Opinion Corner: HOF class a worthy trioOne week from today a star-studded trio will enter the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. There probably isn’t such a thing as a weak group of Hall of Famers, but there haven’t been many years with headliners like these: Darin Erstad, Rick Helling and Ed Beyer.
By: Dave Selvig, Sun Sports Editor, The Jamestown Sun
One week from today a star-studded trio will enter the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.
There probably isn’t such a thing as a weak group of Hall of Famers, but there haven’t been many years with headliners like these: Darin Erstad, Rick Helling and Ed Beyer.
There have been years where it took a fair amount of time digging and researching the inductees, which is fine. You learn stuff doing that, talk to people you otherwise would not and there is genuine appreciation from those individual(s) — Dewey King — or teams — Drayton 1958 American Legion baseball club — for being recognized when otherwise they may have faded from memory or were unknown all together.
With Erstad and Helling, gobs of information is available to anybody with a PC.
However, we could all live forever and probably never again will two significant Major Leaguers from North Dakota — Erstad and Helling — be sitting on the same stage at the Jamestown Civic Center, which is what will happen July 14.
Erstad, Jamestown’s No. 1 son — sorry Louis L’Amour fans — and Helling, born in Devils Lake, but went to school in Lakota before graduating from Fargo Shanley, faced each other 37 times during their careers.
Helling, a first-round pick of the Texas Rangers out of Stanford in 1992, and Erstad the No. 1 overall pick in the ‘95 draft by the then California Angels, were division rivals in the American League West. In the head-to-head match-ups, Erstad went 7-for-37 with five doubles, three RBIs and walked three times. Helling, however, struck out Erstad seven times, which was no small-feat against the hard-to-K “Ersty.”
Beyer deserves his seat at the table, too.
His 678 wins are the most of any high school basketball coach in the state. And he led the 1980-81 Hillsboro team to a state title with a perfect 26-0 record.
As important, all three also did things with a level of class.
I think particularly about Helling, the player rep for the Rangers, who stood up at the 1998 winter meeting of the Executive Board of the Major League Baseball Players Association and essentially said, “Anybody else concerned about the wide-spread steroid use in our game?”
That was not an easy thing to do at that time. As former ace pitcher of the Royals, Mets and Yankees David Cone said of Helling’s stance years later, “He was the first guy who had the guts to stand up at a union meeting and say that in front of everybody and put pressure on it.”
Baseball, awash in cash and good PR from the Sosa/McGwire home run derby in ‘98, and finally recovered from the strike of 1994, did nothing about it, swept it under the rug until it finally blew up in their faces years later.
Helling’s achievements as a professional baseball player are the primary reason he’ll be honored a week from now. But for my money, playing the game the right way and not caving to the cheating culture of Baseball in the late 90s and 2000s surpasses anything he did on the diamond and is the true definition of a Hall of Famer.
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com