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 Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index tool, I thought I’d see who’d be enshrined now who isn’t had Allen’s suggestion been acted upon:

300 wins: Roger Clemens.

2,500 hits: Harold Baines, Buddy Bell, Barry Bonds, Bill Buckner, Doc Cramer, Lave Cross, Willie Davis, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Steve Garvey, Luis Gonzalez, Al Oliver, Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Parker, Vada Pinson, Tim Raines, Jimmy Ryan, Gary Sheffield, Rusty Staub, and George Van Haltren.

2,500 games: Darrell Evans, Dwight Evans, Gary Gaetti, Graig Nettles. Some of the players in the 2,500-hit club above would also qualify here, though I figured I’d just list them once.

More runs scored than games played in a 10-year period: Harry Stovey and George Gore. Only three Hall of Famers have done this, all from the 19th century: Billy Hamilton, Willie Keeler, and King Kelly. I suspect Allen at least had an inkling of this when he proposed the rule and that it was another tool to get 19th century players enshrined. A number of them got in on his watch during the early 1960s.

Bill James’ classic Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? notes that Allen did a lot of good for Cooperstown, pushing for some of the best Veterans Committee selections in the early 1960s. That said, I’m glad that this change was never picked up on.

7 Replies to “Lee Allen’s standards for automatic HOF induction”

  1. I agree that it is good that this idea was rejected. Inducting players based on career statistical total only with no subjective input and no consideration of whether individual seasons were valuable seems a bad idea. I’ve never even heard of George Van Haltren (not that it means he isn’t a Hall of Fame caliber player).

    Good to see you posting again, but take care of the new job, the move, and your significant other first.

  2. I wonder how many players have more runs scored than games played in a ten-year period, period. Is it relatively common for HOFers, or would the complete list be pretty short?

    1. Here are the players who’ve done it, minimum 1,000 games over 10 years: Harry Stovey, Billy Hamilton, Willie Keeler, King Kelly, George Gore.

      Hamilton, Keeler, and Kelly are enshrined; Stovey and Gore are not, though I could see Stovey being honored in the next 10-15 years because of Bid McPhee’s relatively recent induction.

      Good question, by the way. I updated the post to reflect it.

      @Detroit Michael: Guessing lots of people haven’t heard of George Van Haltren, though there was a campaign around his time of death in the early 1940s to enshrine him. On a non-related side note, he might be buried in the same cemetery as my great grandparents.

  3. Graham: Thanks for a fun write-up of Lee Allen’s proposed system, which is vaguely similar to the LPGA’s point system for Hall of Fame induction (1 point for each tour victory, scoring championship, and player of the year award, with 1 additional point for each major tournament win; HOF qualification at 27 points).
    I agree that adopting Allen’s proposed system, or any system based on career threshold values, would not a be good idea for baseball’s Hall of Fame. That said, the list of would-be inductees is not at all distasteful, at least not to a Big Hall guy like me. PED-associated guys aside, who is the most objectionable choice? Julio Franco? Gary Gaetti? In my view the Hall would be no worse for welcoming the likes of Baines, Davis, Evans, Evans, Nettles, Oliver, Pinson, Raines, Sheffield and Staub.

  4. Interesting lists for sure – and like others, I am also glad nobody followed up on this particular idea for “automatic” induction.

    I thought I’d add a side note…

    It wasn’t all that long ago – maybe a little after the Allen suggestion (let’s say 60’s or 70’s) – there was strong support for 400 career home runs being another “automatic” for voting a player into the Hall. Fast forward to 2015 and we’ve obviously rethought THAT one. Here’s the interesting cast of characters who aren’t in – some still active – who’d make it by this criteria (in order of home runs hit):

    Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Fred McGriff, Carlos Delgado, Chipper Jones, Jose Canseco, Adam Dunn, Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero, Dave Kingman, Jason Giambi, Paul Konerko, Juan Gonzalez, Andruw Jones, Mike Piazza, Darrell Evans, Alfonso Soriano.

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