As the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, the former South African president and an internationally revered icon of peace and humanity, a debate has flared anew over whether the late Nobel laureate deserves enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
While Mandela's lifetime accomplishments in the promotion of human rights remain unparalleled, his lifetime batting average compares unfavorably with that of sluggers like Bill Mazeroski (2001) and Harmon Killebrew (1984), and his power-numbers are similarly underwhelming. Furthermore, unlike fellow civil rights icon Jackie Robinson, Mandela won neither a Rookie of the Year nor a Most Valuable Player award during his career.
Mandela always displayed great plate discipline, leading to an impressive number of walks, and few will forget the key role he played toward the end of his career in helping the Milwaukee Braves knock off the Yankees in the 1957 World Series. Still, the fact that he never finished higher than third in any race for a batting title--to say nothing of his frankly embarrassing numbers when he briefly tried his hand at pitching (1-7, 5.96 ERA, 32 walks, 14 strikeouts)--will likely doom his chances at enshrinement in Cooperstown.
The Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will consider Mandela's bid for membership, along with the posthumous candidacies of the Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and players' union director Marvin Miller.