The 2009 Pro Football Class was announced today after sportswriters across America voted on who would have the honor to have a bust in Canton, Ohio. In the end, six more were added.
The three were elected on Saturday, along with longtime Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who at age 90 will be the oldest person ever inducted; former Minnesota Vikings guard Randall McDaniel; and the late Bob Hayes, a standout wide receiver for Dallas and the 1964 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meters.
The induction ceremony will be Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio.
The only candidate among the seven finalists who didn’t get in was former Falcons and Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey.
Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue was denied entry for the third straight year, not even making it past the first round of cuts.
Tagliabue, who retired in 2006 after 17 years in the job, has met strong resistance in his three years of eligibility despite the profitability and labor peace the league enjoyed during his tenure.
No such problem for Smith and Woodson in their first year on the ballot.
Not to lower the honor that was placed upon these six men, but I’ve always wondered why Packers Legend and five-time all-pro guard Jerry Kramer is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kramer retired from football in 1968. In 1969, he was named as the best Guard to ever play the position in the history of the NFL as part of its 50th Anniversary team.
As of today, he remains the only member of that fraternity to not make it into Canton.
Kramer’s best chances to make Canton have likely long since passed. As this 1997 article from the Journal Sentinel seems to indicate.
In 1969, Kramer was named by a special Hall of Fame committee as the best guard ever in the first 50 years of pro football.
Who knows what goes through the minds of Hall of Fame voters.
Art Daley, 79-year-old Hall of Fame voter from Green Bay, tried to persuade the other 34 voters to cast their lot with Kramer Saturday. Daley said he was well prepared.
He said he made an ”eight, nine-minute” presentation. He brought with him ringing endorsements for Kramer from former Packer Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg and Jim Ringo. He also had endorsements from guys who played against Kramer, namely Alex Karras and Wayne Walker of the Detroit Lions, and Merlin Olsen of the then Los Angeles Rams.
Kramer had monumental encounters with Karras, a defensive tackle. Daley had asked Karras if Kramer had benefited mostly by playing next to Ringo and Gregg.
”Alex said ‘no,”’ Daley said. ”He thought it was the other way around.”
Hall of Fame selection meetings often can turn into hollering matches. Daley said no one objected at Kramer’s nomination.
”Only one person, however, seconded my thoughts about Jerry,” Daley said. ”Don Pierson of the Chicago Tribune got up and spoke highly of Kramer.”
There were 35 votes. Kramer needed 28 and failed to get them.
Jerry Mcgee of the San Diego Union-Tribune is a member of the Hall of Fame veterans selection committee that nominated Kramer last June.
Asked for his opinion why Kramer didn’t get enough votes, Mcgee offered these opinions:
”I think there are a lot of people in football who believe Fuzzy Thurston was better — rightly or wrongly. They just feel that way.
”Secondly, there are a hell of a lot of Packers already in the Hall of Fame.
”But probably most important, we’re coming at an age now, most of these younger guys on the selection committee never saw Kramer play.”
In other words, it’s getting harder and harder for old-timers to get in because the NFL is cranking out dozens of eligibles annually. Players become eligible five years after they retire; a coach needs only to be retired.
Only a prima dona of a sports writer would used that second argument. (Whatever.)
It’s the last part which stings fans like me the most. Kramer is seeing places in the Hall of Fame go to for guys who’s fathers and grandfathers idolized him. He’s being overlooked not because he wasn’t great — the numbers and footage tell us he was — he’s being overlooked because those sports writers who would be nominating him aren’t in the room anymore.
As seen from this footage earlier today, all ESPNews can talk about are the modern players (one of which is on ESPN’s payroll as an analyst) who didn’t make the cut.
Kramer has long since said, not making the Hall of Fame has stopped being something he worries about. He is respected across the sport for his work on and off the field. But still, I often wonder how the Kramer’s good friend the late Dick Schaap would have felt on days like this.