Moral questions for halls of fame
Bob Hewitt’s removal from the International Tennis Hall of Fame is question- able.
Hewitt, an international player from 1958 till 1983, won nine Grand Slam doubles titles and six Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.
He was also a good enough singles player to reach the Australian Open semi-finals three times, and the Wimbledon quarter-finals three times, and to help South Africa win the Davis Cup in 1974.
The temperamental Hewitt was Australian, but moved to South Africa after marrying a South African in 1967.
Hewitt was deservedly voted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992, but his membership was suspended in 2012 after he was charged with sexually molesting young students he was coaching.
He has now been expelled, having been found guilty of raping under-age girls, and is serving a six-year jail term in South Africa.
Yet the Tennis Hall of Fame allows the membership of Bill Tilden to stand.
Tilden was a great player, some say the greatest.
However, he was jailed in 1946 for having sex with a 14-year-old boy, and again in 1949 after a similar incident. Regardless, he went into the hall of fame in 1959.
Should halls of fame be moral watchdogs?
The International Baseball Hall of Fame will not admit Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose because it transpired Rose bet on games he was involved in.
Rose holds many major league records, including for most hits and games played, and won three World Series titles. There is still heated debate in the United States about his hall of fame exclusion.
Farcically, the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, which includes all the big pro wrestling names, has expelled Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea).
Hogan, inducted in 2005, was ejected after he said ‘‘nigger’’ in a broadcast, even though he was actually quoting what someone had said to him.
The International Boxing Hall of Fame has never bothered about moral niceties.
Therefore several murderers, including middleweight champ Carlos Monzon, are in there, as is convicted rapist Mike Tyson. Notorious promoter Don King, who has killed two people, is also in.
We’ve wrestled with this issue in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame expelled Cook Strait swimmer Keith Hancox after he
was jailed for stealing massive amounts from the Sports Foundation, which he was running.
Hancox, an original inductee in 1989, was chosen for his swimming feats according to his citation, but his non-swimming crime got him expelled.
Later another inaugural inductee, softballer Kevin Herlihy, was jailed for fraud totalling $145,000. The hall of fame management debated the Herlihy issue and this time voted, almost unanimously, he should retain his membership.
Where should halls of fame draw the line?
My feeling is they should be about sport. Factors unrelated to sport should be irrelevant. However, clearly they aren’t.
Otherwise, for example, why has Bruce Taylor, once New Zealand cricket’s leading test wickettaker and the scorer of a recordbreaking test century, never been seriously considered for the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame?
Years after he finished playing, Taylor, the bursar at John McGlashan College in Dunedin, was jailed after stealing $360,000 from the school to feed his gambling addiction.
Did that fall from grace mean he had been any less of a cricketer?
Bob Hewitt, once a tennis great, but now a jailed rapist.