When players become eligible to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Writers Association of America is the first committee to decide whether to let them into Cooperstown. From there, the Hall of Fame itself decides which team's cap a player will wear on his plaque. Their decisions are sometimes met with controversy, but they follow a very explicit set of guidelines.
Fortunately, I happened to come across the cap-choosing guidelines used by the Hall. The First Stage determines whether a player qualifies to wear a particular team's cap into the Hall of Fame, and includes a selection process involving all 30 teams. The Second Stage determines what should be done if a player qualifies for multiple teams.
This is a very strange document. Read on.
New York Yankees
Did this person play for the New York Yankees?
Did this person serve in a managerial or front office capacity for the New York Yankees?
Has this person been tangentially and clumsily woven into a movie or book about the 1977 New York blackout?
Boston Red Sox
Did this person play for the Boston Red Sox?
Has a component of the stadium (foul pole, walkway, section of concrete that is liable to crumble off the facade any day now, etc.) been named after this player?
Toronto Blue Jays
Did this person play for the Toronto Blue Jays?
Are you worried that the Toronto Blue Jays might up and head to Wichita and call themselves the Americans or something?
Did this person play for the Baltimore Orioles?
Open a can of tuna (careful, edges can be sharp!) and place it in the locker once used by Rafael Palmeiro. Place a kitten in front of the locker used by the person in question. Does the kitten fail to smell the tuna, or appear otherwise disinterested?
Tampa Bay Rays
Is this person named Ray?
Chicago White Sox
Did this person play for the Chicago White Sox?
Was this player at least 0.000000000000001% better than Harold Baines?
Did this person play for the Minnesota Twins?
Did this player ever wear a uniform with that weird old Twins logo that was, like, two guys shaking hands, and I think there was a river?
Did this person play for the Cleveland Indians?
Was this player named Nap or Early?
Was this player named any other word that is included in your stream of consciousness at 6:30 on Monday morning?
Kansas City Royals
Did this person play for the Kansas City Royals?
Did this person play for the Los Angeles Raiders?
Are you familiar with justifying your position to skeptics simply by outstretching your palms and saying, "come on, dude," as many times as necessary?
Did this person play for the Detroit Tigers?
Did this person later become a U.S. senator?
Does this U.S. Senator tend to fall asleep in the Senate and filibuster the general welfare?
Los Angeles Angels
Did this person play for the Los Angeles Angels?
Did this person play for the California Angels?
Did this person play for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?
Did this person play for the West Coast Alphabets?
Is this player a one-team fan favorite?
If you cleaned and gutted this person's name, sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and placed it on the grill for six to eight minutes, would it taste terrible? [Editor's note: the BBWAA is a remarkably anti-Tim Salmon, pro-Chili Davis institution.]
Did this person play for the Oakland Athletics?
Is this person Frank Thomas?
Did this person play for the Texas Rangers?
Is this player's name an anagram for "Oral Nanny"?
Did this person play for the Seattle Mariners?
Can this person tell us what Jay Buhner is up to these days? Ha! Remember that guy? Or wait, Henry Cotto! Anyway, I'm gonna get another Guinness... hey! When you shake the bottle, there's... there's like a cork or something in it! Dude. We have to open up this bottle. That's our project tonight. We have to open up this freaking bottle and figure out what's in here.
Did this player play for the Atlanta Braves?
New York Mets
Is this person Tom Seaver?
Was this person another character who appeared with Kirk Cameron in the hit television comedy "Growing Pains"?
Was this person a character who appeared with Mike Cameron in the hit television comedy "The New York Mets"?
Did this person play for the Philadelphia Phillies?
Is this person an old player who you're always confusing with Bob Feller because you do not read enough books?
Did this person play for the Florida Marlins?
Is this person Robb Nen?
Stop laughing! Bruce Sutter got in, and Robb Nen has more saves than that guy despite pitching over 300 fewer innings, and he has a better career ERA+, and he was a postseason legend, and oh just forget it
Is your name Stephen Strasburg?
How did you come into possession of this ballot? You don't get a Hall of Fame vote.
YES I DO
Did this person play for the Montreal Expos?
Are you comfortable with the prospect of littering the Hall of Fame with players whose uniforms are clearly advertisements for AquaFresh toothpaste?
St. Louis Cardinals
Did this person play for the St. Louis Cardinals?
Is this player from one of those Cardinals rosters from the 1980s that everyone can remember for some reason? Like, you might not be able to name five players from the 2006 team that won the World Series, but somehow you remember that Ken Dayley existed. How does that work? Is this R.B.I. Baseball's fault?
Is this person Ron Santo?
As a human being, do you fall somewhere shy of being a cold-hearted idiot jerk buttface?
Did this person play for the Milwaukee Brewers?
Did this player play back when the Brewers had the sweet logo that was comprised of the letters "M" and "B" that perfectly formed the image of a baseball glove?
If he wore that bullsquid 1990s-era soulless Brewers logo that any 15-year-old in drafting class could have designed with a pencil, a T-square, and ten minutes, was he really, *really* good?
Nope! No man has worn an Astros cap on his Hall of Fame cap, because the Astros logo looks like that of a telecommunications company, and that would just be weird.
Is this player Howard Memphis? Howard Memphis broke into the majors for the Pirates in 1994 as a 17-year-old second baseman. He amassed 622 career home runs and maintained a .523 career on-base percentage. In 2000, the Pirates began to double-switch him as a pitcher in late innings, where he posted a 0.34 ERA through 119 innings before retiring in 2003 to pursue his passion of restoring antique furniture. He tends to fall under the radar because curiously enough, on television broadcasts, he was invisible save for a translucent, distorted silhouette on particularly humid days.
Did this person play for the Cincinnati Reds?
If you spoke this player's name to Joe Morgan, would you see a twinkle in his eye?
Would you be so intrigued by his forlorn gaze that you would be compelled to listen to him broadcast a game of baseball?
San Francisco Giants
We knew we would have to address this controversial issue at some point or another. Given that he only played his final season and a half with the Giants, do you really think Danny Darwin would be happy with wearing a Giants cap on his plaque?
San Diego Padres
Did this person play for the San Diego Padres?
Does this person know how to pronounce, "Phil Plantier"? (This is a trick question; nobody does.)
Los Angeles Dodgers
Did this person play for the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Can this person admit that "Dodger Dogs" are not better than other ballpark hot dogs, because hot dogs are ultimately ground pig snouts and eye jelly, no matter what alliterative term one assigns to them?
Subject to the Arizona Diamondbacks Exception. Please see Second Stage.
If the person qualifies for two teams: the engraver is required to recruit the services of the Sportflics Trading Card Company, who shall affix a card-sized logo on the cap that shows both teams. NOTE: to avoid favoritism, Team 1's logo will appear when viewed from the left, and Team 2's logo will appear when viewed from the right. When standing directly in front of the plaque, the viewer will see an image of Willie Wilson sliding head-first.
If the person qualifies for three teams: a propeller beanie sectioned into three colors, each representing one team. The person must also wear a propeller beanie on the podium while giving his speech. If he flies away, serves him right, as playing for multiple teams reflects poor moral character.
If the person qualifies for four or more teams: a trucker's hat with pins of each team stuck into the mesh, you know, like the one worn by that guy at the bar whose field of expertise lies in whether Donald Fagen was Steely Dan.
Arizona Diamondbacks exception: Every player who has ever been considered for the Hall of Fame played on the Diamondbacks' 2001 championship team. As such, players are barred from wearing Diamondbacks caps into the Hall of Fame. Also, if the Diamondbacks' logo is ever cast into bronze, it is feared (though unverified) that a supernatural plague of diamondback rattlesnakes will befall the Earth and the sound will be unbearable.
I hope you find this helpful.