Music and fantasy baseball.
When my late-February birthday rolls around each year, those are two things that come to mind. I usually get some CDs or music off iTunes, and I also purchase a fantasy baseball magazine so I can start my research - the league we have at the newspaper is highly competitive. My two likely keepers for this season are Max Scherzer (who won the National League Cy Young award in 2016) and catcher Kyle Schwarber, who looks like he's going to be outstanding if he stays healthy. I'll soon start formulating a game plan for our all-important draft late next month.
As for music, I'm all over the map. My parents bought me the Elvis Presley "Live in Las Vegas" four-CD box set in 2002. I listened to the entire collection more than once as I drove to Birmingham, Ala., to cover Paine College in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference basketball tournament.
In 2003, my wife gave me Led Zeppelin's "The Complete Studio Recordings" for our first anniversary. That's 10 CDs of musical genius, and one of the greatest gifts she's ever given me (ranking high up there with the triplets).
While I have many CDs, I also like to keep music on my phone for several reasons - exercise one of them. Recently, I purchased a Kool & The Gang greatest-hits collection. I realized soon after that I didn't know much about the band. I've always enjoyed their music: "Jungle Boogie," "Hollywood Swinging," "Ladies Night," "Celebration," "Get Down on It," "Fresh" and others. I just haven't read the history of the band or its music.
Kool & The Gang was a popular act in the 1980s when I was growing up. They started churning out hits well before that, though. From 1973 to 1986, Kool & The Gang produced 14 albums, nine of them reaching gold status for selling 500,000 copies. Of those albums, four went platinum, reaching 1 million in sales.
Despite their success, Kool & The Gang, an influential rhythm and blues/disco/jazz/pop band, is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not even close. The 2017 induction ceremony, held April 7 (don't those people know that's the same time as Masters Week?), will include Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Baez, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur and Yes. It may not be the sexiest class, but the inductees are worthy.
Sadly, Kool & The Gang is getting the Fred McGriff treatment. The former Atlanta Braves first baseman has watched his prospect of making the Baseball Hall of Fame stall in recent years, despite having a standout career. McGriff hit 493 home runs (the same number as Lou Gehrig; they are tied for 28th on the career list). McGriff also drove in 1,550 runs (more RBI than Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Jeff Bagwell, Willie Stargell, Mickey Mantle and others).
McGriff was one of the dominant players of the 1990s. While he didn't win an MVP award, he helped the Atlanta Braves win the World Series in 1995. Folks can dissect his numbers all they want, but McGriff should be given credit for being a feared hitter and a respected leader. And if you want numbers, I present this: .303. That's McGriff's postseason batting average in 50 games. He also hit 10 homers and 37 RBI in that span. It's debatable that McGriff might be the greatest Atlanta postseason hitter. Even Chipper Jones, who will likely be inducted into the Hall of Fame next year, hit just .287 in the postseason.
Some people will argue that McGriff doesn't have the defensive numbers. Or that he never won an MVP award. Well that leads to my next argument.
Why isn't Dale Murphy in the Hall of Fame? He was one of the most dominant players of the 1980s. If you put together an all-1980s baseball team, Murphy has to be one of the outfielders.
Playing for a really bad team and getting little support in the lineup, Murphy won back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983. He made seven All-Star game appearances, earned five Gold Glove awards and four Silver Slugger awards. He, like McGriff, did this without the use of steroids.
I hope McGriff and Murphy each make the Hall of Fame one day - and I hope Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters soon recognize the greatnepss of Kool & The Gang. But there's an even bigger Hall of Fame snub that I'd like to soon see rectified.
This marks Year 28 the all-time hits leader has been banned from baseball for betting on the game. There are people who have committed first-degree murder who have served less time behind bars than Rose has away from the game. Keeping him out of the Hall of Fame is nothing short of criminal.
Charlie Hustle gave his all to baseball. He was one of the top players in the game. Before baseball starts letting all these steroid cheats into the Hall, the game needs to first roll out the red carpet for Rose. While he committed a cardinal sin of betting on baseball, he didn't cheat while playing. And Rose may have his issues off the field, but the Hall of Fame should be based on merit. Besides, if Hall of Fame voters are selecting players based on morality, Murphy and McGriff should be the next two players inducted.
All this talk about who should be in the Hall of Fame is giving me a headache. If you want to read more about it, there's a website that goes into full detail about who is getting snubbed from the music and sports hall of fames: notinhalloffame.com.
I'm just glad we no longer have to stress over Ray Guy getting inducted. The greatest punter of all time waited many years, many frustrating years, to finally get the call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. And if Guy can get in, then there's hope for McGriff, Murphy, Rose, and yes, even Kool & The Gang.