I love The Simpsons. When I was living on campus during my undergraduate college years, sometimes I would walk through a dorm hall at 5p on a weekday and hear The Simpsons in stereo as it played in what seemed like every dorm room. I can also remember piling into a dorm commons with a bunch of other students on February 16, 2003 to watch the airing of episode 300 entitled, “Barting Over” in which my favorite band, Blink-182 made a cameo appearance.((Barting Over. en.wikipedia.org)) Man, those were good times!
The Simpsons has achieved milestone status as the longest running scripted series in television history.((The Simpsons has become the longest running scripted show in television history. www.syfy.com)) On February 20, 1992, episode 17 of season 3 aired entitled, “Homer at the Bat.”((Homer at the Bat. wikipedia.org)) This episode is considered by many to be one of the show’s best.
The episode follows the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team, led by Homer. Mr. Burns brings in nine key big leaguers to support his chances on a large bet he made on the team to win the championship game. Player appearances playing themselves included: Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith, José Canseco, Don Mattingly, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Scioscia, and Ken Griffey Jr.
The player roster has some of the biggest names in baseball, and includes Ken Griffey Jr., who is best known for his beautiful left handed swing and overall career performance. His 22-year professional baseball career accolades include: 13x All-Star, 10x Gold Glove, 7x Silver Slugger, MVP, All-Star MVP, ML Player of the Year, 2781 Hits, and 630 HRs.((Ken Griffey Jr. www.baseball-reference.com)) It’s undeniable that Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the best players in MLB history.
Going back to The Simpsons, there’s a scene in this episode where Mr. Burns introduces the team to a performance enhancer called, “Brain and Nerve Tonic.” In this scene, Ken Griffey Jr. tries a spoon full, then drinks the bottle, which causes him to get gigantism.((The Simpsons – Brain & Nerve Tonic. www.youtube.com))
Baseball in the 1990s was ripe with performance enhancers and player exploitation. Even though this episode aired 6 years prior to the McGwire/Sosa Home Run Chase of 1998, the theme in this episode accentuates what 1998 represented – steroid use.
Ken Griffey Jr. is a member of the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame induction class and came in with 437/440 votes, which is 99.32%. As a veteran fan of Ken Griffey Jr., I’m also surprised he wasn’t unanimous.
So why didn’t three members of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA) check the option box next to Ken Griffey Jr. on their 2016 Hall of Fame ballots?
Think about this: when you put something in front of someone, it stimulates thought. For example, let’s say you have a friend who saw this episode of The Simpsons when he was younger and later in life ended up becoming a qualified member of the BBWAA. This episode always made him think there was maybe a small chance Ken Griffey Jr. took Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in real life (after all, he did play during the prime era of steroid use in professional baseball). The night before he placed his votes, he met up at a local pub with two of his colleagues on the committee and shared his thoughts. The next day, all three of them didn’t include Ken Griffey Jr. on their 2016 Hall of Fame election ballots.
To be fair, this is just an opinion. There’s no way for me to back any of this up with certainty. I will say this, however, ideas stimulate thought, which can influence the decision making process. When The Simpsons creator, Matt Groening added Brain and Nerve Tonic to the script of episode, Homer at the Bat, and included a scene of Ken Griffey Jr. drinking it and getting gigantism, it likely stimulated thought within watchers. That thought may have modified Ken Griffey Jr.’s brand image and as such, caused his 2016 Hall of Fame selection percentage to be less than perfect.
While we may never know the real reason why three of the 440 voters didn’t include Ken Griffey Jr. on their 2016 Hall of Fame ballots, this theory is at least something to think about.