Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Troll Travels Back in Time to Take a LONG Look at Hall of Fame Ballots Past While Pondering the Condition of Sudden Immortality...

Since I completely dropped the ball in discussing player’s cases for the Hall of Fame prior to the election I figured I would go back in time to talk about past ones… Thanks to the amazing power of the internet, anyone can look at any ballot and see who got votes in what year. Thank you interweb. I will first select January 1973, and I will check out who the writers voted for on the first election of my lifetime… I was only about a week old, but I am sure I was concerned. My parents said I cried a lot and they thought it was colic or teething, but in reality it was because I couldn’t believe the writers were such elitists that they didn’t think Duke Snider was worthy of the Hall. Seriously, the Duke didn’t go in until 1980 on his 11th try. That same year Al Kaline went in on his 1st try (I agree with that) but finishing 3rd and 4th below them were the Duke’s teammates Don Drysdale (6th) and Gil Hodges (12th). More on Snider and Hodges later… Okay, I lost focus and drifted to 1980, that happens a lot, but let’s get back to ’73, shall we? There were a total of 6 new inductees into the Hall in ’73, 3 of those people were living. The first (and foremost) was Roberto Clemente, my favorite player of all-time who died on the day I was born. I’ve said before my heroes aren’t athletes and they all have the same last name as me. For this Troll heroes are limited to my Mom, Dad, Grandfather, Wife and 2 Sons. IF I were to have an athlete hero, it would be Roberto Clemente. He was inducted as part of a special election after his death, similar to Lou Gehrig’s induction. The Veteran’s Committee also selected “Smiling Mickey” Welch, who won 307 games over 13 seasons with the Troy Trojans and the New York Giants. His best season was in 1885 when he was 44-11 in 55 starts. His ERA was 1.69 and he had 55 complete games. Yep, he completed every single game he started! Over his career he started 549 games and completed 525 of them. Wow. He passed away in 1941 long before his induction. Also elected posthumously was umpire Billy Evans who died in 1956. The Veterans Committee also elected George “Highpockets” Kelly, a dead ball era power hitting first baseman. He led the NL in homers in 1921 with 23. In his first year of eligibility for the Hall (1947) he received just 1 vote out of 160 ballots, but 26 years later, he was deemed Hall worthy. Hmm. The fourth player elected by the VC that year was Monte Irvin. Irvin spent 9 years in the Major Leagues, primarily with the Giants and in ’51 he hit .312 with a league leading 121 RBI. He led the Giants to 2 NL Pennants and a World’s Championship in 1954. His election was based however on his time spent in the Negro Leagues with the Newark Eagles. He was a 4 time All Star at shortstop for the Eagles, he won 2 batting titles and led them to a Championship in 1946. Those 5 players were all selected by various Veterans Committees. The 380 baseball writers elected only 1 player to the Hall in 1973. That player was left handed pitcher Warren Spahn, winner of 363 games against 245 losses. Spahn appeared on 316 ballots (83%) to earn himself a plaque in Cooperstown. He surely deserved to go to the Hall. He is arguably the greatest left handed pitcher ever. What is interesting is who the writers deemed not worthy of the Hall of Fame Class of 1973. Twenty players failed to receive enough votes to remain on the ballot. Some of the more recognizable names among them were Ted Kluszewski, Don Newcombe, Lew Burdette, Bobby Richardson and another amazing lefty, Billy Pierce. More interesting regarding the ballot are the 14 different players on the ballot that didn’t get in on the ’73 ballot, but did make it in eventually. Duke Snider was on the ballot for the 4th time and received only 26%. Bob Lemon, Pee Wee Reese and George Kell were all on their 9th ballot. Johnny Mize, Phil Rizzuto and Ralph Kiner were on the ballot for the 11th time. Richie Ashburn was on his 6th attempt and received only 6%, yet 22 years later he was deemed Hall worthy. One man who received more votes than 12 players who would eventually be inducted into the Hall was Gil Hodges who ranked 4th in the voting that year with 57% of the vote and he STILL isn’t good enough. I could go on, but I won’t… (or maybe I will). I think I’ve proven my point to myself, if not to you the reader. It began yesterday as I was wondering why Andre Dawson is recognized as one the greatest outfielders of All Time today, but he wasn’t last year or 5 years ago. I don’t understand how today Richie Ashburn is among the greatest outfielders of All Time, but in 1973 (or ’83) he wasn’t. Their production hasn’t improved in that time; did their mediocrity just fade from memory? After looking at the ballot from my birth year, I decided to check out the one from my Dad’s birth year, so let’s take it one step further and take a peak at the 1945 Hall of Fame ballot. The writers didn’t find a single player worthy of the Hall that year and the ballot included 56 players who would eventually go on to the Hall of Fame. Some of the names on that ballot who weren’t good enough for the Hall then were Hank Greenberg, Lefty Gomez, Charlie Gehringer, Ted Lyons, Zack Wheat, Carl Hubbell, Bill Dickey, Home Run Baker, Bill Terry, Tinkers, Evers and Chance, Pie Traynor, Frankie Frisch, Mickey Cochrane and Mordecai Brown to just name a few. Now granted, much like Warren Spahn in ’58 some of those guys were still active, but still…. In 1953 the 9th time was the charm for Dizzy Dean and Al Simmons just like 2009 was for Andre Dawson. Did Dizzy Dean and his 6 good seasons deserve to get in to the same Hall as Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson? Hell no, but apparently over 200 writers were eating steak dinners in new suits that year. Can you imagine the backlash on whatever the equivalent of the blog-o-sphere was back then? The moral to this story is the writers with all of the power were fickle, elitist idiots then and they still are. You can look at nearly any ballot from any year and see the same idiocy They had/have all the power and get all the rest of us totally up in arms and at the end of the day they don’t give a f… about what they are doing! Wait, do kids read this? Okay, deep breath and a few f-bombs screamed out loud and I am okay. The debate does not and should not end, I’m yelling at my poor dog right now asking her why Rabbit Maranville was one of the greatest shortstops of All Time in 1954 (the year he died) but he wasn’t the prior 14 years he was on the ballot? Another guy in Maranville’s Hall of Fame class in 1954 was Memphis Bill Terry, the New York Giants star first baseman from 1923-1936. Terry was “suddenly immortal” in his 14th try, too. I obviously never saw him play-his career wasn’t very long but the guy hit .401 in 1930. They only played 154 games back then, but looking at his 162 game averages on Baseball Reference his line is AMAZING… Assuming he had 605 at bats per year, he average .341, 206 hits, 105 runs, 35 doubles, 11 triples and 14 homers with 101 RBI. Why did it take the writers 14 freaking years to think that was good? Switching over to a guy who was inducted in his very first year of eligibility after a career that lasted almost 50 years, Satchel Paige was elected in 1971 and was the first player ever to go into the Hall based on accomplishments in the Negro Leagues. There was mucho controversy and talk of his plaque being in a separate wing of the Hall. During his speech he said “Today baseball has turned Satchel Paige from a second class citizen to a second class immortal”. Satch always had a way with words and I get chills just typing that, but (and this is NOT how he meant it) the idea of a separate wing of the Hall for second class (or second tier) legends like Rabbit Maranville, Richie Ashburn and Andre Dawson aint a bad one. Perhaps the new wing should be reserved for the greatest; maybe they can get two plaques, call it the Hall of Hall and reserve it for the true immortal legends like Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Warren Spahn… No, I take it back that is a stupid idea. How bout we find a way to remove about 200 or so of the current writers who vote solely on personal agendas and don’t care about the game? I like that idea better… Before I sign off I have one more “suddenly immortal” player to bring up. We all know that none of the players (Maris, McGwire, Sosa, Bonds) that have a claim for most homeruns in a single season made it to the Hall other than Babe Ruth. For Roger Maris, his career just wasn’t long enough and the other guys have other issues. Roger Maris only played in the Big Leagues for 12 seasons and he only played in 120 games or more 7 times. He showed what he could do in a full season when he won back to back MVP Awards in ’60 and ’61, but he, like Dale Murphy and so many others just didn’t play long or often enough to be considered for immortality, right? I give you the Hall of Fame class of 1979 and Hack Wilson. The Hack holds the single season record for RBI which has stood for 80 years. In 1930 he had one of the best seasons ever; he batted .356 with 56 homers and 191 RBI. He had 423 total bases and his slugging percentage was .723. Freaking amazing. Even more amazing was he didn’t get a single vote for MVP that year. That sounds pretty crazy, but that is another issue of context. There was no MVP Award in 1930 and there wasn’t one the year prior either, but anyway… Hack Wilson was GREAT, but he was only great over a short (5 year) span. Just like Maris did, Hack only topped 20 homers 6 times and he only played in 120 games or more 6 times. There was no All Star game, Gold Gloves or Silver Sluggers during his era, hell there wasn’t even an MVP Award during his best years, so you don’t have that to judge on either. The bottom line is Hack Wilson, like Roger Maris, only played at superstar level for about half a decade. Is that Hall of Fame worthy? Well it wasn’t for the 15 years he was on the ballot. The most votes he received before falling off the ballot was 38%, but 45 years after he hung up his spikes and 31 years after he died, Hack Wilson was “suddenly immortal” and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979 along with Willie Mays. Hack Wilson was a power hitter who gathered up 244 homers over a 12 year career, Willie Mays was a 5-tool threat who hit 660 homers over his 22 year career, but on that day in 1979 Willie Mays and Hack Wilson were equals as 2 of the greatest outfielders in the history of the game. Yep, Willie Mays was just as good as Hack Wilson was, just like Richie Ashburn, Enos Slaughter, Jim Rice, Billy Williams, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron and Andre Dawson. They are the greatest outfielders to ever play the game. Just saying… Let the great debate rage on! And speaking of voting (keeping the segues smooth) there are only a few days left to vote for the 2009 Gummie Awards! Chris Harris (Mr. Stale Gum) mentioned that this year he has already received more votes than last year which tells me that this hobby is alive and well, but if you haven’t voted yet, please do! The more folks who vote, the more meaningful the awards become and the more of a chance that the card companies will take notice when their product receives a vote for WORST in 2009. Huge thanks by the way to Baseball Reference for having all of this info at a Troll's fingertips. Before I sign off, ponder this-was this LONG post just an excuse for the Troll to show off some of his new cards which are NOT up for trade??? Maybe. I did resist the urge to post any Billy Pierce cards-he will get a solo showing... I am starting to consider doing what several other bloggers do-trying to get at least one card of every member of the Hall. The reason why I am leaning towards no is that I don't want to give the stupid writers that much power over my card collection. I will say that I am falling for early '60s Fleer though... Pack breaks will return shortly... Troll out!


  1. This is good stuff. Mr. Troll, your write-ups are always top notch. You could show 'Baseball Digest' a thing or two on how to keep things interesting.

  2. This also shows how the VC ruined the rep of the HOF before stricter standards were applied in 2001.

  3. Very nice post Marck. Maybe YOU should be getting a vote for the HOF...but no voting in Evan or BJ before they retire! This was a really good read.