Thursday, January 7, 2010

Warren Spahn was Good, but was he First Ballot Good?

Okay, I wrote my little post saying congrats to the Hawk on his election for induction. Deserving or not, Andre Dawson is a Hall of Famer and will remain enshrined in Cooperstown forever. I spent the last two hours reading every blog post and comment on the topic and honestly I am sick of it… I am not really sick of Hall of Fame discussion though, but I am looking back a few years… It all started with this post by Matt of Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius. Yesterday he posted a picture of Warren Spahn’s Hall of Fame plaque and mentioned that Warren Spahn was not a first ballot Hall of Famer. Yes, Warren Spahn, the winningest left hander in baseball history. A 17 time All Star who started the All Star Game in 3 different decades. A guy who won 363 games, struck out 2583 batters, threw 63 shutouts and completed 382 freaking games! The dude won 20 or more games 13 different times in his career. At 42 years of age in his 20th season he led the league with 22 complete games and had a 23-7 record with a 2.60 ERA. The fact that Warren Spahn wasn’t good enough to be a first ballot Hall of Famer seemed more ridiculous than David Segui getting a vote in 2009. I looked into things a little deeper and found this to be untrue, well sort of… There were a few complications with Spahn. He retired from the Giants after the 1965 season, but played the following 2 seasons in the minor leagues which delayed his eligibility, making the January 1973 ballot his first year eligible. He was voted in on the first ballot he legitimately appeared on. It was technically not his first ballot though. After Spahn’s (and the Braves) amazing run in 1957 when they won the World Series and Spahn was 21-11 with a 2.69 ERA and won the NL Cy Young Award, Spahn actually received a vote on the 1958 ballot. He was 36 years of age then, he would continue to pitch for another 8 seasons and win about 150 more ball games, but somehow he received a vote. I don’t know if the Hall ballot had write-ins or what in ’58, but he received a vote. It was that one single vote that he received while he was an active player that made him appear “2 Years on Ballot” for that election. I am glad to clear that little matter up… In the post I mentioned from Heartbreaking Cards… he references this excellent post from Sully Baseball about baseball legends that didn’t go in on the first ballot. He had included Spahn on that list, we’ve cleared that up, but there are others that seem equally silly… Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Eddie Mathews (5th ballot!!!) and the craziest of all-Hank Greenberg went in on his 9th try!!! Thanks for the blog fodder guys! A lengthy post about the ’73 ballot is on its way… I couldn’t find my Spahn plaque, so I borrowed this image from HBCoSG and NO the Spahn cards are not up for trade… I love this hobby, I love this game! Troll out.


  1. Good work by the Troll. The Spahn not first ballot thing seem preposterous to me too.

    Keep the vintage coming.

  2. Vintage is good. I like learning....and I always learn something here, even during a pack break.

  3. Nice post. The '51 Bowman Spahn is a classic.

    I'll never get the voting. Insane.

  4. are the Spahns for trade?

    heh, heh...

  5. Very nice work on the Spahn ballot there. Context is everything, and you found the context.