Last week, a Denton County grand jury indicted former Dodgers, Rangers, Yankees and Montreal Expos pitcher John Wetteland on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14. Wetteland is accused of forcing a child to perform oral sex three times between 2004 and 2006 at his home in Bartonville, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
While Wetteland is perhaps best known on the field for his World Series MVP performance as a member of the New York Yankees in 1996, he spent more seasons with the Rangers than any other team. He joined the club before the 1997 season as a free agent and retired in 2000, following four productive years in Arlington.
After ending his playing career, Wetteland was a coach in the Rangers organization in the early 2000s but hasn't been associated with the club in "quite some time," the Rangers told the Observer earlier this week.
The Rangers inducted Wetteland, the team's all-time saves leader with 150, into the team Hall of Fame in 2005, which leaves the team with an obvious, tough question: What should they do if Wetteland is eventually convicted or pleads guilty?
John Blake, the Rangers executive vice president of communications, declined to say whether the Rangers had given any thought to removing Wetteland from the team's Hall of Fame.
Throughout the sports world, there is no shortage of high-profile precedents for the situation in which the Rangers could soon find themselves. Remarkably, or not, depending on your perspective, most of them fall on the side of memory holing the crime, rather than the athletic performance.
O.J. Simpson, convicted of armed robbery in Nevada and found liable for his wife's wrongful death in civil court, is still in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and on the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame. The Baltimore Ravens inducted linebacker Ray Lewis to the team's Ring of Honor after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and agreed to testify against two co-defendants so murder charges against him would be dropped.
Ty Cobb is a charter member of baseball's Hall of Fame, despite once charging into the stands to attack a man who was missing all of one hand and most of the other. Sportswriter Bill Conlin is in Cooperstown's writer's wing despite being accused of child molestation by four people. Pete Rose is in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame despite decades of illegal gambling. The lists go on and on.
Heisman Trophies can be vacated — just ask USC's Reggie Bush — but there is no high-profile case in which a professional athlete has been removed from a Hall of Fame. The Rangers could have a chance to make a statement.
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