Would You Like to See Johnny Damon Wearing a Red Sox Cap in Cooperstown?


Would You Like to See Johnny Damon Wearing a Red Sox Cap in Cooperstown? Andre Dawson probably won't be thanking Wade Boggs in his Hall of Fame induction speech. If The Hawk does, it might be with a dose of sarcasm stronger than his throwing arm.

Boggs isn't the reason Dawson will be enshrined in Cooperstown as a Montreal Expo, rather than a Chicago Cub as he wanted. But the former Red Sox third baseman is a footnote in the discussion.

In 1999, around the time Boggs was retiring, reports surfaced that Tampa Bay would compensate him if he donned a Devil Rays hat on his Hall of Fame plaque. Boggs denied the story, and two years later, the Hall revoked the right of any inductee to choose which logo appeared on his plaque. Boggs was inducted into Cooperstown in 2005, and his plaque bears a Red Sox cap.

Even if the Boggs controversy is nothing but urban legend, the Hall of Fame now decides which caps go on the plaques. The team where the player made the biggest impact gets the vote. Before free agency, this wasn’t a problem — players spent entire careers on the same teams. Today, spending an entire career on the same team happens about as often as Theo Epstein goes to arbitration. And multi-team careers can muddy the waters when it comes time for the Hall to determine where a player left his indelible mark.

Boggs played the first 11 years of his 18-year career in Boston. He posted a .328 average, had seven straight seasons with 200 or more hits and racked up over 2,000 knocks. Then he went to the Yankees, where he played five seasons, hit .313 and won a World Series in 1996 — the only championship of his career.

Watching Boggs win a ring with the pinstripes was bad enough for Red Sox fans, but the celebration made it even worse, as he hopped on the back of a New York City cop's horse and took a victory lap around Yankee Stadium after the clinching game. It turned into one of those signature moments in baseball history that gets played over and over and over again. When you're on the winning side, it never gets old. When you’re on the losing — or rival's — side, it's a recurring punch in the gut.

Boggs might wear a Red Sox cap for immortality in Cooperstown, but once he signed on the dotted line in the Bronx, he became a traitor. To some in New England, he might as well have joined Satan's army. No one can take away what Boggs did for Boston. Nobody will ever forget the sight of him crying in the dugout after the 1986 World Series loss the Mets. But that doesn't wash away the memory of him riding around the House That Ruth Built wearing pinstripes.

The Hall of Fame has no trouble reconciling the past. Boggs got the nod as a Red Sox.

That's a tougher debate for Red Sox fans. Some might let bygones be bygones and remember only the good times, but some will never forgive a player for signing with the enemy. Yankees cap? Devil Rays cap? The hardliners might put a dunce cap on him for posterity.

The situation could arise again with other former Red Sox players — and potential future Hall of Famers:

Johnny Damon. Damon spent four years in Boston and four years in New York. He had similar numbers with both teams and helped both teams win World Series. If he ever comes to his senses this offseason, he’ll put on another uniform and hit and run and score some more. But he is the ultimate mercenary. Maybe a dollar sign would suit him better than any team logo.

Manny Ramirez. Manny wrote history in Boston — 2004 and 2007 wouldn't have happened without him. Then he took a sledgehammer to his Red Sox legacy with half a season of Manny Being a Cancer. Now he's a hero in Hollywood. Maybe a picture of Manny on his cap would be most appropriate.

Curt Schilling. Schilling showed guts in Arizona. He showed guts in Boston. And his three career rings became the stuff of mythology. But he seems to be in the news more as an ex-player than he was when he was playing. Maybe an "I" on his cap would fit better than a "B."

Roger Clemens. Last but not least, The Rocket did things on a mound with the Red Sox that no one had ever seen before. After he left Boston, he did things on a mound that no one had ever seen before. It left people wondering if he was the Antichrist. Most of the world is still wondering. Until he offers some answers, nothing but a question mark will do.

For one reason or another, none of these players are Hall of Fame locks. But if everything breaks just right and they get the call one day, should they wear a Red Sox cap on their plaque?

The keepers of baseball's shrine in upstate New York will make that determination.

This year, their decision left Andre Dawson disappointed.

A few people have criticized Dawson for being honest about his cap preference. They've pulled the old "beggars can't be choosers" card. Others have compared Dawson's reaction to winning a million bucks in the lottery, then complaining that the bills aren't all freshly minted, uncirculated, crisp Benjamins.

But why should Dawson be lambasted for being forthright? If a player is good enough to make the Hall, why shouldn’t he be allowed to pick what cap he gets to wear for eternity?

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