This week, Howard Balzer was announced as the newest voter on the Hall of Fame Committee.
Howard Balzer is from St. Louis and works for the Sports XChange. He was on the Hall of Fame voting committee in 2004-05 as the PFWA representative, and he is now on the committee as an At-Large Representative, taking the place of Len Pasquarelli, who is now the Atlanta representative, replacing the retiring Furman Bisher.
We all owe thanks to Bisher, who spoke out on behalf of Monk many times during his years as a voter. Hopefully the committee will remember Bisher’s last words on the issue:
February 5, 2006
Choices challenging for Hall of Fame
Strange that a receiver with Art Monk’s numbers can’t crash this hard-line body. He caught more passes than any player before him in the history of the league, nearly four times more than Lynn Swann, who got in with 336, but there just didn’t seem to be room for him. Search me.
It’s hard to tell which way Balzer will vote on Art Monk, but he is good friends with Bernie Miklasz, who is one of Art’s strongest supporters. Here are Balzer’s words on the subject:
The Sporting News
August 14, 1989
Football Fans Revel in Past; Fame Inductions Rekindle Memories of Dominating Teams
Despite pro football’s controversies — drug problems, franchise upheavals and arguments among the owners — the Hall of Fame weekend in Canton is the embodiment of what is good about the game. For a few moments every summer, fans are allowed a glimpse of the past and an opportunity to revel in it. It’s something of a ritual cleansing that calms their souls.
The enshrinements of Bradshaw and Blount rekindled memories of one of the most successful teams in the modern era of the NFL. During a six-year span in the 1970s, the Steelers won an unprecendented four Super Bowls.
“Athletes are a mirror by which we see what we can become,” said CBS-TV broadcaster Verne Lundquist, who presented Bradshaw, his partner on NFL telecasts. “We see their success, and see them fall. Ultimately, the best prevail. And the best go into the Hall of Fame.”
The Sporting News
August 13, 1990
A Desire to Be the Best; Common Bond Share by Football Shrine’s New Inductees
Pete Rozelle, former National Football League commissioner, once said the two greatest weekends in pro football are the Super Bowl and the Hall of Fame festival.
At the Super Bowl, a champion is crowned. And at enshrinement ceremonies each summer in Canton, said Rozelle, many of those championships are celebrated anew.
That was the case August 4 when seven more inductees swelled the National Professional Football Hall of Fame to 155 members. Aside from Bob St. Clair, this year’s selection by the veterans’ committee, the other six enshrinees count 17 Super Bowl rings among them.
It’s not mandatory for induction to have played on a championship team, but it sure helps.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 20, 1992
3 Would-Be Famers Bear Big Red Blotch: Jackie Smith, Wehrli are Hexed by Hall
”I think (voting for) Smith is a no-brainer,” said Howard Balzer, a local sportswriter and broadcaster who is secretary of the Pro Football Writers Association. ”He should have been the first tight end in, instead of Mike Ditka. If you look at his stats, his average per reception is higher than some wide receivers in the Hall of Fame, like Charley Taylor. It’s incredible.” From 1963-78, Smith caught 480 passes for 7,418 yards, an average of 16.5 yards a catch. In the National Football League rankings compiled before the ’91 season, Smith was well up among all NFL receivers. He ranked 32nd in catches, 35th in yardage and 75th in yards per catch. No tight end, including potential future Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, averaged more per catch than Smith. Smith’s average is higher than that of Taylor, who was not listed among the Top 96 receivers in NFL history. It also beats both receiver finalists this year: Lynn Swann (No. 91, 16.3 average) and Charlie Joiner (No. 95, 16.2). Smith finished more than 50 catches and 1,600 yards ahead of Ditka, the only tight end in the Hall. John Mackey, one of the first great blocker-receiver tight ends, is a finalist this year. He does not appear on the career receiving charts in catches, yards or average per catch.
On his annual snub, Smith said, ”You could beat this to death. I can’t see getting all upset about it.” Then he laughed and drawled, ”The only thing that would make me upset, and I don’t know how the hell I’d know it, is if they put me in after I’m gone.” Smith was chosen for five consecutive Pro Bowl games with the Big Red from 1966-70. He spent his last season with Dallas in 1978, a move that may cost him a bronze bust in Canton, Ohio. In the Super Bowl that season, Smith dropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone in the Cowboys’ 35-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. ”The first year he was eligible, I was kind of surprised he wasn’t a finalist,” said Balzer, who is not a Hall of Fame selector. ”I asked a couple of guys who vote about it afterward, and they said, ‘Oh, he dropped that pass in the Super Bowl.’ ”But that was at the end of his career. He was hurt most of that season, and he made a big catch the week before. But that drop hurts him.” It hurts in more ways than one. ”This has been brought up to me before in other things and other areas,” said Smith, now a businessman in St. Louis. ”If that’s the way the recognition goes in this game, if that’s what you’re going to be judged on in this game, then I don’t need to be remembered like that (in the Hall of Fame). ”Why should I take it so serious? If people are going to be so flippant about judging you, and all the work you put into it, then why should we try to find favor with it? ”The things that are said about players and the way they’re judged, you wonder if it’s worth getting emotionally involved about.”
In general, Smith, Wehrli and Dierdorf have been penalized by the Big Red’s failure to qualify for and excel in the playoffs. ”I’m real happy that Dan got this far this year,” Wehrli said. ”It’d be great to see somebody in there from the old Cardinals besides Larry Wilson.” Wehrli, an executive with a business forms company here, spent his career with the Big Red from 1969-82. He played in seven Pro Bowls as a cornerback, including four in a row from 1974-77. Wehrli said the snub is ”not something I worry about.” ”But I think there certainly are other players on the Cardinals who should have the credentials to be voted in: Dierdorf, Jackie, Jim Bakken, Jim Hart,” he said. Smith said there is only one way to deal with the voting process: ”You live with it. What you’ve done is your own reward. The players like Dan and Roger know what they put into it. You can’t explain that to anybody. But, sure, I’d like to be recognized in that way, in the Hall of Fame, no matter who’s doing it. ”You’d like to think it was done on an equitable basis. I didn’t know exactly how they did the voting until you explained it. It seems like it would be a little disorganized and a little political.” Dierdorf, meanwhile, regrets that more of his ex-teammates haven’t made the cut as finalists. He doesn’t expect to win, but he would enjoy it for a special reason. ”I’m from Canton, Ohio,” Dierdorf said. ”My father took me to the ground-breaking of that Hall of Fame building (in 1962). I remember seeing the first shovel full of dirt being turned. I remember my dad taking me when they cut the ribbon to dedicate it (in ’63). I went to all those Hall of Fame games until I went off to college. ”My father’s not alive, but I’d like to make it for what it’d do to my hometown, all those great football fans from Canton. ”On the other hand, if I didn’t make it, I would probably be the least disappointed guy in the voting. Look what football did for me, my career, this great job I have now with ABC. My plate’s pretty full.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 20, 1992
Dierdorf Among 15 Former Stars to Be Considered
Former Sporting News NFL editor Howard Balzer is secretary of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is no fan of the process. ”I vote for the Hall of Fame in baseball but not in football,” said Balzer, who is not an officer of the Baseball Writers Association of America. ”I’ve always felt that baseball has too many voters and football has too few.” In baseball, any journalist with at least 10 years in the baseball writers association gets a Hall of Fame ballot and can vote for anyone who has been retired for five years. After 10 years of eligibility, candidates are taken out of the general voting and put into the purview of an old-timers committee. But there is no arbitrary and exclusive list of finalists. A player with 75 percent of the votes cast in that election is enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Earlier this month, 430 voters elected two players.
It works differently in football. Balzer said the voting is controlled by the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and not by the football writers. Voting is limited to one selector in each of the 28 NFL cities. That includes one selector each in St. Louis, Oakland and Baltimore, which had teams that moved away. Los Angeles, home to the Rams and the former Oakland Raiders, gets only one vote. Jack Buck, KMOX sports director, is the selector from St. Louis. He replaced Bob Burnes, longtime columnist for the old Globe-Democrat. The football writers president also gets a vote, making a total of 31 voters. ”It takes 80 percent to get in, which is 25 votes,” Balzer said. ”But they use a sliding scale depending on how many selectors show up at the meeting.” The selectors can be writers or broadcasters. Longevity seems to be favored. They are not required to cover the NFL currently. ”Art Daley’s the selector from Green Bay,” Balzer said. Daley, who founded the Green Bay Packers yearbook, has been off the football beat for more than 15 years and retired from the local Press-Gazette for a decade. They consider a list of 15 finalists, with players having been retired at least five years, Buck said. Fourteen finalists are chosen by a 66-person nominating panel. The other finalist is named by an old-timers committee, which chose ex-Chicago running back Willie Galimore this year.
”Anyone who was in the final seven the year before but didn’t get in is in the final seven the next year,” Balzer said. ”Al Davis has been in the final seven four or five years in a row.” Other unofficial features of the voting, unfortunately for Big Red hopefuls, are almost just as automatic. ”If you never happened to play in a Super Bowl,” Dierdorf said, ”you’ve got a big hill to climb.” And Buck said, ”The way it’s been going, they’re going to get all the Pittsburgh Steelers, all the Green Bay Packers, all the Miami Dolphins and all the Raiders. ”Teams like the Cardinals don’t get much bump, other than Larry Wilson. So these guys like Wehrli and Jackie Smith go by the way side. Jim Hart doesn’t get much bump, either, and he’s has numbers as good or better than Bob Griese, who’s in.” Balzer said, ”It’s really loaded to guys who played in Super Bowls. In the last class, I think it was 32 Super Bowl appearances among the five or six guys who went in. The 49ers will be next, when those guys start retiring.”
The actual election becomes an advocacy affair. The selector from the candidate’s home team city is expected to make the case for ”his” man. Buck, for example, will speak for Dierdorf. It’s a role he was supposed to fill a couple of years ago when Dierdorf first was a finalist. ”I missed the meeting altogether,” Buck said. ”CBS made me go to a sponsor meeting. It’s cleared up now, though, and I’ll be there this time. ”I’m going to speak up for Dierdorf and I plan to speak up for Lem Barney, too. I’m going to campaign on his behalf. I think the small-town, non-winner aspect of it has a lot to do with it, though.” Voters are provided with detailed statistical packages on each finalist. ”I’ve got my package with me here,” said Buck, who was vacationing last week with his wife in Florida. ”And I plan to do a little more research with Dierdorf about the people he played against. ”For example, Too Tall Jones chewed everybody up when he played defensive end for Dallas. Dierd orf handled him like a pup.”
The Super Bowl factor can be a hindrance as well as a help. Smith, for example, may be doomed forever because he dropped a pass in the end zone while playing for Dallas in its 35-31 Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh 13 years ago. ”I’ve spoken up on Jackie’s behalf before,” Buck said. ”I implored them not to judge him on that one play. And Wehrli, I just can’t generate much interest. He was the dominant cornerback then and he deserves to be in. ”But I’m the only one who speaks for these guys. You don’t hear anyone from Dallas, for example, talking about Roger Wehrli.” With such a small voting body, biases – pro and con – take on disproportionate weight. Only five or six nay votes, depending on the voter turnout, can sack a candidate. On the other hand, the buddy system can carry a favorite son into the Hall. ”It’s a little awkward for me when I know these people so well,” Buck said of the ex-Cardinals. ”And the same thing when I’m talking on behalf of Hank Stram (his Monday Night Football radio partner). He deserves to be in there as a coach.”
Not all voters suffer the same qualms about personal bias. ”There’s this group that keeps voting against Al Davis every year, because he moved the Raiders out of Oakland,” Balzer said. That, at least, is a factor that is tied to Davis’ credentials as a National Football League owner. But tight end John Mackey has faced a double bias. 1. Like Smith, he is a tight end. Only Mike Ditka represents that under-rated species in the Hall. 2. Mackey helped form the National Football League Players Association. Unlike Davis’ activity in moving the Raiders, Mackey’s union activity has nothing to do with a career that revolutionized the tight end position. The makeup of each Final 15 field also can affect the outcome. ”The thing about Dierdorf is he’s got two other offensive linemen in with him,” Buck said. ”They divide the vote up. And as the new names come in, they push away a fellow like Bud Grant. Now (former San Francisco coach Bill) Walsh comes along, and that will probably take votes away from him.”
Buck, for one, has seen no major bias in the current system. ”I don’t see anything lacking in the process,” he said. ”First of all, they don’t consider anything except the record, years and Pro Bowls. A wide receiver like Charlie Joiner, who’ll probably get in this year, they look at his yards and TDs. ”And they thrash it out pretty good. They get in some pretty good arguments. It’s a small group, and everybody listens. I mean, with Al Davis, you either like him or you don’t. I voted for him the last couple years. I keep expecting him to get in.” The outspoken Dierdorf, on his best diplomatic behavior, would not handicap his chances with the electorate. ”It doesn’t behoove me to knock the process,” Dierdorf said, laughing. ”But if you have just a few guys who don’t like you, for whatever reason, you’re out of luck. ”And I’ll say this: I don’t think anyone who has his ego anywhere in check can say, ‘I deserve to get in more than anyone else on that list of 15.’ But there wouldn’t be anybody on that list who got elected who would appreciate it more than me.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 2, 2006
Carpenter looks like a bargain these days
Congrats to Howard Balzer (KSLG, USA Today Sports Weekly), who has been added to the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee as an at-large voter.