NEW YORK — Phil Pepe of the New York Daily News, one of nine voters who returned blank ballots in baseball's Hall of Fame election, said Wednesday that he was protesting what he believes are reduced standards for election.
The nine blank ballots deprived pitcher Jim Bunning of election. Including the nine, 427 votes were cast. That meant 321, representing 75%, were required for election. Bunning received 317, four votes short. Had the blank ballots not been submitted, 75% of 418 would have been 314, and Bunning would have made it.
"Maybe my standards are higher than most people," Pepe said. "But I think the Hall of Fame is too crowded. When you vote on people you've seen play, you see the warts. I never saw Babe Ruth pop up with the bases loaded, although I'm sure he did. The people on the ballot now are people I've seen fail.
"I think to go in alongside Ruth, DiMaggio, Williams, Aaron, Cy Young, you have to be the cream of the cream. The more you erode the standards, the more the standards will be eroded."
Pepe said he did not want his vote to be considered an abstention. "If I wanted to abstain, I would have thrown the ballot away," he said. "If I throw it away, it's a non-vote.
"I voted. My vote was nobody on the ballot deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. My preference was that nobody get in. To get in, they would need three votes to cancel mine."
Pepe is a member of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America's screening committee, which draws up the Hall of Fame ballot, presenting candidates for consideration by the membership. He is also national vice president of the BBWAA.
Pepe said he had voted independently and was surprised that eight other ballots were returned blank. "I've never done this before, and this is the 20th or 21st time I voted."
Another of the blank ballots belonged to Bill Madden, also of the New York Daily News.
"I felt nobody on that ballot represented true greatness," Madden said. "A lot of players represented pretty good or very good, not great. Willie Stargell (the only player elected) was very good. The Hall of Fame is for great."