In recent times, Catfish Hunter had the same dilemma. He was among the reasons the A's formed their dynasty during the early 1970s along the way to three consecutive World Series championships. Hunter also helped push the Yankees back into prominence later that decade. Hunter said he cherished both A's owner Charlie Finley and Yanks owner George Steinbrenner, so he became one of the 86 players without a logo on his Hall of Fame cap.
Yogi Berra was another one, but it had nothing to do with his feud with Steinbrenner that kept the legendary Yankees catcher away from his old team for nearly a decade. Not only did Berra and Steinbrenner reconcile years before Steinbrenner's death in 2010, Berra was elected to Cooperstown in 1972, which was a year before Steinbrenner even purchased the Yanks.
"You have to remember that, back during that time, when Berra entered the Hall of Fame, choosing a logo for your cap wasn't that big of a deal," said Dave Kaplan, who runs the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University in Little Falls, N.J. "If you look at Yogi's plaque, it's more of a profile, so it doesn't matter as much if his cap has a logo."
Actually, it does matter. When you say Yogi, you think pinstripes. He joins Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as the founding fathers of Yankees lore, which means Berra should have that interlocking "NY" on his Hall of Fame plaque to show it. As for Hunter, even though his star shined brighter after he reached Broadway via the Bronx, he got to Cooperstown through Oakland. You also can throw in Kansas City, since he spent three of his 10 years with the A's in that city before Finley moved the franchise to Northern California.
Honus Wagner. Rogers Hornsby. Johnny Mize. Nap Lajoie. They are among the others joining Berra and Hunter without a logo for their Hall of Fame cap, and they all have that distinction for various reasons.
I'm sure many are logical.
The ones that aren't? Well, either Hall of Fame officials, the inductees (if they are still living) or the representatives of anybody in Cooperstown without a logo on his cap should change the situation. If they really think about it, they'll discover that one team from a Hall of Famer's past was either greatly or slightly superior than the rest of them. Choose that one. Plus, making a definitive choice in this case is best for uniformity throughout Cooperstown.
I know, I know. Trying to rectify the past is difficult, but we have a splendid chance to affect the present and the future. Which is why I'm urging Maddux and La Russa to pick a logo for their Hall of Fame plaques between now and the time they take the stage in Cooperstown in July.
"I feel good [about picking nobody]," said Maddux, talking to reporters in Arlington on Thursday between working at a pitching minicamp for the Rangers. "I spent half my career in Chicago and half my career in Atlanta. I came up a Cub, played there for six years and went back for three more. I was in Atlanta for 11 years. It comes out to about the same amount of time in both cities. Love both places. Obviously, I feel like I had more success as a Brave."
That's because Maddux did. Emphatically. After he joined the Braves before the 1993 season, he won three of his four National League Cy Young Awards. Maddux was the undisputed catalyst for an otherworldly pitching staff that will send Tom Glavine to Cooperstown this summer and possibly John Smoltz in 2015. Overall, that trio was part of a record streak of 14 division titles that produced five NL pennants and a World Series title.
You've guessed it: Maddux is more Atlanta grits than Chicago pizza. Just like La Russa is more Gateway Arch than Golden Gate Bridge, and we won't even talk about his White Sox years. Not that they weren't impressive during those eight seasons in which he began his managerial career. La Russa's Chicago teams were good, but his Oakland teams were great. In fact, the La Russa-led A's made three consecutive World Series trips through 1990, and they won it all in 1989. He also reinvented Dennis Eckersley as a closer. Now, the former Oakland starter is in Cooperstown, where La Russa is headed -- without the logo of either the White Sox or the A's on the cap of his plaque.
There should be a Cardinals logo for La Russa. Yes, his Oakland teams were great, but his St. Louis teams were greater. While La Russa won three pennants and that World Series championship with the A's, he captured three NL pennants and two Fall Classic titles with the Cards. There also was the longevity factor: He spent 10 years in Oakland compared to 16 in St. Louis.
So La Russa goes in as a Cardinal, and Maddux goes in as a Brave.
See how easy that is?