Months ago, I wrote about “The 10 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame.” It remains one of my most-read entries and even got mentioned in a Mormon blog, since it included Dale Murphy. Were I really slick, I’d post the Top 10 Mormons not in the Hall of Fame. That’s a project for another time, though.
Today’s list features players I expect to be Veteran’s Committee picks sometime soon. Rather than simply reposting my old list, though, I will offer a couple of clarifications. First off, this list will not include Pete Rose, Joe Jackson and Hal Chase. Deserving though they may be as players, they remain long shots because of their involvement with gambling. If anything ever does happen, it will come from the commissioner of baseball, not the Veteran’s Committee.
The Veteran’s Committee is baseball’s fiefdom for those players not quite good enough to make the Hall of Fame fresh off their careers but able to gather sentimental appeal over time. While the Writer’s Association recognizes the Hank Aarons and Babe Ruths of baseball, the committee is for the Phil Rizzutos of the sport. There are probably dozens of these kinds of players who will one day be in the Hall of Fame. Here are ten worth considering:
1. Dom DiMaggio: At some point, committee members will awaken to the injustice surrounding DiMaggio, one of the game’s great gloves and not a bad bat either. It’s a shame it didn’t happen within his lifetime.
2. Johnny Pesky: This might seem a stretch, as Pesky had 1,455 career hits and just seven full seasons. However, if DiMaggio makes it to Cooperstown, Pesky might too. Here’s why. Pesky lost three prime seasons to World War II. In the season before and two seasons following his military service, Pesky averaged .330 and led the American League in hits each year. Barring WWII, Pesky would have had over 2,000 career hits which is usually enough to get the Veteran’s Committee talking.
Pesky would benefit from DiMaggio’s induction for a subtle reason, though. In 2003, David Halberstam came out with a well-received book, The Teammates, which described the friendship of Boston Red Sox teammates DiMaggio, Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams. Doerr and Williams are already enshrined. If DiMaggio gets in, it would make sense to let Pesky in too.
3. Gil Hodges: Having just finished The Boys of Summer, I am putting Hodges on this list over Murphy. Murphy had slightly more career hits and home runs, but Hodges gets the nod for also being a World Series winning manager with the New York Mets. He gets a sentimental boost too because of his death from a heart attack, two days shy of his 48th birthday.
4. Urban Shocker: After my original post about the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame, a reader suggested Urban Shocker. I agree. Not a regular starting pitcher until he was 28, he won 187 games, nearly all of them in a nine-season stretch.
5. Carl Mays: A fellow pitcher from Shocker’s era, Mays notoriously killed a batter with a pitched ball in 1920. He also had 207 career wins, a 2.92 earned run average and won at least 20 games five times.
6. Bobby Grich: A power-hitting second baseman, like Doerr, the two had similar career numbers.
7. Dave Parker: I wrote in May that Parker was a Veteran’s Committee pick waiting to happen, since he had better career number than Cooperstown members Jim Rice and Orlando Cepeda. I maintain my position.
8. Ron Santo: Another player the Veteran’s Committee seemingly exists for.
9-10. Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker: The Detroit Tigers double play combination were repeat All Stars, each getting over 2,000 career hits. Neither merited induction by the Writer’s Association, but they’re the sort of candidates the Veteran’s Committee loves: Earnest, consistent and baseball men all the way. If Rizzuto can make it into Cooperstown, Trammell and Whitaker should as well.