COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — They had no plans to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony.
They apologized to Hall of Fame officials, but sorry, they said they just couldn’t sit idly by and watch David Ortiz be celebrated without feeling troubled.
They were going to silently protest by not showing up for Sunday’s induction ceremony.
But Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage changed their minds, no matter how disturbed they may be that Ortiz becomes the first known Hall of Famer who ever tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
The way they decided to look at it, each making their independent decisions after speaking with several Hall of Famers, they didn’t want to offend others in the incoming class by not showing up.
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“I decided to just let it go,” Gossage told USA TODAY Sports. “So you know what, the way I feel now is, just let everyone in. They might as well let Pete (Rose) in. (Barry) Bonds. (Roger) Clemens. All of them.
“We got no character clause in this (expletive), so let’s drop the character bull.”
Jackson said he spoke to several influential Hall of Famers, including Johnny Bench, who convinced him to change his mind.
The way Jackson figured it, there have been several players recently inducted into the Hall of Fame whose careers were tainted by performance-enhancing drug suspicions.
“I mean, what are you going to do about it?” Jackson said. “Guys talked about (Mike) Piazza. Ivan Rodriguez. I mean, what the (expletive)? So why deny this guy?”
Jackson and Gossage say they now have changed their minds about Bonds and Clemens, too.
There was talk among Hall of Famers that if Bonds and Clemens were ever inducted, they would boycott, or simply walk off the stage when they spoke. Late Hall of Famer Joe Morgan even sent a letter to voters in 2017, imploring writers not to vote for any player who used steroids.
“The more we Hall of Famers talk about this — and we talk about it a lot — we realize that we can no longer sit silent,” Morgan wrote. “Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans might think we are ok if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in Baseball. We don’t want fans ever to think that.
“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.”
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Bonds and Clemens, neither of whom tested positive or were punished by baseball for performance enhancing drugs but instead were guilty in the court of public opinion after federal court cases, never received enough votes by the Baseball Writers Association of America to be elected.
They fell off the writers’ ballot after the maximum of 10 years but are eligible again for the Hall of Fame in December. They will be on the Contemporary Baseball era player ballot.
If they are elected, Jackson and Gossage say they plan to attend that ceremony, too.
“There are too many guys in there now who have taken steroids,” Jackson said. “So why let Bonds and Clemens be the poster child?”
Ortiz tested positive in 2003 when test results were supposed to be confidential, only for his name to surface in a New York Times report in 2009. MLB began testing players for banned substances in 2004, and Ortiz never failed a test after baseball’s crackdown, still wondering what triggered the positive test.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said during Ortiz’s retirement ceremony in 2016 at Fenway Park that it was possible Ortiz’s drug test was a false-positive, questioning the accuracy of those tests. He told writers that leaked test results from 2003 shouldn’t be a factor in Hall of Fame voting.
“I think whatever judgment writers decide to make with respect to players who have tested positive or otherwise been adjudicated under our program, that’s up to them,” Manfred said. “That’s a policy decision. They’ve got to look into their conscience and decide how they evaluate that against the Hall of Fame criteria.
“What I do feel is unfair is in situations where it is leaks, rumors, innuendo, not confirmed positive test results, that that is unfair to the players. I think that would be wrong.”
If Ortiz’s anonymous positive test played a factor in the voting, it was minimal, considering Ortiz was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
I voted for Ortiz. I voted for Bonds and Clemens and Sammy Sosa the past 10 years. Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell, each of whom were suspected of PED use and still got into the Hall of Fame, got my vote, too.
My line of demarcation is 2004. If a player tested positive for PEDs when drug testing was implemented and rules were in place, I don’t vote for them. Manny Ramirez, who tested positive three times, doesn’t receive my vote. Neither does Alex Rodriguez.
Ortiz, positive test or not before PED rules were implemented, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He’s the greatest DH in the history of the game with 541 home runs. He’s a three-time World Series champion. He helped end the 86-year championship drought in Boston. He was a role model in the Boston community, and one of New England’s most beloved sports figures.
There were more than 200 press credentials issued for this weekend, Hall of Fame officials said, and about half were from Latino outlets, including 18 TV cameras on Saturday chronicling Ortiz’s induction.
Ortiz, bigger than life, rented five houses in town just to accommodate all of his friends and relatives. He invited everyone at his press conference Saturday to party with him after the induction ceremony at the local Ommegang Brewery, even taking a selfie with the Dominican reporters.
“They’ll never let us back in,’’ Ortiz said in Spanish, cracking up the room.
This is Ortiz, the life of the party, loved by reporters, fans and teammates alike. He lights up the room the moment he walks in.
He may have grown up in the Dominican Republic and played in Seattle and Minnesota before he arrived in Boston, but New England called him one of their own, uniting a community, with 81,000 Dominicans living in the Boston area.
“What can I say, I played in a city where I’ve heard a lot of people talk about racism and things like that,” Ortiz said. “Thank God I never lived an experience like that, but to the contrary, what we did was like to unite the people. It didn’t matter what race or color or nationality you were. And that has a very good response.
“A lot of times when I go to places in Boston, people tell me, ‘You guys gave us a lot of strength because with the jobs and the people who wouldn’t give us permission to have access to things. Now your era changed those norms.’
“Now it’s like the same family. The world evolves, and we have to give it the opportunity.”
The same, of course, could be said about Ortiz.
He’s now part of the most exclusive fraternity in baseball: the Hall of Fame.
We’ll see whether his entrance changes the way players tainted with PED use — whether it’s a flunked test, court case, or strong suspicions — are viewed in the future.
All that matters for now is that Ortiz is a Hall of Famer and welcomed, begrudgingly or not, by his entire fraternity.
“It’s an honor,” Ortiz said.
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale.