Jerry Kramer

Former Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer looks on during a divisional playoff game between the Packers and New York Giants in 2012. Kramer is one of many good athletes who are not enshrined in their respective hall of fames. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images / January 15, 2012)

Jerry Kramer used to be bitter about being snubbed by the Hall of Fame, the former Green Bay Packers guard who was an integral part of five championship teams in the 1960s vowing to stick it to the pro football shrine in Canton, Ohio, if he had the chance.

"I decided early on that if they ever called, I was going to send them a statuette of my fist with a middle finger raised and tell them to put that in the Hall of Fame," Kramer, 78, said by phone from his home in Boise, Idaho. "I was angry."

Then the years turned to decades, the resentment faded, and Kramer decided he would not let the snub define him.

"You look at what the game has given you, what a wonderful ride it's been, with an incredible coach and teammates, and life-changing experiences," said Kramer, who played for Vince Lombardi. "And you're going to allow one award to cast a negative light on that? Heck no, that's stupid."

But as healthy as acceptance seems, it can be confusing at times. Like when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called four summers ago and, after discussing the league's pension plan, asked Kramer whether he was going to Canton for the upcoming induction ceremony.

"No, Mr. Commissioner, I'm not," Kramer said, recalling the conversation.

"How come?" Goodell said.

"Because I'm not in the Hall of Fame," Kramer said.

"You're not?" Goodell said. "What the heck is that about?"

Or the next summer when former New England Patriot John Hannah, a fellow lineman who was enshrined in 1991, called Kramer to ask whether he was going to the ceremony.

"I don't think so," Kramer said.

"How come?"

"Because I'm not in the Hall of Fame."


And so on.

"I got introduced as a Hall of Famer for a long time, and I'd always straighten them out — 'I'm in the Packers Hall of Fame, not the big one,' " Kramer said. "But that got so awkward and uncomfortable, I just stopped correcting people.

"The thing that's puzzling to me is they keep giving me awards and honors and applause and recognition. It's like a guy who has 99 presents under the tree and is ticked off because he didn't get the one he wanted."

Kramer is hardly alone on the cusp of sports immortality. There are more than 1,000 athletes enshrined in the baseball, football, basketball and hockey halls of fame, and for every one there are at least a dozen relegated to the Hall of Very Good.

There are also a handful of baseball players who would be Hall of Fame locks if not for their suspected performance-enhancing drug use (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, et al) or lifetime bans for gambling on the game (Pete Rose), but they don't belong in this group.

Here's a look at the best of the rest, three players from each sport who belong in the Hall of Fame but aren't: