This afternoon I sat by the side of the road, waiting for the crosstown bus. I sat there for what seemed like forever, but was probably no longer than 20 minutes. I finally got so impatient that I crouched next to the bus stop sign, counting the seconds between a car appearing around the bend and it passing me. I also got to thinking... If I can't hardly wait 20 minutes for the bus, what's it like to wait six years from the time you retire to when you first become eligible for the Hall of Fame?
What's it like, the anticipation? Part of me thinks 'waiting for the bus' is a good analogy here. Sometimes it's on time, sometimes you have to wait a little longer, and sometimes it never comes at all.
A lot can happen in six years. Whole lives can change (but there's the Hall of Fame ballot announcement date, circled with permanent marker on the calendar in the back of your mind). For some guys, it's a given that the Hall will call (hey, that rhymes). Guys like Rickey Henderson, Greg Maddux, Craig Biggio--these guys don't have to worry.
But is too much emphasis placed on being an inductee in the first year of eligibility? It took Duke Snider eleven years of voting to make the Hall of Fame (first appeared in 1970, inducted in 1980), Joe Cronin ten years (1947-1956), Don Drysdale ten years (1975-1984), and Bob Lemon 13 years (1964-1976). And those players are just four examples. There are plenty of others.
It's guys like Jim Rice, David Concepcion, and Dale Murphy who get their hopes up, only to have them crushed year after year. And I guess I'll probably have to add Fred McGriff's name to that list in a few years. McGriff becomes eligible next year (for 2010 enshrinement), and while I'll be pulling for him, these days 493 career home runs don't seem to be enough to hang your legacy on.