HOUSTON -- Will we ever get an Astros jersey in the Hall of Fame?
That’s the question Houston baseball fans confronted once again as baseball writers decided for the first time since 1996 to admit no new players to the Hall of Fame. Among the rejects: Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.
Clemens’ rejection was generally no surprise, given his entanglement in the steroid scandals. Bagwell was jilted last year, also apparently tainted by unproven suspicions of steroid use. But the denial of Biggio, the wholesome epitome of a clean-cut ballplayer, left some Astros fans stunned.
“What? Why not?” blurted Kayleen Townsend when she heard the news. “It sucks!”
National sport writers and commentators interpreted the results of the voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America as a thunderous statement of revulsion with the baseball’s steroid era. Also slapped by the baseball writers in their first year on the ballot were Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. And for the seventh year, Mark McGwire was denied admission.
Biggio won more votes than any other player, and Bagwell came in third. But Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner widely acknowledged as one of the greatest pitchers of all time, was seventh in the rankings with less than half the votes he needed for admission.
Although Clemens’ rejection caught more attention across the nation, Houston baseball fans again turned their attention, as they did for so many years, on Bagwell and Biggio.
"I guess I'm really surprised,” said Brad Williams, a fan who sang Biggio’s praises. “You know, I'm a baseball fan and saw the bad times and the good times. And I think Bagwell and Biggio really epitomize what baseball is about."
"It's a pity,” said Lawrence Lilly, a fan who heard about the voting while at lunch in a sports bar. “I mean, it's a shame that it happened. The way it looks, I was looking at some of the percentage of votes, it doesn't even look like they're going to get in next round."
Some fans question whether any player from the steroid-era will ever make it into the Hall of Fame.
“It's a shame,” said Lily’s friend Robert Brown. “Local product, something Houston could've been proud of. But unfortunately, you know, that whole time frame is such a question mark."
But of course, few ballplayers make it into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. So Astros fans have to fall back on a glum cliché.
“There’s always next year,” Williams said.