Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? George Steinbrenner

Claim to fame: Memorably autocratic owner of the New York Yankees won seven World Series titles after buying the team in 1973. Set a standard for excellence in New York where even a finish in the divisional playoffs could spell doom for a manager. Was death on facial hair, even if it killed Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi as we know them. Inspired characterizations on Seinfeld.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Steinbrenner can be enshrined by the Veterans Committee as an executive.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? This column was prompted by a July 13 piece by Wallace Matthews on arguing for a plaque in Cooperstown for Steinbrenner, who died last week at 80. Matthews referenced the upcoming Hall of Fame inductions for Andre Dawson, Doug Harvey, and Whitey Herzog, calling them all deserving inductees. Matthews added:

But I defy anyone, [New York Yankees] lovers and haters alike, to make the case that any one of them — or, in fact, all three combined — made a bigger impact on Major League Baseball than George M. Steinbrenner III.

It’s a bold statement, and I’m not sure how much I agree with where it leads. Personally, I think the abrogation of the Reserve Clause in December 1975 did more to help the Yankees return to prominence than anything Steinbrenner did. Note that after winning 83 games and finishing third in 1975, the Yankees capitalized on their sudden ability to stockpile high-priced free agents like Reggie Jackson by appearing in the next three World Series, winning two of them.

It should be noted, too, that after this return to prominence, the Yankees sucked for the better part of 20 years before rising again in the mid-1990s. Why isn’t Steinbrenner faulted for that? Why isn’t he dinged for repeatedly firing Billy Martin or alienating players like Dave Winfield? That did more to cripple the Yankees for a long time than help them.

Don’t get me wrong, Steinbrenner could have been Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner who ran his basketball team aground by refusing to support a large payroll, even though he was making good profits. Steinbrenner did his job as competently as any owner of a major market sports franchise should do. But that hardly places him in the pantheon. Steinbrenner was a character, no doubt, but then, so was Marge Schott.

I would induct two executives before Steinbrenner, and Matthews references both of them in his piece. They are:

  • Marvin Miller: I wrote in December about the shame of the Veterans Committee failing to induct Miller, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association who led the charge to overturn the Reserve Clause. As Matthews notes, Miller fell two votes shy of the Hall of Fame last year, failing to garner much support from league executives on the committee. Miller’s 93 and will hopefully be enshrined in his lifetime, but I wouldn’t count on it.
  • Colonel Jacob Ruppert: Owned the Yankees from 1915 until his death in 1939, winning as many World Series as Steinbrenner, with seven and doing it in over ten fewer years on the job. More importantly, Ruppert helped orchestrate the purchase of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox in 1920, which did more to change New York — and baseball — than anything anyone’s done before or since.

Still, as I wrote in my piece on Miller, I’m not even wild on enshrining Ruppert. With Babe Ruth under my employ, I’m pretty sure I could have won some World Series titles. Really, what’s so hard about being an owner?

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Ted Williams vs. The Machine

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but I’m a big fan of “The Office” on NBC. I’ve seen every show, own four seasons on DVD, and am to the point I’ve watched most of my favorite episodes two and three times, minimum. In a classic episode, the fictional paper merchant depicted, Dunder-Mifflin, launches a Web site and projects that by the end of the day, it will be the company’s new top salesman. This rankles neurotic, star salesman Dwight Schrute, who scoffs he can beat a computer. Working aggressively, he proceeds to do just that.

In a similar spirit, I am about three-quarters of the way through a 1995 book, Ted Williams’ Hit List, that the Red Sox immortal co-authored with Jim Prime ranking the 20 greatest hitters of all-time. Williams compiled his book in an age before high-speed Internet and statistical repositories on the Web made such comparisons instantaneous. For being only 15 years old, the book seems from an entirely different era, when subjective analysis by writers or a legend like Williams was the best baseball fans could get. Now, anyone with a computer can be an expert.

Before I go any further, I should offer Williams’ Top 20. It is:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Lou Gehrig
  3. Jimmie Foxx
  4. Rogers Hornsby
  5. Joe DiMaggio
  6. Ty Cobb
  7. Stan Musial
  8. Joe Jackson
  9. Hank Aaron
  10. Willie Mays
  11. Hank Greenberg
  12. Mickey Mantle
  13. Tris Speaker
  14. Al Simmons
  15. Johnny Mize
  16. Mel Ott
  17. Harry Heilmann
  18. Frank Robinson
  19. Mike Schmidt
  20. Ralph Kiner

(Note how Williams doesn’t include himself; in the book, he puts himself at the bottom of this list with a slash mark in place of a numerical ranking.)

Before getting into the rankings, which span most of the last half of the book, Williams offers his methodology: OPS, a combination of slugging and on-base percentage. The statistic favors players who hit for a combination of average and power, and since it’s percentage-based, it pushes up hitters like DiMaggio, Foxx and Greenberg who had shorter careers. Williams refers to the stat as PRO in the book, saying he got it from John Thorn and Pete Palmer and that he relied heavily on their work, Total Baseball to determine his rankings.

If there was anyone qualified to offer judgment on hitting, it might have been Williams, who made it his mission in life to learn everything he could about batting, conferring with greats like Cobb and Hornsby, retiring with a .344 lifetime clip, and going on to write multiple revered books on the subject. But I only wonder what heights Williams’ analysis could have soared to if he’d had access to a goldmine like Baseball-Reference, which offers similarity scores between different batters and a list of the leaders for just about every recognized stat, including OPS.

Poking around the site, I saw that Williams didn’t stick hard and fast to OPS in his determinations. Otherwise, he’d have included players like Dan Brouthers, Lefty O’Doul and Hack Wilson, who were among the top-20 lifetime for OPS for inactive players in 1995 (interestingly, of those men, only Wilson is in the Hall of Fame, though that’s a post for another time.) Williams notes on page 89:

I didn’t want Ted Williams’ Hit List to be a dry statistical analysis of what I think is the most exciting and uniquely human facet of baseball, but I did want to be able to back up my insights with some hard and fast truths.

What we’re left with is a book that’s equal parts stats and Williams’ expertise and first-hand accounts of the various players. It’s not a bad compromise, and it might actually be superior to anything a computer can spit out, but a part of me wishes Williams were still around to write a new updated edition. Actually, that’s an understatement, and it says nothing of how interested I’d be to hear Williams’ views on the fact that most of the recent players who merit consideration for this list have been linked to steroids. But that’s a post for another time.

I occasionally review books for this site. A compilation of reviews can be found here.

Double the fun: The day Don Newcombe pitched twice

Regular readers may have noticed two changes in the last several weeks here: I have begun consistently posting Monday through Friday, and a fellow Society for American Baseball Research member Joe Guzzardi has contributed a Wednesday guest post. Joe recently offered to provide Saturday content as well, for the duration of the baseball season. Effective immediately, I’m pleased to offer this new bonus day of content. Joe’s Saturday column, “Double the fun,” looks at famous doubleheaders.


In recent blogs, I’ve written about Vern Law’s titanic 18-inning starting effort, Tom Cheney’s 16-inning, 21-strikeout masterpiece, and a tribute to the long lost doubleheader.

Graham Womack, in his regular Tuesday feature, Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? chronicled the great career of Brooklyn Dodger hurler Don Newcombe.

Today, I’ll roll marathon pitching, doubleheaders and Newcombe into a single post.

On September 6 1950 in a twin bill against the Philadelphia Phillies, Newcombe started both ends. That season the Dodgers played erratically and by early September, the team trailed the Phillies by 7-1/2 games.

Although the Dodgers had the Boys of Summer line up led by Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider, pitching was thin, to put it kindly.

Newcombe and Preacher Roe, both with 19-11 records anchored the staff. Behind them were a pot luck group that included Carl Erskine (7-6), Erv Palica (13-8), Dan Bankhead (9-4) and Bud Podlielan (5-4). Their marginal success came thanks to heavy Dodger hitting rather than pitching skill.

With the season winding down, Newk was one of the few pitchers manager Burt Shutton could count on so he tapped him to start the first game. The Phillies countered with rookie righthander Bubba Church who took to the mound with an 8-2 record.

According to the Sporting News, Newcombe and Dodger manager Burt Shotton had talked on the train to Philadelphia about the prospect of his pitching both ends.

Reporter Joe King wrote that Shotton told Newcombe, “You can do two if you pitch a shutout in the opener.” Since Newk blanked the Phillies 2-0 on three hits in an efficient 2 hours 15 minutes, he got the nod to take the mound again in the second tilt.

“I figured he was hot right then and ought to try again,” Shotton said.

As the second game warm ups began, fans noticed that Newk was down in the bullpen taking his tosses. Realizing that something special was about to begin, the capacity crowd of 32,379 gave the Dodger stalwart a loud ovation.

Newcombe pitched valiantly allowing just two runs over seven innings but left the game trailing Phillie ace Curt Simmons, 2-0. Shotton then pulled Newcombe for a pinch hitter, even though he was one of the baseball’s best hitting pitcher. The Dodgers eventually rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win, 3-2.

Newcombe’s pitching line for the day: 16 IP, H 11, ER 2, BB 2, SO 3

The Giants and the Cardinals shelled Newcombe (13 IP; 10 ER) in his next two starts. Yet the Dodgers, inspired by Newcombe’s heroic effort, played top notch baseball for the rest of the season but ultimately fell two games short.

The Dodgers wrapped up its season against the Phillies with Newcombe absorbing the loss against Robin Roberts (20-11). That game brought down the curtain on majority owner/team president Branch Rickey’s Dodger tenure. Walter O’Malley replaced Rickey and immediately fired Shotton. Chuck Dressen took over as the new Dodgers manager.

Under O’Malley and Dressen, the Dodgers won four of seven National League pennants and one World Series before leaving for Los Angeles.

Newcombe went on to become a three-time 20 game winner. In 1956, Newcombe won the Most Valuable Player award and became baseball’s first Cy Young Award recipient.


Joe Guzzardi is a Wednesday and Saturday contributor here and belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at

My story on Ken Henderson is up at

A few months ago, I went in early to work to print off a story I wrote on Billy O’Dell for I promised the former San Francisco Giants pitcher I would mail him a copy of the “Where Are They Now?” piece he inspired, and after too many years of making these promises to sources and not following through, I’m trying to do things differently. Thus, I found myself at the office printer, waiting for my story to print, and I encountered the CEO of the company renting space to my employer. We got to talking, and the CEO said he was friends with another former Giant, Ken Henderson. A few months later, I have a story on Henderson live at

The CEO introduced me to Henderson when he stopped by the office in June, and a couple weeks later, Henderson and I did a 30-minute phone interview. Henderson was gracious enough to call me back after I went to transcribe my interview and found my tape recorder had picked up virtually nothing he said. In fact, Henderson ultimately called me back multiple times, since the first time he reached me I was working, and the second time, the batteries in my alternate recorder were dead. Henderson was one of the more patient ballplayers I’ve encountered.

I focused my story on something I had read in a Giants book I have which described how early in Henderson’s career, reporters hyped him as the next Willie Mays. Of course, that didn’t pan out. Henderson was happy to discuss this and more with me. In fact, I wound up with more good material than what made my final edit. Some good extra bits which I’ll offer here include:

  • Henderson told me two of the toughest pitchers he faced were Steve Carlton and Bob Gibson. I looked at Henderson’s career splits against both Hall of Fame hurlers on A switch hitter who favored the left side of the plate, Henderson batted right-handed against the southpaw Carlton and only got three hits in 33 at-bats lifetime, though interestingly, two of those hits were home runs. Also, Henderson hit .304 lifetime against Gibson, though I think that may have been news to him.
  • Henderson said one of the things he learned from Mays was the importance of being in good position in the outfield ahead of time. Henderson said other outfielders may have made more spectacular catches, but that was only because they were further out of position at the start of a play and had to sprint to get to the ball. Mays knew better. A friend told me today that Andruw Jones does too.

I love doing these types of stories. On a side note, Henderson works with my all-time favorite player, Will Clark, who I missed on a chance to interview this winter. I put out to Henderson that I’d still like to talk to Clark. We’ll see where this leads.

Any player/Any era: Ty Cobb

What he did: Hit .367 lifetime. Set several longstanding records. Scared the shit out of opponents.

Era he might have thrived in: Cobb is one of the all-time greats, perhaps the best ever, and was a rare player who likely would have thrived in any era. This column looks at how well Cobb might have done on the 1995 Cleveland Indians.

Why: I have recently been reading Ted Williams’ Hit List, a 1995 book the Red Sox legend co-wrote with Jim Prime ranking the 20 greatest hitters of all-time. Cobb is sixth on Williams’ list, and before discussing this, Williams offered an interesting bit about comparisons for different eras. The Splendid Splinter wrote:

There were pressures in the dead ball era, there were different pressures when I played, and today’s players face a whole new set of problems and pressures. Some things have been made a lot easier for them and some are probably tougher too. In the end, though, a hitter still has to prove himself at the plate, and a truly great hitter would stand out in any era. You can just bet a smart guy like Tyrus Raymond Cobb would be able to make adjustments to his swing and terrorize the pitchers of 1995, just as he did those poor sods back in his own era.

Actually, to say the pitchers of 1995 would be terrorized is an understatement. Imagine if Cobb joined forces with Albert Belle and a young Manny Ramirez to create the all-time looniest outfield. These guys would hit a collective .350, minimum. I also suspect that left unguarded Cobb and Belle might kill one another or forge a common bond of insanity and go after Manny. Cobb would set records if he didn’t end the year in prison.

The stat converter for Cobb on Baseball-Reference has the Georgia Peach hitting .387 lifetime with 4,300 hits if he played his entire career on a team like the ’95 Indians. He would hit over .400 a dozen times and peak at .433 for his converted 1918 season. He’d also retire with north of 300 triples and 900 stolen bases.

I suspect Cobb would hit a higher number of home runs than the 119 career long bombs projected, which is just two more than his real total of 117. For one thing, the Indians’ home, Jacobs Field, offers friendlier dimensions to power hitters than the cavernous ballparks of Cobb’s era. The modern ball is, of course, more lively. Also, I recently reviewed an upcoming book by sportscaster Len Berman, The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. In his entry for Cobb, a seemingly obligatory choice, Berman wrote:

Here’s one about Ty’s hitting. In the later stages of his career, it bothered him that Babe Ruth had become more famous. The Babe’s home run hitting had captured the fancy of the fans, and Ty didn’t like it at all. Ty never tried to hit home runs, but in May 1925, he told reporters that he could hit home runs like Babe Ruth if he tried. Over the next two games, he had nine hits, and five of them were homers.

Cobb’s 1925 power outburst came May 5 and May 6 against the St. Louis Browns, at Sportsman’s Park. I’m guessing in 1995, there would be many more games like these.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have fared in an era besides his own.

What’s wrong with the All Star game? Everything

With the latest All Star game less than 24 hours old, Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday contributor here, devotes his latest guest post to what’s gone awry with the mid-season contest.


Mercifully, the All Star Game is over. Like the Sunday and holiday doubleheader about which I wrote last time, the mid-summer classic was once a highlight of the baseball season.

Now its a misguided affair that has little appeal to old school fans like me.

I’ll sum up in one word what’s wrong with the All Star Game: everything.

Among its multitude of problems are allowing twenty-five votes each to the fans, expanding rosters, issuing contractual bonuses up to $100,000 for certain participating players and awarding the World Series home field advantage to the winning league. Other quirky and constantly evolving rules and regulations keep fans in the dark from one year to the next.

During baseball’s Golden Age, which I broadly define as 1920-1960, the All Star Game provided a rare opportunity for fans to watch the greatest National League players go head to head against the American League. Often, the game generated a lifetime of memories. But with inter-league competition completed only two weeks ago, there’s nothing special about seeing Derek Jeter on the same field as Ryan Howard.

As for the State Farm Home Run Derby, the less I say, the better. Three hours of pre-derby shilling, followed by three hours of batting practice and concluding with an hour of post-derby feigned excitement by the “analysts” doesn’t do it for me.

If television wants to give its derby rating a real boost, have the players’ mothers pitch to them. The degree of difficulty would be the same!

In 1960, a made-for-television derby had some serious sluggers going at it. Among them were future Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson and Duke Snider.

Even the second tier contestants were imposing: Gil Hodges, Al Kaline and Rocky Colavito. (See it here:

Major League Baseball could easily rectify the errors its made over the last several years that have reduced the All Star Game’s appeal. However, the only likely changes will further commercialize the game or add to the circus-like atmosphere that already surrounds it.

Baseball was not always so slow to act when faced with an obviously flawed product.

From 1959 through 1962, two All Star Games were played. Although fans immediately criticized the idea because it cheapened the summer classic’s excitement, baseball bureaucrats pressed on.

The starting line up was chosen by a poll among players, managers and coaches with the restriction that no player could vote for a teammate. (Note to MLB: please return to this system.)

For the second of the two All Star games, squads were allowed to add three players and the managers could alter their pitching staffs.

During 1959, the experiment worked fairly well. Pittsburgh hosted the first game and Los Angeles, the second. Because the California contest had 4 P.M. PDT/7 P.M. EDT start time, the All Star Game for the first time had a truly national television audience.

But by the very next year, the two game novelty had worn off. MLB decided to play both games within a two-day break (July 11 and July 13) instead of one month apart as it did in 1959.

The second 1960 All Star game held in Yankee Stadium drew a paltry 38, 362 fans; the first in Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium had a 30, 000 capacity crowd.

By 1963, fans were so disenchanted with two times All Star Games that even when it returned to a single annual contest attendance suffered. With Cleveland as the host, only 44,000 showed up in cavernous Municipal Stadium.

During the four years that two All Star Games were held, three of baseball’s greatest players participated in both: Willie Mays, Henry Aaron and Stan Musial.

Interestingly, those eight appearances allowed the three greats to retire with a curious line in their baseball biographies.

Each played in more All Star Games that they had years in their careers.

All had 24 All Star appearances. Mays and Musial achieved them over 22 seasons; Aaron, 23.

And not surprisingly, Mays, Musial and Aaron hold the All Star records in most of the key offensive categories: at bats, Mays, 75; extra base hits, Mays and Musial, 8; hits, Mays, 23; home runs, Musial, 6; pinch hits, Musial, 3; runs, Mays, 20; total bases, Mays and Musial, 40 and triples, Mays, 3 (tied with Brooks Robinson)


Joe Guzzardi is a writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Email him at

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Thurman Munson

Claim to fame: Next to Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk, Munson may have been the best catcher of the 1970s. He made seven All Star appearances in the decade along with winning three Gold Gloves and the 1976 American League Most Valuable Player award. He also helped revitalize the once-proud Yankees, joining a sputtering New York club in 1969 and later contributing to back-to-back World Series titles in 1977 and 1978. Munson’s career was cut short August 1, 1979 when he died in a plane crash at 32.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Munson posthumously exhausted his 15 years of eligibility with the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1995 and can be enshrined by the Veterans Committee.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? That’s a tough question. Had Munson played a full career, he’d likely have a plaque in Cooperstown by now. He’s part of a small group of players whose Hall of Fame chances were hurt by their untimely deaths. Others in this class include Ray Chapman and Urban Shocker. Of the group, Munson may come closest to enshrinement on playing merit. He hit .292 lifetime with 1,558 hits and was a cornerstone of the Yankee rebirth. I’d probably vote for him if I could.

There are a few men in the Hall of Fame whose careers ended prematurely, be it for injury, illness or death. These men include:

  • Roy Campanella
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Dizzy Dean
  • Ed Delahanty
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Addie Joss
  • Sandy Koufax
  • Kirby Puckett
  • Rube Waddell
  • Ross Youngs

Munson’s numbers fall short of the only catcher on that list, Campanella, who dominated more in fewer seasons, though I liken Munson favorably to Joss or Youngs. Joss won 160 games with a 1.89 lifetime ERA before dying of meningitis at 31 in 1911, while Youngs hit .322 in ten seasons before dying of Bright’s disease in 1927 at 30. Munson played more seasons than either player and rates comparably well or better on some of the Hall of Fame metrics. That being said, it took until the 1970s for the Veterans Committee to tab Joss or Youngs. In addition, Youngs had a teammate on the committee, Frankie Frisch, who helped get several friends enshrined. I don’t know if Munson has any such booster on the current committee.

It’s worth noting that historically, the Veterans Committee has generally rewarded players who got significant Hall of Fame vote totals from the BBWAA, and Munson was mostly an afterthought after peaking with 15.5 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot, 1981. Even then, when Munson likely received extra votes from writers who didn’t know it was okay to vote otherwise, the Yankee catcher still finished 16th. Gil Hodges, Roger Maris and three other men who have yet to be enshrined as of this writing received more votes in 1981 than Munson. I wouldn’t be surprised if the committee considers Hodges or even Maris before Munson.

Even with a full career, Munson would face slim odds of making Cooperstown. Catchers have about as easy a time earning plaques as relief pitchers, stolen base specialists or any defensive whiz not named Brooks Robinson or Ozzie Smith. Two other fine catchers from Munson’s era awaiting enshrinement are Bill Freehan and Ted Simmons. Both had more All Star appearances than Munson by the time they were 32. In addition, Freehan had five Gold Gloves before his 28th birthday while Simmons amassed 2,472 career hits and a .285 lifetime batting average.

Interestingly, both Freehan and Simmons were one-and-done Hall of Fame candidates, meaning they got less than 5 percent of the vote their only year on the ballot which automatically disqualified them from future votes. Freehan spent his career with Detroit while Simmons did his best work with St. Louis and Milwaukee. Had Freehan or Simmons played in a comparably-sized media market to Munson or died in similarly tragic circumstances, I think their Hall of Fame bids would have received better support.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

My first baseball game

I went camping this past weekend near Coloma, California, and on my way back to the Bay Area on Sunday morning, I stopped by my parents’ house in Sacramento and had breakfast with them. I’ve been living near Oakland for a few years, and I don’t see my folks nearly enough. It was great eating my mom’s waffles and drinking out of the Batman mug that I got when I was six. I’ll be 27 in a few weeks but I still insist on using that mug every time I’m at the house.

During breakfast, we talked baseball a bit, and my parents mentioned the Giants’ new policy of charging varying rates on tickets depending on who’s playing. It’s called dynamic pricing, and it basically dictates that the same seats that might cost $6 for a Giants-Marlins game could go for $30 when the Dodgers are in town. I’ve been a Giants fan since about the same time that I got the Batman mug, and I understand people upset about the new pricing structure, though it seems reasonable from a business perspective. Also, remembering my own experience, if I was bringing a kid to a game, I’d rather take them to see the Marlins than shell out extra for the Dodgers. It doesn’t make much difference to a kid.

For all I know about baseball now, I was pretty much clueless the first time I went to a game in August of 1987. My parents and I were visiting family in Seattle, and my Uncle Brett, my dad and I took in a Yankees-Mariners contest at the Kingdome. I had recently turned four, and every half inning, I asked if the game was over and we could go home yet. I mentioned about this in the discussion on dynamic pricing Sunday morning, and my dad said Dave Righetti got the save that game, which led me to find something more.

I’ve recently learned of a Web site called, which is considered an essential tool, like Baseball-Reference, for researchers of America’s pastime. Where Baseball-Reference offers season statistics for pretty much any professional ballplayer, Retrosheet is built around providing game info. It has box scores dating back to 1871 and can provide split breakdowns for how any hitter fared versus any pitcher, telling me for instance that Ken Henderson hit .304 lifetime against Bob Gibson (even if Henderson recently told me Gibson was one of the toughest pitchers he faced.)

Using what my dad said about Righetti, I visited Retrosheet on Sunday afternoon, looking for a day in August of 1987 where the Yankee closer got a save at the Kingdome. The only game that fit this description occurred August 18, a 4-3 win for the Yankees. Though I don’t remember, it appears I got a great first game. If I had a time machine, I know I’d enjoy watching Don Mattingly go 3-for-5 and seeing the Mariners almost tie the score in the bottom of the ninth, getting to Righetti for a run. I may not have understood it then, but I value it now.

I occasionally write posts related to my childhood. To read some of them, go here.

The zero Hall of Fame votes dream line-up

Every year, 20-30 baseball players make the Hall of Fame ballot. Generally, of these men, one or two will receive the necessary 75 percent of the votes needed for enshrinement, a handful of others will get lesser totals, and most will fall off the ballot with less than five percent of the vote. Without fail, there are usually at least a few eligible players who get no votes at all.

Most of these men don’t make it to Cooperstown for good reason, though former All Stars and Cy Young award winners sometimes are completely forgotten at Hall of Fame voting time. Here are a few men who laid zeros their only time on the Cooperstown ballot:

P – Mike Cuellar (1983): The passing of the four-time 20-game winner in April prompted me to write about one-and-done Hall of Fame candidates. Incidentally, Cuellar is not the only former Cy Young winner to receive zero Hall of Fame votes. Others in this class include John Denny, Steve Stone, and Pete Vuckovich.

C – Mickey Tettleton (2003): He hit more than 30 home runs four times and was twice an All Star, though he also struck out a lot and was a .241 lifetime hitter.

1B – Cecil Cooper (1993): A reader recently reminded me of Cooper who was a five-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and two-time American League RBI champ. Overall, he had 2,192 hits with a .298 lifetime clip and hit above .300 seven straight seasons.

2B – Manny Trillo (1995): He made four All Star appearances, was a three-time Gold Glove-winner and surprisingly, nabbed two Silver Slugger awards as well.

3B – Bob Horner (1994): The No. 1 overall draft pick in 1978, Horner went directly to the majors and won Rookie of the Year. He later hit more than 30 home runs three times and put together a solid, if somewhat truncated ten-year career, wrapping up at 30 with 218 lifetime home runs. Horner may most be remembered for hitting four home runs in a game in 1986.

SS – Rick Burleson (1993): Burleson made four All Star teams, did well enough offensively to become a hitting coach for the Oakland A’s after retirement and shares the same name as an architect in the Seattle area.

OF – Amos Otis (1990): Otis was a perennial All Star and MVP vote recipient with the Kansas City Royals in the 1970s, retiring in 1984 with 2,020 hits, 193 home runs and 341 stolen bases.

OF – Andy Van Slyke (2001): Van Slyke won five straight Gold Gloves from 1988-1992 as center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, twice finishing fourth in MVP voting in that span.

OF – Jim Wynn (1983): Though Wynn boasts just 1,665 lifetime hits and a .250 career batting average, the former longtime Astros center fielder may be among the most underrated players of all-time. His career Wins Above Replacement rating of 59.8 ranks better than first-ballot Hall of Famers like Kirby Puckett, Willie Stargell and Dave Winfield, among others.

All in all, the thought here is that this lineup would triumph in a grudge match against a team of overrated Hall of Famers.

I write frequently about Cooperstown-related matters and have a Tuesday feature, Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?

Any player/Any era: Albert Pujols

What he did: Pujols is building a case he belongs among the all-time greats with his remarkably consistent play. He’s had at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI every year of his career heading into this season and boasts a .332 lifetime batting average, a throwback to an era where sluggers like Babe Ruth and Ted Williams retired with clips above .330.

Pujols has won three National League Most Valuable Player awards, is a nine-time All Star and with another ten years, he might break the home run record. And if Pujols retired tomorrow, he’d still be a Hall of Famer.

Era he might have thrived in: The 1930s

Why: After my column here on Home Run Baker last week, one of my regular readers emailed me, saying he was looking forward to me writing one of these on Pujols. The reader wrote of Pujols:

To my mind, he’s the only [current] right handed hitter who stands a chance of being either the greatest, or second greatest right handed hitter of all time. Put the guy in the 1890’s and he’s Ed Delahanty. Put him in the oughts and teens and he’s Honus Wagner. In the 20’s, Harry Heilmann with close to 40 hrs a year. In the 30’s, he’s Jimmie Foxx, with thirty fewer strike outs a season.

It was an interesting idea, and I happily take requests here. This is still a relatively new enough space that I value — and need — any sign that I’m not just babbling into space. I’d welcome anyone else to get their requests in.

For our purposes, I’ll hypothesize how Pujols might have fared in the 1930s. I envision him on the New York Yankees, a feared American League slugger in the same vein as Foxx, Ruth or Al Simmons. The stat converter on Baseball-Reference says Pujols’ 2009 MVP season would translate to 50 home runs, 158 runs batted in and a .358 batting average for the 1936 Yankees. And his 2003 season converts to a .396 clip for that team.

Pujols would have fit right in on those Yankees who won 102 games and the 1936 World Series. Bill Dickey hit .362, rookie Joe DiMaggio helped fans forget Babe Ruth with 29 home runs and a .323 batting average, and MVP Lou Gehrig put up real-life versions of Pujols’ projected numbers with 49 home runs, 152 RBI and a .354 clip. Taking over for low .300 hitters like Jake Powell or George Selkirk in the Yankee outfield, Pujols most likely boosts the .300 team batting average. I’m not sure if he does anything of note on defense or if the heavier bats of the era help or hurt his cause, but I’m guessing overall, Pujols kicks ass on that team.

Of course, like Al Simmons, Pujols would probably have to Americanize his name playing in a less ethnically tolerant era. Simmons was born Aloys Szymanski. Who knows? Maybe if Pujols had played in the Thirties, we’d know him today as Al Parker.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have fared in a different era than his own.