Professor’s Hall of Fame voting honor hits close to home
December 14, 2022
December 14, 2022
“My father died when he was only 69 years old,” he said. “He was perhaps the biggest baseball fan anyone could find. So, every year, after I first got into the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), he would ask how many years it had been, knowing I needed to get to 10 straight years before I could become a voter. He died before he got to see me vote. Now, every year, around Christmas, I get the ballot, I sit at his desk, which is now in my house, and I go through the ballot.”
Pietruszkiewicz, submitting his first ballot in 2014, has continued his honorary position as a Baseball Hall of Fame voter, not an easy title to acquire, he explained.
“You must be in the Baseball Writers' Association of America for 10 consecutive years,” Pietruszkiewicz said. “My run started when I was a baseball reporter for the Northwest Herald, a small suburban newspaper outside of Chicago. I spent seven years there, covering the Cubs and White Sox. I remained active during my time at ESPN.com, where I was involved in our baseball coverage a few different times over my 14 years there. I am now considered a lifetime honorary member of the BBWAA.”
Every year, right around Thanksgiving, a paper ballot arrives in the mail, he said as he explained the process. A voter can check up to 10 names and it must be postmarked by December 31. Last year, 394 ballots were submitted.
“I will typically spend a few weeks studying every player on the ballot – their stats, their worthiness – even if at first glance I know they are not a Hall of Famer,” Pietruszkiewicz said, attributing his role as a journalist to his unbiased practices.
Pietruszkiewicz takes this honor very seriously which he believes can be surprising to most, he said.
“Sure, some might not take the process seriously, but most do – and they also know the social media second-guessing and abuse that will come the minute those ballots are made public,” he said. “You don’t have to make your ballot public, but I always do. It doesn’t feel right to hide behind anonymity with this. The anger that comes is real because fans also take this very, very seriously. If you don’t vote for someone they think should have gotten a check mark, they let you hear it.”
Although sometimes receiving backlash, Pietruszkiewicz bases his votes on one thing only, numbers.
For years, he tried to guess whether a candidate might or might not have done steroids, a scandal which has irrevocably changed what the numbers mean from a historical context, he said. But he eventually realized he could never be certain whether this was true or not.
“So, now, I simply go by the numbers,” he said. “If the numbers are Hall of Fame-worthy, I vote for them and I know that leads to some very unpopular check marks next to some names."
Although being a part of voting for eight years, Pietruszkiewicz has only been to the Hall of Fame twice, he said.
“It’s hard to believe, but I’ve only been there twice,” Pietruszkiewicz said. “First, a few years ago with my wife, Dana. Most recently, though, I was there this summer for the induction of my friend, ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, who was voted into the writer’s wing. Cooperstown is such a special, quaint place and to be there to watch a friend receive the profession and the sport’s highest honor was something else. Also, he thanked me in his speech, which was sort of a surreal moment, hearing your name mentioned in someone’s Hall of Fame speech.”
Pietruszkiewicz is incredibly grateful for the opportunities voting has created, he explained, especially those allowing him to rekindle his father’s love for baseball.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career, been trusted to do a lot of things I’d never imagine I would get to do – cover World Series and Masters and oversee major sporting events in different countries,” he said. “Voting for the Hall of Fame is one of those honors and privileges I would never, ever take for granted. I know how lucky I am and what kind of responsibility that ballot holds.”
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