On Thursday, the Hall of Fame announced which caps would adorn the bronze plaques of the six Class of 2014 honorees. For four of them, the choice of teams was quite obvious, but the decision for Greg Maddux and Tony La Russa to have blank caps came as a surprise.
The choices for the caps of managers Bobby Cox (Braves) and Joe Torre (Yankees) and players Tom Glavine (Braves) and Frank Thomas (White Sox) were no-brainers, relatively speaking. All four spent time with other teams, but their success -- which for Torre was focused on his time as a manager, not a player -- was most concentrated with the aforementioned teams.
The decision to use a blank cap for Maddux rates as the more puzzling choice of the other two. While he was drafted and developed by the Cubs and then returned to Chicago for a 2 1/2 season run late in his career, three of his four Cy Young awards and all three of his trips to the World Series came with Atlanta. He ultimately spent more seasons with the Braves (11) than the Cubs (10) and threw about 500 more innings for the former with an ERA nearly one run lower (2.63 to 3.61). Six of his eight All-Star appearances came as a Brave, as did eight of his 11 trips to the postseason; of the other three, two came with the Dodgers and just one with the Cubs.
In Maddux's view, by not choosing sides, he's paying tribute to fans of both teams. From his statement in conjunction with the announcement:
"It's impossible for me to choose one of those teams for my Hall of Fame plaque, as the fans of both clubs in each of those cities were so wonderful. I can't think of having my Hall of Fame induction without support of both of those fan bases, so, for that reason, the cap on my Hall of Fame plaque will not feature a logo."
The blank for La Russa makes more sense. He won three pennants and one World Series in 10 seasons as the manager of the A's, who put up a .542 winning percentage on his watch. He won three pennants and two World Series in his 16 seasons with the Cardinals, whom he managed to a .544 winning percentage. He had a total of four postseason appearances in Oakland and nine in St. Louis, but the latter total was aided by the expanded playoff format. He also took the White Sox to the postseason once in his nine seasons on the South Side.
Like Maddux, La Russa viewed the blank cap as a means of not slighting any of the teams he piloted:
"It's the totality of the success of each of those three teams that led me to Cooperstown, so I am choosing to not feature a logo so that fans of all clubs can celebrate this honor with me."
Maddux and La Russa won't be alone among Hall of Famers when it comes to blank caps, though of the seven of the eight such honorees -- Andy Cooper, Frank Grant, Pete Hill, Biz Mackey, Luis Santop, Ben Taylor and Cristobal Torriente -- were Negro League players. Catfish Hunter, who won World Series with the A's and the Yankees, is the only major leaguer in the Hall with a blank.
The Hall solicited input from each honoree as to the cap choice. "The Museum staff works with each inductee by suggesting an appropriate logo option, or no logo at all," said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson. "For those whose careers were built significantly among multiple teams, not having a team logo is equally acceptable." Past cap decisions, such as those for Gary Carter (who went in as an Expo, though he would have preferred the Mets) and Wade Boggs (who went in with a Boston hat but had to deny rumors that he had agreed to wear the cap of the Devil Rays, for whom he played the last two seasons of his career) created controversy. After the Boggs episode, the Hall re-asserted that it had final say. In the end, though, what matters is the player on the plaque, not the cap that he's wearing.