On Monday, it was announced that the late New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, would be on the Veterans Committee's ballot for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame's class of 2011. Said committee will also consider three other Yankee greats of note, including pitchers Ron Guidry & Tommy John and Steinbrenner's favorite whipping boy during the 70's & 80's, Billy Martin, who won 5 World Series titles total, 1 as a manager, and 4 more as a player in the 50's.
Steinbrenner is virtually a lock to be elected on the first ballot, since it would be a year after his passing if he is inducted next July. If "The Boss" goes, then it would only be fitting that Martin, who shared many a back page headline in the New York tabloids with Steinbrenner, would go in with him. Would Guidry and/or John go in with them? Right now, I'm not so sure.
Steinbrenner & Martin, though, might not be the only posthumous entries. Longtime Seattle Mariners announcer Dave Niehaus passed away on Wednesday, and you have to believe there will be some politicking going on in the Pacific Northwest for him to go in as well.
I cannot recall if there's ever been any other time where anyone has earned posthumous induction into Cooperstown within a year of his passing. If it hasn't happened, then Steinbrenner's would be the first. The WWE, whose Hall of Fame doesn't have a tangible location at present, but should, to mollify its detractors, inducted the late Eddie Guerrero in 2006, less than 6 months after his passing, so there is a precedent, after a fashion.
Steinbrenner's memorial became the centerpiece of Monument Park at Yankee Stadium II over the summer, representing his larger-than-life standing as a baseball icon. The only thing bigger would be the celebration of his induction into the Hall of Fame. The only thing that would stand in his way would be the suspensions in the 70's & 90's, but that would be offset by the 7 World Series titles the Yankees won under his stewardship (1977-78, 1996, 1998-2000, 2009). They point to the fact that Steinbrenner restored the Yankees' winning tradition, though it took three years to reach the playoffs (Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973), and was at the forefront of the free agent feeding frenzy that has spiraled out of control since its inception in the mid-70's. 38 seasons (1973-2010) as owner. 7 Championships. 11 AL pennants. A zillion headlines, and multi-media appearances by the dozen. There is no question about when or if he goes in. It's virtually a slam dunk.