat and potatoes of this whole post. I went to what will hitherto be referred to as the CBHoF's induction ceremony last summer to meet Reds/Tigers manager and real Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson, but things went badly awry. The speeches leading up to Sparky's talk were long and boring for the most part and it wasn't long before I began to while away the hours by mentally undressing the female parishioners. Why each living and present inductee needed two to three 10-minute plus introductory speeches was beyond me, but that's beside the point.

If you are thinking of heading down this year to get Tony Fernandez's autograph, be forewarned: you may come away empty-handed. Rather than recount the whole sorry tale again, here's the email I sent CBHoF President/CEO/Imperial Cyclops Tom Valcke:

Dear Mr. Valcke, I had the pleasure of making my first trip to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for your annual induction ceremony last Saturday. I found the site to be quite agreeable and enjoyed listening to the speakers for the most part. There was, however, one matter that disappointed me greatly that I would like to bring to your attention.

I collect autographs and baseball memorabilia with my father and have been doing so for the past 15 years. Our collection began as outgrowth of our shared love of the game and will continue to grow after I pass it along to my son someday. Our prize item is a Cooperstown Hall of Fame bat with roughly 25 signatures on it, running from Warren Spahn to Dave Winfield. When a friend forwarded me the press release for your induction ceremony, I was very excited to see that Sparky Anderson, a name that I would be honoured to have on our bat, would be present.

I have chosen to direct this note to you because you were the one who addressed us at the head of the autograph line on Saturday. I understand why “friends of the hall” who have paid an annual fee or made donations would be given preferential treatment at the head of the line. That didn’t bother me in the slightest. What was extremely disappointing from my vantage point at the head of the “non-member” line, however, was that it appeared as though Sparky stopped signing autographs immediately after the member line finished.

I wasn’t bothered at the time; Sparky is clearly advanced in age and I felt that your explanation as to why he wouldn’t be able to handle all autograph requests was perfectly plausible. I certainly didn’t want to impose myself on a man that I have great respect for. We left somewhat disappointed, but understood and accepted the circumstances that prevented us from obtaining Sparky's autograph.

Several days after the event, another friend forwarded me an email listing upcoming autograph shows at Gibralter Trading Centers in Mt. Clemens and Taylor, Michigan, where we have gathered the bulk of our autographs. Here’s the weblink: Imagine my surprise to see that Sparky Anderson is the featured signer at Taylor on July 15th! Gibralter sessions typically run about two hours or so and I find it highly unlikely that Sparky would’ve entered into a cash contract there had he been unable to sign for that duration of time. I really started to scratch my head when I thought back to what you’d told us on Saturday.

This brings us back to the autograph line at the induction ceremony in St. Marys. If it took a $40 donation—or some other amount—to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame to get Sparky’s autograph on my bat, I would’ve gladly paid you. We pay for over 95% of the autographs in our collection and I find it perfectly reasonable on your part to expect compensation for the service you’re facilitating.
Well before the autograph line began I’d enjoyed myself enough at the ceremony to consider making an unrelated donation to your facility.

My disappointment stems from a perception of dishonesty on your part. If you wanted the extra money, all you had to do was ask for it. As a result, I now have to make a 4+ hour return trip to
Taylor to get the autograph I should’ve obtained last Saturday. On a final note, I would hope you can provide me with an explanation for what took place on Saturday. Is there something I'm missing? I’d hate to let something that was supposed to have been a positive experience sour my perception of your facility.



There was, predictably, no reply from the CBHoF, leading me to assume that I pretty much nailed it on their little scheme. Hopefully the organizers have been sufficiently shamed that they won't mislead their guests this summer.

Johnny Was

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