Claim to fame: Reynolds won 180 games and made five All Star teams in his 13-year career and helped pitch the New York Yankees to six World Series titles between 1947 and 1953. He’s one of the most prominent, eligible Yankees not in the Hall of Fame, and that might be enough for the Veterans Committee, which has a history of making questionable picks of former Bronx Bombers from Tony Lazzeri to Phil Rizzuto to Joe Gordon.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Reynolds made 13 appearances on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown between 1956 and 1974, peaking at 33.6 percent of the vote in 1968. He can now be enshrined by the Golden Age sub-portion of the Veterans Committee which considers players who made their greatest contribution between 1947 and 1972.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? For lifetime stats, Reynolds doesn’t come anywhere close to Cooperstown. He made the majors at 25 and even playing through World War II, his career was relatively short. His 180 wins and 29.0 WAR would place him near the bottom of enshrined pitchers, and there are plenty of hurlers with better numbers who haven’t been honored from Tommy John to Rick Reuschel to Luis Tiant and many others.
But that might not matter for the Veterans Committee. If Reynolds had played his entire career where he started, Cleveland, he might have no more of a chance of getting into Cooperstown than Mel Harder, but his image is forever married to his time in pinstripes. And the Hall of Fame isn’t just about stats, it’s about honoring baseball’s lore. Reynolds was a vital member of a storied franchise during one of its best runs, and while I’m not arguing this is enough to merit him a plaque (because it shouldn’t be), I wouldn’t be surprised if he is enshrined sometime in the next ten or 20 years.
Reynolds looks like a logical next Yankee for the Veterans Committee, depending on one’s view of John, Tommy Henrich, or Thurman Munson, among a handful of others. The Veterans Committee hasn’t enshrined anyone since reforming a few years ago, but traditionally has had a slow uptake on tabbing players. Lazzeri was selected in 1991, 52 years after his last game; Gordon went in 59 years after retirement, Rizzuto 38. Having last played in 1954, Reynolds is about at the same point.
Of course, if Reynolds is enshrined, a lot of writers and baseball researchers will bemoan the Hall of Fame once more for disregarding statistical merit. I doubt Cooperstown will care.
All of this is not to knock Reynolds, who accomplished much in his time in the majors. A few months back, in preparing to write one of these columns about John Smoltz, I emailed one of the regulars here. He replied:
How about comparing him to Allie Reynolds, who in a shorter career and more modest numbers was a precursor? Only he was used as both a starter and reliever in some of the same seasons, which might lead you to look into how Casey handled his pitching staffs. Everything you said about Smoltz had been said about Reynolds.
That has to be good for something.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Will Clark