If Membership to the MLB Hall of Fame Were Determined by Congress

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SENATOR BIDEN: Bruce Sutter, you're remarkably well-qualified. You helped revolutionize modern pitching with your use of the split-fingered fastball and your use as one of the first dedicated closers. You are 19th on the all-time saves list, led the National League in saves five times, and had a 2.83 career ERA, all in a career cut short to 12 years because of injury.

No one can, or ever would, question your qualifications for entrance to the Hall. We're not here to talk about your qualifications, but to understand the philosophy under which you played.

What troubles me, sir -- and maybe you can help me figure this out -- is that on a warm summer night in Chicago in 1979 -- the very same year you won the Cy Young Award, given to the best pitcher in the league -- you were at bat in the bottom of the ninth against Pittsburgh, down by one with one out and one on.

The squeeze was called by your manager, and your teammate Miguel Dilone was at third with a big lead. Do you remember the situation, sir?

BRUCE SUTTER: Yes, Senator, I do.

BIDEN: You were told by your manager to bunt, were you not?

SUTTER: Yes, Senator, I was.

BIDEN: Do you feel as such that it was your obligation to bunt?

SUTTER: Yes, yes, I do.

BIDEN: And yet you chose to instead swing away. Miguel Dilone, with 15 steals that season in limited playing time, and a 75 percent success rate, stole home. You missed the pitch, Pittsburgh catcher Ed Ott easily tagged out Dilone for the second out, and then you proceeded to pop out to short for the final out. Is that what happened?

SUTTER: Yes, Senator.

BIDEN: Maybe someone else can explain this. I've never played in the major leagues. Maybe I'm missing something. But for the life of me, I can't understand why you did that. And it frankly troubles me that we would allow someone into the Hall of Fame, the top honor for a baseball player, who would do such a thing.

I'm sorry, my time is up, but I hope we can get back to this again in the next session, and maybe you can help me understand why you did this.

CHAIRMAN SPECTER: Thank you, Senator Biden. Senator Grassley?

SENATOR GRASSLEY: I'd like to address this issue directly. I think you've been treated unfairly. As you can see from this graph held up by my able assistant, you only successfully bunted once. In your entire 12 seasons. Is this correct?

SUTTER: Yes, I remember it well. (laughter)

GRASSLEY: That was also in 1979, and you drove in a run on that play, did you not?

SUTTER: I did, Senator.

GRASSLEY: Were you ordered by your manager to bunt on that play?

SUTTER: Yes, I was.

GRASSLEY: Was there any other time you were ordered to bunt, and did not do so?

SUTTER: No, Senator.

GRASSLEY: Was there any other time you were ordered to bunt, and did so, but failed in the attempt?

SUTTER: Yes, Senator, many times. (laughter)

GRASSLEY: I submit to my respected colleague that the the esteemed ballplayer made a decision to do what he thought was best at the time, and that whether or not this was the right decision, it is certainly not dispositive of the presence what he might call an "acceptable baseball philosophy."

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