My latest piece for Sporting News is out today. In it, I dissected the Hall of Fame case for Tim Hudson, who has arguably worthy numbers for Cooperstown but looks like a long shot candidate. My hunch: I think Hudson may be a one-and-done candidate,
In my Sporting News piece Tuesday on Mike Mussina, I questioned how aware Hall of Fame voters were of Red Ruffing’s lifetime 3.80 ERA, highest in Cooperstown. My hunch: not much. I suspect this because the Baseball Writers Association of America voted Ruffing into Cooperstown in 1967, two years before the publication of MacMillan’s Baseball Encyclopedia.
As Alan Schwarz explained in his 2004 book The Numbers Game, lifetime stats for older players weren’t widely disseminated before David Neft and his team at Information Concepts, Inc. spent several years rebuilding baseball’s stat records for their landmark 1969 encyclopedia. The 1951 Official Encyclopedia of Baseball, for one, listed just batting averages for hitters and win-loss records for pitchers.
It’s part of the reason that when Ruffing was elected in 1967, he suggested that all 200-game winners, lifetime .300 hitters and 20-year players be automatically enshrined. Such statistics were fairly easy to find. [There was also still some support during the ’60s for the concept of automatic enshrinement, even after the Hall of Fame forbid it in 1956. The BBWAA simply wasn’t inducting many players in these years.]
Granted, publications at least occasionally published more in-depth stats, most notably perhaps The Sporting News with its “daguerreotypes” that it periodically ran for older players. It carried one for Ruffing on March 4, 1967, two weeks after the BBWAA voted him in, listing his 3.80 ERA as well as a range of other stats.
But I couldn’t find a mention of that 3.80 ERA in the archives at newspapers.com, and I’m curious how many of the 292 Hall of Fame voters in 1967 knew of it. In fact, the bigger issue with Ruffing’s candidacy, from both newspaper and Sporting News stories that I came across, seems to have been his win-loss record: that he had more wins than just a handful of pitchers enshrined; that he had poor records in his early years with the Boston Red Sox, then a perennial American League doormat; and that he fared better with the powerhouse New York Yankees. The Sporting News also made several mentions of Ruffing’s fine postseason numbers.
Anyhow, it’s telling to me that several of the pitchers with the highest ERAs in the Hall of Fame got in before 1969. For the ones enshrined in the years immediately following, I’d point out that momentum for induction often takes several years, even decades and that some of these pitchers could have built a critical mass of support before their lifetime ERAs were well-known.
Consider this list of the 10 highest lifetime ERAs in Cooperstown, compiled with the help of Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index tool:
|Player||Lifetime ERA||Year inducted|
[Also, and this is mostly for my friend Adam Darowski, I suspect that Wes Ferrell was denied induction more due to character issues than his 4.04 ERA. I can only imagine the precedent that may have been set had Ferrell had a less volatile personality. Jamie Moyer can curse Ferrell’s memory in a few years when his 4.25 ERA gets him quickly turned down by Hall voters.]
Perhaps the BBWAA was willing to look past some things with Ruffing. That March 4, 1967 Sporting News carried another interesting tidbit, noting:
Without [Cleveland Plain Dealer sports editor Hal Lebovitz’s] help, Red couldn’t have been elected this year. Here’s why:
After Ruffing failed to gain enshrinement in 1966, Lebovitz [then president of the BBWAA] discovered certain discrepancies in the ballots. Some ex-players who were no longer eligible were listed. It was rightly reasoned that several of them possibly received votes that might otherwise have gone to Ruffing and others.
So, the BBWAA petitioned the Hall of Fame executive committee for a special election this year. The request was granted and Ruffing received one more opportunity. It was to be his last, until the need for a run-off prolonged the process.
The rest you know.
The BBWAA had voted every other year for the preceding decade, causing a backlog of players comparable to the current ballot, and I had wondered what prompted the shift. I wouldn’t have put money down that Ruffing caused it, but then, the BBWAA and the Hall of Fame have occasionally made up the rules as they’ve gone for players they wish to honor. That’s a post for another time, though.
Editor’s note: Please welcome Daniel Greenia to the site. Daniel is a longtime reader and first-time author here. Today, Daniel weighs in on a subject he’s well-versed in, the Hall of Fame. He’s voted multiple years in my project on the 50 best players not in Cooperstown and authored a “Fixing the Hall of Fame” series for Dugout Central. It’s my pleasure to present Daniel’s debut effort here.
Some of Graham Womack’s recent articles motivated me to put down some ideas I’ve had percolating in my mind regarding the election procedures for the Veterans Committee (VC). The primary aim is to have the VC elect players every year, to start cleaning up the backlog created from 14 years of neglect.
The first necessity is to separate the player from the non-players. On this point, the old VC (1953-2001) got it right. Cramming them together on the same ballot creates a nightmare for comparative analysis of the candidates.
We start by adapting the three existing committees, making them for players only, while clarifying and equalizing the time periods covered by each one. In addition, the Hall should establish four committees for other candidates. That would give the HOF eight committees, the old BBWAA electorate along with seven specialized Veterans committees:
- BBWAA: considers players retiring from 6-15 seasons ago. For 2016 that’s guys last playing 2001-2010. [Also Trammell and Lee Smith.]
Tweak the eras for the existing committees and make them for players only:
- Expansion Era: considers player retiring from 16-50 seasons ago. For the election in late 2016 that’s guys last playing 1966-2000. Also considers any living players retiring more than 50 years ago. Elects one player every two years.
- Golden Era: considers deceased players retiring 51-100 seasons ago. For the election in late 2017 that’s guys last playing 1917-1966. Elects one player every four years.
- Early Era: considers players retiring over 100 seasons ago. For the election in late 2015 that’s guys last playing 1871-1914. Elects one player every four years.
Create four committees for others, voting on a four-year rotating basis:
- Managers & Coaches Committee
- Black Baseball Players Committee: considers players from the pre- and early-integration era.
- Executives & Umpires Committee
- Pioneers & Contributors Committee
I’ll discuss more about each of these in turn, but start with a few general comments.
Historically, the BBWAA has enshrined about two players on average for every election it has held since 1936. The BBWAA has held close to this average over the past 14 years, voting in 24 players. Meanwhile, the VC elected just three MLB players: Joe Gordon, Ron Santo, and Deacon White. This stands in stark contrast to the previous 14 years, 1988-2001, when the VC elected 13 MLB players; or the 14 years prior, 1974-87, when the VC elected 20 MLB players. This dysfunction has created a swelling backlog of players who are fully deserving and qualified for the Hall. Most voters sense this, so they keep showing up and voting for players, but the results keep coming up short of electing anyone. The system has failed the voters– and not the other way around. There is no shortage of deserving candidates to elect and it is incumbent upon the HOF to create a system that elects someone.
This can’t be stressed enough: the various HOF committees exist to elect someone. They do not exist to “maintain high standards” or whatever BS rationale is employed– that is the job of the Nominating Committee. The people who decide who gets on the ballot– they have the most important job in the election process. This is where the HOF needs to recruit the top talent, the expert researchers and historians. If they include only the ten most deserving candidates on the ballot, players like Jack Morris and Steve Garvey will not make the Hall any time soon. So the HOF must present the VC voters with a 10-man ballot having only the best candidates on it. Then they must devise a system that ensures that someone is elected every time.
Of course, baseball has long employed a system ideal for the task: the MVP voting system. In those elections, every voter ranks ten players, sifting through every player in the league. We’ll make it even easier for the Veterans Committee: give them a 10-man ballot to rank. The winner gets inducted to the Hall. It should not be hard for the experts that comprise the HOF electorates to perform this task.
As mentioned earlier, this idea of mixing players and non-players on the same ballot is wrong and results have proven it a failure. Players are rarely elected; even worse, men deserving of a place in the Hall are getting old and dying before the Hall bothers to fix the system. The problem is, the expertise required of the voters is quite different for judging players and non-players, so the Hall should create focused electorates most suitable to one task or the other.
Second, the process would benefit from transparency. Voting in a Black Box leads to distrust of the process, giving an air of illegitimacy to the players elected. The HOF should not allow these issues to persist. Ballots should not only be made public, but voters should be required to explain their process. “The unjustified ballot is not worth casting”, to paraphrase Socrates.
Third, fixed eras are currently used by the veterans committees, meaning they have the same pool of candidates every election. A change to shifting eras allows for a gentle churning of candidates, creating public anticipation for each election as new candidates enter the purview of each electorate.
Let’s take a closer look at the player committees:
BBWAA: Leave them alone for now. The 75 percent requirement will not be easily struck down, given it’s been in place for nearly 80 years. When they revert back to a poor rate of elections [seven players elected 2008-13; five players elected 1993-98] there may be impetus for reform.
Their new 10-year eligibility rule is good, especially with the new VC setup proposed here. The reason it was put in is that it gets the unelectable steroid crowd off the ballot sooner. However, there are other benefits. It has been the case throughout the Hall’s history that the BBWAA’s main purpose is to wave all the no-brainers into the Hall. The harder task has been left to the various VC’s, to draw the HOF in/out line. So limiting candidates’ time on the BBWAA ballot, and getting them under the consideration of a carefully made VC election process is all to the good. As for Tim Raines, and many other less obvious candidates, the 10-year limit may actually get them in the Hall sooner, when the VC gets to make the call.
Expansion Era [retiring 16-50 years ago, or 1966-2000 for the election in December 2016]: This is the most overlooked era by the Hall of fame. The BBWAA elected 56 players retiring in those years. Likewise, in the 35 elections 1977-2011, when the BBWAA was considering mainly players from this era, they elected 56 players total.
How many “should” they have elected? Well, there are 158 HOF players born 1880-1940 [including Negro leaguers], an average of 2.6 per year. By that standard, in 35 years the HOF should elect 91 players. So we can say that the BBWAA left it up to the VC to elect 35 more players retiring 1966-2000 [91 minus 56.] So far they have elected four [Bunning, Mazeroski, Cepeda and Santo.] One could spin the numbers differently, but it should be clear that if the HOF is going to be fair to this era there is A LOT of work to be done. We need this committee to vote every other year, with the other two players committees voting once every four years.
This committee will also be tasked to consider the oldest living candidates, even players retiring more than 50 years ago. They will be reminded that this may be the final chance for induction while alive for players like Minnie Minoso and Billy Pierce, to name two popular candidates who’ve died in the past year. Of course, voters will be left to determine how much weight to give to that fact.
Another thing we should strive to do is to place players in the era with their peers, by ignoring brief comeback appearances made after age 40. [This was seen much more often a hundred years ago.] It should be obvious that Minoso belongs with the Golden Age candidates, given his retirement in 1964. It only makes sense to ignore his play in 1976 and ‘80 for purposes of HOF eligibility.
Possible 2016 ballot: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Dwight Evans, Bobby Grich, Keith Hernandez, Tommy John, Billy Pierce, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker.
Golden Era [deceased players retiring 51-100 years ago, or 1917-66 for the election in December 2017]: While this era is well-represented in the HOF, we can still find ten candidates who would not lower the standards of the Hall. Consideration of players whose careers were stunted by military service is especially in order.
Possible 2017 ballot: Wes Ferrell, Heinie Groh, Stan Hack, Gil Hodges, Bob Johnson, Charlie Keller, Sherry Magee, Minnie Minoso, Urban Shocker, Bucky Walters.
Early Era [retiring more than 100 years ago, or 1871-1914 for the election in December 2015]: For this committee a name change from Pre-Integration Era is clearly in order. The HOF has only recently begun, for the first time, a systematic study of 19th-century players. Indeed, there are many overlooked early greats deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown. Deacon White is just the first drop in this wave, hopefully.
Possible 2015 ballot: Ross Barnes, Pete Browning, Bob Caruthers, Bill Dahlen, Jack Glasscock, Paul Hines, Jim McCormick, Tony Mullane, Jimmy Sheckard, Harry Stovey.
My attitude towards non-players is very liberal: since standards are mainly subjective there are hundreds of people whom I would have no problem welcoming into the Hall.
Managers & Coaches Committee: Why just elect managers? There should also be consideration given to the unsung coaches who have greatly influenced the game.
Possible ballot: Dusty Baker, Ralph Houk, Davey Johnson, Jim Leyland, Billy Martin, Gene Mauch, Leo Mazzone, Danny Murtaugh, Lou Piniella, Johnny Sain.
Black Baseball Players Committee: considers players from the pre- and early-integration era. Research into this area continues to lead to new discoveries. Despite the stampede a decade ago, that tried to induct every overlooked person from black baseball, we can see a few guys who got left behind.
There also needs to be focus towards black players from the 50’s and 60’s. It should be realized that it took until a generation after Jackie Robinson’s 1947 debut for black players to have similar opportunities as white Americans. Even into the 1970’s some teams imposed quotas and restrictions on black players.
Most black players born in the 20’s and 30’s had stunted careers due to their color. Look at Elston Howard, born in 1929. If he had been born 15 years later he would not have begun his career with three years in the Negro Leagues. He likely would not have lost his age 22-23 seasons to military service. He likely would not have had to wait until age 28 to play 100 games in a MLB season.
Possible ballot: John Beckwith, Elston Howard, Home Run Johnson, Dick Lundy, Dobie Moore, Don Newcombe, Alejandro Oms, Buck O’Neil, Dick Redding, Quincy Trouppe.
Executives & Umpires Committee: The game has honored its own more than it has honored managers. Umpires are combined with executives here because they are part of the executive branch. Frankly, the HOF goofed when it started giving plaques to umpires. Umpires have no fans; nobody argues for their election. The best ones are invisible; while their presence enhances the show, they never become the show. It’s too late now, but umpires should have been treated like the writers and broadcasters, with place in a Cooperstown exhibit, but no induction or plaque. [Editor’s note: It’s a common misconception, regularly repeated in the media, but writers and broadcasters do not have a special wing in Cooperstown.]
Pioneers & Contributors Committee: This is the fun, wildcard category. It considers any persons who made meritorious contributions to our game. This can be hard to define, but the general idea is the HOF has been too limiting in who is considered for immortality. So we look for groundbreakers from every era, from Doc Adams to Bill James; multiple contributors such as Bob Ferguson, Lefty O’Doul and Bill White; player+ump combos like Bill Dinneen and Eddie Rommell; memorable characters who have enriched the game’s tapestry such as Chris von der Ahe and Max Patkin; lyricist Jack Norworth and poet Ernest Thayer; authors, scouts, college managers, and a hundred others who helped build the game we love.
Summarizing some of the many benefits brought by these reforms:
- It restores the traditional role of the Veterans Committee by ensuring they elect a player every year.
- It enhances the legitimacy of the elections through greater transparency.
- Makes the electors more accountable to their main constituency, the fans of the game.
- By using more unique classifications for candidates, electorates can be created with voters that have specialized knowledge of that particular area.
- Recognizes a broader spectrum of meritorious contributors to the game.
- Brings equitable treatment to the stars of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, whose numbers in the HOF are far below those of players from earlier eras.
- Promotes the election of living honorees by giving priority to Expansion Era stars.
- Brings more focus to electing stars from the game’s antiquity.
Naturally, none of the foregoing is meant to represent the best and only way to bring about a better system. Everything here is offered in the hopes of stimulating creativity and discussion, not defining it. This, it bears noting, is in sharp contrast to the Veterans Committee, which has met privately and operated with impunity since its founding. Such tenets have led to the present mess the Veterans Committee finds itself in. Summarily, we reject them.
I’ve been reading Zev Chafets’ book Cooperstown Confidential and just happened across a bit on Steve Garvey which talks about him being named as a future Hall of Famer in a 1986 poll of major league managers in The Sporting News. As a SABR member, I have access to full archives for The Sporting News free of charge so I decided to take a look at the poll.
These kinds of polls or predictions generally interest me. I enjoyed reading Bill James’ forecasts for 25 years of inductions in The Politics of Glory, and I made my own predictions here last year. I think it’s interesting to see how many of these pan out.
Here’s what the poll, printed May 26, 1986, looked like:
“Which players in your league– if they retired tomorrow– have already done enough to merit selection to the Hall of Fame?”
- Players listed who are now enshrined: Reggie Jackson, Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver, George Brett, Don Sutton, Eddie Murray, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Robin Yount, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Nolan Ryan, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Gary Carter, Tony Perez
- Players listed who aren’t enshrined: Ron Guidry, Pete Rose, Steve Garvey, Dale Murphy
“Which players in your league have a chance to make the Hall of Fame if they continue to play at the level they are currently demonstrating?”
- Players listed who are now enshrined: Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Ryne Sandberg
- Players listed who aren’t enshrined: Harold Baines, Kent Hrbek, Fernando Valenzuela, Willie McGee, Mike Marshall, Tim Raines
“Which players in your league with four years experience or less have demonstrated the potential to someday qualify for the Hall of Fame?”
- Players listed who are now enshrined: Tony Gwynn
- Players listed who aren’t enshrined: Don Mattingly, Tony Fernandez, Bret Saberhagen, Jose Canseco, George Bell, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Vince Coleman, Orel Hershiser
Don’t be surprised if some of the players here, particularly from the first group, are future Veterans Committee selections. The committee, after all, is comprised largely of the baseball establishment. I doubt their thinking on Hall of Fame worthiness has changed that much since 1986.
“The Veterans Committee never reveals its vote. In fact, committee members are cautioned not to say anything about their meeting. But word gets out.”
-Jack Lang in The Sporting News, March 13, 1989
The quest began for me when, in the course of Sporting News archive research, I discovered lists of Veterans Committee candidates for the 1961-64 elections. Heretofore, such lists have been forgotten and thought not to exist. Baseball-Reference.com, which lists full voting results for every Hall of Fame election by the Baseball Writers Association of America since 1936, has only listed names of players inducted by the modern version of the Veterans Committee since its founding in 1953. This is because the Veterans Committee, for almost 50 years, was loathe to release any information.
Since the Veterans Committee reformed prior to the 2003 election, it’s gotten easier to find lists of candidates and voting results. [Baseball-Reference.com doesn’t list this information, though my friend Adam Darowski alerted me that Wikipedia does.] Still, that’s left 45 Veterans Committee elections between 1953 and 2001 unaccounted for. Recently, I decided to do something about this.
After discovering the 1961-64 Veterans Committee lists, I quickly ascertained three things:
- Robust lists of candidates were fairly easy to find in The Sporting News up until 1964. I think this is partly because Sporting News publisher J.G. Taylor Spink served as chairman of the Veterans Committee until 1959.
- For some reason that I’m still not sure of, the number of Veterans Committee candidate names made publicly available dropped dramatically after 1964. Spink’s death in 1962 may have had something to do with the flow of information slowing to The Sporting News.
- That said, at least a few names leaked out with the majority of Veterans Committee elections after 1964.
With the help of The Sporting News archives, newspapers.com and Baseball-Reference.com, I aggregated the names of every leaked Veterans Committee candidate I could find between 1953 and 2001. It’s a little crazy, I’ll grant, but with the proliferation in recent years of online archives, such research can easily be undertaken. I’m surprised that seemingly no one has done this before me. I imagine there are more candidate names out there for anyone who wants to look hard enough and that more names may become available as old newspapers continue to be digitized. Truly, we’re in the golden age of research.
As I write this, I’ve found 901 candidates, who I’ve listed in this Google spreadsheet. I organized the spreadsheet in order of name, with separate listings for each year a person was considered by the Veterans Committee and notes about how they fared in voting, where I could find it. There’s more of this information out there than I initially expected. Leo Durocher, Gil Hodges, and Bill Mazeroski all had years where they missed by one vote from the Veterans Committee. Vic Willis, Joe Gordon, and Nellie Fox each had years where they drew the necessary 75 percent of the vote but weren’t inducted due to limits on how many players the committee could enshrine.
I learned other interesting things in my research. For instance, Deadball Era pitcher Willis’s name came before the Veterans Committee at least 23 times over five– read this again: five– decades before his induction in 1995. Durocher, Gordon, Roger Connor, Billy Evans, Charlie Grimm, Ned Hanlon, Babe Herman, Rube Marquard, Carl Mays, Phil Rizzuto, Amos Rusie, and Glenn Wright all were Veterans Committee candidates at least 10 times as well. As then-chairman of the committee Charley Segar told The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, New York in 1994, “There are about 45 names on a rather permanent list for us to review each year.”
Unlike the BBWAA, which is now limited to considering players up until 15 years after retirement, there doesn’t seem to be any statute of limitations for the Veterans Committee. I don’t know if there should be a limit, as new information and ways of viewing players can always come to light, but I also don’t know what’s different about a candidate his 23rd time on the ballot. Of course, back in 1995 when online news archives weren’t much a thing, Vic Willis may have looked like a long-lost discovery, precisely the kind of candidate the Veterans Committee is tasked with finding.
It’s uncertain if the Hall of Fame still has voting information for the Veterans Committee between 1953 and 2001. I reached out to Hall of Fame librarian Jim Gates, who directed me to contact Bill Deane. Bill’s the former senior research associate at Cooperstown and has written a few times for this site. When I have a Hall of Fame question, Bill’s on a short list of people I email. Jim CC’ed Bill in his email to me. Bill replied to both of us:
My research to make more Veterans Committee ballots available online continues.
I now have ballots for the eight Veterans Committee elections between 1953, when the modern version of the committee debuted, and 1964. Rather than post another long table that overlaps a bit with yesterday’s post, I’m just going to offer a link to a Google doc where I’m compiling my findings.
A few things:
- My source for all the ballots thus far has been archives for The Sporting News, accessible for all SABR members via the Paper of Record service listed at SABR.org/research. If anyone wants a quick crash course on how to use The Sporting News archives, I’m happy to offer it. I encountered a slight learning curve.
- I found 133 players, executives and umpires on Veterans Committee ballots between 1953 and 1964, with 59 now in the Hall of Fame.
- The ballots may be incomplete. I found ballots for the 1955 and 1957 elections when Hall of Fame secretary Paul Kerr said nominations would be accepted until the time of the Veterans Committee meetings.
- I haven’t found full voting results for any older ballot– they’re typically listed in news accounts for contemporary Veterans ballots, such as the most recent one— though I’ve seen top finishers listed. Forgotten candidates like Jack Coombs and Lefty O’Doul each came close to induction on at least one ballot.
- It amazed me to see some of the players on these ballots, long before Baseball-Reference.com or the 1969 publication of The Baseball Encyclopedia. Deacon White makes multiple appearances. So do Jack Glasscock, Jimmy Ryan and other 19th century stars who would seemingly be forgotten at this juncture in baseball history.
Anyhow, I’ll keep posting Veterans Committee ballots as I find them. If anyone wants to join in my efforts, I’m happy to give full credit.
Let’s get more of these ballots publicly accessible.
The last time I posted here, I mentioned I was working on a freelance piece, one which I now know will run April 13. Without giving anything away, I found something in the course of research I’d like to share a little sooner. I’m doing this in the hopes that what I found may spur more research from the kind of people who frequent this site.
Baseball-Reference.com has the voting results listed for every Hall of Fame election by the Baseball Writers Association of America since 1936. For some reason, however, Veterans Committee elections aren’t listed, perhaps because the committee typically meets in private. I don’t even know of a place online that publicly lists which players have been candidates.
It’s getting easier to find candidates and even voting results for recent Veterans Committee elections, which are often reported in the news and can be found archived via Google. Older Veterans Committee elections are trickier; but in heavily going through old Sporting News archives to research my freelance piece, I found lists of candidates for the 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964 Veterans Committee elections.
I’ll withhold much comment at this time besides to say that it suggests to me that Frankie Frisch has maybe been maligned by Bill James and others for some of the worst Veterans Committee selections from the 1970s. A number of the players Frisch reputedly championed appeared on at least one Veterans Committee ballot before Frisch joined it in 1967.
Anyhow, here are the lists of Veterans Committee candidates from 1961 to 1964. A total of 79 people appeared on committee ballots during these years, with 44 now in Cooperstown:
|Player||Years on Vets Committee ballot||Now in HOF?||Inducted|
|Amos Rusie||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1977|
|Babe Adams||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||No||N/A|
|Bill Bradley||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Bill Dahlen||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Bill Dinneen||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||No||N/A|
|Bill McKechnie||1961, 1962||Yes||1962|
|Billy Evans||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1973|
|Burleigh Grimes||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964||Yes||1964|
|Charlie Grimm||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964||No||N/A|
|Chick Hafey||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964||Yes||1971|
|Dave Bancroft||1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1971|
|Donie Bush||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||No||N/A|
|Duffy Lewis||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Dummy Hoy||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Earl Averill||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||Yes||1975|
|Eddie Grant||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Elmer Flick||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||Yes||1963|
|Eppa Rixey||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||Yes||1963|
|Firpo Marberry||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||No||N/A|
|Fred Lindstrom||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||Yes||1976|
|Fred Tenney||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|George Mullin||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Glenn Wright||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||No||N/A|
|Harry Hooper||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||Yes||1971|
|High Pockets Kelly||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||Yes||1973|
|Hooks Wiltse||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Jack Coombs||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Jack Glasscock||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Jake Beckley||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1971|
|Jake Daubert||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||No||N/A|
|Jesse Tannehill||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Jimmie Wilson||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||No||N/A|
|Joe Kelley||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||Yes||1971|
|John Clarkson||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||Yes||1963|
|John Kling||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|John Tobin||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Lave Cross||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Luke Sewell||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||No||N/A|
|Mickey Welch||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1973|
|Miller Huggins||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1964|
|Monte Ward||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1964|
|Ned Hanlon||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1996|
|Pud Galvin||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1965|
|Roger Connor||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1976|
|Ross Youngs||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1972|
|Rube Marquard||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1971|
|Sam Rice||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||Yes||1963|
|Sam Thompson||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1974|
|Stan Coveleski||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1969|
|Thomas Lynch||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Tim Keefe||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate], 1964||Yes||1964|
|Tom Corcoran||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Travis Jackson||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||Yes||1982|
|Urban Shocker||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|Vic Willis||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||Yes||1995|
|Wes Ferrell||1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943]||No||N/A|
|Wilbur Cooper||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
|William McGunnigle||1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate]||No||N/A|
If anyone knows of places I can find other Veterans Committee ballots, particularly anything before 1961, please let me know. I’d like to make more of this information easily accessible.
My apologies to everyone for not posting here in awhile. I moved to Sacramento on January 31 to be with the woman I love and have been settling in at a new job. What writing time I’ve had has gone to paid obligations, though that brings us to what I’m writing about here today.
In researching a Hall of Fame-related freelance piece that will run sometime this spring, I came across an interesting note in a February 1961 edition of The Sporting News. In it, former Hall of Fame historian Lee Allen proposed automatic induction for the following statistical milestones: 300 wins; 2,500 hits or games; having more runs scored than games in a 10-year period.
Just for fun, with the help of Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index tool, I thought I’d see who’d be enshrined now who isn’t had Allen’s suggestion been acted upon:
300 wins: Roger Clemens.
2,500 hits: Harold Baines, Buddy Bell, Barry Bonds, Bill Buckner, Doc Cramer, Lave Cross, Willie Davis, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Steve Garvey, Luis Gonzalez, Al Oliver, Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Parker, Vada Pinson, Tim Raines, Jimmy Ryan, Gary Sheffield, Rusty Staub, and George Van Haltren.
2,500 games: Darrell Evans, Dwight Evans, Gary Gaetti, Graig Nettles. Some of the players in the 2,500-hit club above would also qualify here, though I figured I’d just list them once.
More runs scored than games played in a 10-year period: Harry Stovey and George Gore. Only three Hall of Famers have done this, all from the 19th century: Billy Hamilton, Willie Keeler, and King Kelly. I suspect Allen at least had an inkling of this when he proposed the rule and that it was another tool to get 19th century players enshrined. A number of them got in on his watch during the early 1960s.
Bill James’ classic Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? notes that Allen did a lot of good for Cooperstown, pushing for some of the best Veterans Committee selections in the early 1960s. That said, I’m glad that this change was never picked up on.
Around Hall of Fame voting time every year, I hear baseball fans exclaim that a certain player is never going in Cooperstown because they’ve fallen far short of the 75 percent of votes needed through the Baseball Writers Association of America for enshrinement.
I’m here to say that based on some recent research I undertook, these fans by and large don’t know what they’re talking about.
Using Baseball-Reference.com, I recently went through every BBWAA vote since 1936, making a list of the 884 players who’ve received at least one vote and 221 more players who’ve appeared on the ballot and not gotten any votes. What I found: If a player gets even 20 percent of the writers vote, there’s a better than 50 percent chance they’re eventually going in. If they top 45 percent, their bid is more or less guaranteed. Not counting players currently on the ballot, 136 of the 139 players who’ve received at least 45 percent of the Hall of Fame vote from the writers are now enshrined.
There’s a question of causation or correlation between the BBWAA and Veterans Committee results that I don’t know I can answer here. There’s no proof, so far as I know at least, that the Veterans Committee cribs off the BBWAA to build its ballots. My gut is that the writers are a tough electorate and that any player who rises above 20 percent in the vote is a fairly popular candidate. I think the Veterans Committee would look to these players first even if the BBWAA wasn’t voting.
A more conclusive breakdown of my findings is as follows:
I. Enshrined by the BBWAA
Not counting Lou Gehrig or Roberto Clemente, who each were enshrined through special elections called for by the Hall of Fame, I count 117 people enshrined by the BBWAA. That leaves another 193 Hall of Famers, 96 of whom received at least one vote from the BBWAA at some point. Most of the remaining 97 Hall of Famers are executives and Negro League selections who fall outside the purview of the BBWAA. I’ll list the 17 Hall of Fame players who never appeared on a BBWAA ballot at the bottom of this.
I. Peaked between 70 and 74.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The four people who peaked in this range: Jim Bunning, 74.2 percent in 1988; Orlando Cepeda, 73.5 percent in 1994; Frank Chance, 72.5 percent in 1945; Nellie Fox, 74.7 percent in 1985.
B. Since enshrined: 4/4
- How they got in: Nellie Fox by Veterans Committee in 1997; Jim Bunning by Veterans Committee in 1996; Orlando Cepeda by Veterans Committee; Frank Chance by Old Timers Committee in 1946.
C. Not enshrined: None
II. Peaked between 65 and 69.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The three people who peaked in this range: Jack Morris, 67.7 percent in 2013; Enos Slaughter, 68.9 percent in 1978; Rube Waddell, 65.3 percent in 1939.
B. Since enshrined: 2/3
- How they got in: Enos Slaughter by Veterans Committee in 1985; Rube Waddell by Old Timers Committee in 1946.
C. Not enshrined: Jack Morris
D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Mike Piazza, 69.9 percent in 2015.
III. Peaked between 60 and 64.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The three people who peaked in this range: Johnny Evers, 64.4 percent in 1946; Gil Hodges, 63.4 percent in 1983; Miller Huggins, 63.9 percent in 1946.
B. Since enshrined: 2/3
- How they got in: Johnny Evers by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Miller Huggins by Veterans Committee in 1964.
C. Not enshrined: Gil Hodges
IV. Peaked between 55 and 59.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The person who peaked in this range: Ed Walsh, 56.9 percent in 1946.
B. Since enshrined: 1/1
- How they got in: Ed Walsh by Old Timers Committee in 1946.
C. Not enshrined: None.
D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Jeff Bagwell, 59.6 percent in 2013; Tim Raines, 55 percent in 2015.
V. Peaked between 50 and 54.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The six people who peaked in this range: Roger Bresnahan, 53.8 percent in 1945; Max Carey, 51.1 percent in 1958; Ed Delahanty, 52.9 percent in 1939; Edd Roush, 54.3 percent in 1960; Sam Rice, 53.2 percent in 1960; Eppa Rixey, 52.8 percent in 1960.
B. Since enshrined: 6/6
- How they got in: Roger Bresnahan by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Max Carey by Veterans Committee in 1961; Ed Delahanty by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Edd Roush by Veterans Committee in 1962; Sam Rice by Veterans Committee in 1963; Eppa Rixey by Veterans Committee in 1963.
C. Not enshrined: None.
D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Lee Smith, 50.6 percent in 2012.
VI. Peaked between 45 and 49.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The five people who peaked in this range: Jimmy Collins, 49 percent in 1945; Lefty Gomez, 46.1 percent in 1956; Tony Oliva, 47.3 percent in 1988; Pee Wee Reese, 47.9 percent in 1976; Ray Schalk, 45 percent in 1955.
B. Since enshrined: 4/5
- How they got in: Jimmy Collins by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Lefty Gomez by Veterans Committee in 1972; Pee Wee Reese by Veterans Committee in 1984; Ray Schalk by Veterans Committee in 1964.
C. Not enshrined: Tony Oliva.
VII. Peaked between 40 and 44.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The 12 people who peaked in this range: Richie Ashburn, 41.7 percent in 1978; Chief Bender, 44.7 percent in 1947; Steve Garvey, 42.6 percent in 1995; Clark Griffith, 43.7 percent in 1945; Marty Marion, 40 percent in 1970; Roger Maris, 43.1 percent in 1988; Bill Mazeroski, 42.3 percent in 1992; Johnny Mize, 43.6 percent in 1971; Hal Newhouser, 42.8 percent in 1975; Ron Santo, 43.1 percent in 1998; Red Schoendienst, 42.6 percent in 1980; Maury Wills, 40.6 percent in 1981.
B. Since enshrined: 8/12
- How they got in: Richie Ashburn by Veterans Committee in 1995; Chief Bender by Veterans Committee in 1953; Clark Griffith by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Bill Mazeroski by Veterans Committee in 2001; Johnny Mize by Veterans Committee in 1981; Hal Newhouser by Veterans Committee in 1992; Ron Santo by Veterans Committee in 2012.
C. Not enshrined: Steve Garvey, Marty Marion, Roger Maris, Maury Wills.
VIII. Peaked between 35 and 39.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The nine people who peaked in this range: Phil Cavarretta, 35.6 percent in 1975; Hank Gowdy, 35.9 percent in 1955; Harvey Kuenn, 39.3 percent in 1988; Hughie Jennings, 37.2 percent in 1945; George Kell, 36.8 percent in 1977; Al Lopez, 39 percent in 1967; Phil Rizzuto, 38.4 percent in 1976; Wilbert Robinson, 38.2 percent in 1942; Hack Wilson, 38.3 percent in 1956
B. Since enshrined: 6/9
- How they got in: Hughie Jennings by Old Timers Committee in 1945; George Kell by Veterans Committee in 1983; Al Lopez by Veterans Committee in 1977; Phil Rizzuto by Veterans Committee in 1994; Wilbert Robinson by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Hack Wilson by Veterans Committee in 1979.
C. Not enshrined: Phil Cavarretta, Hank Gowdy, Harvey Kuenn.
D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Barry Bonds, 36.8 percent in 2015; Roger Clemens, 37.6 percent in 2013; Edgar Martinez, 36.5 percent in 2015; Curt Schilling, 39.2 percent in 2015; Alan Trammell, 36.8 percent in 2012.
IX. Peaked between 30 and 34.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The 11 people who peaked in this range: Home Run Baker, 30.4 percent in 1947; Jim Bottomley, 33.1 percent in 1960; Kiki Cuyler, 33.8 percent in 1958; Hugh Duffy, 33 percent in 1942; Red Faber, 30.9 percent in 1960; Burleigh Grimes, 34.2 percent in 1960; Tommy John, 31.7 percent in 2009; Tony Lazzeri, 33.2 percent in 1956; Allie Reynolds, 33.6 percent in 1968; Johnny Sain, 34 percent in 1975; Luis Tiant, 30.9 percent in 1988.
B. Since enshrined: 7/11
- How they got in: Home Run Baker by Veterans Committee in 1955; Jim Bottomley by Veterans Committee in 1974; Kiki Cuyler by Veterans Committee in 1968; Hugh Duffy by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Red Faber by Veterans Committee in 1964; Burleigh Grimes by Veterans Committee in 1964; Tony Lazzeri by Veterans Committee in 1991.
C. Not enshrined: Tommy John, Allie Reynolds, Johnny Sain, Luis Tiant.
X. Peaked between 25 and 29.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The 14 people who peaked in this range: Ken Boyer, 25.5 percent in 1988; Mordecai Brown, 27.7 percent in 1946; Bobby Doerr, 25 percent in 1970; Joe Gordon, 28.5 percent in 1969; Mel Harder, 25.4 percent in 1964; Jim Kaat, 29.6 percent in 1993; Chuck Klein, 27.9 percent in 1964; Mickey Lolich, 25.5 percent in 1988; Don Mattingly, 28.2 percent in 2001; Joe McGinnity, 26.2 percent in 1946; Eddie Plank, 27 percent in 1942; Joe Tinker, 27.2 percent in 1946; Johnny Vander Meer, 29.8 percent in 1967; Arky Vaughan, 29 percent in 1968.
B. Since enshrined: 8/14
- How they got in: Mordecai Brown by Old Timers Committee in 1949; Bobby Doerr by Veterans Committee in 1986; Joe Gordon by Veterans Committee in 2009; Chuck Klein by Veterans Committee in 1980; Joe McGinnity by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Eddie Plank by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Joe Tinker by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Arky Vaughan by Veterans Committee in 1985.
C. Not enshrined: Ken Boyer, Mel Harder, Jim Kaat, Mickey Lolich, Don Mattingly, Johnny Vander Meer.
XI. Peaked between 20 and 24.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The 16 people who peaked in this range: Lew Burdette, 24.1 percent in 1984; Fred Clarke, 24.9 percent in 1942; Lou Gehrig, 22.6 percent in 1936; Tommy Henrich, 20.7 percent in 1970; Billy Herman, 20.2 percent in 1967; Elston Howard, 20.7 percent in 1981; Minnie Minoso, 21.1 percent in 1988; Dale Murphy, 23.4 percent in 2000; Dave Parker, 24.5 percent in 1998; Casey Stengel, 23.1 percent in 1953; Joe Torre, 22.2 percent in 1997; Mickey Vernon, 24.9 percent in 1980; Bucky Walters, 23.7 percent in 1968; Lloyd Waner, 23.4 in 1964, Zack Wheat, 23 percent in 1947; Ross Youngs, 22.4 percent in 1947.
B. Since enshrined: 8/16
- How they got in: Fred Clarke by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Lou Gehrig in a special election in 1939; Billy Herman by Veterans Committee in 1975; Casey Stengel by Veterans Committee in 1966; Joe Torre by Veterans Committee in 2014; Lloyd Waner by Veterans Committee in 1967; Zack Wheat by Veterans Committee in 1959; Ross Youngs by Veterans Committee in 1972.
C. Not enshrined: Lew Burdette, Tommy Henrich, Elston Howard, Minnie Minoso, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Mickey Vernon, Bucky Walters.
D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Fred McGriff, 23.9 percent in 2012; Mark McGwire, 23.7 percent in 2010; Mike Mussina, 24.6 percent in 2015; Larry Walker, 22.9 percent in 2015.
XII. Peaked between 15 and 19.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The 16 people who peaked in this range: Dick Allen, 18.9 percent in 1996; Dave Bancroft, 16.2 percent in 1958; Earle Combs, 16 percent in 1960; Dave Concepcion, 16.9 percent in 1998; Al Dark, 18.5 percent in 1979; Roy Face, 18.9 percent in 1987; Curt Flood, 15.1 percent in 1996; Bucky Harris, 16.9 percent in 1958; Waite Hoyt, 19.2 percent in 1956; Ernie Lombardi, 16.4 percent in 1964; Pepper Martin, 17.3 percent in 1958; Thurman Munson, 15.5 percent in 1981; Don Newcombe, 15.3 percent in 1980; Lefty O’Doul, 16.7 percent in 1960; Vada Pinson, 15.7 percent in 1988; Smoky Joe Wood, 18 percent in 1947.
B. Since enshrined: 5/16
- How they got in: Dave Bancroft by Veterans Committee in 1971; Earle Combs by Veterans Committee in 1970; Bucky Harris by Veterans Committee in 1975; Waite Hoyt by Veterans Committee in 1969; Ernie Lombardi by Veterans Committee in 1986.
C. Not enshrined: Dick Allen, Dave Concepcion, Al Dark, Roy Face, Curt Flood, Pepper Martin, Thurman Munson, Don Newcombe, Lefty O’Doul, Vada Pinson, Smoky Joe Wood.
D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Jeff Kent, 15.2 percent in 2014.
XIII. Peaked between 10 and 14.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The 23 people who peaked in this range: Babe Adams, 13.7 percent in 1947; Bobby Bonds, 10.6 percent in 1993; Walker Cooper, 14.4 percent in 1976; Stan Coveleski, 12.8 percent in 1958; Dom DiMaggio, 11.3 percent in 1973; Leo Durocher, 10.5 percent in 1958; Jimmie Dykes, 10 percent in 1960; Dwight Evans, 10.4 percent in 1998; Goose Goslin, 13.5 percent in 1956; Chick Hafey, 10.8 percent in 1960; Keith Hernandez, 10.8 percent in 1998; Orel Hershiser, 11.2 percent in 2006; Addie Joss, 14.2 percent in 1942; Dickey Kerr, 10 percent in 1955; Johnny Kling, 10 percent in 1937; Ted Kluszewski, 14.4 percent in 1977; Don Larsen, 12.3 percent in 1979; Duffy Lewis, 13.5 percent in 1955; Sparky Lyle, 13.1 percent in 1988; Rube Marquard, 13.9 percent in 1955; Terry Moore, 11.7 percent in 1968; Rafael Palmeiro, 12.6 percent in 2012; Vic Raschi, 10.2 percent in 1975.
B. Since enshrined: 6/23
- How they got in: Leo Durocher by Veterans Committee in 1994; Stan Coveleski by Veterans Committee in 1969; Goose Goslin by Veterans Committee in 1968; Chick Hafey by Veterans Committee in 1971; Addie Joss by Veterans Committee in 1978; Rube Marquard by Veterans Committee in 1971.
C. Not enshrined: Babe Adams, Bobby Bonds, Walker Cooper, Dom DiMaggio, Jimmie Dykes, Dwight Evans, Keith Hernandez, Orel Hershiser, Dickey Kerr, Johnny Kling, Ted Kluszewski, Don Larsen, Duffy Lewis, Sparky Lyle, Rafael Palmeiro, Terry Moore, Vic Raschi.
D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Sammy Sosa, 12.5 percent in 2013; Gary Sheffield, 11.7 percent in 2015.
XIV. Peaked between 5 and 9.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. The 50 people who peaked in this range: Nick Altrock, Earl Averill, Harold Baines, Hank Bauer, Albert Belle, Vida Blue, Bob Boone, Tommy Bridges, Hal Chase, Doc Cramer, Lou Criger, Frankie Crosetti, Paul Derringer, George Foster, Charlie Grimm, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Juan Gonzalez, Ron Guidry, Jesse Haines, Babe Herman, Fred Hutchinson, Travis Jackson, Joe Judge, Charlie Keller, Dolf Luque, Fred Lynn, Sal Maglie, Heinie Manush, Willie McGee, Stuffy McInnis, Bob Meusel, Graig Nettles, Bobo Newsom, Pete Rose, Schoolboy Rowe, Nap Rucker, Muddy Ruel, Hal Schumacher, Joe Sewell, Billy Southworth, Rusty Staub, Dave Stewart, Fernando Valenzuela, Lon Warneke, Bernie Williams, Cy Williams, Jimmie Wilson, Wilbur Wood, Glenn Wright, Rudy York
B. Since enshrined: 6/50
- How they got in: Earl Averill by Veterans Committee in 1975; Jesse Haines by Veterans Committee in 1970; Travis Jackson by Veterans Committee in 1982; Joe Sewell by Veterans Committee in 1977; Heinie Manush by Veterans Committee in 1964; Billy Southworth by Veterans Committee in 2008.
C. Not enshrined: I’m not listing all those names again
D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Nomar Garciaparra, 5.5 percent in 2015
XV. Peaked under 5 percent on the BBWAA ballot
A. Peaked in this range: 697 people, including 221 who appeared on the ballot and never got a vote. [A handful of players got zero votes one year and at least a vote in one or more other BBWAA elections. The rule that says a player must receive at least 5 percent of votes to remain on the ballot for the next year came about in the early 1980s.]
B. Since enshrined: 23/697
- How they got in: Jake Beckley by the Veterans Committee in 1971; Jesse Burkett by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Jack Chesbro by Old Timers Committee in 1946; John Clarkson by Veterans Committee in 1963; Sam Crawford by Veterans Committee in 1957; Larry Doby by Veterans Committee in 1998; Buck Ewing by Old Timers Committee in 1939; Rick Ferrell by Veterans Committee in 1984; Elmer Flick by the Veterans Committee in 1963; Billy Hamilton by Veterans Committee in 1961; Harry Hooper by Veterans Committee in 1971; Joe Kelley by the Veterans Committee in 1971; High Pockets Kelly by Veterans Committee in 1973; Freddie Lindstrom by Veterans Committee in 1976; Connie Mack by the Centennial Commission in 1937; Joe McCarthy by Veterans Committee in 1957; John McGraw by Veterans Committee in 1937; Bill McKechnie by Veterans Committee in 1962; Kid Nichols by Old Timers Committee in 1949; Satchel Paige by the Negro League Committee in 1971; Branch Rickey by Veterans Committee in 1967; Amos Rusie by Veterans Committee in 1977; Bobby Wallace by Veterans Committee in 1953.
XVI. Hall of Famers who were never appeared on a BBWAA ballot
I count 17 people who played in the majors at least 10 years and thus could have been considered by the BBWAA but, for various reasons, never were.
Who these Hall of Famers are and how they got in: Cap Anson by Old Timers Committee in 1939; Dan Brouthers by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Roberto Clemente in a special election following his death; Roger Connor by Veterans Committee in 1976; George Davis by Veterans Committee in 1998; Pud Galvin by Veterans Committee in 1965; Tim Keefe by Veterans Committee in 1964; King Kelly by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Tommy McCarthy by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Bid McPhee by Veterans Committee in 2000; Old Hoss Radbourn by Old Timers Committee in 1939; Jim O’Rourke by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Sam Thompson by Veterans Committee in 1974; Monte Ward by Veterans Committee in 1964; Mickey Welch by Veterans Committee in 1973; Deacon White by Veterans Committee in 2013; Vic Willis by Veterans Committee in 1995.
It will be interesting to see if the Steroid Era is a game-changer for this data. My hunch? Nothing much will change with the historical trend. I see most– if not all– of the players who’ve come as far as they have in voting eventually being enshrined.
A lot has been made in recent years about the rule that limits members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to voting for no more than 10 players for the Hall of Fame each year. Many people would like this rule changed including Buster Olney of ESPN, who’s refusing to vote this year in protest. His colleague Jayson Stark wrote a fine piece today about having to leave players off the ballot he’d vote for with no restriction, lamenting:
All the Hall should want me to do, as a voter who takes this responsibility as seriously as every player on this ballot took his career, is to answer one question:
Was this player a Hall of Famer or not?
Philosophically, I agree with Jayson, though I don’t see a major change in the voting limit happening anytime soon beyond the BBWAA’s recommendation in December to raise the limit to 12 players. The current HOF voting system still gets players in, even with Steroid Era candidates glutting the ballot. Tomorrow, results of the BBWAA’s 2015 voting for Cooperstown will be announced, with anywhere from 3-5 players expected to go in. It will be similar to last year when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas were voted in.
If anything, rates of induction are trending up historically. Consider that in the 70 years the BBWAA voted between 1936 and 2014, it enshrined 113 players at an average of 1.61 players per year. It’s rare that even three players are enshrined through the writers vote in one year. Checking Baseball-Reference.com, I determined the following:
- Number of times the BBWAA has enshrined five players in one year: Once, 1936
- Four players: Twice, 1947 and 1955
- Three players: Eight times, most recently in 2014
- Two players: 25 times, most recently in 2011
- One player: 26 times, most recently in 2012
- No players: Eight times, most recently in 2013
The writers are notoriously stingy with the vote, and I’m actually more okay with that now than I’ve been in past years at this time. For one thing, the writers aren’t the last line of voters. Other committees have enshrined 193 people in Cooperstown and will probably continue to outflank the BBWAA. Also, while I favor a large Hall of Fame, honoring and acknowledging all of baseball’s history, I generally am against mass inductions. To me, they cheapen the honor. And some of the worst players in Cooperstown have gotten in en masse, via committee in the 1940s and 1970s.
I don’t see pandemonium ensuing if the 10-player voting limit were adjusted or removed altogether, as I think people would still take voting for Cooperstown seriously. That said, the rate of inductions would likely rise. For the past few years, I’ve run a regular project having people vote on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. The last two times I’ve done this project, I’ve had voters signify whether each player they voted for belongs in Cooperstown. Using my system, voters would have enshrined seven players last year and three in 2013. Perhaps seven BBWAA inductions last year would have been too many.
But as I said, I agree with Jayson Stark that I’d like Hall of Fame voters to be able to select as many players as they’d like. It seems less ethically murky for voters than forcing some to strategically omit players from their ballots. It’d keep players like Kenny Lofton on the ballot longer, too, allowing them to receive the consideration they deserve instead of being shunted off the ballot in impacted years.
In addition, the number of votes a player receives from the BBWAA also matters for when they eventually get considered by the Veterans Committee. I looked at it a few years ago, and of the 104 players who received at least 30 percent of the BBWAA vote between 1936 and 1980, 97 are now enshrined. [The seven who aren’t: Phil Cavarretta, Gil Hodges, Marty Marion, Hank Gowdy, Allie Reynolds, Johnny Sain, and Maury Wills.]
So I’m for removing the voting limit, but against mass inductions. To me, a good compromise would be allowing Hall of Fame voters to select as many players as they’d like on their ballots but capping the number of inductions from the BBWAA each year. Judging by historical standards, this cap could be 3-5 players, and I doubt it’d often be a significant issue. Of course, a player would still need to receive 75 percent of the vote to get in through the writers, and that remains a far greater barrier to induction than any voting limit that could be proposed.
Editor’s note: For the third consecutive year, I’m honored to feature Hall of Fame predictions from Bill Deane, former senior research associate at Cooperstown. Historically, Bill has been highly accurate, nearly calling the ballot in 2013. He finally stumbled a bit last year, though it was an unusual election, one that could have thrown even the most experienced of Hall forecasters for a loop. In a post-mortem, Bill vowed to return, and I’m glad he’s done so. I’m curious to see how Bill’s predictions, compiled in November, fare this year. He has a place at this website as long as he wants it.
I’ve been predicting Baseball Hall of Fame elections for 34 years now, with an 80% success rate (51-13) in guessing who would or would not make it among candidates receiving between 65-85% of the vote. If there has been one thing predictable about Hall voters, it is how many names each one will check. Though they are permitted ten selections apiece, the typical voter uses considerably fewer than that: six, to be exact. For 27 straight years, 1987-2013, the average number of votes per voter was more than five, but less than seven. Now, that’s consistency.
Then came 2014: the average leaped up to 8.39, some 40% above average. That shattered my crystal baseball, leading to my worst forecast ever. Yes, there was a bumper crop of newcomers on the 2014 ballot, including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas, but that’s not the first time that was the case. In 1999, for example, ballot rookies Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, and Carlton Fisk joined holdovers Tony Perez, Gary Carter, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, and Bert Blyleven, among others, on the slate – yet writers used an average of just 6.74 votes per ballot.
So the question for me is, was the 2014 voting a fluke, or the start of a new trend? I believe the average will remain well above the 1987-2013 standard, but below the 2014 level – I’m guessing about 7.7 votes per voter in 2015. That should allow for two more Cooperstown inductees.
A review of the voting process: Members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) do the voting. Late each fall, ballots are distributed to active and retired beat-writers who have been BBWAA members for ten years or more. The ballots, which are to be returned by the end of the year, list candidates in alphabetical order, instructing voters to choose up to ten players. Eligible candidates include men who played in at least ten seasons in the majors, the last of which was not less than five nor more than 15 (reduced from 20 this year) years prior to the election. Any candidate being named on at least 75% of the ballots is elected to the Hall; anyone receiving less than 5% of the vote is dropped from further consideration. The BBWAA honors an average of about two players per year. The 2015 results will be announced on January 6 at 2 PM EST.
More than half of the 35 players who were listed on the 2014 ballot are not on the 2015 version: Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas, who were elected; Jack Morris, who failed in his final attempt; and 14 others (Rafael Palmeiro, Moises Alou, Hideo Nomo, Luis Gonzalez, Eric Gagne, J. T. Snow, Armando Benitez, Jacques Jones, Kenny Rogers, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Todd Jones, Paul LoDuca, and Richie Sexson) who were dropped for failing to reach the 5%-cutoff. These men collected a whopping 1,958 votes in 2014, which conceivably could be redistributed to the new and returning candidates this year. The solid 2015 rookie class – led by three pitchers who combined for nine Cy Young Awards – figures to get the bulk of those, but the 17 returnees are likely to move up in the voting.
Most first-time eligibles are destined for just one try on the writers’ ballot, the consequence of receiving less than 5% of the vote. These include Rich Aurilia (186 homers, .275 average), Aaron Boone (126 HR, .263, plus the 2003 AL pennant-winning homer), Tony Clark (251 HR, .262), Carlos Delgado (473 HR, including four in a game, 1512 RBI, .546 slugging percentage), Jermaine Dye (325 HR, .274, plus a Gold Glove and the 2005 World Series MVP), Darin Erstad (124 HR, .282, and a monster 2000 season, in which he amassed 240 hits and became the first leadoff man ever to knock in 100 runs) , Cliff Floyd (233 HR, .278), Nomar Garciaparra (1997 AL Rookie of the Year Award and two batting titles en route to a .313 career average), Brian Giles (287 HR, .291), Tom Gordon (138-126, 158 saves), Eddie Guardado (187 saves), Troy Percival (358 saves), and Jason Schmidt (130-96, ERA title). Though many of these will get votes, only Delgado, Garciaparra, Percival, Giles, and Dye have even outside chances of making the cut.
Here’s the way I foresee the rest of the election shaping up, with newcomers in bold and predicted percentages in parentheses:
Randy Johnson (94) – A late bloomer who won five Cy Young Awards after his 32nd birthday, The Big Unit finished with a 303-166 won-lost record, 4875 strikeouts (second behind only Nolan Ryan), four ERA titles, a perfect game, and a 20-K performance. Making it easily on his first try, Johnson will stand tall in Cooperstown.
Craig Biggio (79) – An excellent but not dominant player who amassed 3060 hits, 1844 runs, 668 doubles, and 414 stolen bases. He missed election by just two votes in 2014, and should get over the hump on his third try.
Mike Piazza (69) – The best offensive catcher of all time (419 homers, .308 average), Piazza managed to survive steroids rumors and a poor defensive reputation. He’ll get near the doorstep of election this year but fall a bit short.
Jeff Bagwell (60) – Batted .297 with 449 homers and 1529 RBI in just 15 seasons, winning the 1994 NL MVP Award.
Pedro Martinez (57) – Finished 219-100 with 3154 strikeouts against just 760 walks, winning five ERA crowns and three Cy Young Awards.
Tim Raines (52) – Rock was an outstanding player whose credentials (including an 808-146 stolen base record) are starting to be appreciated by voters.
John Smoltz (46) – Despite a modest 213-155 career record and credentials very similar to two-time also-ran Curt Schilling, Smoltzie is getting a lot of buzz as a “future Hall of Famer,” with many expecting him to go in on his first try. I see him making a strong showing, but far short of election. Smoltz had 3084 strikeouts, 154 saves, the 1996 NL Cy Young Award, and a 15-4 record in post-season play.
Roger Clemens (38) – The most-accomplished pitcher of the past century, if not any century, Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards and seven ERA crowns while going 354-184 with 4672 strikeouts. His reputation has been skewered by well-documented accusations of steroids and HGH use, though he was acquitted of perjury on the subject.
Barry Bonds (38) – The most accomplished non-pitcher with the possible exception of Babe Ruth, Bonds won a record seven MVP Awards and set all-time marks for career homers (762, including a record 73 in 2001) and walks (2558, a record 668 of them intentional). For good measure, he added 514 stolen bases and eight Gold Glove Awards. But, like Clemens, accusations of his using performance enhancers in the second half of his career, along with his surly relationship with the media, will keep him out of Cooperstown for the foreseeable future.
Curt Schilling (36) – His won-lost record (216-146) is modest by Hall of Fame standards, but he had three second-place Cy Young Award finishes and 3116 strikeouts with a record 4.38 SO:BB ratio. Moreover, he starred for three different World Series teams, the 1993 Phillies, the 2001 D’backs (for whom he shared Series MVP honors), and the 2004 Red Sox (for whom he authored the gutsy “bloody sock” performance).
Lee Smith (32) – Lost his all-time saves record (and his only persuasive Hall of Fame argument) in 2006 to Trevor Hoffman, who in turn lost it to Mariano Rivera in 2011.
Edgar Martinez (28) – Though he didn’t become a big league regular until he was 27, the DH wound up with 2247 hits, 514 doubles, 309 homers, and a .312 average.
Mike Mussina (27) – Moose went 20-9 in his final season to finish at 270-153. Since the current pitching distance was established in 1893, only 12 pitchers have more wins over .500, and just three have a higher career strikeout-to-walk ratio. Mussina made a respectable 20% showing in his first try in 2014.
Alan Trammell (25) – A fine shortstop, overshadowed throughout his career by Cal Ripken and Robin Yount.
Jeff Kent (17) – Kent set the record for most career home runs by a second baseman and won the 2000 NL MVP Award. He finished with 377 homers and a .290 average, and received a decent 15% of the votes in his first attempt.
Fred McGriff (14) – Crime Dog had 493 home runs and 1550 RBI, winning homer titles in each league.
Mark McGwire (13) – Had 583 home runs, a .588 slugging average, and the highest homer percentage of all time, but became the voters’ poster boy for players accused of using PEs. With the new rule cutting eligibility from 15 to ten years, this is Big Mac’s next-to-last try.
Larry Walker (12) – Hit 383 homers and batted .313, winning three batting titles and the 1997 NL MVP Award, though most of his damage was done a mile above sea level.
Don Mattingly (11) – After a half-dozen years as one of the game’s most productive hitters, Mattingly was reduced to mediocrity by back problems. Still, he wound up with credentials eerily similar to 2001 first-ballot inductee Kirby Puckett’s. Mattingly received 28% that same year, but has gone steadily downhill since then; this is his last try on the BBWAA ballot.
Sammy Sosa (8) – Slammed 609 home runs, including three 60-homer seasons and an MVP Award, in a career also tainted by performance-enhancer accusations.
Gary Sheffield (5) – Blasted 509 homers with 1676 RBI and a batting crown. But as an admitted steroids user, he’ll be lucky to make the 5% cut.
Looking ahead toward upcoming elections, in 2016 the leading newcomers will be Ken Griffey, Jr., Trevor Hoffman, and Billy Wagner. The following year, Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Vlad Guerrero will top the rookie list. The 2018 ballot will include Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Omar Vizquel, Johnny Damon, and Jamie Moyer.
Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte, and Todd Helton are among those who will become eligible in 2019. And any ten-year veteran who played in 2014, but does not return next season – Derek Jeter, Paul Konerko, Bobby Abreu, and Adam Dunn, to name four – will join the 2020 ballot.
The past few Hall of Fame votes by the Baseball Writers Association of America have looked a bit chaotic, with steroid users and a number of other holdover candidates glutting the ballot. By historical standards for Cooperstown, though, the present chaos pales in comparison to some of the early votes when few if any players had been inducted and everyone in baseball history was eligible. Out of this time comes one of the more unusual stories of Hall of Fame voting.
Most modern fans are probably not familiar with Herman Long, who played shortstop in the majors from 1889 to 1904 and died of tuberculosis in 1909. Statistically, there isn’t much to support a Hall of Fame case for Long today, though he was held in high esteem by a number of his contemporaries. Their esteem may have been the reason Long finished eighth in the first Veterans Committee election in 1936, drawing nearly 20 percent of the vote. More unusually, Long never again received even one percent of the Hall of Fame vote.
I read of Long’s unusual showing in the votes a few years ago when Keith Olbermann wrote a blog post on it. Olbermann’s piece, while interesting, didn’t delve too deeply into how Long got as much support as he did without ever receiving it again, so I recently decided to do some more digging. What I found isn’t conclusive, but it sheds a bit more light.
Before we get too far into Long’s story, some background is in order. There were two Hall of Fame votes held in 1936, the first year for elections. A BBWAA vote on players since 1900 resulted in Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner being honored. A special committee of 78 members was set up to vote on players from before 1900, and while Baseball-Reference.com refers to it as the Veterans Committee, it was a one-off meeting that bore little relation to the continuing committee that came into existence in 1953.
The Sporting News noted on January 2, 1936 of the Veterans Committee:
Writers, managers, officials and players who are qualified by first-hand information and personal observations will choose the five who will represent that early period at Cooperstown. The maturity of this committee’s personnel assures careful consideration of all eligibles [sic] and there should be little criticism of their choices.
The initial plan was for the committee to select five pioneers for Cooperstown. But a wide dispersal of votes and some confusion over voting resulted in no players receiving the necessary 75 percent of votes from the committee for induction. Part of the confusion lay in the fact that several players who’d played in the 19th and 20th centuries received votes in both elections. Voters were also requested to vote for five players, but some voted for 10, leading to half points being awarded for the players on those ballots. [There was confusion among the BBWAA, too: Some voters mailed in All Star-style ballots, with one player at each position. These ballots were returned.]
Out of this confusion, Long received 15.5 votes. The election wound up being treated as a nominating vote, with the top 12 finishers advancing for more consideration. All but Long have since been enshrined, with 10 of the 12 getting in Cooperstown within the decade. Here’s a list of the top 12 finishers in the 1936 Veterans Committee election that breaks it down:
- Cap Anson: Enshrined in 1939 through the Old Timers Committee
- Buck Ewing: Enshrined in 1939 through the Old Timers Committee
- Wee Willie Keeler: Enshrined in 1939 through the BBWAA
- Cy Young: Enshrined in 1937 through the BBWAA
- Ed Delahanty: Enshrined in 1945 through the Old Timers Committee
- John McGraw: Enshrined in 1937 through the Veterans Committee
- Old Hoss Radbourn: Enshrined in 1939 through the Old Timers Committee
- Long: Not enshrined
- King Kelly: Enshrined in 1939 through the Old Timers Committee
- Amos Rusie: Enshrined in 1977 through the Veterans Committee
- Hughie Jennings: Enshrined in 1945 through the Old Timers Committee
- Fred Clarke: Enshrined in 1945 through the Old Timers Committee
So there are two questions before us: 1) How Long did so well in 1936; and 2) Why never again?
It’s hard to know what exactly went on among the 1936 Veterans Committee. I’m not sure who was on it and couldn’t find anything through the Sporting News archives listed on SABR.org. It’s uncertain, too, if Cooperstown keeps records for this. Former Hall of Fame senior research associate Bill Deane told me by phone Saturday that he had to start from scratch in the early 1990s in making a list of committee members from 1953-2001, piecing together results from Hall of Fame yearbooks which begin in 1980 and The Sporting News. I was curious if Deane got any resistance from the Hall of Fame in his research. “I didn’t encounter resistance,” Deane said. “I just encountered ignorance.”
While the specifics of how Long got as many votes as he did in the 1936 election might be lost to history, we can deduce a fair amount. From my research, I suspect longtime Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith may have had some influence on voting. While I don’t know for a fact that Griffith was one of the 78 members of the 1936 Veterans Committee, it’s logical he would have been on it and wielded some influence. After Connie Mack, Griffith might have ranked as the most esteemed figure from 19th century baseball at the time, and the committee’s stated task, after all, was to consider pre-1900 players.
Griffith paid tribute several times to Long, with whom he had a personal connection. The two were teammates on the 1903 New York Highlanders. They also faced one another in the National League of the 1890s, when Long helped the Boston Beaneaters win five pennants. Bill James wrote in his 2001 historical abstract that Griffith named Long to his all-time team in 1914. Two weeks before the Veterans Committee vote was announced in January 1936, Griffith included Long on an all-nineteenth century team. And in 1938, Griffith considered Long for a “most graceful all time baseball team.” Griffith told Grantland Rice:
There’s more of an argument at short. Herman Long was a good one. Hans Wagner was the best of all the shortstops but you’d never ship Hans a medal for grace. Dave Bancroft of the Giants ranks high and Jack Berry [sic] of the Athletics was another.
Griffith isn’t the only baseball person who held Long in high esteem. Wagner narrowly chose Joe Tinker over Long for his all-time squad in March 1936. Wagner and Long have a couple of connections worth noting here. Long was actually the first player nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman.” As others like Olbermann have noted, Wagner was given the nickname in tribute. Long also gave Wagner one of his gloves in 1902, an over-sized glove with a large hole in the middle that became a Wagner trademark.
Long figured into other all-time discussions as well. In 1939, Long was named an alternate for an all-time team voted on by players from 1870-1939. Rice wrote of Long and 1890s Boston Beaneater teammates Fred Tenney, Bobby Lowe and Jimmy Collins as the best infield in baseball history. John Thorn made note of the celebrated Boston infield, too, when I emailed him about Long. Interestingly, Long has the most errors in baseball history, though historian David Nemec told me that in Long’s era, any player who got a hand on a ball but didn’t make an out was charged with an error. Nemec also said that Long had more errors because he got to more balls due to his speed.
Long was celebrated during his lifetime, too. While he was dying of tuberculosis in the summer of 1909, one Kansas newspaper wrote of him as having been regarded as the greatest shortstop in baseball. A 1911 piece in the Arizona Republican, two years after Long’s death, noted:
In every one of the championship years, Herman Long was a prop. Some justice would seem to suggest that much of the credit for the record wins belongs to the memory of Herman Long. Memory, in this instance, is unfortunately accurate, Herman being no longer with those who run the bases and kill the hits. While he lasted, however, there was none beside him, and when he went to Boston from the west he carried with him his wonderful gifts of fielding, of hitting, of base-running and of generalship, and thus became a permanent sensation of which the Boston team and the Boston fans were justly proud, and in whose achievements sportdom [sic] generally was interested.
It’s odd Long never again figured prominently in a Hall of Fame election after 1936. But as much as anything, Hall of Fame votes are a barometer of opinion and how it shifts over time. By 1943, Wagner spoke of Hughie Jennings as the best shortstop in baseball history. While he said Long and Bobby Wallace were “a couple other dandy old-time shortstops… they didn’t quite come up to Jennings.” Jennings and 20 others were enshrined by a special Old Timers Committee between 1945 and 1946. A 79-year-old Wallace was enshrined by the Veterans Committee in 1953.”I’d rather have Long on my team in his prime than Wallace,” Nemec said. “I’d also rather have him than Hughie Jennings.”
Fellow baseball history blogger Verdun2 has been conducting an experiment over at his site, creating a Hall of Fame based on information available from 1901-1910. “I submit it would be quite different,” he writes of his Hall. Indeed. No one talks much about Herman Long anymore, but if the Hall of Fame had existed when he last played in the majors in 1904 or if the voting process had been better established in the 1930s and ’40s, he might long since have his plaque.
Voting results for this year’s Veterans Committee were announced today, with no one being voted in. I tweeted beforehand that I didn’t expect any players to be enshrined through the committee, and I can’t say I’m surprised by how voting came out.
Here’s why I wasn’t surprised:
1. There weren’t enough voters on the Veterans Committee: This latest iteration of the committee had 16 members which, given Cooperstown’s history, makes little sense. Some of the worst Veterans Committee selections came when people like Frankie Frisch and Bill Terry wielded great influence over small versions of the committee in the 1970s. Consider that with 75 percent of the vote needed for induction, five voters for this Veterans Committee had the power to keep anyone from being inducted. While I’m not suggesting it happened, it’s not difficult for five people to unite and push their own agenda. It’s a lot more difficult for 50 people to do this, 500 more so.
2. There were too many candidates: Once or twice a year, I organize projects here where I have people vote on a variety of topics, from the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame to the 25 most important people in baseball history. One thing I’ve learned in doing these projects is that candidates tend to get more votes if I put them on the ballot, maybe three or four times as many votes than if they’re just write-in options. There’s something about having a name on a ballot that spurs a voter to think of it. Fewer candidates concentrate the vote totals more. This year’s Veterans Committee ballot featured nine players, with two– Dick Allen and Tony Oliva– falling one vote shy. I assume that if there’d been fewer candidates to choose from, Allen and Oliva might have gotten in.
3. There wasn’t enough incentive to vote for any players right now: This is most important. Give me a minute, and I’ll explain why.
As a fan of a big Hall of Fame, I have no problem with anyone from this Veterans Committee ballot being in the Hall of Fame. Allen is the best player from the 1960s who isn’t enshrined. Oliva is one of the best contact hitters not in. Minnie Minoso and Billy Pierce rank with Allen among the most underrated players in baseball history. Luis Tiant and Jim Kaat are two of the best pitchers not in. Ken Boyer is at least a poor man’s Ron Santo. Maury Wills broke Ty Cobb’s single season stolen base record. And Gil Hodges is a sentimental favorite.
That said, none of these players would rank as inner circle Hall of Famers if enshrined. While they all have their supporters– easier than ever to find in the age of the Internet– these players are mostly a collection of second and third-tier candidates, if that. The Hall of Fame is not glaringly worse for their absence, and some purists might argue they’d dilute the quality of honorees. From the standpoint of a cost benefit analysis, the benefit gained from preserving the exclusivity of the Hall far outweighs the goodwill generated by putting any of these players in, at least for now. Since the early 1980s, the Veterans Committee has tended to vote conservatively for this reason. No one, I’d guess, wants to be blamed for enshrining the next Dave Bancroft.
It’s sad, but it generally takes one of three things, I think, to get people into the Hall of Fame through the Veterans Committee these days:
- A good showing on the BBWAA ballot [e.g. Jim Bunning, who rose as high as 74.2 percent of the writers vote]
- Years and years of well-publicized rejections from the committee [e.g. Phil Rizzuto, who finally got in Cooperstown in 1994 at age 76]
- Sympathy generated by death [e.g. Santo and at least a few others]
That said, even if one of these factors is in play, the Veterans Committee can still generally be counted on to vote skittishly. And that’s unfortunate.
As someone who writes often about the Hall of Fame, I’m accustomed to readers asking about the worst players in Cooperstown. I generally shy away from writing about this. One of the benefits of independent blogging is the control one has over their writing topics and I generally prefer to focus on more positive subject matter. I’ll admit it, too. As someone who’s grown more in favor of a large Hall of Fame through five years of researching and writing about baseball history through this website, I also am not hugely motivated to decry a few lousy players being in. I’d rather focus on worthy players who aren’t yet enshrined.
That said, as anyone who’s been around this site awhile may know, others here have written about this topic before. Recently with the help of the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool, I took another look. I found 20 Hall of Famers who rank for one stat, Wins Above Average as the worst players enshrined. While I wouldn’t suggest any stat offers definitive proof in this regard, the results here struck me. A lot of these players are the usual candidates in these exercises.
Here’s what I found:
Lowest Wins Above Average, Hall of Fame position players
- Lloyd Waner, -2.1 WAA in 1,993 games
- Tommy McCarthy, 0.2 WAA in 1,273 games
- Ray Schalk, 4.5 WAA in 1,762 games
- High Pockets Kelly, 4.5 WAA in 1,623 games
- Bill Mazeroski, 4.7 WAA in 2,163 games
- Rick Ferrell, 5.9 WAA in 1,884 games
- Rabbit Maranville, 7.6 WAA in 2,670 games
- Lou Brock, 8.2 WAA in 2,616 games
- Red Schoendienst, 8.4 WAA in 2,216 games
- Jim Bottomley, 9 WAA in 1,991 games
Some of the usual suspects abound here. Bill James, among others, has suggested Tommy McCarthy may be the worst Hall of Famer. People sometimes defend Bill Mazeroski’s selection by saying he did more than hit the winning homer in the 1960 World Series, that he was a great defensive second baseman as well. But he’s one of the worst hitters enshrined. By sabermetrics, Mazeroski’s bat more or less offsets his glove, with Mazeroski saving 147 defensive runs above average but being worth -162 runs below average at the plate. That’s third-worst among Hall of Fame position players behind Maranville at -228 runs below average and Luis Aparicio at -197 runs below average.
Voting shenanigans helped get at least three of the position players above their plaques. The Veterans Committee may have enshrined Rick Ferrell in 1984 after a sympathetic player called several members in hopes of keeping Ferrell from being shut out in votes. I’ve heard Ted Williams and Stan Musial, while on the committee, made a deal for their respective ex-teammates Bobby Doerr and Red Schoendienst to be enshrined. Then there’s High Pockets Kelly, who essentially got in because ex-teammates Frankie Frisch and Bill Terry were members of the 1973 Veterans Committee.
Frisch, notorious for looking down on later-generation players, said Kelly “had a better arm than any of today’s stars.” Another member of the Veterans Committee that voted Kelly in, Waite Hoyt, said Kelly was the first first baseman sent to the outfield to relay throws to home plate. Bad Hall of Famers are sometimes defended as the first of something. Tommy McCarthy is said to have invented the hit and run play. My friend Jacob Pomrenke, a SABR member who researches the Black Sox, said Ray Schalk was the first catcher to backup first and third base on throws.
A few people made this list because of late declines. Lou Brock retired with 3,000 hits and the stolen base record, though he had -6.4 WAA over his final five seasons, dropping him within range here. Same goes for Maranville, who was worth -9.2 WAA over his final 10 seasons, though interestingly, he received MVP votes five of those years. Then there’s Jim Bottomley. It’s been said Branch Rickey had a knack for knowing when to sell off aging players. Bottomley had 15 WAA when Rickey traded the 32-year-old first baseman in December 1932. Bottomley compiled -5.9 WAA thereafter.
Lowest Wins Above Average, Hall of Fame pitchers
- Catfish Hunter, 5.8 WAA in 3,449.1 IP
- Rollie Fingers, 7 WAA in 1,701.1 IP
- Rube Marquard, 8.8 WAA in 3,306.2 IP
- Herb Pennock, 9.4 WAA in 3,571.2 IP
- Jesse Haines, 10.3 WAA in 3,208.2 IP
- Bruce Sutter, 10.8 WAA in 1,042 IP
- Burleigh Grimes, 14.2 WAA in 4,180 IP
- Red Ruffing, 15.1 WAA in 4,344 IP
- Bob Lemon, 15.1 WAA in 2,850 IP
- Jack Chesbro, 16 WAA in 2,896.2 IP
It’s interesting to see Catfish Hunter atop this list, as he had an MLB-best 111 wins from 1971 through 1975 with a 2.65 ERA and 294 innings a year on average during that span. Hunter’s heavy workload was his undoing, as it was for many pitchers in the ’70s when usage rates for starters reached their highest point since the Deadball Era. [One example, per the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool: No pitcher has faced 1,200 batters in a season since Charlie Hough in 1987; it happened 63 times during the ’70s.] Hunter’s low WAA is partly because he threw his last pitch at 33. My friend Adam Darowski also said Hunter’s WAA is lower because he had elite defenses in Oakland and New York.
Most of the other starting pitchers here, in fact, were part of marquee teams as well. Herb Pennock and Red Ruffing both pitched extensively for the Murderers Row-era New York Yankees. Jesse Haines was a teammate of Frankie Frisch on the Gashouse Gang St. Louis Cardinals and, like Kelly, got into Cooperstown during Frisch’s Veterans Committee tenure. Bob Lemon won 20 games seven of his 13 seasons, though that’s partly because his team, the Cleveland Indians finished second or better seven times during his career.
Rube Marquard was key to the New York Giants during their pennant runs of the early 1910s, though the day the Veterans Committee voted him in might be the darkest in Hall of Fame history. I wrote last week of how the committee, led by Frisch railroaded in Marquard and six other players on January 31, 1971. Marquard wasn’t a former teammate of Frisch but he had no business getting a plaque and his selection reeks of cronyism. Aside from his splendid 1911-13 run, Marquard was rarely more than a journeyman, being worth -1.7 WAA with a 128-149 record his other 15 seasons. His 103 ERA+ is the worst of any Hall of Fame pitcher.
That being said, I’m not in favor of kicking anyone out. I wrote as much in noting the circumstances of Marquard’s enshrinement, saying it’d be cruel to remove anyone from Cooperstown and that there are worse things in life than a few lousy players being enshrined. I sent a link to my piece on to Fox Sports columnist Rob Neyer, hoping he’d pick it up. He did, even mentioning me by name in his piece, though it wasn’t the most flattering note. Rob wrote:
Yes, of course there are worse things in life. There are LOTS AND LOTS of worse things in life. There are worse things in life than someone spitting on the sidewalk. That doesn’t mean we should excuse spitting on the sidewalk.
More to the point, how would it be cruel to kick Rube Marquard out of the Hall of Fame? He died almost 25 years ago. Whatever you might think of our postmortem fates, it seems highly unlikely that today ol’ Rube gives a damn about the Hall of Fame, one way or the other. His grandchildren? Okay, sure. But I really don’t think it’s our place to worry about an old ballplayer’s grandkids, who should be old enough by now to take something like this in stride. I certainly wouldn’t be averse to some procedure that reconsidered long-dead Hall of Famers. Or hell, at the very least, revising their plaques (and their Web pages) when they’re clearly in error.
I like Rob’s idea to revise error-ridden Hall of Fame plaques. He wrote his piece primarily about the errors on Alexander Cartwright’s plaque that perpetuate the myth he’s baseball’s true founder and that he codified its rules. Knowledgeable folks like John Thorn have long since debunked these myths, but so long as they’re hanging in the Hall of Fame and easily accessible on its website, I imagine people will keep laying hold of them. It certainly caused a stir in the comments when readers here recently declined to name Cartwright one of the 25 most important people in baseball history.
I have a harder time supporting removing players from Cooperstown, for a number of reasons. Speaking as someone who’s gotten comments here from relatives of High Pockets Kelly, the Meusel Brothers and others, family members do care and what’s wrong with that? I also think the removals could quickly get out of control. This Los Angeles Times piece in support of the idea reads as if written by someone traipsing through Baseball-Reference.com, picking players at random. I love Baseball-Reference.com, but snap judgments might be the worst thing that website enables, even if I doubt its founder Sean Forman has that intent.
I have two other reasons for not wanting to kick players out of Cooperstown and they’re the same two reasons I’m okay with steroid users eventually being enshrined. First, nothing in life is perfect. I don’t see the point in demanding this of the Hall of Fame. It’s still an awesome museum, one I haven’t been to since childhood and can’t wait to see again. Beyond this, much as I consider the Hall of Fame a celebration of baseball’s greatest players, I see it as a record of its history, all of it. And baseball’s history includes the history of Cooperstown. Letting players who never should have been enshrined keep their plaques serves a valuable purpose. It reminds voters to do better in the future.
A healthy compromise might be to develop an inner circle for the Hall of Fame. I had readers vote on a 50-player inner circle a few years ago that could offer a good start. Cooperstown could even make annual updates, perhaps voted on by fans to stir interest, allowing the inner circle to become progressively greater as more legends are enshrined. If the Hall of Fame wants my help on developing this further, I’ll provide it free of charge.
I wrote a few days ago that the Hall of Fame doesn’t have a great track record of honoring aging players. This was prompted by the Veterans Committee candidacy of Minnie Minoso who, depending on the source, is anywhere from 88 to 92. Even if Minoso’s listed birthday on Baseball-Reference.com of November 29, 1925 is correct, placing him just shy of his 89th birthday, he’d be the oldest living honoree ever for Cooperstown at the time of getting in, if it happens.
With the help of Baseball-Reference.com which lists the life spans of all Hall of Famers, here are the 10 oldest Hall of Famers at the time they were voted in:
1. Elmer Flick at 87 years, 16 days old on January 27, 1963
I’ve written before of Flick, a Deadball Era great nearly traded for a young Ty Cobb in 1907. Detroit lucked out on that one, as Flick contracted a stomach ailment that ended his career in 1910. All but forgotten by Cooperstown thereafter, save for one vote from the BBWAA in 1938, Flick was stunned when the Veterans Committee honored him. As my Twitter friend Vince Guerrieri told me, Flick thought Branch Rickey was fooling when he called to congratulate him. “I can’t believe it,” Flick said. “I had given up all hope. When Sam Crawford was voted in [in 1957], he sent me a letter and said he couldn’t see how he was getting in before me.”
2. Ed Barrow at 85 years, four months and 18 days old on September 28, 1953
Being voted into the Hall of Fame is valedictory. As a reader recently pointed out to me, excluding HOF players serving as coaches, only Connie Mack continued to work at the job that got him into Cooperstown after his induction. Legendary executive Ed Barrow worked for the New York Yankees until he was 77. But by the time the Veterans Committee selected Barrow in 1953, he’d been in ill health for many years and was about two months from dying. Barrow was posthumously inducted in August 1954, one of four Hall of Famers I know of besides Chief Bender, Eppa Rixey and Leon Day to die between being voted in and the next induction ceremony.
3. Rube Marquard at 84 years, three months and 22 days old on January 31, 1971
I hear proponents of a small Hall of Fame talk of kicking honorees out. I imagine they could start with Marquard, who got his plaque partly because he was featured in Lawrence Ritter’s 1966 book, The Glory of Their Times and partly because the Veterans Committee railroaded in seven new members the day it voted Marquard in. January 31, 1971 may rank as one of the most ethically-bankrupt days in Hall of Fame history. It reminds me of the danger when small groups– this iteration of the Veterans Committee had ten members— are given a lot of power. It’s one of the reasons I try to have as many people as I can vote in projects here.
But I think of how happy the news made Marquard, who was on a cruise at the time. He wrote to Ritter, who shared the letter in a preface to a 1984 edition of his classic. Marquard wrote:
I was the happiest and most surprised man in the world when I heard your voice yesterday telling me I was voted into the Hall of Fame. The reason I didn’t say anything for so long was that I couldn’t. I was all choked up and tears were running down my cheeks.
Yesterday evening, a few hours after you called, everybody was dancing and having a good time and suddenly the Captain of the ship stopped the music and said he wanted to make an important announcement. He said they had a very prominent man on board who had just been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His name is Rube Marquard and he is right here dancing with his wife.
Well, all hell broke loose, people yelling and clapping, and the band played ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game.’ I was so happy and Jane just loved it too. When we go to Cooperstown this summer, please come with us and be my guest.
It’s hard, at least for me, to stay angry reading a letter like that. There are worse things in life than a few undeserving people being in the Hall of Fame, especially with all the joy the living ones must have felt when they got that call and later stood on the Cooperstown dais. I’m certainly not in favor of kicking anyone out. It seems cruel. It also seems pointless. Wipe the slate clean on the Hall of Fame and there’d be a lousy honoree within 10-15 years.
4. Happy Chandler at 83 years, seven months and 24 days old on March 10, 1982
Bowie Kuhn may rank as one of the more reviled figures in MLB history, baseball’s commissioner while Marvin Miller was leading the successful charge to take down the reserve clause. Here’s one thing Kuhn got right: leading the campaign to honor Chandler, who was commissioner at the time Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. That may seem insignificant, though the man Chandler succeeded, Kenesaw Mountain Landis did much to keep blacks out of the majors.
5. Harry Hooper at 83 years, five months and seven days old on January 31, 1971
Like Marquard, Hooper was interviewed for The Glory of Their Times and got in the day the Veterans Committee gave out plaques like it was going out of business. Hooper might be a slightly more deserving pick, having played in arguably the best defensive outfield of the Deadball Era with Tris Speaker and Duffy Lewis on the Boston Red Sox. My friend through the Society for American Baseball Research, Jacob Pomrenke told me a few months ago that one of Hooper’s sons campaigned heavily for his induction.
6. Tommy Connolly at 82 years, eight months and 28 days old on September 28, 1953
Longtime sportswriter Joe Williams wrote of Connolly, a few months before the Veterans Committee tabbed him, as the lone surviving member of the original American League staff. An umpire as well as a teacher and supervisor for other umps, Connolly’s career spanned 60-plus years. He worked the first World Series in 1903, at a time when umpires got $50 a game and paid their own travel expenses.
7. Lee MacPhail at 80 years, four months and six days old on March 3, 1998
Weird fact about MacPhail: The former American League president was on the board of directors for the Hall of Fame nearly a quarter century before he got his plaque. In the interim in 1978, his father Larry MacPhail, a groundbreaking executive was posthumously enshrined.
8. Bobby Wallace at 79 years, 10 months and 24 days old on September 28, 1953
Why Wallace and not his contemporary Bill Dahlen? Statistically, the two Deadball Era infielders are roughly equal: 110 OPS+ for Dahlen, 103 for Wallace; 139 defensive runs saved for Dahlen, 133 for Wallace. For stats that may have meant something to Veterans Committee voters at the time, Dahlen bested Wallace .272 to .268 in batting average, 2,461 to 2,309 in hits and 8,138 to 7,465 in assists, though he had more errors, 975 to 814.
Perhaps the Veterans Committee wanted to honor the living. While Dahlen died in 1950 after several years in retirement, Wallace scouted for the Reds into the early 1950s. Three of the other five men the Veterans Committee selected in 1953 were also still alive. Ironically though, none of the four attended the subsequent induction ceremony in 1954. Ed Barrow and Chief Bender died in the interim, while Wallace and Tommy Connolly were too ill to attend.
9. Dave Bancroft at 79 years, nine months and 11 days old on January 31, 1971
Bancroft’s defenders sometimes speak of him as a defensive wizard. This may be an exaggeration. According to the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool, Bancroft ranks 30th all-time among shortstops with 93 defensive runs saved above average. Among the 18 non-Hall of Famers ranked in front of him for this stat: Bill Dahlen, Jack Glasscock and Art Fletcher, all of whom had better bats. As has been widely noted, Bancroft’s former teammate Frankie Frisch was on the ten-member Veterans Committee that voted him in, as was Bill Terry.
10. Doug Harvey at 79 years, eight months and 24 days old on December 7, 2009
Harvey’s page at the Hall of Fame website lists him as the ninth umpire enshrined, with Hank O’Day bringing the number to 10 in 2013. “This much is indisputable,” Hal Bodley wrote for USA Today upon Harvey’s retirement in 1992. “Harvey is one of the best umpires the game has seen. He’s a Hall of Famer, period.” It’s a wonder it took another 17 years for Harvey to get his plaque.
With Hall of Fame voting season upon us, a couple of friends from Twitter have incorporated Minnie Minoso into their usernames. The American League and Negro League star is one of 10 nominees being considered by the Veterans Committee. Results will be announced December 8, though I’m not hugely optimistic for Minoso. While I think he belongs and will eventually get in, the Hall of Fame doesn’t have a great track record honoring aging players, with death too often the impetus for a player being enshrined. My fear is that it will take guilt over Minoso’s death for him to get in. It happened with Ron Santo and it’s occurred a number of other times as well.
With the help of Baseball Reference, which has a nifty feature showing birth and death years of all Hall of Fame honorees, I looked at the 20 people who’ve been inducted within three years of death. Hall of Fame candidates have regularly received renewed attention after dying. Arguably, death has even gotten a few people enshrined.
The 20 people inducted within three years of death are as follows:
- George Wright, inducted 1937: A baseball pioneer, Wright died August 21, 1937 at age 90 and was selected to the Hall of Fame on December 7 of that year by the Centennial Commission. His brother Harry Wright wasn’t inducted until 1953 by the Veterans Committee.
- John McGraw, inducted 1937: The legendary manager died in 1934 and was selected in 1937 by the Veterans Committee, the committee’s only selection until 1953.
- Kenesaw Mountain Landis, inducted 1944: The first MLB commissioner was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame on December 10, 1944, just 15 days after his death.
- Jimmy Collins, inducted 1945: Bob Stedler, sports editor of the Buffalo [N.Y.] Evening News began a campaign for Buffalo native Collins’ induction two months before his death in March 1943. An AP story on the campaign noted, “In the opinion of Stedler, who has been writing sports for four decades, the comparative youngsters who are now writing baseball and whose votes select the stars for places in [Cooperstown] should have someone call their attention to the merits of a standout whom they never saw.” A special Old Timers Committee enshrined Collins and 20 others between 1945 and 1946.
- Roger Bresnahan, inducted 1945: Similar with Collins, the Old Timers Committee selected Bresnahan in January 1945, shortly after his death on December 4, 1944. The Associated Press said both men stood “the best chance to enter the charmed circle this time. Their deaths within the past year have focused fans’ attention on them and their historic diamond exploits.” Bill James noted that Bresnahan’s help in devoloping catcher shin guards also helped get him in Cooperstown.
- Herb Pennock, inducted 1948: Pennock received Hall of Fame votes seven years between 1937 and 1947, rising to 53.4 percent of the BBWAA vote in 1947. He was voted into Cooperstown just four weeks after his sudden death at 53 on January 30, 1948. An ace pitcher during the Yankees Murderers Row years, Pennock may rate as one of the least impressive Hall of Fame selections for sabermetrics, with a 106 ERA+ and 44.1 WAR.
- Three Finger Brown, inducted 1949: Somehow, the Old Timers Committee missed Brown in its mass of inductions between 1945 and 1946. Shortly after Brown died in February 1948, Grantland Rice wrote, “Certainly, a group of stars that doesn’t carry the names of Mordecai ‘Three Finger’ Brown and Kid Nichols can’t be called complete.” The committee made Brown and Nichols its final two selections in 1949.
- Harry Heilmann, inducted 1952: A .342 lifetime hitter, Heilmann figured in 12 Hall of Fame elections between 1937 and 1951, rising to 67.7 percent of the vote in 1951. Usually, anyone who gets at least 60 percent but less than the necessary 75 percent of the vote with the writers will be enshrined not long thereafter. After Heilmann was diagnosed with cancer later in 1951, three newspaper writers organized a push to get him immediately honored by the Veterans Committee. Though that failed, with Heilmann dying on July 9 at 56, the BBWAA inducted him the following year with 86.8 percent of the vote.
- Bill Klem, inducted 1953: Perhaps as compensation for not honoring Heilmann, the Veterans Committee selected six people on September 28, 1953, the most people it’s enshrined in one year aside from 1971. Klem, who died in 1951 and ranks as perhaps the most well-known umpire in baseball history, got in. So did ailing, 84-year-old Ed Barrow, the longtime Yankees executive, who would die December 15. It’s worth noting that prior to 1953, the committee had only enshrined one person, McGraw, in 1937 so maybe it was itching to get some deserving candidates in.
- Rabbit Maranville, inducted 1954: The Deadball Era shortstop and hero of the 1914 Boston Braves had steadily gained in votes through 13 years of Hall of Fame elections, rising to 62.1 percent of the vote in 1953. Like Heilmann, I think Maranville would have eventually gotten in regardless of his death. That said, Maranville has one of the shortest windows between death and induction of any Hall of Famer. He died January 5, 1954 and was elected by the BBWAA with 82.9 percent of the vote on January 21. Grantland Rice wrote in a column that ran January 15 calling for Maranville’s induction, “[Johnny] Evers is in the Hall of Fame. [Joe] Tinker is in the Hall of Fame. I hope The Rabbit is on his way to the same place. You can’t leave that much heart out and call it a Hall of Fame.”
- Eppa Rixey, inducted 1963: Notified of his Hall of Fame induction on January 27, 1963, Rixey died a month later of a heart attack at 71 and was posthumously inducted in August.
- Branch Rickey, inducted 1967: Groundbreaking executive, died in 1965.
- Will Harridge, inducted 1972: American President 1931-59, died in 1971.
- Roberto Clemente, inducted 1973: Died New Years Eve 1972, standard five-year waiting period waved so he could be inducted.
- Larry MacPhail, inducted 1978: Among the better general managers in baseball history, died in 1975.
- Warren Giles, inducted 1979: National League president 1951-69, died February 7, 1979, selected by the Veterans Committee on March 7 of that year.
- Leo Durocher, inducted 1994: It’s a wonder it took Leo the Lip as long as it did to get in Cooperstown. Durocher, who died in 1991, ranks fifth all-time among managers with 2,009 wins and was instrumental in helping a young Willie Mays find his place in baseball. Then again, the Hall of Fame is fairly fickle with managers, with just 23 enshrined.
- Leon Day, inducted 1995: Adam Penale told me on Twitter that Day, a star of the Negro League learned of his Hall of Fame selection just six days before his death in March 1995.Day’s SABR bio has more. Reached at his hospital bed, Day said, “I thought this day would never come. I’m feeling pretty good. I’m so happy, I don’t know what to do.” Day was posthumously inducted in the summer.
- Bowie Kuhn, inducted 2008: MLB commissioner 1969-84, died in 2007.
- Ron Santo, inducted 2012: Joe Posnanski wrote shortly after Santo’s death in December 2010, “The structure and standards of the committee changed so that in the last 10 or more years the Veteran’s Committee has turned into a grumpy bunch of scrooges who seemed to come out once a year for the expressed purpose of not voting for Ron Santo or Marvin Miller.” The sub-committee handling Santo’s era voted him in at its next meeting in December 2011.
Someone asked me at work this morning who I see winning Game 7 of the World Series this evening. It’s a tough call. On one hand, I’ve been a Giants’ fan since first grade. Even my girlfriend, a devout A’s fan, hasn’t broken me of this. But I’ll admit my girlfriend and I didn’t make it through all of last night’s game. We’re big fans of the F/X series “Sons of Anarchy” and while the sixth season, which was just added to Netflix, has thus far been relentlessly downtrodden, it was a more appealing option than watching the Royals expand the 8-0 lead they took in the third inning last night.
Based on Tuesday’s game and the fact that no road team has won a World Series Game 7 since 1979, my gut says Kansas City will prevail this evening. And I don’t know if that bothers me too much. While the Giants have two titles from the past five seasons, “Back to the Future” was in theaters the last time the Royals won anything. I always like a good underdog story. But there’s a good thing that could happen if the Giants win tonight: Tim Hudson might cement his Hall of Fame candidacy.
In sabermetric circles, I suspect Hudson already seems destined for Cooperstown. According to the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool, Hudson’s lifetime 56.9 WAR is second-best among active pitchers, behind Mark Buehrle. Hudson bests Buehrle for FIP, 3.75 to 4.10 and ERA+ as well, 122 to 117. According to the Play Index tool, Hudson is also one of 13 pitchers who have at least 200 wins and a 120 ERA+ but aren’t enshrined. I suspect the majority of these pitchers will be inducted over the next 10-20 years. In alphabetical order, they are:
- Kevin Brown, 211 wins, 127 ERA+
- Bob Caruthers, 211 wins, 122 ERA+
- Eddie Cicotte, 209 wins, 123 ERA+
- Roger Clemens, 354 wins, 143 ERA+
- Roy Halladay, 203 wins, 131 ERA+
- Tim Hudson, 214 wins, 122 ERA+
- Randy Johnson, 303 wins, 135 ERA+
- Silver King, 203 wins, 121 ERA+
- Pedro Martinez, 219 wins, 154 ERA+
- Mike Mussina, 270 wins, 123 ERA+
- Curt Schilling, 216 wins, 127 ERA+
- John Smoltz, 213 wins, 125 ERA+
- Will White, 229 wins, 121 ERA+
But sabermetrics has only recently entered into consideration for some Hall of Fame voters [with many other voters still rejecting it] and even by advanced metrics, Hudson doesn’t look anything like the lock Bert Blyleven was for Cooperstown. For WAR and ERA+, Hudson ranks as something like his generation’s version of Billy Pierce, maybe one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball history by sabermetrics but a distant Veterans Committee candidate today. Much as some of my friends in baseball research may protest, I fear Hudson is destined to be historically underrated as well. It’s why I didn’t recently predict Hudson being inducted in the next 20 years.
A memorable outing from Hudson tonight could change this. A memorable postseason performance can make a good but generally not great player a viable Hall of Fame candidate. Just ask Bill Mazeroski or Jack Morris. While much talk in the media today has centered around how much Madison Bumgarner may pitch in relief on three day’s rest, I’d like to think the 39-year-old Hudson has something special in store.
In his seminal 1994 book The Politics of Glory, later retitled Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?, Bill James memorably predicted 25 years worth of Hall of Fame inductees. It’s fun to go back now and see where James was spot-on and where he absolutely whiffed [Ruben Sierra, anyone?]
In the same spirit, I spent a few hours today coming up with some predictions of my own. The next 20 years of the Hall of Fame ballot, particularly the next decade look like a mess, but I figured someone ought to make sense of it looking forward.
I’ll preface this by saying I made my picks assuming the Veterans Committee will keep its current election structure, having three sub-committees for different eras that rotate with one sub-committee getting to vote each year. I wouldn’t be surprised if this voting structure is tweaked in the next decade, as Veterans Committee processes change often, though I have no idea what the new voting practice will be. I also think the players I suggested have a good shot of going in regardless of when the Veterans Committee allows them to be voted on.
One other thing– I didn’t mess around predicting managers, executives or Negro League selections [though I’d like to see Buck O’Neil and Double Duty Radcliffe enshrined at some point.] That’s for another post.
Anyhow, without further adieu, here is who I see going into the Hall of Fame over the next 20 years:
2015: Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson in their first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Craig Biggio in his third year of eligibility
2016: Ken Griffey Jr. in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; John Smoltz in his second year of eligibility; Mike Piazza in his fourth year of eligibility; Bill Dahlen through the Veterans Committee
2017: Trevor Hoffman in his second year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Jeff Bagwell in his seventh year of eligibility; Jack Morris through the Veterans Committee
2018: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome in their first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Minnie Minoso through the Veterans Committee
2019: Mariano Rivera in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Curt Schilling in his seventh year of eligibility; Jack Glasscock through the Veterans Committee
2020: Derek Jeter in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Mike Mussina in his seventh year of eligibility; Alan Trammell through the Veterans Committee
2021: Ichiro Suzuki in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Omar Vizquel in his fourth year of eligibility; Dick Allen through the Veterans Committee
2022: Roy Halladay in his fourth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Jim McCormick through the Veterans Committee
2023: Todd Helton in his fifth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Tommy John through the Veterans Committee; a newly-appointed Steroid Era Committee will enshrine strongly-suspected or confirmed PED users whose eligibility with the BBWAA has expired, namely Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. It’s lame it might take another decade to begin to resolve the steroid mess on the Cooperstown ballot, but I don’t see it happening sooner. There isn’t huge incentive to take drastic action, for three reasons:
1. This year’s selections of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas showed that top-tier clean candidates can be enshrined their first year of eligibility even with suspected and admitted steroid users clogging the writers ballot.
2. I don’t see the Hall of Fame and Veterans Committee overstepping the authority it’s granted the BBWAA beyond the Hall’s recent move to shorten the window of eligibility for players on the writers ballot from 15 years to 10.
3. It’s not like players stop being eligible altogether for Cooperstown under current voting rules. It’s perfectly logical that the Hall of Fame will allow more time– as much as it deems necessary and then some– for emotions to settle from this period in baseball history before deciding how to honor it.
2024: Vlad Guerrero in his eighth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Billy Wagner in his ninth year of eligibility; Jim Kaat through the Veterans Committee
2025: Jimmy Rollins in his second year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Andruw Jones in his eighth year of eligibility; Harry Stovey through the Veterans Committee
2026: Albert Pujols in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Tim Raines through the Veterans Committee
2027: Yadier Molina in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Adrian Beltre in his third year of eligibility
2028: Joe Mauer in his third year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Tony Mullane through the Veterans Committee
2029: Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander in their first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Lee Smith through the Veterans Committee
2030: Robinson Cano in his second year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Dustin Pedroia in his third year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Luis Tiant through the Veterans Committee
2031: Jose Reyes and Jered Weaver in their third year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Pete Browning through the Veterans Committee; another meeting of the Steroid Era Committee will enshrine Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Rodriguez and David Ortiz
2032: Andrew McCutchen in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Edgar Martinez through the Veterans Committee
2033: David Wright in his fifth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Pete Rose, in a sympathy vote from the Veterans Committee shortly after his death
2034: Felix Hernandez in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Paul Goldschmidt in his second year of eligibility
Did I miss anyone? Let me know…
Will get in sometime after 2034, but not too long: Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Craig Kimbrel
Wouldn’t mind seeing these guys go in, but it seems unlikely in this timeframe: Carlos Beltran, Ken Boyer, Will Clark, Jim Edmonds, Dwight Evans, Bobby Grich, Keith Hernandez, Gil Hodges, Tim Hudson, Jeff Kent, Kenny Lofton, Evan Longoria, Dale Murphy, Graig Nettles, Tony Oliva, Dave Parker, Scott Rolen, Bret Saberhagen, Johan Santana, Ted Simmons, Cecil Travis, Chase Utley, Larry Walker, Smoky Joe Wood
It’s one of the most star-packed Hall of Fame induction weekends ever. Tomorrow, three of the greatest players of this era as well as its three finest managers will be inducted. Record crowds, maybe 100,000 people, are expected in Cooperstown. It’s the kind of magical weekend that seemed so far away just a year ago when barely 10,000 people attended Hall of Fame weekend after the Baseball Writers Association of America refused to induct anyone off its ballot.
It seemed after last year’s vote that the process was broken, that the Hall of Fame ballot would remain forever glutted with players from the Steroid Era and that even top stars might not be able to secure first ballot induction. Personally, I’ve wanted drastic changes to the voting process, such as the establishment of a committee to handle Steroid Era candidates and an end to the rule that allows voters to select a maximum of 10 players even in years where more worthy candidates might be on the ballot. Those changes may still occur, but it won’t be anytime soon. Today, the Hall of Fame announced its first changes to voting since 1991: shortening a recently-retired player’s eligibility with the BBWAA from 15 years to 10 and having BBWAA members sign a registration form and code of conduct.
Disaster may be the greatest catalyst for change in life, and in a sense, I wanted that with Hall of Fame voting this year. I wanted the voting results to be such a quagmire that the BBWAA or Cooperstown would be forced to take immediate substantial action. But then, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were all voted in first ballot, and it became clear that top Hall of Fame candidates could make it through quickly, even with the current voting system. Several more of these inductees will follow in the next few years including Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Ken Griffey Jr.
Baseball has one of if not the most talked about Halls of Fames in sports. The reason for this is its exclusivity, with roughly 300 members and only 72 living ones after tomorrow. This weekend, the Hall of Fame is looking to preserving this. The announced changes in voting will make it harder for the likes of Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, and other arguably lesser greats to win induction, at least through the BBWAA, since six honorees have needed 11-15 years on the ballot to reach the needed 75 percent of votes. Tomorrow, a few irreproachable candidates will receive their plaques in front of a record crowd. We can expect more of the same in the immediate years to come.
For anyone who likes the Hall of Fame small, reserved for only the best of the best, this weekend is sweet vindication. For people like myself who would like to see Raines, Mussina, and Martinez receive their due now rather than 20 or 30 years on, today offers more of the same frustration of the past few years.
When I was in high school, there were a couple of local amateur meteorologists who claimed to have developed a system of predicting major snowstorms weeks in advance. They supposedly got seven correct in a row in virtual anonymity. So they landed a front-page newspaper article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, touting their success record, and predicting the next big blizzard: January 26, 1975. People circled their calendars and buzzed about it for weeks.
Then January 26 came, and it was 52° and rainy. As far as I know, that was the last anyone heard of the two meteorologists.
I thought of this many times as my Hall of Fame forecast reached print here last month, and went more-or-less viral. I’d been doing the forecasts for over 30 years – often in national publications like Baseball Digest, Sports Collectors Digest, and Sporting News – but usually just among a cult following of colleagues. I had a terrific track record, but I’d never gotten anything close to this much attention. Now here I was, being quoted by notable journalists around the country, and doing radio and TV interviews. I worried that this would be the year my forecast tanked.
And, unfortunately, I was right (about being wrong). My 2014 Hall of Fame election forecast was my worst ever.
As you know, I predicted that only Greg Maddux would make it to Cooperstown this year, while everyone else was saying there would be three to five inductees. Everyone else was right and I was wrong. Maddux of course made it, but so did Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, and Craig Biggio just missed. There have been years I guessed wrong on one inductee, but never two, and never by as much as I missed on Glavine: I predicted 66%, he got 92%. That’s plain ugly.
So, what went wrong? And should I just go the way of the two weathermen?
First of all, other than Glavine, Thomas (predicted 63%, actual 83%), Biggio (61-75), and Mike Mussina (7-20), my forecast was quite accurate. But that’s kinda like saying, except for the four games they lost, the Cardinals did well in the 2013 World Series.
Part of it was timing. I write my forecasts in October, three months before the announcement. When Bobby Cox was elected by the Veterans’ Committee in December, that no doubt gave Glavine a boost. Writers liked the idea of inducting three long-time Braves – Cox, Maddux, and Glavine – together. Then, my article was published in mid-December, about half-way through the balloting process. It’s possible it influenced some voters to use more of their voting slots.
Whatever the reason, the writers used an average of 8.39 votes per ballot this year. That’s after not going above 6.87 since 1986, even in years there was a big crop of worthy candidates. In 1999, for example, newcomers Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, and Carlton Fisk joined holdovers Tony Perez, Gary Carter, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, and Bert Blyleven, among others, on the slate – yet writers used an average of just 6.74 votes per ballot.
So I didn’t foresee this year’s 8.39, and I don’t see how anyone else could, either (though apparently everyone else did). I projected 7.5, which I thought was going out on a limb. If I knew it was going to reach 8.39, I probably would have predicted both Glavine and Thomas to make it, though not with the lofty percentages they actually received.
The bottom line is, I struck out this year. But that won’t stop me from getting back in the batters’ box this fall, hopefully having learned from my mistakes. I can only hope you’ll still be interested in reading it.
Editor’s note: I was elated to have Bill’s predictions exclusive to this website for a second straight year and I expected they would get some attention. I never expected this much. Per Google Analytics, more than 13,000 people visited Bill’s post, spending an average of four minutes, 55 seconds on it; and those are just the people who clicked through from the myriad of prominent websites Bill was mentioned on. Rather than list all of these websites here, one after the other, check out these search results. It was unreal.
I will say two things. First, based on the amount of traffic and the wealth of respected sites that took interest, as well as the timing of Bill’s post two weeks before Hall of Fame voting closed, I imagine it skewed results. Polemical as I can sometimes be, I’m not wild about this. I know from talking to Bill that it wasn’t his intent. That said, it was my decision to publish Bill’s post when I did, and I take full responsibility for any effect on voting it may have had.
Bill has a place at this website as long as he wants. He’s a good writer and has a research background that’s perfectly in-line for what we try to do here. Should Bill choose to return next year, we’ll publish his predictions after voting closes, which is generally about a week before results come out. I believe Bill’s 30-year track record of generally being spot-on in his predictions speaks for itself and that his methodology for making picks is solid. I consider this year aberrational and believe that next year, Bill’s predictions will be back on course.