Thursday, January 12, 2006

David Souter Mistakenly Elected To Baseball Hall of Fame

This should be a time of tremendous celebration for former major league pitcher Bruce Sutter.  Tuesday he received word that he had been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Today, however, that elation has turned into humiliation.  Cooperstown officials have confirmed that it was actually Supreme Court Justice David Souter who was elected to the Hall.



A review of the ballots revealed that Souter’s name had been erroneously placed on them instead of Sutter’s.  Amazingly, the mistake was not caught by any of the 520 Baseball Writers’ Association of America members who voted.  Observers are speculating that the shock of seeing Gary DiSarcina and Alex Fernandez on the ballot impeded the writers’ attention to detail.



The Souter matter is just one aspect of the ballot fiasco.  154 voters, apparently intending to cast ballots for pitcher Tommy John, actually voted for Elton John.  Additionally, the confusing layout of the ballots may have kept Red Sox slugger Jim Rice out of Cooperstown.  Rice missed election by 53 votes – exactly the number cast for Ralph Nader.



Although the voters clearly intended to elect Sutter, Hall of Fame officials still plan to adhere to the actual ballots cast.  The development is a cruel blow to the 1979 National League Cy Young Award winner, who led the league in saves five times.  No matter how many opinions Justice Souter has written, he can never surpass Sutter’s strikeout of Gorman Thomas to conclude the landmark 1982 case of Cardinals v. Brewers.  However, Sutter has still been denied – a development he is calling “my most painful experience since those five years with the Cubs.”



Souter’s election has also drawn attention away from Senate confirmation hearings for his potential future colleague, Samuel Alito.  Souter could stop by the hearings and confer with Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, also enshrined in Cooperstown.  Alito would be happy to join them in a baseball discussion, as he has been described as a die-hard Philadelphia Phillies fan.  The nominee lived up to that image after Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy made numerous critical remarks about him during the hearings.  Alito responded by yelling profanities and throwing batteries at Kennedy.



Among Hall of Famers, Souter is most often compared to fielding wizard Ozzie Smith.  The judge is generally not labeled as either a liberal or a conservative, so he has great range to the left and the right.  Unknown at this moment is for what team Souter will enter the Hall.  Sutter would have been enshrined as a Cardinal.  However, Justice Souter could represent the U.S. Supreme Court, the New Hampshire Supreme Court, or in a longshot, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.



Although it is no consolation for Bruce Sutter today, the Hall of Fame plans to take action to ensure that such a fiasco never occurs again.  By all measures, this scenario is a huge embarrassment for officials in Cooperstown.  However, a spokesman noted one positive development that has arisen from the mess: “At least people aren’t asking us about Pete Rose!”