Davidoff: Boss, Miller should be in

George Steinbrenner received fewer than eight of the

George Steinbrenner received fewer than eight of the 12 votes he needed to be elected into the Hall of Fame. (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan, 1987)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.

The Hall of Fame, a most exclusive club, treated George Steinbrenner like a newbie, as he was on this Veterans Committee ballot.

Yes, for once, The Boss turned into an afterthought.

The elation arrived for Pat Gillick, the extremely deserving general manager who drove four different teams into the playoffs - and two of those into a total of three championship parades.

The heartbreak came for Marvin Miller, the even more deserving former Players Association head who, at age 93, fell a vote short of the requisite 75 percent (12 of 16) needed for induction.

Steinbrenner? He received fewer than eight votes, a poor showing. The Hall released the vote totals of only those who drew at least half of the committee's support (Dave Concepcion got eight votes).

Yet of the nine men who fell into that "fewer than eight" crowd, Steinbrenner undoubtedly holds the best prospects for future consideration. It's apparent that the voting body, not quite five months after Steinbrenner's death, simply wanted more time to think.

"He was combative. He was ruthless," said former Reds catcher Johnny Bench, a member of the Expansion Era Committee. "I think too often, we saw the tirades, and we heard about the tirades or the firings or whatever and all the stuff that he had. It seemed like for us, some people thought it was too early.

"He will be [elected]. He certainly will be. Like everybody, we've got history that goes with us. We've got views of what we see on television. We see combativeness and everything else. And he had the money. He had the money to spend. Kind of like if [David] Glass had $200 million a year at Kansas City. But he had a great effect on the game.''

You can debate whether Steinbrenner was a great guy, a terrible guy or both. You can't dispute the impact he had on the game. And if you're going to induct executives, impact should be the criteria.

Barring a procedural change by the Hall, Steinbrenner will appear on his second ballot in two years. Perhaps enough time will have passed by that point to let The Boss in the door. I'll bet you that at the least, Steinbrenner will hit the 50-percent threshold the next time.

There's something to be said for waiting your turn, and that's why it's so disheartening to see Miller fall short in his fifth try.

I'm all for debate, but it's mind-blowing that someone would not consider Miller Hall-worthy. Even if you ignorantly blame him for higher ticket prices, that in itself constitutes impact. In mobilizing the players after they were subservient to the owners for the first 75 years of the 20th century, he forever altered the scope and shape of the game.

The Players Association was so upset that it released three statements - one from current executive director Michael Weiner ("The Hall . . . once again squandered a chance to better itself as an institution''), another from his predecessor, Don Fehr ("This is a sad day for anyone who is or has been a major-league player'') and a third from Miller himself ("A long time ago, it became apparent that the Hall sought to bury me long before my time, as a metaphor for burying the union and eradicating its real influence"). You can't blame them.

No, in actuality, many people on the ownership side expressed similar embarrassment. Frustration that small-minded people could get caught up in the labor trench wars that no longer exist.

While committee members were supposed to keep their votes private, Bench essentially admitted his support for Miller while lamenting Miller's exclusion.

"I was a bit surprised," Bench said. ". . . What sort of impression did he leave on that era? He [left a big one], for me. He just didn't for five other people."

The Boss will be fine. He'll get his day. But if there's any justice, he won't beat Miller inside the club.