I first joined the Baseball Writers' Association of America 10 years ago, after a year of waiting, because the organization's board at the time declined my application on spurious grounds. But even then, I looked forward eagerly to this day, when my hypothetical Hall of Fame ballot would become an official one. The eagerness faded, as time rocked me to patience, but about a year ago, when the ballot became imminent, I began thinking in earnest about how I would eventually vote -- and about my long-standing promise to readers that I would reveal and explain my selections.
The logjam of qualified candidates, exacerbated by moralizing voters who are trying to keep the greatest hitter and pitcher of the last 30 years out of the Hall of Fame, meant that I had to choose a subset of names to keep my ballot within the limit of 10. Had the limit not existed, I would have voted for at least 13 players this year, possibly more. I started with the 13 I thought worthy, immediately checked off the seven no-doubters, and then worked my way through the remainder to add one, then another, and then, after two weeks with a ballot that had nine names marked but not the one that would make the ballot final, gave in and selected the 10th name -- leaving, with regrets, a few good men off of my list.
Here, in the order in which I checked them off, are the 10 names I selected for my first Hall of Fame ballot, with some explanations.