Hall of Fame voting full of complexities
Sunday, December 20, 2009
I dreamed, much to my horror, that Tiger Woods was kept out of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
People in my dream were firing both questions and answers at me:
“The behavior of Tiger Woods was more sinister than the behavior of Pete Rose, so why should Tiger be included in golf’s Hall of Fame while Rose is excluded from baseball’s Hall of Fame? He shouldn’t.”
“Given the scrutiny that exists in the modern world, how do you separate a golfer’s life outside the ropes from his career inside the ropes? You don’t.”
I was dumbfounded. Welcome to life in the 21st century.
I take my job very seriously. I cast votes annually in two Hall of Fame elections, one for the World Golf Hall of Fame and the other for the Long Drivers of America Hall of Fame.
Let me tell you: Evaluating a golfer and voting for any prospective Hall of Fame member is no piece of cake.
Why has Chi Chi Rodriquez, now 74, been a member of golf’s Hall of Fame since 1992, while 88-year-old Doug Ford has never been chosen?
The answer is an outgoing personality. Rodriguez has it; Ford does not.
As a player, Ford won 19 times on the PGA Tour, including two different majors (1955 PGA Championship, 1957 Masters). Rodriguez captured eight PGA Tour titles, with no majors.
The purpose of this comparison is not to belittle Rodriguez, who is one of the greatest entertainers and humanitarians in golf history.
Rather, the purpose is to point out some of the complexities that exist in Hall of Fame voting. Few golfers have done what Ford has done – won two different majors, scored double-digit victories on the PGA Tour and played on four winning Ryder Cup teams – yet he is Hall of Fameless.
Ford, who lacked the engaging demeanor of Rodriguez, never endeared himself to voters. It cost him.
Look at the Hall of Fame’s three most recent inductees. Not one of them can surpass the accomplishments of Ford. Neither Christy O’Connor nor Jose Maria Olazabal nor Lanny Wadkins won two different majors. Olazabal claimed two Masters titles but did not win another of the four majors.
Like Ford, Dave Stockton deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Stockton won two PGA Championships, had 10 Tour victories, 14 senior tour wins and was part of four victorious Ryder Cup squads (two as a player, one as captain, one as assistant captain).
Wedgy Winchester has experienced the same rejection for the Long Drivers of America Hall of Fame. All Winchester did was win the 1984 World Championship and, in the process, introduce the world to the long-shafted driver (he used a 60-inch Ping driver). Winchester also became one of golf’s most popular showmen, conducting thousands of exhibitions and clinics in his career.
Doug Ford can sympathize with Winchester. Year after heartbreaking year, he has been rejected by the World Golf Hall of Fame.
So, when another Hall of Fame came calling, Ford gratefully accepted its recognition. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.
OK, make that Fortunato, the old family name discarded decades earlier.