03/06/2015 3:40PM

Hovdey: Some slip through cracks in Hall’s walls


It’s time again to rant and rail at the people who run the Thoroughbred racing Hall of Fame, and wonder aloud why they can’t seem to get anything right in terms of the voting process, and how come there are so many clearly obvious candidates who never make it to the final ballot, and when they’ll finally get Billy Crystal to host the induction ceremonies.

Then Minnie Minoso died this week without being a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and any gripes with the horse racing Hall seemed pale by comparison.

This reporter has no particular stance on the Chicago White Sox, other than to recall them fondly from their six-game surrender to my L.A. Dodgers in the 1959 World Series. Minoso was not part of that White Sox team – by then he had been traded to Cleveland – but he eventually rejoined the Sox, which was just as well because from his first season on the South Side in 1951, he earned the right to be called “Mr. White Sox” just as DiMaggio was logically tagged as the “Yankee Clipper.”

In the wake of Minoso’s death at the age of 89, a number of sportswriters and broadcasters have stepped up to recite once again his considerable statistical history and rue the fact that both the baseball writers and the Veterans Committee got it terribly wrong for many years.

Minoso always seemed to be an unassuming man of great humility and devotion to the game, which is why he served in his later years on the Golden Era Committee of the Hall of Fame. The committee’s task is to consider players from the years 1947-72, a period during which Minoso played on seven American League All-Star teams. Who says there’s no irony in baseball?

There are a whole host of Minnie Minosos haunting the corridors of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., wondering what they did wrong. Among trainers, the win machine King Leatherbury finally makes his first appearance on the ballot this year after half a century in the game, while the name of David Whiteley has been pulled down from the back of a high shelf for consideration of his brief but brilliant career.

Even so, there is still no Buddy Raines in the Hall of Fame, no Mel Stute, Willard Proctor, Billy Turner, Richard Dutrow Sr., Dickie Small, Neil Howard, or Richard Hazelton.

Jockeys present a different challenge. Their records are more straightforward than those of trainers, their opportunities finite. They ride a race. They win or lose, and the wins, laid end to end, either lead them to the Hall of Fame or not.

Of the four riders on the 2015 ballot, two have been there before, and one of those is in danger of getting the Minoso treatment. Craig Perret, who just turned 64, retired from riding in 2005 with 4,415 winners, but his greatest achievements go back 20 years and more. If you want to believe that Unbridled, Housebuster, Bet Twice, Safely Kept, and Honest Pleasure steered themselves around out there, fine. Either way, that was Perret posing with them for the pictures.

Chris Antley, the James Dean of jockeys, is on the ballot once again in all his operatic glory, and in the face of his drug-related death in December 2000 that robbed the sport of a great natural talent. Joining Antley and Perret are two first-timers who have been eligible for a while: Victor Espinoza, who only needed one more push and got it with California Chrome, and Corey Nakatani, whose heavyweight résumé bears everything but a Triple Crown event.

The four horses sent up by the nominating committee (of which this writer is a disruptive member) represent a push-back to the idea that brilliance trumps durability.

In recent years, it was hard to ignore Ghostzapper and his nine wins in 11 starts, or Invasor and his 11 for 12. This time around, however, both Kona Gold (14 wins from 30 starts) and Xtra Heat (35 starts, 26 wins) are back on the ballot as the Fred and Ginger of modern sprinters who proved without doubt that there is more to the game than 9 or 10 furlongs on the main.

The other two horses are first-timers, including Lava Man, a winner of three Hollywood Gold Cups, two Santa Anita Handicaps, $5.2 million, and Grade 1 races on dirt, turf, and synthetics during a California-centric career of 47 starts, most of them after he was claimed for $50,000.

Lava Man has made the Hall of Fame ballot in his first year of eligibility, which is unusual. Normally, the nominators like to chew on a name for a couple of turns before pulling the trigger. It remains to be seen if the voters at large will go for Lava Man the first time out of the box the way they did for Curlin, Invasor, and Ghostzapper in recent years.

Then there is Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Horse of the Year. He is the real Minnie Minoso of the bunch, and not only because he called Chicago home. Black Tie Affair has been eligible to be nominated since 1997, five years after he wrapped up a career of 18 wins, nine seconds, six thirds, and $3.3 million in earnings during four seasons and 45 starts at 16 different racetracks.

Four of those tracks no longer exist. But hey, sometimes it takes a little time for the obvious to sink in.

David More than 1 year ago
Jay, please take a look at Mario Pino's accomplishments. Mario Pino is currently 10th on the jockey all time win list with 6,629. He rode his first winner in January 1979 at Bowie and, 36 years later, has rode several winners at Gulfstream Park this winter despite being semi-retired. Mario received the George Woolf award in 2013 voted by his peers. He was inducted to the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2007, he ran second in the Derby on Hard Spun losing to a Calvin Borel rail dream trip on Street Sense. Pino has won Grade I races in New York. Pino decided to raise his family in Maryland competing against many future top jockeys that came out of that tough Maryland circuit back in the 80's and 90's. Other jockey names are in the HOF discussion, but I can't understand why Mario Pino has never been mentioned. alydarguido
JayHovdey More than 1 year ago
David -- I tried to make the case to my fellow Nominating Committee members that if they were going to back King Leatherbury to be on the ballot they should be showing just as much support for Mario Pino, but to no avail. Apparently King has a better PR effort going for him than Mario.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Whats next Arcangues for the hall ?
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Black tie Affair has a grand total of ONE Gr. I win . Its a disgrace that he is on the ballot.
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
Black Tie Affair still considered the worst of the Breeders cup classic winners Vic & Corey still many ballots away. Mel Stute removed his name years ago !
bruce Walker More than 1 year ago
Hi Jay. A strong case can be made for Roger Laurin. His list of accomplishments is too long for this short space..but think of Miss Cavandish, Drumtop, a superior grass horse; Numbered Account, Eclipse champion two-year-old filly in 1971; and Chief's Crown, inaugural winner of the Breeders' Cup juvenile.
russell More than 1 year ago
MY HOF opinion Antley over Perret. Antley was a dominant rider despite his demons. Hes was great rider Trainer- King T deserves his due Horses- Very Easy, Ghostzapper, Invsavor, Lava Man, and Xtra Heat.
JayHovdey More than 1 year ago
Russell -- Since voters do not need to vote for one per category, both Perret and Antley could get in.
Karen Johnson More than 1 year ago
I love Black Tie Affair! I remember a story about his trainer (or was it owner??) defending his frequent trailer rides from one venue to another: "It doesn't bother him at all, he's such a gentleman. He gets n, lies down, and sleeps until we unload him." Now, who could ask for more ... especially given how often he woke up, walked off, and ran to a win!
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
not one word on gary stevens being inducted in light of the buzzer scandal with chapa. whats the matter Hovdey, cat got ur tongue?
JayHovdey More than 1 year ago
TedK -- Stevens was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. Now that we have that established, it's back in your court to connect the dots between him and Chapa and what's that got to do with this year's Hall of Fame voting.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
how come you NEVER wrote an article about the days long before his induction when he robbed people of their money? any opinion on that one way or another? that's REALLY what I was getting at.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
with a zapper, by his own admission in a video. just to clarify.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
crickets..............what I thought
JayHovdey More than 1 year ago
TedK -- Sorry, Ted. I was feeding the cat. I'm not sure I heard the same things you did on that PETA video, unless there is another source you can cite to back your accusations. I'm all ears.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
your not sure because your a certified a** kisser whos afraid to tell the truth! grow a pair!
Salvatore Agro More than 1 year ago
Lava Man-first ballot.
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
JayHovdey More than 1 year ago
Chad -- You've worn me down. I gave it a try this year but no luck. Fingers crossed someday though.
slewfan More than 1 year ago
You didn't try hard enough or the powers that be are too dense to realize the accomplishmen's of Turner; without Turne's expertise and patience as s true horseman/ trainer, we probably wouldn't have had an undefeated TC winner and Slew could have been gelded because he wad s difficult, feisty colt, etc., which means we would have none of his progeny, A.P. Indy, Pulpit, Rags to Riches, Tapit, etc. It is sinful that Turner isn't I'm the HOF, and also that Rags to Riches hasn't even been nominated to date! No wonder racing fans are disgusted and fans are going elsewhere for entertainment and enjoyment. Thoroughbred racing I'd being dealt a blow almost weekly, and the suits don't seem to get it. Ignorance is bliss??
JayHovdey More than 1 year ago
slewfan -- Rags to Riches came close to making the ballot this time around and I'm sure she will very soon. The Hall of Fame nominators are still coming to terms with the lightly raced candidates of obvious quality after years of putting forth horses with dozens of starts. As for not trying hard enough for Turner, well, I guess you'd know because you were right there in the room. As far as that goes, how do you feel about George Conway not being in the Hall of Fame? It's only been 75 years since he trained War Admiral, to whom My Charmer was inbred through full sisters. By your calculus, no George Conway, no slewfans.