To large and loyal groups across the nation, a Hall of Famer - and this is invariably true for every Hall of Famer - is beloved for attributes, accomplishments, or struggles believed to be shared by no other in Cooperstown. Those who adore Henry Aaron do so not because he shares home-run immortality with the Babe and Mark McGwire but because, as an African American hammering at the game's most high-profile record, he withstood death threats and a baseball community darkening with ill will. Though Phil Niekro and Bob Gibson each struck out 3,000 batters, one did it with a fluttering knuckler and a smile, the other with a fastball and a hard stare. And though Stan Musial and Ted Williams shared an era, sacrificed themselves alike to World War II, and hit like no player since, no Bostonian would mistake "The Kid" for the "The Man"- and no one from St. Louis would suffer the confusion.
In the writing of poems for each player, executive, and umpire enshrined, Mark Schraf quietly acknowledges an irony that mostly goes unmentioned: Upon entering the pantheon, the electee assumes a title, "Hall of Famer," that, for all its glory, is held in common with scores of others. What sets him apart is thus in shadow. Our Cooperstown poet looks beyond the bronzed benchmarks and restores to each player his distinction. When the quirks and feats of his celebrity were not shared.