Are you ready, kids?
As recently as two years ago, it seemed like there was no way Larry Walker would get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Despite being one of the best hitters of his generation, Walker appeared on only 34.1% of writers’ ballots in 2018, well below the 75% threshold necessary for induction. With only two years remaining on the ballot, Walker looked like the longest of Cooperstown long shots.
But many voters changed their tune last year. When the ballot-tracking project by baseball fan Ryan Thibodaux showed Walker creeping closer to the magic 75% number, he couldn’t believe it.
After all the ballots were counted, Walker finished with 54.6% of the vote—a massive leap but still far short of enshrinement. So he wasn’t terribly optimistic that he’d make it in this time, in his 10th and final year on the ballot. Walker tweeted that he thought he’d be just short of 75%.
Maybe that’s why Walker decided to wear a truly heinous NASCAR-style SpongeBob SquarePants shirt on what ended up being the biggest day of his professional life. He didn’t think he’d actually be appearing on TV.
Here’s a closer look at the shirt.
Yes, it really says “Ain’t no ordinary sponge” on the front, next to a smirking SpongeBob. The back of the shirt is even more incredible.
Walker really is a fashion tastemaker. Since he debuted the wonderfully tacky top on MLB Network, it’s become very difficult to find. According to this tweet, you could find them on Amazon for about $20 on Tuesday night, but now they’re all sold out. It’s also out of stock at Walmart.
But if you’re willing to roll the dice and give your credit card info to a sketchy-looking site called “mpakissale” or “wurzergoods” (which are the same website, just with different URLs), then the shirt can be yours for just $12.99 plus shipping. It’s the perfect thing to wear to Cooperstown next July.
One vote. That’s all that kept Derek Jeter from joining Mariano Rivera as the only players in baseball history to be elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame. (He and Larry Walker were the only two players voted in by the media this year.) New Yorkers and members of the media definitely worship Jeter more than he deserved, but there’s still no doubt he was a Hall of Fame–quality player.
That’s why it’ll be so interesting to see whether we ever learn who the lone dissenter was. The ballots of those voters who wish to reveal them will be made public Feb. 4, but voters also have the ability to remain anonymous, so we may never learn who it was. I’m fairly certain the identity will come out, though. Because whoever did this did it to make a statement about how unanimous election should be an impossibly high bar to clear. I say it’s a 70% chance that he (and I guarantee it’s a man) will publish a column pleading his case by the end of the week.
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