As I've said many times, the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame is perhaps the most exclusive hall of fame in all of sports. In mid-October, Mika Immonen and Jose Parica will become the 63rd and 64th persons inducted into the BCA Hall, which includes both Greatest Player and Meritorious Service categories. By contrast, the National Baseball Hall of Fame has 306 members, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has 325 members, the World Golf Hall of Fame has 160 members, and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame has 286 members (including 28 animals).
No one would suggest that entry into those others sports halls of fame is easy. Only players whose careers have been truly remarkable are even considered for election, and the established benchmarks in most sports are pretty daunting.
Still, I think the BCA Hall of Fame is unique in a number of ways. For starters, assessing a player's career is far from an exact science. Players from different eras are assessed on entirely different criteria. Through the 1950s, championships were generally decided in a single tournament, with subsequent challenge matches resulting in the shuffling of titles. Tournaments of any magnitude were relatively scarce in the '60s and early '70s, and the fields were generally small. The development of legitimate tours started in the '80s, which made a player's career stats much easier to define. And, of course, the downward spiral that has plagued pool since the mid-2000s has, once again, muddled the waters, particularly in the United States. There are no apples-to-apples comparisons between eras.
Additionally, as the world has gotten smaller, the game has become far more international. Foreign players competing in the U.S. became a common thing, making American pool tournaments as international as the Professional Golf Association Tour. The results? Half of the inductees into the BCA Hall of Fame in the past decade were born outside the U.S.
Which brings us to Immonen and Parica. Both foreign-born players. Both moved permanently to the U.S. to make their marks in pool. But their paths to the Hall of Fame were as disparate as could be. Immonen has far more trophies than Parica, and was perhaps the game's best player over the course of a decade. Parica never dominated the tournament scene, but won his share. And few will argue that he was perhaps the game's most feared player in the late '80s and early '90s.
Those are the things that make the BCA Hall of Fame unique...and the game so interesting.