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February 2, 2013
No DeBartolo or Haley in 2013 Hall-of-Fame class


It was a good day for an ex-Raven, not so for former 49ers.

Neither longtime owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. nor defensive end Charles Haley was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, the only ex 49er to make the 2013 class was guard Larry Allen, who was on two terrible 49ers squads at the end of his career in 2006-2007. Perhaps Allen's most prominent play in San Francisco was allowing then-Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard to break in untouched and sack Alex Smith, giving the quarterback a Grade 3 shoulder separation.

Allen, a huge man who played at tiny Sonoma State, spent his first 12 seasons with the Cowboys.

Recalling his introduction to the league, Allen said, "I just didn't want to mess up. When I got drafted (the Cowboys had) just won the Super Bowl. We had the best players at every position. Erik Williams got hurt, they threw me in, and I just didn't want to be the one to mess up."

The other members of the class are receiver Cris Carter, defensive tackle Warren Sapp -- who played four seasons with the Raiders -- offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells and senior members Dave Robinson and Curly Culp. Ogden, the first draft pick ever by the Ravens, is the first Raven to make the hall of fame.

Ogden admitted stressing out while he awaited the vote. "It's like going to the hospital with your wife when she's having a baby," he said.

The writers who voted on this year's class spent a record eight hours deliberating. One full hour was spent debating Parcells, whose Giants had a long rivalry with DeBartolo's 49ers. The voting for those men is believed to have taken on an east coast-vs.-west coast aspect.

Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter, who is based in California, said he voted for both DeBartolo and former Chiefs guard Will Shields, neither of whom made the first round of cuts from 15 to 10 nominees.

Said another voter, the Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin: "To see a Charles Haley and a (former Giants defensive end) Michael Strahan not make it shows the strength of this class."

Haley was a fourth-round pick by the 49ers in 1986, and he is the only player in NFL history to have played on five winning Super Bowl teams. Haley twice was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1994) and was voted to five Pro Bowls over his career. He now has been on the ballot nine times.

DeBartolo owned the 49ers from 1977-2000. In that span, his teams made it to the playoffs 16 times, won 13 division titles, played in 10 championship games and became the first to win five Super Bowls. During that time, DeBartolo set a standard in the modern era, not just in the NFL but in all of professional sports, in the spare-no-expenses way he ran his club.

He did not make the cut from 15 to six finalists last year, either.

One of the arguments made against DeBartolo in recent years is that, unlike other owners already in the hall of fame, such as late Raiders owner Al Davis, DeBartolo did not have an impact on the formation of the league and merely wrote checks for talented lieutenants like John McVay, Bill Walsh and George Seifert.

Others cite the Louisiana gambling scandal of 1997 that eventually caused DeBartolo to relinquish control of the team to his sister, Denise, and her husband, John York. Supporters note that DeBartolo was the victim in that case - former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards extorted $400,000 from him to win a casino license - and that DeBartolo has since been exonerated by the NFL.

The third knock involves salary-cap violations in the late 1990s that resulted in nearly $1 million in fines and the loss of two 49ers draft picks. Supporters argue that if that type of mischief prevents an owner from reaching the hall of fame, it will make it difficult for future candidates, such as the Patriots' Robert Kraft, whose team was embroiled in the spygate scandal, to be inducted in coming years.

Another owner, former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell, did not make the initial cut from 15 to 10 finalists, either. Said Gosselin: "When you're putting an owner with a player ... the player's generally going to get the nod."

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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