National Press Club

Hall of Fame Will Tell Baseball's Steroid Story Honestly, Idleson Says

May 12, 2009 | By Bill Miller

National Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, left, and Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, right

National Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, left, and Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, right

Photo/Image: Terry Hill

Baseball’s Hall of Fame “will not shy away from the topic” of star players who have been accused of using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, promised the museum’s president, Jeff Idelson, at a Luncheon Monday.

Appearing with his guest, Brooks Robinson, former Baltimore Orioles third baseman who was elected to the Hall in 1969, Idelson said that the Cooperstown, N.Y., museum is “committed to presenting and interpreting baseball history as it unfolds.”

The effect of drug use on baseball records in recent decades, he said, “needs to be examined in the perspective of time.” As more information on drug use is learned, he said, “the museum will be telling that story honestly and impartially.”

Members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America elect the Hall’s members under rules laid down by the museum, among them a requirement that players be retired at least five years before they are eligible for election.

“The tools are there,” Idelson said, “for the writers to vote with their conscience and do what is right.”

Robinson received a rare standing ovation as he entered the room. In brief remarks, the legendary former Oriole, now owner of the minor league Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, made a strong plea for Marvin Miller, former head of the players’ union, to be enshrined in the Hall.

“The three greatest names in the history of baseball,” Robinson declared, “are Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Marvin Miller.”

Robinson said his greatest baseball thrill was winning the World Series with the Orioles in 1966; that the current Orioles are “heading in the right direction” under new general manager Andy McPhail; and that Washington Nationals’ third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is “some kind of player.”

For his part, Idelson -- responding to a question on candidates for the Hall -- agreed that Miller "changed the game dramatically” by strengthening the rights of players. He also commented that it is “unfortunate” that all-time hit leader Pete Rose, barred from the Hall for gambling on baseball, has not been enshrined. But he pointed out that Rose is prevalent in the museum’s exhibits.

Idelson reviewed the museum’s 70-year history, calling the facility “an integral part of Americana.” “We are where the pulse of our national pastime beats,” he said.

Idelson highlighted two of the museum’s six new exhibits -- one of them honoring Hank Aaron, former home run king who holds the all-time runs-batted-in record, the other featuring baseball’s Latin American players.

Three new members -- Joe Gordon, Jim Rice and Ricky Henderson --will be inducted into the Hall this summer, Idelson said. And next month, he added, the Hall will launch a new tradition: a “Legends” baseball game on Father's Day played by Hall of Famers and other baseball retirees. Starting for one of the teams will be 91-year-old Bob Feller.