After the baseball world was shocked by the passing of legendary San Diego Padres hitter Tony Gwynn, a player many consider the greatest hitter in baseball, the Padres paid respects by having a ceremony and dedicating a statue to his honor. For a player who had the impact he had on not only the Padres, but on baseball, he should have been recognized with such at an earlier time.
Players are first eligible to to be on the Hall of Fame ballot five years upon retiring. Gwynn was a first ballot inductee in 2007. Unfortunately, the world had to say goodbye to one of baseball’s greatest much earlier than expected. At the age of 54, he lost the battle to salivary gland cancer. It is believed he got the cancer from chewing tobacco, something else he was well known for doing during his illustrious career.
Players make impacts on the game of baseball that could never be forgotten every decade. Teams and the sport should look to respect them before it is too late. If the player gets into the Hall of Fame, the team is known for statues, and the player just so happens to have the same impact as some of the best to ever play, they should give him a statue the same summer he is inducted. If they are not known for statues, but instead, monuments, such as the New York Yankees, they should honor the player with the plaque that season if they had not done so already. The Yankees did the best thing possible and honored the great Mariano Rivera in his last series as a player in Yankee Stadium.
It would be a good thing for baseball to do it quickly. The fans who saw them play in their golden years will be in attendance or watching in any way possible. It will only make their legacy bigger rather than waiting for 10-plus years and doing it in front of people who did not love watching them play every night. The stories will be handed down for generations and there will many different things published that future fans could read on the legacy they had on the game of baseball. The players, though, should not have to wait to get the respect they deserve. In Gwynn’s case, he was watching from elsewhere rather than being in attendance. That should not be the case if a franchise can help it.