Making sense of the HOF character clause 

November, 28, 2012

The so-called character clause is at the heart of the debate over what to do with the Hall of Fame candidates who have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs.

The criterion sent to the voters annually (including this week):

    Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.

It is apparent from the voting that a majority of the writers who have cast ballots for the Hall of Fame in recent years have applied that wording literally in determining what to do with Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and even Jeff Bagwell. Presumably, this is what they will do in assessing the candidacies of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and others this year.

Brad Horn, the Hall of Fame's senior director of communications, recently explored the origin of that wording. Later today, the Hall will post his written piece on its website: