COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (TCL) — One of the most decorated turns of phrase in sports journalism history has died, leaving a nation of headline writers stunned and — at least momentarily — at a loss for words.
“[NAME] Gets Hall Pass,” a fill-in-the-blank formulation with legions of fans and frequent users throughout sports writing, passed away yesterday, according to a spokesman for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The idiom’s exact age could not be immediately determined, though some accounts suggest its use may date back to the early 19th century.
The phrase derived relevance and comedic value from its repurposing of a device commonly used to exit high school classrooms as a means of entering a sport’s Hall of Fame. It gained prominence as copy editors — frequently pressed for time as they attempted to compose headlines for stories about athletes’ chances of achieving entry — reached again and again for the cooling salve of a quick pun.
“It was perfect,” said longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution copy editor Alvin McGraw, who retired from the paper in 2006. “Every January, [former Atlanta Braves outfielder] Dale Murphy would come up in the vote, every year he’d fall short, and we just had to turn the thing around and plug his name in: ‘MURPHY DENIED HALL PASS.’ One less thing to worry about, right?”
Friends and colleagues were stunned by the news, citing the popular phrase’s appearance on www.mlb.com mere hours before its passing in a story about the entrance of all-time stolen bases leader Rickey Henderson and taciturn slugger Jim Rice into baseball’s Hall.
The Cooperstown medical examiner’s office has yet to determine a cause of death, but a spokesman indicated that preliminary toxicology reports indicate a strong chance that years of rampant mug abuse played a role.
Jokes and jokes and jokes, gang. Hat tip to Skeets at Ball Don’t Lie for the “fake news” concept.