December 08, 2010
Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin was named this year's recipient of the J.G Taylor Spink Award on Tuesday afternoon. As part of the the BBWAA-bestowed honor, he'll give a speech in Cooperstown during the Hall of Fame induction weekend next July. Then he'll have his plaque placed in the writer's wing at the Hall of Fame.
What the curmudgeonly Conlin will sample during his address remains up for debate, but he has a lot to choose from among his greatest sermons, which include:
• The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler's time on earth — I'm sure he would have eliminated all bloggers.
• Had a HOF vote for 44 years, ace. Retract this.
• I'm making the top salary at the paper plus collecting the biggest monthly pension check ever paid out.
Yes, Conlin's customer service-oriented emails to his readers will sure provide a lot of fodder for his speech. But if we're really lucky, he'll treat us to some of his unrivaled baseball views that have placed him up on that pedestal in the first place.
Like how he once said Chase Utley(notes) wasn't one of the Philadelphia Phillies' top three second basemen since 1980. Or how he considers Hall of Fame votes based on the percentage the players received the previous year. Or how, in one of his most famous columns, he took a stand and decided to be one of six voters not to vote for Nolan Ryan when he was inducted in 1999 during the all-world pitcher's first year of eligibility.
In leaving off Ryan's name (as well as Robin Yount's), Conlin said he was trying to make a point at that time. The point (I think) was that he was trying to create a stratified Hall of Fame and didn't believe that Ryan belonged among the Hank Aarons and Babe Ruths of the world. But in doing so, he went on an inexplicable jaunt through winning percentages, World Series appearances and how many wins Ryan was (or wasn't) over .500.
You can find the whole column here, but here's an excerpt:
Jim Palmer was a first-ballot guy in 1990. I voted for him. The Orioles righthander pitched 19 years. His 268-152 record left him 116 games over .500. The only thing he had in common with Nolan Ryan: Each of their strikeouts counted as just one out.
I just wish I could get rid of this annoying little voice in my head that keeps repeating: "Winning percentage is what gets you to the World Series."
And it also apparently keeps you out of the Hall of Fame if your incredible 27-year career left you with 292 defeats, many of which you had no control over.
Look, I don't begrudge Conlin his honor. He was a Phillies beat writer from 1966-86 and certainly (probably) wasn't as crotchety when we weren't all bothering him over email. He could also write in a creative, out-of-the-box fashion that didn't include yelling at kids to get off his lawn.
I don't begrudge the BBWAA, either. It can be tough to find guys who have hung around so long.
All I'm saying is that I hope Nolan Ryan didn't vote for Bill Conlin, either.