Hall status is earned
Every hall of fame can affect us on many levels.
One of which is, of course, the chance to celebrate the true greats among the subject of the hall. Every enshrinee has that something special, that exceptional quality that has been able to not only shape, but to change the look and feel of sports, of television, of the movies, of the newspaper business.
Along with undisputed greatness, though, halls allow for discussion and debate, not only about some of those who have won enshrinement, but about the people or things that are still waiting for the chance to be recognized at near-immortal status.
Remember, for example, how long it took Bill Mazeroski to be welcomed into the baseball hall of fame. No one should try to dispute the credentials of the guy who grew up in our backyard as one of the game’s all-time great defensive second basemen, helping the Pirates to World Series wins in 1960 and 1971. He won eight Gold Gloves and was a 10-time all-star. He turned the most double plays at second base in Major League Baseball history — 1,706.
He also hit what just might be the most famous home run in the game’s history — the blast in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series that gave the Pirates a 10-9 win over the Yankees and the World Series title. (Sorry, Bobby Thomson and Giants fans — the home run by Maz is a much better candidate to be immortalized than the shot heard ’round the world.)
Yet it took him nearly 25 years to get the call from the hall, likely because of his .260 lifetime batting average. Even George Will, the Washington Post columnist and true baseball aficionado, seemed to agree when he wrote, “The exclusion of Mazeroski from Cooperstown is a case of simple discrimination against defensive skills.”
It just goes to show the passion that can be stirred when a conversation about any halls of fame is started.
That includes the Toy Hall of Fame. It’s an appropriate topic, considering that by the time you sit down to read this, Santa Claus will have come and gone, and the hope here is that everyone — from the youngest child to the very oldest — will have received a toy or two.
Located at the Strong National Museum Play in Rochester, N.Y., the toy hall of fame has been around since 1998. Its mission is simple — to honor toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity across an extended period. There are 77 toys enshrined there and, to be quite honest, it’s tough to argue with any of the selections.
That includes the three that were inducted on Nov. 4 — American Girl Dolls, the board game Risk and sand.
Around since 1986, American Girl Dolls were created by Pleasant Rowland, an educator and newscaster, and each comes with “rich historical narratives and accurate reproductions of clothing and accessories,” according to the Strong.
Risk was launched in 1959, after Parker Brothers purchased the rights to the French game La Conqute du Monde (The Conquest of the World) that was launched in 1957. The multi-player strategy game is credited with laying the foundation for other games, including Axis and Allies by Avalon Hill.
Sand, meanwhile, provides unique opportunities for tactical, physical, cooperative, creative, and independent free play, the Strong says.
The three were selected from a list of nominees that included Battleship, pool (billiards), Cabbage Patch Kids, the Fisher Price Corn Popper, Majong, Masters of the Universe, the pinata, the Settlers of Catan (which also can be traced back to Risk, the Strong says) and toy fire engines.
Once again, two all-time favorites, Tudor Electric Football and the Strat-O-Matic line of sports-simulation games, are not among the honorees.
Electric football, that showdown of plastic players on a vibrating metal field, was a finalist in 2018, but missed the cut. Strat-O-Matic, meanwhile, uses a combination of cards and dice to simulate baseball, football, basketball and hockey games. Both have provided hours of fun and offered a way to teach sports strategy and, while they are still enjoyed by a lot of people, they lack the lifelike play you can find in games like the Madden series.
They certainly meet the criteria laid out by the hall: They have withstood the tests of time and memory, changed play or toy design and fostered learning, creativity or discovery. It’s a shame they haven’t gotten enough nominations from the public or votes from the panel of experts that makes the final selections.
Toys of all shapes and sizes are under trees around the world today. Some will be played with once or twice and then put away forever. But there will be a handful that hit just that right chord, provide that certain spark of imagination and provide hour after hour after hour of enjoyment that will pass from generation to generation.
Those special toys will set the standard for years to come and, maybe one day, will find themselves among those that are enshrined in the Toy Hall of Fame.
(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)