More than three baseball people attended Ty Cobb’s funeral

Al Stump’s True magazine feature on Ty Cobb from 1961 ends with the famous, oft-cited line:

From all of major-league baseball, three men and three only appeared for his funeral.

Like many readers, I suppose, I used to place a lot of stock in Stump’s iconic feature, which led to the 1994 film, Cobb. I believed some of the story’s more outlandish claims, such as that Cobb had killed a would-be mugger in the street in 1912, hours before a game. As a researcher, offering blind belief without further investigation is something akin to heresy, but I did it. I’d like to think I’ve gotten better in the past few years, but there’s always room for more growth.

In a 1996 piece for National Pastime, SABR member Doug Roberts debunked Stump’s claim that Cobb had killed a personNearly five years ago, the rest of Stump’s fable was ripped apart in a landmark National Pastime article. While the article primarily focused on large-scale Cobb-related memorabilia fraud that Stump perpetuated after collaborating on an autobiography near the end of Cobb’s life, it’s inspired baseball historians left to reshape the narrative on the Georgia Peach since.

In a certain respect, Stump’s article is a bit of a boon for intrepid researchers. There’s so much wrong with it that it doesn’t take much work to find a distortion or outright fabrication. Take Stump’s assertion that only three people from the baseball world attended Cobb’s funeral.

Charles Leerhsen writes in an ambitious new biography released today from Simon & Schuster, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty:

Perhaps the single meanest lie told about Ty Cobb is that nobody came to his funeral– or even more heartbreaking, because it is more specific– that only three people did. This story started with Stump, who said that just three people from the world of professional baseball traveled to Royston for the service… In fact, there were very few baseball people there– just four– but that was because Charlie Cobb and her children had announced that it was a private service meant only for family and friends.

Leerhsen lists the four baseball people who attended Cobb’s funeral as Hall of Fame director Sid Keener and ex-players Ray Schalk, Mickey Cochrane and Nap Rucker.

There might have been others on-hand as well. A wire story from the day of Cobb’s funeral, July 19, 1961, noted, “Many of baseball’s biggest names are expected to be present for the funeral services which will be held here at 3 p.m. today.” The story listed 14 baseball notables to serve as honorary pallbearers. They were:

  • Cochrane
  • Keener
  • Home Run Baker
  • Sam Crawford
  • Joe Cronin
  • Charley Dressen
  • Ford Frick
  • Warren Giles
  • Fred Haney
  • Earl Mann
  • Muddy Ruel
  • J.G. Taylor Spink
  • Casey Stengel
  • Del Webb

While I don’t know if all of these pallbearers attended or observed their honors from afar– and at least one columnist wrote after Cobb’s funeral that only four MLB people were there– it’s clear that baseball and the rest of the world cared more about the Georgia Peach’s passing than Stump suggested.

The 1911 Tigers-Browns game that drew 66 fans

John Shea mentioned today in the San Francisco Chronicle that SABR’s Phil Lowry knew of a Major League Baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Browns from 1911 that drew just 66 fans. This rates a mention, of course, following Wednesday’s Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox game that was closed to the public and officially played to zero fans, a record.

One of the beauties of the Internet is the ability to quickly find accounts of obscure, long-ago games. After using Wikipedia and to determine that the game that Shea spoke of took place October 7, 1911, I located a couple of contemporary accounts of it via

It wasn’t much of a game really, a 1-0 victory by the visiting Tigers over the Browns. The game went just an hour and 35 minutes, with the two teams combining for 15 hits. Neither club had anything to play for with the Tigers in second place, far behind the future World Champion Philadelphia Athletics and the Browns putting the finishing touches on a 45-107, last-place season.

Official MLB historian John Thorn told multiple outlets this past week that the previous low attendance in big league history before Wednesday’s game was six fans for a contest between Troy and Worcester in 1882. The Baltimore Sun wrote more about that game a few days ago.

The Tigers-Browns game we speak of here may have had the American League record for low attendance prior to Wednesday. The Washington Post piece shown above reported the attendance as an AL record low and noted that “the day was raw.” It’s believed that inclement weather kept fans away.

The attendance figures weren’t conjecture, by the way. Both the Post and Chicago’s Inter Ocean reported that the numbers were “by actual count,” which I presume was possible for such a game. The figures came from an era of sports journalism, if it can be termed as such, where teams often either did not provide or grossly inflated their attendance, and reporters sometimes had to guess.

It’s worth noting that the game was without its marquee attraction. Ty Cobb, coming off one of his finest seasons with 248 hits and a .420 batting average, had the day off. [Cobb’s 1911 numbers put in historical context impress somewhat less; the American League used an enlivened ball in 1911, with average scoring per team jumping almost a full run from 1910.]

Cobb missed the following day’s season-ending doubleheader, too, when the Indianapolis Star reported, “Cold weather kept down the attendance [again] and the players most of whom were recruits, did not exert themselves.” That would’ve been a sight to see, but perhaps I’m in the minority here.

There’s maybe one other thing worth a mention. Jimmy Austin, who would be interviewed a half century later for The Glory of Their Times, was in St. Louis’s starting lineup on October 7. I glanced at Austin’s chapter in the book and found no mention of this game. If anyone knows of further accounts of this game elsewhere, don’t be shy.

Why I’m rooting for Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton is quickly becoming a historical footnote. Following Hamilton’s trade back to the Texas Rangers on Monday, Jayson Stark wrote yesterday that Hamilton’s $125 million free agent deal with the the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim might be worst in baseball history. That may be so. Certainly, the Angels’ $110 million in sunk costs for Hamilton’s 2.9 Wins Above Replacement with the team has to be among the most wasteful deals ever.

At this point, it seems unlikely Hamilton will return to All Star form, no sure thing he’ll even be an average outfielder again, and a fairly decent bet he’ll be out the majors altogether within a few years. Hamilton is aging, injury-riddled, and by now, his drug and alcohol problems are long since established. He lost three full seasons in the minors to drugs and has had multiple relapses since getting clean, including one just a few months ago.

As a writer and researcher, I’m often fairly detached with baseball, though I’ve rooted for Hamilton since he debuted in the majors in 2007. I like a good underdog story. More than this, I can relate to Hamilton, and I know a little about his struggle. It’s been nearly a decade since my last drink at age 22. I’m part of a small percentage who’s been able to stay sober since I quit drinking. For many, if not most people, relapse is a part of recovery.

I got lucky and got a second chance in life. Hamilton did as well, and that’s part of his story that sometimes irks me when I see others write about it. No matter what Hamilton does the rest of his career, the guy has been a miracle in my book. The greatest drug and alcohol tragedies in baseball history are the players we never hear of, whose careers implode long before they would ever reach the majors. God only knows how many of these players there have been.

I say this as someone who watched way more people than I can remember come in and out of recovery meetings. Relapse rates are abysmal, and we live in a country, a world really, where there aren’t many effective options for people battling substance abuse problems, particularly for anyone who’d prefer a secular approach to dealing with their issue. I side with addiction researcher and noted 12-step critic Stanton Peele who has written that many people will mature out of addictions and go on to more fruitful endeavors in life. All the same, many people will not.

Josh Hamilton may have had a Hall of Fame career without his personal issues, and that’s unfortunate. I’m still rooting for the guy. I don’t really expect much at this point, though I think the return to Texas may do Hamilton well, as he carries a .316/.374/.588 lifetime slash at the Rangers Ballpark and is leaving one of the starkest pitcher’s parks in baseball. Why any power hitter would sign with the Angels is beyond me, though that’s a story for another time.

MLB salaries stayed low longer than people may think

Marvin Miller became executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966 because for 20 years prior, things got progressively worse for players.

Consider that in 1967, the minimum salary in the majors was $6,000. The first minimum salary in 1946 was $5,000, and, accounting for inflation, minimum-salaried MLB players got 29.8% less in 1967 than they did in 1946.

I think baseball began to change economically when television dollars first entered the game in the 1940s and that initially, team management kept a large share of the new revenue for itself. As Jim Bouton wrote in an update to Ball Four in 1980:

In baseball, the income is there, the only question is who’s going to get it. My position is that while the players don’t deserve all that money, the owners don’t deserve it even more.

The irony is that if the owners hadn’t abused the players so badly, we wouldn’t have gone out and hired Marvin Miller and the players wouldn’t be free agents today.

Interestingly, when Bouton wrote this, things still hadn’t gotten that much better for players, at least in one respect.

The minimum MLB salary this season is $507,500, an all-time high. Adjusting for inflation, that’s 743.2 percent better than the 1946 minimum which would be $60,185.13 today.

But it’s only been a recent development that minimum-salaried players get several multiples more than they would have in 1946. As late as 1979, adjusting for inflation, minimum-salaried players got just 12.7% more than they would have in 1946.

It took until the 1985 for the MLB minimum to be 100 percent higher than the 1946 minimum adjusted for inflation. The rest is history. I don’t know what changed things. Great advances for the players in collective bargaining strategies? More money from cable television? Lost ground for the owners between collusion in the mid-late ’80s and the ’94 strike? It’s hard to say.

I will say I find it interesting that multiple dramatic advances in minimum salary for players occurred after the same MLB minimum salaries were set out for multiple seasons and America experienced recessions, leading to inflation. I suspect the player’s union got galvanized at different points when MLB failed to keep pace with inflation.

For anyone who’s interested, I assembled a chart by looking at historic minimum salary figures, which I primarily found on Cot’s Baseball Contracts [via Baseball Prospectus] and plugging the numbers into an online inflation calculator.

Year Minimum MLB salary 1946 MLB minimum adjusted for inflation to that year How much better or worse the MLB minimum that year was than the 1946 minimum adjusted for inflation
1946 $5,000 N/A N/A
1947 $5,000 $5,720 12.6% worse
1948 $5,000 $6,166.16 18.9% worse
1949 $5,000 $6,104.60 18.1% worse
1950 $5,000 $6,165.54 18.9% worse
1951 $5,000 $6,652.62 24.8% worse
1952 $5,000 $6,798.98 26.5% worse
1953 $5,000 $6,853.37 27% worse
1954 $6,000 $6,887.64 12.9% worse
1955 $6,000 $6,860.09 12.5% worse
1956 $6,000 $6,962.99 13.8% worse
1957 $6,000 $7,213.66 16.8% worse
1958 $6,000 $7,408.42 19% worse
1959 $6,000 $7,467.69 19.6% worse
1960 $6,000 $7,587.18 20.9% worse
1961 $6,000 $7,663.05 21.7% worse
1962 $6,000 $7,747.34 22.5% worse
1963 $6,000 $7,840.31 23.5% worse
1964 $6,000 $7,942.23 24.4% worse
1965 $6,000 $8,077.25 25.7% worse
1966 $6,000 $8,311.49 27.8% worse
1967 $6,000 $8,552.52 29.8% worse
1968 $10,000 $8,911.73 12.2% better
1969 $10,000 $9,392.96 6.5% better
1970 $12,000 $9,947.15 20.6% better
1971 $12,750 $10,374.88 22.9% better
1972 $13,500 $10,717.25 26% better
1973 $15,000 $11,381.72 31.8% better
1974 $15,000 $12,633.70 18.7% better
1975 $16,000 $13,783.37 16.1% better
1976 $19,000 $14,582.81 30.3% better
1977 $19,000 $15,530.69 22.3% better
1978 $21,000 $16,711.02 25.7% better
1979 $21,000 $18,632.79 12.7% better
1980 $30,000 $21,148.22 41.9% better
1981 $32,500 $23,326.48 39.3% better
1982 $33,500 $24,772.72 35.2% better
1983 $35,000 $25,565.45 36.9% better
1984 $40,000 $26,664.77 50% better
1985 $60,000 $27,624.70 117.2% better
1986 $60,000 $28,149.57 113.1% better
1987 $62,500 $29,162.95 114.3% better
1988 $62,500 $30,358.63 105.9% better
1989 $68,000 $31,815.85 113.7% better
1990 $100,000 $33,533.90 198.2% better
1991 $100,000 $34,942.33 186.2% better
1992 $109,000 $35,990.60 202.9% better
1993 $109,000 $37,070.31 194% better
1994 No agreement $38,034.14 N/A
1995 $109,000 $38,985 179.6% better
1996 – to 7/31/96 $109,000 $40,154.55 171.5% better
1996 – 7/31/96 to end of season $150,000 $40,154.55 273.6% better
1997 $150,000 $40,837.17 267.3% better
1998 $170,000 $41,490.57 309.7% better
1999 $200,000 $42,610.81 369.4% better
2000 $200,000 $44,059.58 353.9% better
2001 $200,000 $44,764.53 346.8% better
2002 $200,000 $45,838.88 336.3% better
2003 $300,000 $46,709.82 542.3% better
2004 $300,000 $48,251.25 521.7% better
2005 $316,000 $49,891.79 533.4% better
2006 $327,000 $51,139.08 539.4% better
2007 $380,000 $52,570.98 622.8% better
2008 $390,000 $54,568.67 614.7% better
2009 $400,000 $54,350.40 636% better
2010 $400,000 $55,220.01 624.4% better
2011 $414,000 $56,821.39 628.6% better
2012 $480,000 $58,014.64 727.4% better
2013 $490,000 $58,884.85 732.1% better
2014 $500,000 $59,827.01 735.7% better
2015 $507,500 $60,185.13 743.2% better

[UPDATE, 4/29: This chart was adjusted to include the MLB minimum from 1948 to 1966. MLB raised minimum pay from $5,000 to $6,000 on December 9, 1953 and did not raise its minimum again until 1968.]

Babe Ruth could have joined the White Sox in 1914

In the summer of 1914, 19-year-old Babe Ruth emerged as a star pitcher for Baltimore of the International League, and a bidding war quickly developed for his services. Robert Creamer wrote in his landmark 1974 Ruth biography of Baltimore owner Jack Dunn offering Ruth to Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack and failing to contact New York Giants manager John McGraw, who had interest.

There were other potential suitors as well, such as New York Yankees owner Frank Farrell who offered Dunn $25,000 for Ruth and three other players just prior to Ruth’s sale in July 1914. Dunn turned it down, hoping to get at least $30,000. The Baltimore owner was sometimes notorious for holding out on selling players, most notably perhaps with Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove a decade later.

Another offer Dunn received may have changed baseball history had it progressed. In reporting the sale to the Boston Red Sox of Ruth, Ernie Shore, and Ben Egan, the Allentown Democrat [Allentown, PA] noted July 11, 1914 that the Chicago White Sox had offered $18,000 for Ruth alone.

I tweeted a little while ago about finding this article, and my friend and editor Rich Mueller, whose website Sports Collector Daily I contribute to, showed me a piece he wrote in 2012. In uncovering correspondence from White Sox scout George Earl Mills, Mueller found that team owner Charlie Comiskey could have had Ruth and five other players for $18,000, but turned it down thinking the price too high.

Mueller wrote:

Had Comiskey been willing to open his checkbook a little more for the recent refugee from St. Mary’s Industrial School, baseball history would have been forever altered.  The White Sox may have become the dominant team in baseball during the 1920s.  The Black Sox scandal may never have happened–or Ruth could have been caught up in it.

I like to think Ruth could have turned the tide in the 1919 World Series on his own. It’s rare in baseball that a single position player has the power to change the course of events, but Ruth was more or less a one man show for Boston in 1919. It’s one of the more underrated seasons in baseball history, even if it paled in comparison to what came later for Ruth.

Ruth was so much better than the rest of his team and the rest of his league in 1919 it’s ridiculous. In just his first full season as a position player, Ruth offered a 217 OPS+ and shattered the home run record with 29. He hit all but four of Boston’s home runs, scoring or driving in about a third of Boston’s runs. Ruth hit 12 percent of all homers in the American League in 1919. For context, Barry Bonds’ 73 homers represented just 2.5 percent of all National League homers in 2001.

So I like to think Ruth could have beat the Cincinnati Reds and eight conspiring teammates on his own in 1919, but who knows. Then again, heroics by Ruth may never have brought to light the gambling problem in baseball, which was endemic over the first 20 years of the 20th century, maybe longer. In that respect, I’m glad things played out as they did. Still, one can only wonder what might have been.

True pioneers for MLB’s ‘Franchise Four’

Baseball Twitter is bustling today at early returns from Major League Baseball’s “Franchise Four” promotion, which has fans voting on the four most important members of each team. To vote, go here.

Within this project, there’s a category to select four pioneers before 1915, and as could be expected, the thing is a historical train wreck. I don’t blame the people voting; whoever put together the ballot for this thing needs a lesson in baseball history.

Here’s the eight-player ballot for the category, which seems haphazardly drawn from notable players of the Deadball Era and before: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Wee Willie Keeler, King Kelly, Kid Nichols, George Sisler, George Wright

Leaving aside that numerous players aren’t mentioned here from Honus Wagner to Ty Cobb to Nap Lajoie, my biggest gripe is that baseball’s greatest pioneers before 1915 by and large weren’t players. If the pioneers were players, their greatest contributions came off the field.

Some of the people I list below were obscure even for their time and have only been rediscovered in recent years. I understand this isn’t the most marketable thing, but I assume anyone willing to look at the pioneer section of a project of this nature has an interest in learning baseball’s history. The ballot, as it stands, does them a disservice.

My friend Adam Darowski challenged me to name eight better candidates for the pioneer section of the ballot. Here goes:

  1. Al Spalding: Star 19th century player, turned sporting goods magnate. Most importantly, he pushed for the 1905 Mills Commission, which anointed Abner Doubleday baseball’s founder.
  2. Ban Johnson: Launched the American League in 1901, the only rival to the National League that’s lasted.
  3. Henry Chadwick: 19th century statistician, credited with popularizing the box score.
  4. Doc Adams: Perhaps Major League Baseball didn’t consult its historian John Thorn in creating a ballot for this project. Thorn wrote a piece in 1993 calling Adams, “The True Father of Baseball.” A tribute website for Adams lists a litany of pioneering accomplishments. Among other things, Adams headed the committee that set bases 90 feet apart and games at nine innings. Somehow, Alexander Cartwright got credit for these things.
  5. William Wheaton: Like Adams, Wheaton was involved with the New York Knickerbocker baseball club and was one of baseball’s first umpires. In Baseball in the Garden of Eden, Thorn cites Wheaton, Adams, William H. Tucker, and Louis Wadsworth as having a better claim to inventing baseball than Doubleday or Cartwright. I admit to not knowing as much about Tucker or Wadsworth. They may belong here as well.
  6. Monte Ward: A Hall of Fame position player and pitcher, though I included him for his role in establishing the upstart Players League in 1890, one of the first [unsuccessful] challenges to the National League’s monopoly.
  7. Harry Wright: Organized, managed and played for the Cincinnati Red Stockings. His brother George, who was star player of the team, got in the Hall of Fame more than 15 years before him by dying a few months prior to his induction in December 1937.
  8. William Hulbert: First president of the National League.

It’s probably too late to change the ballot, though write-in choices are allowed. If anyone from Major League Baseball is reading, please feel free to reach out to me for future projects. I’ll happily offer my services free of charge.

Talking to Gaylord Perry


I love talking to former Major League Baseball players. Between this website and other work, I’ve spoken to a decent number of them, maybe 50, ranging from one-day players to a few Hall of Famers. I learned early on as a writer that I barely even have to ask questions to get old ballplayers talking, that my job is mostly just to show up and listen.

Controversial players are different. I learned this in 2008 when I interviewed Jose Canseco for the East Bay Express. While Canseco showed up an hour before a book signing in Oakland to talk to me, was courteous, and seems like a nicer person than he’s generally given credit for, our interview still had a slight adversarial banter and ended with the former Bash Brother telling me, “You were easy!” I think the Cansecos of the baseball world hold back and anticipate, maybe even enjoy, a certain degree of conflict in their dealings with the media.

Last week, I had a similar experience, taking part prior to a Sacramento River Cats game in a group interview with Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who was on-hand to be inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame. Perry won 314 games, accumulated 93.7 WAR, and recorded 3,534 strikeouts, which was third-best all-time when he retired in 1983. But I think the first thing that comes to mind for most fans with Perry is that he put Vaseline and other substances on the ball for much of his career. As I was reminded in looking up Perry just now in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Perry even titled his autobiography, Me and the Spitter.

Perry seemingly operated with impunity for much of career. As Mark Armour wrote in Perry’s biography for the Society for American Baseball Research:

During Perry’s career, the rules governing the enforcement of the spitball were changed twice, and the umpires were given explicit directives concerning the pitch several other times, and all this was primarily because of Gaylord Perry. When it was his day to pitch, he was the story. Where did he get his grease? Why don’t the umpires stop him? Did you see what that pitch just did? Perry just kept grinning.

Perry has this way of speaking, in his thick North Carolina drawl, like he’s winking at everyone he’s talking to, like there’s some kind of joke we should all be in on if we only could pick up the hints. I’ve held back on posting the results of my interview in part because I found this alternately amusing and frustrating. In talking with former players, anyone in general, I prefer transparency and a willingness to engage. I find it leads to more productive discussions and better interview transcripts. Still, a good journalist works with whatever they’re given.

Another challenge with interviewing popular players, particularly before games, is that other people often want to talk to them as well. Five of us crowded around Perry, with a few of us taking turns asking questions. I find the magic in an interview happens when I’m one-on-one with a player and have at least five or ten minutes. Obscure and even former standout players are generally good for this; I caught up with Greg Vaughn a little while after talking to Perry and had the kind of interview I hope for. But it’s rare the magic happens in a group setting where each reporter may have their own line of questioning.

I hung back for a bit while other people asked Perry the kind of questions about his minor league career that are perfunctory at a Triple-A game. Then someone asked Perry his thoughts on Barry Bonds getting into the Hall of Fame. Perry replied:

I think eventually he’ll get in, and if he does, I’ll be there to support him. In fact, Pete Rose. If Pete gets in, I’ll be there to support him. But I think it’s going to be awhile.

This piqued my interest, for a few reasons. Perry’s not the first prominent big leaguer to support enshrining a steroid user. Buried in a lengthy discussion I had with former Houston Astros pitcher and manager Larry Dierker at last year’s SABR conference is an aside from him that he thinks Roger Clemens belongs in Cooperstown. I imagine other players feel this way and that, with a little more time, they’ll look to enshrine Bonds, Clemens, and others through the Veterans Committee.

I admit my interest was piqued in part because I thought there might be a good soundbite in it. I try not to go into interviews with predetermined narratives, as that’s a lousy excuse for journalism, but I’ll confess my first thought upon hearing of the opportunity for this interview– after, of course “Oh wow, Gaylord Perry!”– was something along the lines of, “See if he says something against putting steroid users in the Hall of Fame and sounds like a hypocrite.” It’s not my proudest moment as a journalist. Oh well, live and learn.

So I asked Perry if he thought steroid users in general should be in Cooperstown. Perry being Perry gave a roundabout answer, though what follows may also be a de facto reply from players of his era. I heard similar when I talked to Rollie Fingers during a River Cats game 10 years ago. Perry told us:

Well, when you say steroids to me, when I was playing I didn’t know what it was. I played at a great time. We didn’t have that problem. We had maybe too much drinking and smoking, nothing more than that as I knew of… Bonds did everything in Pittsburgh. He won four MVPs there in Pittsburgh, skinny.

A bit later, someone asked Perry what kind of role would be best within the Giants organization for Bonds, who’s mostly been non-involved since last playing in 2007. Perry replied, “I think we need him right now as a hitting instructor because we’re not getting some key hits. I’ve heard him talk about baseball, and I was very impressed at how he loved the game and how he could teach the game. I think he’d be a big help. I would definitely support him.”

It’s worth nothing that Perry saw Bonds in the Candlestick Park locker room when Bonds was a kid. As Perry’s teammate Ken Henderson told me in 2010, Bonds was there because his father Bobby played on the team. Henderson told me, “Barry never lacked for confidence,” and I wondered if Perry might have similar memories. He didn’t, though he mentioned having to keep an eye on his own kid, lest he grab a Coke. Players, after all, had to pay for their locker room drink purchases in those days. Perry said, “You got caught throwing a ball in the stands, it cost you five dollars, and I didn’t have five dollars.” Fraternizing with opposing players at the batting cage would bring a $50 fine, Perry told us.

Baseball’s certainly changed a lot since Perry played. In noting Perry’s strikeout totals, I saw that only four players in baseball history– Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Clemens, and Steve Carlton– have topped 4,000 K’s. I tweeted about this, wondering if any pitcher may reach that, and my friend Kyle Madson reminded me no one logs sufficient innings for that total anymore. It’s true. Just two active pitchers, Mark Buehrle and Tim Hudson have 3,000 innings. Perry pitched 2,900 innings in the 1970s alone, telling us from memory that he had 303 complete games. Perry said, “We loved to play, we didn’t take days off, and when our turn come, we wanted to go nine.”

This isn’t to say Perry disparages the current state of the majors. Asked by another person if he thought today’s game was healthy, Perry said, “Very healthy, very rich.”

After about 10 minutes, a representative from the River Cats wrapped things up, and that was that with Perry. He threw out a ceremonial pitch, I think, and I didn’t see him in his seat during the game. That’s how it goes with baseball legends, who can be as detached as they want from the current game. When I interviewed Rollie Fingers in 2005, he didn’t know that Huston Street had broken one of his records. If memory serves, Fingers didn’t even know who Street was.

All of this, by the way, is not to suggest it wasn’t a huge thrill to get to talk to Perry. It’s always surreal being in the presence of a baseball legend, no matter how they achieved that status.


Other players I’ve interviewed for this website: Ernie Broglio, Larry Dierker, Sergio Romo, Bob UsherGreg VaughnMatt WalbeckBob WatsonJimmy Wynn.

Remembering Ray Nemec

I doubt many people outside of the Society for American Baseball Research knew who Ray Nemec was, and I imagine he didn’t mind. In fact, I’d venture he preferred it that way. The Ray Nemecs of the baseball research world are a curious breed and one I admittedly don’t totally understand. When I research or write something, I do it with the end goal in mind, looking forward to sharing my findings. To do research simply for the sake of research seems a little strange to me.

Ray Nemec, who died April 17 at 85, may have done baseball research for the sake of research better than anyone. One of 16 founding members of SABR in 1971, Nemec’s specialty was the minor leagues. It’s getting rarer and rarer to find people to say this about, but at least for the minors, Nemec knew more than

I spoke to Nemec a few times for stories over the past few years. When I first contacted him in 2012, for a feature on an obscure player with a lone season of Class C ball in 1939, Nemec sent me a file that included the player’s Social Security number and names of semi-pro teams he’d been on. Where Nemec got this information from, I don’t know. Minor league data on can be fractured, particularly regarding forgotten players who didn’t last long. For what it’s worth, Nemec wasn’t a huge fan of the site, saying he counted 250,000 errors on it.

To say the least, Nemec’s death is a big loss for the baseball research community. As his obituary on noted, his stats were used to create the Minor League Baseball Database, which informs’s minor league stats. Nemec had an early goal to find “all records for all players.” While he may have fallen short in this regard, the end result wasn’t bad either: stats for more than 100,000 players and a well-deserved Henry Chadwick Award from SABR in 2012.

An interview with Greg Vaughn

This evening finds me sitting in the press box at Raley Field, home of the San Francisco Giants Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats. I covered the River Cats as a freelance journalist in 2004 and 2005, and one thing I learned early on is that there are often interesting, unexpected people to be found in press boxes. In my time here a decade ago, I crossed paths with Hall of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers and Moneyball author Michael Lewis, among others.

I came out this evening in hopes of interviewing Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who was on-hand to be inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame. I took part in a group interview with Perry, highlights of which I’ll post Saturday. Unexpectedly, though, I ran into former All Star and Sacramento native Greg Vaughn, whose son Cory plays for the River Cats opponent for the evening, the Las Vegas 51s.

Unlike Perry, I got to chat with Vaughn one-on-one for about 10 minutes just prior to game time, having a wide-ranging discussion with him. Highlights of our exchange are as follows:

Baseball Past and Present: Are you out here tonight for your son?

Vaughn: Yeah, I’m a baseball fan, and I love the River Cats, but my son’s with Las Vegas. So for me, I wouldn’t miss it.

That’s awesome. What’s he rated as a prospect? Is he in the top 100?

Vaughn: I’m not sure. You know, I don’t look at any of that stuff to tell you the truth. I figure, if he plays the way you’re supposed to play, he’ll get where you’re supposed to get. So if he goes out there and plays and does what Cory’s supposed to do, Cory’ll be in the big leagues. I mean, what good is it to say, ‘Oh you’re a top 100 prospect.’ What’s that mean? You still have to produce.

What does he do best as a player?

Vaughn: Well, I think, he’s a tool freak. He’s a tool box. He can run, he can hit for power, he has a great arm. It’s just being able to process it and do it on a consistent basis, night in and night out.


How much has baseball changed since you retired?

Vaughn: It was always numbers. We were always taught, ‘Put it down in black and white,’ and you can’t take that away from you. But at the same time, I don’t know what OPS is or [WAR] and all that stuff. I was taught to hit and produce runs and all that stuff took care of itself.

Were there any guys who were into the advanced numbers?

Vaughn: Probably towards the end of my career all that stuff was coming out, but like I said, thank God I was fortunate enough to play for organizations that knew that they had good baseball people around me. So it wasn’t a computer telling me I was supposed to go up there against Randy Johnson and take three or four pitches and get one swing of the bat. It’s too hard to hit. This game is hard. A round bat with a round ball, a guy that’s throwing 100 miles an hour, and you got the best athletes in the world out there fielding baseballs. I wasn’t that good. I needed three swings, if not more, every at-bat.


How do you think you’d fare in today’s game? I know strikeouts are really high. Do you think your strikeouts would be higher if you were playing today?

Vaughn: I don’t think they’d be higher. They were what they were when I played. I don’t know. I think I’d be okay you throw a lot of fastballs. It just depends what organization I’d be with because If I had to take pitches, I probably wouldn’t do very good. If they were going to let me be me, I think I’d be alright.

Why do you think the strikeout levels have gone up so much in the majors? Do you have any idea?

Vaughn: I just don’t think kids are getting enough swings. Also, coming up, kids aren’t allowed to figure things out on their own. Ever since they’re eight, nine, ten, eleven years old, you have coaches, ‘Don’t swing, don’t do this, don’t do that,’ so you can’t go out in the driveway and play strikeout, learn how to take balls off your chest, rifle them to right field, play where left field is closed, and do all those things. So it’s a situation where as good as these coaches [are] and thankful I am that we have these coaches coaching our youth, they’re hurting them in the sense that they’re not letting them play. They’re not letting them experience certain things that allow them to become players.

You mentioned you’re a coach yourself, right?

Vaughn: Yeah

What do you try to impart to your players?

Vaughn: For me, compete. Play and compete. That’s the biggest thing for me. You know what, go out there and hopefully I can make you better today and it will be fun… We don’t bunt. We teach them how to bunt, and if it’s a certain time of the year and we have to get a bunt down to win the championship, or something, yeah. But I’m not going to bunt on day one of the season just because I’m trying to put a notch on my belt. I’d rather kids learn how to play the right way and how to have fun when they play.

I wanted to ask you as well, yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day, and baseball today, it seems like African American players are represented at some of their lowest levels since integration. Does that bother you at all?

Vaughn: Oh without a doubt. Living in Sacramento, living out in the country, it costs $250, $300 for a kid to play Little League now. And then, they have five coaches on the coaching staff. Those five coaches have five kids. So you got the rest of the team battling for four spots. Those five kids are never coming out… African Americans, you know, first of all, if my mom had to pay $250, $300 for me and my brother and sister to play, being a single parent, it wouldn’t have happened. The bats are $400. The shoes, the spikes, the travel, it’s just really an expensive sport.

Do you think the R.B.I. Program is doing enough these days?

Vaughn: Well, I don’t think there’s ever anything doing enough [but] the R.B.I. Program definitely helps. It gives kids an opportunity that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity. So, for me, I thank the R.B.I. Program for going into those cities. We need more of them. We need Major League Baseball to help us out and get more of them so we can get more kids in baseball.

One thing there’s been some debate about, even just on my website, is there’s some people who say these days, more African American kids are coming up and they’re playing football and basketball instead. I’ve heard other people say that’s nonsense, if somebody’s really good at baseball, they’re going to play baseball. What do you make of it?

Vaughn: The African American has to be really, really good. You know what I’m saying? He has to be really, really good to get on the field. In those other sports, they’re faster, they don’t have to sit and clean up the field, and I think they have a better opportunity to play, a fairer chance. Because like I said, you got five coaches, you got all the rest of the people vying for four spots, so that African American player is going to have to be really, really good.

As a major league veteran and an African American, is there anything in particular that you try to do to promote baseball among younger black youth?

Vaughn: Yeah. For me, like I said, you know growing up, everyone played when I was coming up, Hispanic, black, white, upper class white, lower class white, the neighborhood as we called it. We need to get back to that. But it’s our job as society to give these kids an opportunity, to give them a fair shake, to let them go out there and hone their skills… A lot of these kids are coming from single parent homes. They never have a dad out there playing catch with them. They’re not going to camps. They might have the tools or more tools than some of the other players, but they don’t have the experience. So now, if they don’t get it done, they’re just going to sit on the bench, and we need to give them opportunity to fail and coach them right.

Hasn’t it kind of always been that way in baseball? I thought even during like the 1950s, if blacks came up in the minors and they weren’t a star player, their opportunity didn’t last as long.

Vaughn: I agree 100 percent. That’s life in general. I don’t play the race card, but it is what it is. What my grandmother told me a long time ago, ‘If he’s right here, if someone’s right here, be three times above that. Don’t make it close.’

That’s gotta put pressure on you hearing something like that. Was it ever intimidating to know in the back of your mind that you had to be that much better?

Vaughn: No, but I expected it from myself. It was something that I think fueled me. It inspired me. It gave me the ammunition to go out there and do better.

With that kind of competitive drive, is it ever tough being retired from baseball? Do you ever miss it?

Vaughn: Oh without a doubt. Competing, you do miss it. But all I gotta do is go to a golf course and it’ll humble me very quickly.


Other player interviews: Bob Watson, Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn

Jack Glasscock writes to The Sporting News

I have today off from work, which has found me at the computer, alternating between reading more of Cooperstown Confidential and putting down Zev Chafets’ fine book to do sporadic research. I got to wondering again just now if it might be possible to find the names of voters for the one-off Veterans Committee of 1936. Said names have seemingly never been made public, though I have a feeling something’s out there waiting to be rediscovered in an online archive.

In this spirit, I traipsed over to The Sporting News archives. I didn’t find any committee names, though I stumbled across a 1936 letter to the magazine from 19th century star Jack Glasscock. My friend and fellow baseball historian Adam Darowski loves any mention of Glasscock– and believes he should be in the Hall of Fame— so for Adam and anyone else interested, I thought I’d share the letter here. It ran January 2, 1936:



I just can’t bear to read in THE SPORTING NEWS of Hugh Fullerton’s Pittsburgh All-Time selections. Of course, I expected him to name Hans Wagner at shortstop in place of myself, for he probably was a better player than myself. Fred Clarke was O.K. too, but I stop there. Here is the Pittsburgh team of 1893 and I feel certain it could have beaten any all-star outfit that could be selected: Beckley, first base; Bierbauer, second base; Glasscock, shortstop; Lyons, third base; Donovan, Stenzel and Smith, outfielders; Miller, catcher; Killian [sic], Ehret and Terry, pitchers.

Jack Glasscock

           9 Maryland Street, Wheeling, W. VA.

The minds of old ballplayers are funny sometimes, prone to selective and wistful thinking. This has gone on across generations, maybe all of baseball history. As Bill James wrote in Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? in the mid-1990s, “Old baseball players today generally feel that the quality of play is not what it once was, and they are not shy about expressing the opinion. Old baseball players have said exactly the same kinds of things with the same frequency and force for at least a hundred years.”

Glasscock’s an early example of this, I think, though certainly not the first. James has a number of examples between a few of his books, with a running header, “Old Ballplayers Never Die.” Pete Palmer and John Thorn list a few in The Hidden Game of Baseball as well, and I like to note new undiscovered ones here as I find them.

Here, Glasscock celebrates a team that was special by franchise standards at the time, but otherwise nothing to be etched in bronze more than 40 years later. Bolstered by the mid-season acquisition of an aging Glasscock, who would hit .341 for the club, the 1893 Pirates finished 81-48, five games out of first place. Pittsburgh never placed higher than sixth any other year of the 1890s and didn’t begin winning pennants until the 20th century, after raiding the roster of another franchise. Truly, two teams in one created some Pittsburgh dream teams for the ages.

Future Hall of Famers, as judged in 1986

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?”

  1. 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
  2. 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?”

  1. Players listed who are now enshrined: Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Ryne Sandberg
  2. 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?”

  1. Players listed who are now enshrined: Tony Gwynn
  2. 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.

Making more of Jackie Robinson Day

As a general rule, I pay people who write articles for this site. Last year, one writer requested I donate his fee to Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities [R.B.I.] RBI is a good cause, dedicated to promoting baseball among minorities, who are represented in the majors today at some of their lowest levels since integration.

This morning, I finally got around to making my writer’s donation and I noticed an unusual coincidence in my timing. It was unintentional on my part, but it seems oddly apropos.

Today is Jackie Robinson Day, the day every player in the majors wears number 42 to honor the legend who broke baseball’s color barrier. I support Jackie Robinson Day, wholeheartedly. I believe in always acknowledging baseball’s exclusion of black players between 1884 and 1947. I’ll also always advocate honoring the sport’s greatest hero. Jackie Robinson is one of many reasons baseball has my favorite history of any sport.

But I’d like to see Jackie Robinson Day become something more than it is at the moment. If tweets like the following are any indication, the day is little more than a token gesture and an opportunity for self-congratulation and nice PR. Consider what Major League Baseball tweeted to its 4.4 million followers just a few hours ago:

First off, as many noted in reply to the tweet, Robinson has been dead since 1972, taken before his time by diabetes. His widow Rachel will be 93 in July, and while I imagine words of thanks to her are appreciated, it’s not enough.

If anyone from Major League is reading, I submit: Why not offer something more on Jackie Robinson Day? There’s so much that could be done, such as $1 to RBI for every retweet or a day of matching donations. I have to think MLB, which has upwards of $9 billion in annual revenue, last I heard, could afford the drop. I doubt it would be difficult to line up corporate sponsors either.

Baseball needs and will always need Jackie Robinson Day, at least in my book. But future minority players could use more than just a day of nice press.

New freelance piece

I have a new freelance piece out today for a website called The National Pastime Museum. In it, I take a long look at why Deadball Era catcher Hank Gowdy became a popular Hall of Fame candidate in the 1950s and then fell completely off the map. I hope it’s not interpreted as a push for Gowdy’s candidacy. To me, Gowdy’s more fit for the Shrine of the Eternals at the Baseball Reliquary, which honors interesting figures from baseball history. More than this, I’ve just long been interested in why he got so many Hall of Fame votes. Gowdy has one of the more unusual, if somewhat forgotten Cooperstown candidacies in baseball history.

To answer the question, I did a substantial amount of research– primarily through archives for The Sporting News and– more research than is probably reasonable for a freelance piece. I’m at the stage in my writing career, though, where research for one piece can build for three or four others. In fact, researching Gowdy’s Hall of Fame candidacy is what led me to recently find more than 900 Veterans Committee candidates. In general, I find it’s rare in life that hard work goes for naught even if I’m not sure what the payoff for my efforts will be going in. It’s part of what keeps me writing here.

I hope the end result of my efforts is well-received, and I had fun putting it together. I’m honored, by the way, to have written something for The National Pastime Museum. Many prominent people from the baseball research community have contributed there, including Rob Neyer, Paul Dickson, and Marty Appel. It feels a little surreal to be in their company to say the least.

Historic Locke Field to become apartment complex


Two years ago, Dave England wrote here about Locke Field, a former Class D ballpark in Gainesville, Texas in danger of being torn down. “There’s an apartment complex in Brooklyn where Ebbets Field once stood,” England wrote. “Here’s hoping a similar fate doesn’t befall Locke Field.”

On Tuesday, the Gainesville City Council voted 7-0 to approve a 52-year lease with Orison Holdings of Denton, Texas to build an apartment complex where Locke Field currently stands. Gainesville city manager Barry Sullivan said in a phone interview with this website that construction will begin within six months.

No demolition time for Locke Field has been scheduled. It’s uncertain if anything from the ballpark will be preserved.

Sullivan said this was the third time since May 2010 the council has considered plans for Locke Field, which the city owns. “This wasn’t a one-night, ‘Let’s vote on this’ thing,” Sullivan said. “It’s been coming since 2010.”

As England wrote, Locke Field opened in 1946 and has been identified by the Society for American Baseball Research as one of the final Class D ballparks standing. England wrote of it as “one of the last baseball fields in Texas with wooden dugouts and covered wooden stands.”

Over the years, the field has hosted minor league, college, and high school baseball. Elvis Presley gave a small concert there in 1955.

Sullivan said the city council vote came amid an economic boom for Gainesville and a shortage of local living accommodations. “We’d been receiving several complaints about people having to drive 30 miles for housing,” Sullivan said.

Meanwhile, Sullivan estimated the city was spending between $7,500 and $15,000 a year to maintain a field barely in use in recent years. Gainesville High’s baseball team stopped using it, Sullivan noted, after building a field closer to campus.

“It’s land that we’re having to spend a lot of time to maintain it, and it’s not being utilized,” Sullivan said.

The contract for the apartment complex calls for a minimum of 144 units and the developer spending $10 million. Sullivan said ideally there will be at least 225 units and $16 million in development expenses by Orison Holdings. The city will receive $7,500 a year during the lease.

Locke Field’s fate was sealed in part by its location. Sullivan said it’s close to downtown and near the intersection of Interstate 35.

There are no plans for any plaque or other commemoration at Locke Field. Sullivan said that Gainesville company Antique Lumber may handle the demolition.

Justin Pratt, general manger for Antique Lumber, said by phone that his company does demolition work free of charge in exchange for reselling wood to cover labor costs. Pratt said that if his company takes the job, Locke Field’s bleacher wood will be sent to a saw mill and re-planed, with metal from the ballpark being sold for scrap. Signs from Locke Field may be donated to a historical group.

Tuesday’s vote on Locke Field passed without much public discussion, though it’s been heated in years past. When there was talk in 2012 of building another apartment complex at Locke Field, local resident Duane Walterscheid told a CBS affiliate, “I like it a lot it’s very family oriented. I mean if they want to they can build an apartment complex, but not there.”

The only public discussion before Tuesday’s vote centered on Orison Holdings. The Gainesville Daily Register noted in March that the council tabled consideration of the lease proposal after a representative from another firm accused the city of making a backroom deal with Orison Holdings.

Incidentally, just two people gave public comment Tuesday prior to the vote, both from other firms.


For more information about Locke Field, read Dave England’s November 2012 piece for this website.

10 essential books for any baseball historian

Interviewing Pete Palmer recently spurred me to finally get a copy of his and John Thorn’s classic 1984 book, The Hidden Game of Baseball.

I’ve started reading Thorn and Palmer’s masterpiece, and I already know it’s a book I’m going to cite here. From the early going, it reads like a book no baseball history researcher should be without, a central canon of the field.

I got to wondering how many of these books exist. I’m not talking fine baseball books, necessarily, such as Ball Four, The Boys of Summer or Summer of ’49, to name three of my favorites. What I mean is, I wonder which books one’s understanding of baseball history would be incomplete without reading.

Bill James wrote in one of his books that every writer has a stack of books they know they’ll never read. This seems apt, though as a baseball historian and writer, I aspire to at least read enough of the essential books to be taken seriously.

So what are the most essential books for a baseball researcher and historian? I think there are maybe 10 of them, which I’ll list in chronological order. I invite anyone who’s interested to add to the list in the comments below:

  1. The Glory of Their Times, Lawrence Ritter, first published by MacMillan and Company in 1966, revised edition with four new interviews in 1984
  2. Baseball’s Great Experiment, Jules Tygiel, Oxford University Press, 1983
  3. The Hidden Game of Baseball, John Thorn and Pete Palmer, 1984
  4. Baseball, Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, Knopf, 1994
  5. Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?, Bill James, Free Press, 1995
  6. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James, Free Press, 2003
  7. Moneyball, Michael Lewis, W.W. Norton & Company, 2004
  8. The Book: Playing The Percentages In BaseballTom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin, Potomac Books, 2007
  9. Cooperstown Confidential, Zev Chafets, Bloomsbury USA, 2009
  10. Baseball in the Garden of Eden, John Thorn, Simon & Schuster, 2011

I’m not sure if Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Seymour-Mills three volume History of Baseball series, published between 1960 and 1990, belongs on here, too. I’ve yet to touch those books, and as a baseball historian, I’m probably long overdue. The same more or less goes for Thorn and Palmer’s long-running series, Total Baseball. Daniel Okrent’s Ultimate Baseball Book, with historical text by David Nemec, may deserve a spot as well.

Then there are any of the annual abstracts Bill James wrote between 1977 and 1988, though I don’t know if any of them stand out enough on their own to merit inclusion here; 1988, maybe, which has a valedictory feel to it, since a then-burnt-out James announced he was retiring from sabermetric research. We all know how that turned out.

In general, I shied away from including anthologies or chronologies without original research, save for the 592-page tome that accompanied Ken Burns’ 1994 PBS series. Burns’ book just has such an amazing bibliography. It’s like a Readers’ Digest of great baseball literature. While the book isn’t perfect and overlooks some important details, such as Bill James’ contributions to baseball, I would recommend it to any new fan of the game.

I’ll add that I don’t think all the great baseball books have been written, far from it in fact. Over the next 10-15 years, we’re going to see at least a few more with all of the old historic newspapers and magazines being made available online. I suspect in baseball writing, the best is yet to come.

An interview with Pete Palmer

In researching recently for Veterans Committee ballots, I emailed official MLB historian and longtime baseball author John Thorn to see if he might know anything. Thorn replied, “Pete Palmer would know if anyone would” and put me in contact with him.

For more than 40 years, Palmer has been the person to go to for baseball questions even other researchers might not know. He is the researchers’ researcher,  one of the wise old men of the Society for American Baseball Research, which he joined a month after its founding in 1971. Tom Tango, one of the co-authors of the influential 2007 work on sabermetrics, The Book, told me via Twitter, “Pete Palmer was our Yoda.”

At 77, Palmer remains active in baseball research and is father to three school-aged children, as he remarried after being widowed. Palmer and Thorn, who’ve written extensively together, just released a new edition of their classic 1984 book, The Hidden Game of Baseball, available via Amazon and elsewhere.

Truth be told, I’ve long wanted to talk to Palmer, and shortly after we began emailing about Hall of Fame voting, I asked if he’d be up for a phone interview. He was. Highlights of our hour and 40 minute conversation from Monday are as follows:

Baseball Past and Present: What’s it like being a dad at 77?

Palmer: I let [my wife] do a lot of the work, but I try to pay attention to them. I’m not some guy who’s sitting at the computer all day, typing away and ignoring everybody else. But they’re doing okay. My wife decided to home school the two boys this year, so she’s been pretty busy with that. Some days, they are a little reluctant to get into their studies, so that’s a bit of a problem. They’re, let’s see, third grade and six grade they’re in. We’re hoping maybe they can go back to regular school next year and give her a break.

BPP: Are your kids into baseball?

Palmer: Absolutely not. They’re into computers. They sit with their stupid little iPods, whatever you call them, the little handhelds playing games. It’s hard to tear them away from that sometimes.

I enjoy computer games as a break from doing the research. Sometimes it gets pretty tedious. Like, I’ve been working on Retrosheet. Retrosheet is going to have play-by-play of every game back to 1946 by this summer, and I’ve written a lot of programs to analyze the data and also look at the discrepancies. When you get back into the ’70s, there are a lot of mistakes in the official averages, and Retrosheet data is probably more accurate for the most part. But I try to look at everyone and try to figure out who’s right and what really happened.

Of course, when I started, we didn’t have all this stuff. But now, you can sit at your console and call up [lots of information.] One of the guys photocopied all the official averages which go back to 1905 in the American League and 1902 in the National League. You can look at newspaper accounts of the games for the box scores and stuff. It’s a lot easier to do than it would have been, say, even 10 or 20 years ago.

But it’s really kind of tedious. As I get older, I’m not quite as comfortable sitting down at the console for three or four hours and doing stuff. I used to to go to the Hall of Fame to get the records that weren’t in the guides, like the players of less than 10 games and stuff like that. I could sit there all day with my nose into the microfilm reader. But now, after a couple of hours, I have to kind of take a break. So I reward myself by playing a few games, Minesweeper or something.


The following came while Palmer and I discussed the work he’s doing now.

Palmer: Are you familiar with the player win averages which are developed by [Harlan] and Eldon Mills? They developed the probability of winning the game table based on the inning and out and the runners on base and the score at the time.

BPP: Yeah, I’m familiar with win probability.

Palmer: Yeah, right. So anyway, back in 1969, they got data from Elias which allowed [them to] calculate all that data. They did it again in 1970, and they didn’t find that much interest in it, so it fizzled.

We now have the capability of calculating those numbers back to 1946, so I’m working on that for a Research Journal piece which I’m going to finish at the end of the year which has the win probability differences for everybody 1946 to ’15, which is 70 years. One thing I did was I put in a park and decimal factor because obviously if you play in a good hitters park, your batting is going to be better. And if you’re in the National League, then the pitcher batting counts as part of the league average, so batters in the National League for a given level would have a better relative performance compared to the league average, so I had to factor that out. I’m not really sure how it’s gonna come out. Barry Bonds will probably be the leader, but I’ll have to see.

The one problem with player win averages is there are only a handful of really pivotal situations where the probability of winning the game can change by 20 or 30 percent on one at-bat. What happens is those particular at-bats get overvalued. I think I looked at Albert Pujols one year, and if you took his performance in his top ten stress-wise or game-changing position [at-bats], that like overshadows 200 of his lesser at-bats. Because lots of times, the game isn’t really on the line when you’re batting, but your performance is still important. Over the course of 10 or 15 years, that theoretically should balance out. But over the period of a season, you might get one key hit that would add like half a win to your total. The leading player for the season might be like five wins above average. So that’s a bit of a problem with it. Course, the player doesn’t really have a choice of when he gets up. He just tries to do the best he can every time.

Still, it’s interesting, and there’s a pretty high correlation between that and your normal ratings. In fact, Dick Cramer did a study years ago on the Mills Data where he looked at players in 1969 and ’70 and compared their player win average to their nominal batting stats. Theoretically, if you were a clutch hitter, then your player win average should be higher than your normal situation where every bat counts the same. And he found no correlation whatsoever, which is what I expected, because I’m [in] the ‘Clutch hitters don’t exist’ camp.

Cramer and I did this study a couple years ago where we had everybody back to 1950, I think, 1950 to 2005, something like that, and there was no significant difference between the player’s overall record and his record weighed by the probability of winning the game. And that hasn’t really changed. So that’s one of the things I’m looking at when I do this. But I don’t know, are you a clutch hitter advocate or not?

BPP:  Um, I mean honestly, I feel that in most things in life, not even just baseball, I feel like there’s people who perform better under pressure and have different motivations. But I also understand one of the arguments against clutch performance in baseball, which is the idea that if a hitter could do that, why aren’t they doing that every single time?

Palmer: Right, that was one of Cramer’s points. Because, if you look at it, the guy’s up there about 10 minutes a day, at the plate. I know there’s stressors and you’re tired and stuff, but it shouldn’t really be that hard to concentrate for 10 minutes a day on your job… I would think that if there was clutch play, [it would] more have to be the pitcher because the pitcher actually is working hard. In the old days when everybody used to pitch a complete game, they sort of had to pace themselves a little. So you’d think, ‘Well, two outs, nobody on, I’ll just try to get the ball over and see what happens.’ I didn’t find any evidence of clutch pitching either. But you’re right, why don’t they try all the time?

BPP: What do you make of defensive independent pitching stats? Do you think there’s anything to it?

Palmer: I didn’t have a lot of faith in that. I think that if a pitcher’s a good pitcher, you’re not going to get as many hard-hit balls off him, and if it’s not a home run, the hard hit balls are going to be in the field.  We have hit locations and hit types back to 1988, which is like 25 years, more than 25 years. It says ‘line drive,’ ‘ground ball,’ ‘fly ball,’ ‘hard hit,’ ‘medium hit,’ ‘soft hits’ and the locations. If you hit a fly ball and it’s not a home run, the odds [are] it’s going to be an out. Of course, a pop up is almost a clear out. But line drives, they got a pretty good chance of dropping in.

I think what [Voros] McCracken’s problem was that he didn’t realize the variations due to chance on hits. If you hit a bunch of line drives, a certain percentage are going to be caught, but there’s a fair amount of variability in that. If you look at individual pitches, you see, well, the differences of outs on balls in play is not varied as much as maybe you would think without actually looking at how much it should be.

But the problem with DIPS is, if you prevent a home run, then your outs on balls in play go down because now, the balls rattling off the outfield wall somewhere. Whereas if it goes into the stands, it doesn’t count. If you turn a double into a single or a triple into a single because of your superior pitching, that doesn’t affect your outs on balls in play at all. And if you strike out somebody– strikeouts are a fairly important part of being a good pitcher– your outs on balls in play go down again because the out doesn’t count. So the only time that a good pitcher really makes a difference on outs on balls in play is when he turns a single into an out. When you don’t look at walks and strikeouts and home runs, you’re actually minimizing a difference between a good pitcher and a bad pitcher. And therefore, the gap in that category is going to be artificially low because some of the factors that would make it higher are not counted…

[McCracken] said there wasn’t a great amount of correlation from season to season. But as I said, the variations due to chance and everything in sports, baseball in particular, is a lot higher than people think. Your average could drop 60 points from one year to the next, and it’s not really statistically significant because 500 at-bats isn’t that many at-bats to verify what your current batting average should be. I think the average difference in batting average between seasons is something over 30 points, so 60 points is really just on the borderline of being statistically significant.

Even team wins. The variation due to chance from one season to the next on team wins is about nine. So what that says is, you can drop 18 wins in one season, and there’s still a 5 percent chance it was just luck.

BPP: Yeah, I feel like teams can swing from 70 to 90 wins pretty easily.

Palmer: I was amazed, the Red Sox were picked by Sports Illustrated to be the eastern division champs this year. That seems strange to me. I’m a Red Sox fan, you know, I go back to the ’40s, but I don’t see them being eastern division champs.

I never looked it up, but their swing over the last three years has got to be one of the biggest swings, from down to up and then down again. I don’t know if any team’s ever done that much. I never got around to looking it up, but I’d be surprised. They swung about 25 games, I think, plus or minus. That’s pretty unusual.

BPP: Bobby Valentine was a pretty terrible manager.

Palmer: He got off to a wrong footing and never really recovered. I think managers are overrated in baseball anyway. It’s probably easier to do a crummy job. There’s more downside to being a manager than upside, I think.

BPP: I don’t feel like a manager has much effect, but it seems like a really bad manager can still do some damage.

Palmer: Yeah, yeah, that was my point. They all do about the same thing. The nuances and strategy, if you look at it mathematically, the so-called optimal strategy might be a little better than what most people, but the differences are so small, you’d be hard-pressed to get an extra win out of intentional walks and stolen bases and sacrifices and all that stuff over the course of a season by altering your strategy, I think. Or even the batting order. The difference between an optimal batting order and a normal batting order is probably less than one win per season.

All that stuff isn’t important, but I think it is important to try to keep everybody working toward the same goal. I think that’s probably the biggest job for a baseball manager. Whereas in football, the coach I think it makes a huge difference.


Palmer has done statistics work for the New England Patriots for more than 40 years– he actually prefers watching football to baseball– so our conversation veered away from the national pastime for a bit.

BPP: Is it ever frustrating to you that football has been so conservative and slow to embrace newer kind of statistical thinking?

Palmer: Yeah, yeah. Well, the trouble is if you do the conventional thing and it doesn’t work, nobody can criticize you. But if you do something weird, and it doesn’t work, then it looks bad.

The Patriots had a game a couple years ago in the playoffs where they had a 4th and 5 or something like that, and they faked the punt and tried to go for it and then they didn’t make it. It might have even been against Denver, I can’t remember. It was a good play. It didn’t work, but you don’t even know what the success rate should be because they never try it.

Some coach in high school, I remember reading an article in Sports Illustrated about it, a few years ago, he decided punting was stupid. So he vowed never to punt again. It doesn’t matter where they are, on fourth down, they go for it. And he’s had some luck with it, though that seems a little extreme. Even 4th and 5 inside the 10-yard line, mathematically it’s better to go for it.

BPP: Yeah, you’re giving yourself 33 percent more downs if you just always go for it.

Palmer: See one thing that happens is, if you kick a field goal, then the other team’s going to get the ball back around the 20 or the 25 after the kickoff, whereas if you go for it and don’t make, then they’re going to be down on the one-yard line. So that’s like 24 yards, and on average, 24 yards is worth about two points. Theoretically, if you kick a field goal, you’re giving away two of the three points you just got by field position after the kickoff. So it’s really only worth one point. Whereas with a touchdown, then it’s seven points and then again you’re giving away two points, but that’s the difference of five points to one point instead of seven points and three points, which is a difference.

There’s a guy, Aaron Schatz who has… Aaron and I have talked about that. He says, ‘They’re just not going to do it. It doesn’t matter. You’re never going to talk them into it.’

BPP: Have you tried to affect any change working in the NFL?

Palmer: No. My friend Bob Carroll, who founded the Pro Football Research Association, and I wrote a book called The Hidden Game of Football about 25 years ago, which had a lot of that stuff in there. It didn’t really have any impact on anything. They’ve been keeping track of fourth down conversions for 30 years now. It really hasn’t changed. It’s about one per game, per team, and they make it about 40 or 45 percent of the time. There’s been no movement of that in 30 years.

BPP: Why do you think it’s changed in baseball and not football?

Palmer: Baseball hasn’t changed that much. Obviously, rating on-base average more importantly has been a big change. But the strategy changes really haven’t changed that much. Some teams bunt less, and Earl Weaver used to hate intentional walks, but for the most part, there’s not a lot of difference.

One thing in stolen bases is, it’s become more specialized. The guys who are good at it steal a lot, and the guys who aren’t hardly ever steal. That’s been sort of gradually coming into the game. Everybody adopted the Tony La Russa relief pitching strategy around 1990. Nobody has really deviated from it. So that was one change but that wasn’t based on sabermetrics. That was based on La Russa being somewhat successful with it.

One of the big changes, just this year was people are using a lot more defensive shifts. It used to be just a couple guys that would get shifted down, Ortiz, a few others. But now, they’re doing it a lot. For the most part, I think it’s based on the work that John Dewan has done with Baseball Info Solutions where they plotted hit patterns for everybody in the league.

My friend Steve Mann and I had a contact with the Phillies back in the ’80s where he was somewhat familiar with the Phillies’ front office so he got us in there. We were plotting pitch locations and hit locations. They had a guy there, Jay McLaughlin who’s still there, who wrote a lot of programs to plot that stuff up. I don’t know really how much they used it, but that data’s been around for like 25 years. They only really started using it recently.


BPP: Do you think the amount of competitive parity these days is a sign that baseball’s gotten better?

Palmer: You sort of have to think that. If you go back to Babe Ruth’s day, the number of North American white players in the major leagues are about the same today as it was then, but the population of the United States, of course, is much greater. I think the Dominican Republic ranks third among [countries] as far as number of players in the major leagues, something like that. The Japanese players are coming over, of course. There’s a much bigger pool of talent.

There are more sports, and you can make a lot of money. Back in Ruth’s day, you couldn’t really make that much money in any other sport, maybe prizefighting or something. Now you can make a lot of money playing basketball, hockey, or football. But there’s never really been a great player in more than one sport, except for I would say Bo Jackson. So I don’t think there are that many football or basketball players who could have been exceptional baseball players. They might have been average baseball players, but I don’t think the other sports are really taking people away from baseball.


Other interviews with people from the baseball research community: Robert Creamer, Rob Neyer, Joe PosnanskiDan Szymborski, John Thorn.

The hunt for more Veterans Committee ballots

“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., 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. [ 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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, and, 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:

Jim —
Thanks for the “vote” of confidence.  Graham has already been in touch with me.  However, my expertise is more on BBWAA voting, and the composition of the Veterans’ Committees.  He has already amassed more information about the Vets’ ballots than I have ever seen.
When I worked at the NBL, there were about 800 bankers’ boxes in remote storage; I never saw or knew what was in them.  I wondered if the mother lode of Hall of Fame ballots was among them, and you had since catalogued them.  Judging from your response, I guess not.
My second guess was that Bill Guilfoile, as the Vets’ liaison in the 1980s & ’90s, kept documents related to that committee in safekeeping somewhere, and that someone in the museum has continued that tradition.  If true, I guess the intent is not to make the information available to the public.
One wonders, if the Hall of Fame doesn’t have records on its own Veterans’ Committee proceedings, who does?

It seems unfortunate to me that full voting information for the Veterans Committee might be lost. It’s a little galling as well. Since its founding, the committee has put far more people in the Hall of Fame than the BBWAA. If there was one thing that came through resoundingly in my research, it’s that the Veterans Committee has been able to more or less operate with impunity and little transparency. Its process is far from democratic for fans, with select retired players and other appointed representatives acting as kingmakers. That’s kind of the American political tradition, but for the Veterans Committee, it’s occasionally led to some egregiously bad Hall of Fame selections.

More Veterans Committee ballots found

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:

  1. 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 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.
  2. I found 133 players, executives and umpires on Veterans Committee ballots between 1953 and 1964, with 59 now in the Hall of Fame.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. It amazed me to see some of the players on these ballots, long before 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.

A repository for old Veterans Committee ballots

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. 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
Al Reach 1963 No N/A
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
Billy Hamilton 1961 Yes 1961
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
Earle Combs 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1970
Edd Roush 1962 Yes 1962
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 Fitzsimmons 1964 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
Goose Goslin 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1968
Hack Wilson 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1979
Harry Hooper 1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate] Yes 1971
Heinie Manush 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1964
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 Haines 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1970
Jesse Tannehill 1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate] No N/A
Jim Bottomley 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1974
Jimmie Wilson 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943] No N/A
Jimmy Ryan 1963 No N/A
Joe Kelley 1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate] Yes 1971
Joe Sewell 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1977
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
Kiki Cuyler 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1968
Lave Cross 1961, 1962, 1963 [on ballot as holdover candidate] No N/A
Lefty Gomez 1964 Yes 1972
Lefty O’Doul 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 No N/A
Luke Sewell 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943] No N/A
Max Carey 1961 Yes 1961
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
Red Faber 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1964
Red Rolfe 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 No N/A
Riggs Stephenson 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 No N/A
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
Tony Lazzeri 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1991
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
Waite Hoyt 1963 [automatically on ballot because he appeared in 1962 BBWAA election but retired before 1943], 1964 Yes 1969
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.

Lee Allen’s standards for automatic HOF induction

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’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.