Neyer: Indians’ Carmona not the first, nor the last to lie about age

From SABR member Rob Neyer at Baseball Nation on January 20, 2012:

As I’ve written at least a few times, professional baseball players have probably been lying about their ages as long as there’s been professional baseball. When future Hall of Famer Rube Marquard signed his first professional contract in 1906, he was 19 but said he was 16, and carried that secret to his grave. Hall of Fame shortstops Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese both shaved a year off their ages when they were being scouted, and maintained the fictions throughout their careers. Hal McRae shaved a year from his age in 1965 when the Reds drafted him, and didn’t come clean until his last days with the Royals, when he was 40–oops! Forty-one.

I don’t know enough about the law to pontificate on the legalities, but isn’t this a sort of fraud? Players lie about their age for a simple reason: to get more money for playing baseball than if they told the truth. Or just to get signed at all. Is it really a giant leap from there to … well, stealing? Baseball players are hired because of their presumed qualifications, which essentially are 1) skills, 2) performance, and 3) age.

It’s hard to fake the first two of those, but for a long, long time it’s been fairly easy, in one quarter or another, to fake the third. Which is why so many players have done it for so long.

I’m just wondering … When Phil Rizzuto’s Hall of Fame candidacy was discussed by the voters — first, members of the BBWAA, and later the Veterans Committee — did anyone mention the “integrity clause” in the rules, then mention that Rizzuto was originally signed by the New York Yankees after lying to them about something that’s actually pretty important.

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Originally published: January 20, 2012. Last Updated: January 20, 2012.