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Queens Chronicle

Piazza passed over

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:30 am

There is no legitimate reason why Mike Piazza was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week. He was one of the best-hitting catchers of all time, and while it’s hard to say he was the greatest, he clearly ranks alongside Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Mickey Cochrane, Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk. Piazza’s defense was more than adequate and starting pitchers liked the way he called a game. He also was able to produce in the two largest American markets, Los Angeles and New York.

So why didn’t Mike get the requisite 75 percent of the vote, something which eluded every other Hall of Fame candidate in 2013? The scuttlebutt from the apologist analysts at the MLB Network was that the voters (current and retired members of the Baseball Writers Association of America) wanted to make sure that they didn’t rush judgment on any player whose glory days were during the steroid era, which roughly ran from 1995 to 2005.

The network and other baseball experts didn’t seem at all bothered by a “guilty until proven innocent” mentality redolent of the unfortunate McCarthy blacklisting era in the ’50s.

Piazza never tested positive for steroids, nor was he mentioned in the Mitchell Report. He was not asked to testify before a congressional committee investigating performance-enhancement drugs the way others were. As more than one member of the BBWAA told me over the years, “We don’t have to hold to the same standards of a presumption of innocence that a jury in a court of law is.”

I have to wonder if there is something else afoot here. The BBWAA is composed solely of sportswriters who write for the nation’s daily newspapers. Members who have spent 10 years in the service of a daily retain all their privileges even when they leave for radio, television, a magazine or even a website.

BBWAA members are used to being treated in a godlike manner by players and all too many team public relations officials. Of course these very same folks often treat writers from nondaily outlets with disdain. One PR exec once contemptuously asked me “You write for a weekly, right?” In his mind he was spelling it “w-e-a-k-l-y.” I quickly put him in his place.

Piazza never played by those rules. He always treated me with courteous professionalism. I remember how one prominent New York baseball columnist steamed watching me chat with him.

He is also one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. You can converse with Mike about tax laws, politics, economics, travel, pop culture — anything.

Piazza will make it to Cooperstown sooner rather than later. It should have been now.

The fact that no one was elected by the curmudgeonly BBWAA to the Hall of Fame is devastating news to the central New York economy. Millions are spent in Otsego County by baseball fans the last week of July as they come to watch their old heroes receive baseball’s highest honor. Albany and Binghamton hotels and restaurants also get a boost during this time.

I also feel badly for one of my favorite sportswriters, Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News, who will be inducted into the Cooperstown museum by being named the recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for lifetime achievement. Spink was the founder of the Sporting News. Hagen will be giving his acceptance speech to a very select few in July.

Brent Musburger has never been one of my favorite sportscasters because I’ve always found him bland and prone to uttering the most banal of sports cliches such as “It’s a shame that one of these teams has to lose!”

But it was a bit of a shock to me that Brent found himself in hot water for commenting on the attractiveness of University of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, who happens to be the reigning Miss Alabama, during last Monday’s BCS Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame. He went on to advise young men to learn to throw the ball in the backyard with pop so that they can become college quarterbacks and be able to date such beautiful women as Webb.

ESPN issued an apology for Musburger’s remarks. Musburger was also skewered by many sports media columnists.

The funny thing is that I don’t have a problem with what he said. Most of us want to believe that we live in an egalitarian society and that it’s what you accomplish and not your gene pool that should determine success. Talking about physical appearance and the advantage that good looks provides gives many of us the heebie-jeebies.

Like it or not, there has always been a certain Darwinism in this area. Wealthy guys are more likely to date conventionally attractive women than poorer ones. By the same token, star athletes have always shown a propensity to be able to date beauty queens. Musburger may have been politically incorrect, but he wasn’t wrong.

Sorry, Jets fans, don’t look for former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach and current CBS football analyst Bill Cowher to be at the helm of your favorite team, or any other NFL squad, anytime in the foreseeable future.

I ran into Coach Cowher at the Super Bowl XLVII press conference that CBS held at its broadcast center last Tuesday. I asked him if he had received phone calls from the predictable NFL teams as soon as the season ended. “You got that right,” he laughed. I then asked him if any of the owners used the term “equity interest” when chatting with him. “The conversation didn’t get that far!” he quickly answered.

Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine will be contributing commentary about baseball for the newly formed NBC Sports Radio Network.

Cable’s HGTV is updating the old Robin Leach “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” format with “Scoring the Deal,” as realtor Jason Abrams visits the homes of top NFL and NBA stars. The show airs Tuesdays at 11 p.m.

The NBC Sports Network looks at the business side of the NFL with “Star-Spangled Sundays” that airs Tuesdays in January at 10 p.m.

Forest Hills native and star of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Men of a Certain Age” Ray Romano will be on the bill of this Saturday’s “Garden of Laughs” to benefit Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation, which aids young people. Giants defensive end Justin Tuck will be appearing on stage but it’s not clear if he will be introducing acts or doing standup himself.

It is hard not to sympathize with Carmelo Anthony, who allowed the Celtics center to get his goat when he told the Knicks star that his wife, La La Anthony, tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios. I’m not sure what that meant but it’s safe to say it wasn’t nice. Anthony went ballistic and wanted to duke it out with Garnett outside the Celtics’ dressing room at the Garden and reportedly made his way toward their team bus too. Security officials prevailed and violence was averted. Melo was suspended for one game.

Similar to what La La herself later said, General Mills should give both of these guys an endorsement deal for the ton of free publicity they gave the breakfast cereal.

Life and style

I have a feeling that Forest Hills High School Class of ’73 alum Glen Bolofsky will be a popular guy at his 40th anniversary this year. Glen is the president of parkingticket.com, which purports to successfully defend innocent motorists who received tickets when they shouldn’t have.

Bolofsky held a briefing with the media last week at the famed Plaza Hotel, in which he decried the lack of clarity on the new parking signs around town; the lack of uniform parking signs in differing municipalities; and the fact that traffic enforcement agents frequently ticket the cars of motorists who are properly walking to a Muni-Meter to comply with the law.

“The New York City Parking Violations Bureau is more interested in accruing revenue than in dispensing justice to motorists who unfairly receive tickets. We force them to earn their money,” he told me.

He added that his company handles all kinds of traffic tickets including those coming from red light cameras.

Welcome to the discussion.