A champion like Bernie Williams would be a sure Hall of Famer in football or basketball

13 01 2013

If Baseball Hall of Fame selection worked the way the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame selections work, Bernie Williams would be heading for Cooperstown someday. Instead, he dropped off next year’s ballot, getting only 3 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America last week.

The most comparable NFL teams to the Bernie’s Yankees were the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and ’90s, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s and the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s.

I’ll leave the 49ers out of this consideration for a couple reasons:

  1. Their titles were more spread out, four titles in nine years, five titles in 14 years. With a wider spread of years, they had more turnover of players. In fact, they have two quarterbacks from that era, Joe Montana and Steve Young, in the Hall of Fame.
  2. More of their players remain in Hall of Fame consideration. Charles Haley is a finalist this year. Maybe Roger Craig, John Taylor, Ken Norton or Randy Cross will make it someday, too. So it’s harder to say how many 49ers will eventually make it to Canton. (Montana, Young, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott,  and Fred Dean are already in the Hall of Fame, along with Coach Bill Walsh and three players who made most of their case for the Hall of Fame with other teams, Deion Sanders, Rickey Jackson and Richard Dent).

Instead, we’ll examine the Steelers and Packers. The Yankees won four championships in five years (and made two more World Series in the next three years). The Steelers won four championships in six years. The Packers won five championships in seven years (and played for the title the year before winning their first championship). So all three teams won at least four championships over six years. These were some of the greatest dynasties in sports history.

Here are the Steelers from that era in the Hall of Fame: Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster (plus Coach Chuck Noll). That’s nine players, or 41 percent of the 22 starters (with only one full-time placekicker and no full-time punters in the Hall of Fame, we don’t need to count them). That’s close to a complete list, but some people still are campaigning for L.C. Greenwood.

Here are the Packers from that era in the Hall of Fame: Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Forrest Gregg, Paul Hornung, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Jim Ringo, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Willie Wood, plus legendary Coach Vince Lombardi. That’s 10 of 22, and Dave Robinson is a finalist this year who could make it 50 percent of the starters. And don’t count out Jerry Kramer, a five-time All-Pro who threw maybe the most famous block in NFL history.

Let’s say that the eight daily position players, the designated hitter, the five starters and the bullpen ace are equivalent to the starters on the football team, 15 people playing roles that give you a shot at the Hall of Fame. So if the Baseball Hall of Fame selections worked the way that the Pro Football Hall of Fame does, 40 to 50 percent would mean six to eight Yankees from the 1990s would make the Hall of Fame.

It’s too early to say who will make the Hall of Fame from the Yankees of the 1990s and early 2000s. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are slam dunks. Roger Clemens would be automatic if not for the suspicion (despite his perjury acquittal) of using performance-enhancing drugs. Wade Boggs is already in the Hall of Fame, but more for his performance as a Red Sox player (more comparable to Richard Dent, who’s in the Hall of Fame primarily for his play with the Bears, than to any Packers or Steelers). I don’t think he should be counted in a comparison to the Packers and Steelers.

Alex Rodriguez, another automatic Hall of Famer on record who’s tainted by drugs, came along after the championship run that Bernie led. He’s most comparable to Steve Young in the 49ers, but he doesn’t have a Packers or Steelers counterpart. Since we’re looking at the run of four titles in five years, he doesn’t count. Even if we extended through the 2003 World Series, A-Rod didn’t arrive until the next year. Randy Johnson, a sure Hall of Famer, didn’t join the Yankees until 2005.

I’ve already noted that Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada probably won’t make Cooperstown, but they would be strong contenders if baseball worked like football does, Pettitte probably a stronger contender than Williams, Posada about even with Bernie. David Cone probably won’t make the Hall of Fame, but if baseball honored champions the way football does, his 194 wins, a Cy Young Award, a perfect game and 8-3 post-season record would merit induction.

Bernie would be right up there with Pettitte, Posada and Cone in getting Hall of Fame consideration, and all four would make it to Cooperstown if baseball valued championships the way football does. With a .297 career batting average, 287 homers, 2,336 hits, 1,257 RBI, four Gold Gloves and a batting championship, he’s a little short of Hall of Fame levels for his regular-season career. You can find some people in the Hall with similar numbers or worse, but most with careers like that don’t get in. But his championships and post-season performance would seal the deal if baseball’s hall worked the way football’s does, especially since he was the team leader in the early years of the dynasty, before Jeter gained enough stature and experience to be the leader.

No other players from the Yankees’ dynasty would work into the first six to make the Hall of Fame. Tim Raines probably will make the Hall of Fame someday, but he’ll be there mostly for his play with the Expos and to a lesser extent the White Sox. Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden could have been Hall of Famers if they’d stayed away from recreational drugs, but they would have made the Hall primarily for their play for the Mets. And they didn’t stay away from drugs.

Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and David Wells might be comparable to some of the Packers or Steelers in the Hall of Fame, but I don’t think any of them has as strong a Hall of Fame case as Williams.

It’s pretty clear that if the Yankees got six to eight players in the Hall of Fame, Bernie would be one of them.

So let’s compare Bernie to some of the Steelers and Packers in the Hall of Fame. In his 16-year career, Bernie was a five-time All-Star. Here are the numbers of Pro Bowls and years played for Steelers and Packers with five or fewer years in the Pro Bowl:  Stallworth 4, 14; Swann, 3, 9; Blount, 5, 14; Bradshaw, 3, 14. Adderley, 5, 9. Davis, 5, 10; Hornung, 2, 9; Jordan, 4, 13; Starr, 4, 16; Taylor, 5, 10; Nitschke, 1, 15 (that’s an oddity, though; he was selected as an All-Pro seven times. I don’t know why that happened; he was clearly a bigger football star than Williams was in baseball). In terms of All-Star selections, Williams is comparable to more than half of the Steelers and Packers, even if you don’t count Nitschke.

I think all-star selections are a fair comparison, though they aren’t exactly parallel. Football careers tend to be shorter (only Starr matched Williams’ 16-year career in the group above), but football doesn’t have baseball’s rule requiring every team to be represented at the All-Star Game, which sometimes squeezes out a couple deserving players. Three times Bernie was chosen to the All-Star team as a reserve by his own manager, Joe Torre, because the World Series skippers manage the All-Star game. However, baseball’s All-Star Game is played mid-season, so it doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of great seasons a player had, while the Pro Bowl teams are chosen toward the end of the season.

Statistics are a tougher comparison, since baseball has one set of offensive statistics for all players and football has three (rushing, passing and receiving) that cover different players and don’t cover linemen. And tackles and sacks weren’t kept as stats when the Packers and Steelers dynasties played. But Bernie’s rank in baseball history similar the stats of some Packer/Steeler Hall of Famers.

Starr ranks 66th all-time in passing yards, between Tommy Kramer and Charley Johnson on the all-time list. The five players right above him and the five right below him on the list include only one Hall of Famer, Bob Griese, a two-time Super Bowl winner. Bradshaw ranks 49th, right between Ron Jaworski and Ken Stabler (both of whom he beat in post-season games and neither of whom is in the Hall of Fame). The 10 quarterbacks surrounding him include only two Hall of Famers, both Super Bowl champions: Joe Namath and Len Dawson. The two quarterbacks’ rankings are similar (Bradshaw 58th, Starr 79th) among leaders in completions and Starr’s rank is similar (77th) among touchdown leaders. Bradshaw ranks 25th in TD’s, but the retired players immediately above and below, John Brodie and Jim Hart, are not Hall of Famers.

Stallworth ranks 101st all-time in receptions, right between Marty Booker and Haywood Jeffires. The only Hall of Famers within five of him on the all-time receiving list are a tight end, Kellen Winslow, and a player who started out as a running back, Bobby Mitchell. In fact, a full-time running back, Emmitt Smith, is close behind at 108th. Swann doesn’t even crack the top 250 all-time receivers. Stallworth and Swann rank 63rd and 201st in receiving yards and 55th and 100th in receiving touchdowns.

Taylor ranks 36th in career rushing, right between Terry Allen and Earnest Byner on the all-time list. Earl Campbell is the only Hall of Famer within five places of him. Taylor is 15th in rushing touchdowns, clearly in Hall of Fame territory, within five places of Harris, Tony Dorsett, Eric Dickerson and Curtis Martin, as well as Jerome Bettis, who’s a finalist this year and certain to make it eventually. I’ll leave Taylor out of this discussion. He was the second-best running back of his time, behind Jim Brown, and his Hall of Fame case transcends his championships.

Hornung ranks 216th in career rushing yards, with a quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, the only Hall of Famer in the neighborhood. He ranks higher, 66th, in touchdowns, tied with Joe Morris and Wendell Tyler. There isn’t a Hall of Famer in the neighborhood. Hornung was a kicker, too, but he only ranks 87th in career scoring. He’s 140th in career field goals. Still, it’s hard to make comparisons involving Hornung. His kicking, his “Golden Boy” reputation and his gambling suspension make him hard to compare with anyone.

Franco Harris also doesn’t fit in a comparison with Bernie. He was 13th in career rushing yards and tied for 10th in rushing touchdowns.

Blount ranks 12th in career interceptions, tied with four players not in the Hall of Fame but clearly in Hall of Fame territory, with Lem Barney, Emmitt Thomas, Dick LeBeau, Lott, Willie Brown and Darrell Green nearby on the charts. Plus likely Hall of Famers Ed Reed and Charles Woodson. Adderley and Wood are tied at 42nd with three players not in the Hall of Fame — Dave Waymer, Richie Petitbon (who may make it someday) and Dave Grayson. Hall of Famers Yale Lary, Ken Houston and Jimmy Johnson are nearby in the rankings.

Keep in mind that Bernie Williams is thrown in with all hitters in his statistical rankings, not just with receivers or quarterbacks. He ranks 132nd in hits, nestled between Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and Andres Gallarraga. Two other Hall of Famers, Orlando Cepeda and Billy Herman are within five places, along with likely Hall of Famer Jim Thome. Bernie ranks 252nd in batting average, stuck between Russ Wrightstone and likely Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell. Within five places are Hall of Famers Cepeda, Al Kaline, High Pockets Kelly and Gabby Hartnett. In homers, Bernie ranks 149th, tied with Bobby Abreu, Garret Anderson, Brian Giles and Bobby Bonilla. Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is within five places. In RBI, Bernie ranks 125th, right between Edgar Martinez and Derek Jeter (who, of course, will pass him). Within five places are Hall of Famers Pie Traynor, Zack Wheat, Bobby Doerr and Frankie Frisch. In years winning a Gold Glove, Bernie ranks 28th among outfielders, tied with a bunch of players not in the Hall of Fame but one more than Hank Aaron and one less than Tony Gwynn.

Bernie’s career stats are more Hall-of-Fame-like than Stallworth, Swann,and Starr, and comparable to Bradshaw, Adderley and Wood, if you compare them to the people nearby them in career rankings.

Bradshaw led the league in touchdowns twice, but never led in another significant passing category. Starr led three times in completion percentage, but never led in another stat. Stallworth never led his league in any significant statistical category. Swann never led in catches or receiving yards but led once in receiving touchdowns. Wood and Blount each led the league in interceptions once. Adderley never did. Bernie was a batting champion, hitting .339 for the 1998 world champions.

I’m not suggesting that Starr, Bradshaw and these other Packers and Steelers don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. They do. And maybe Robinson, Kramer and Greenwood, too. They belong in the Hall of Fame because championships matter, and these guys were the foundations of the greatest dynasties their sports have known.

And so was Bernie Williams.

His comparison with the Packer and Steeler greats continues as you examine post-season performance. Bradshaw was fifth in career Super Bowl passing yards, third in touchdowns and passer rating and first in yards per pass. Starr won his first three NFL championships before the Super Bowl started, but he’s still second in yards per pass and fifth in passer rating.

Swann is ninth in Super Bowl receptions and second to Rice in receiving yards. Stallworth leads in career yards per catch and they are tied for second in receiving touchdowns.

With two Super Bowl interceptions, Blount is in a 13-way tie for fourth place. Adderley is among 11 players who have returned Super Bowl interceptions for touchdowns.

Williams doesn’t rank as high as some of those players in World Series performance (10th all-time in walks). But he is the all-time post-season leader in RBI and is second (to Manny Ramirez) in home runs and (to Jeter) in hits, doubles, total bases and runs scored and third in walks. Of course, earlier players didn’t have as many rounds of post-season play or as many teams qualifying, but doesn’t being one of the top post-season performers of your generation matter?

The only Steeler or Packer among overall playoff leaders is Stallworth, second to Rice with 12 post-season touchdown catches and first with eight straight post-season games with a touchdown catch.

Starr and Bradshaw each were two-time Super Bowl MVP’s and Swann won one. Bernie was MVP of the 1996 American League Championship Series.

A star player at a key position for an NFL dynasty simply doesn’t get excluded from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Packers had their quarterback, middle linebacker, two running backs, and two players each from the secondary, offensive an defensive lines in the Hall of Fame. Only the receivers are unrepresented. The Steelers had their quarterback, running back, two wide receivers, two linebackers, and one each from both lines and the secondary. Williams played centerfield and hit cleanup for the most dominant baseball dynasty in the past half-century, but he got bounced from the Hall of Fame ballot in only his second year of eligibility.

While longevity and career totals are perhaps the most important factors in Baseball Hall of Fame selection, contributions to championships are the most important factor in selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Beyond the best dynasties, other champions of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s were loaded with Hall of Famers (we see similar patterns for the ’80s and ’90s, but their players haven’t been eligible as long, so their ranks will grow more). Here are the Hall of Famers on NFL teams that won multiple championships or won one championship and played for others in the years right before or after (the list excludes players who played their best years for other franchises):

  • Cleveland Browns of the ’50s and ’60s, 13 players.
  • Oakland Raiders of the ’70s, eight.
  • Baltimore Colts, ’58-’71, eight.
  • Dallas Cowboys of the ’70s, seven.
  • Miami Dolphins of the 1970s, six.
  • Kansas City Chiefs of ’60s, six.
  • Detroit Lions of the ’50s, six.
  • New York Giants of the ’50s and early ’60s, five.
  • Los Angeles Rams of the ’50s, four.

Bernie would have been even a surer Hall of Famer if baseball selections worked like basketball.

Of course, the top dynasty in NBA history was the Celtics of the 1950s and ’60s, who won 11 titles in 13 years. Players from that dynasty in the Basketball Hall of Fame are Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Bill Sharman, Frank Ramsey, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn, Clyde Lovellette, K.C. Jones, Bailey Howell and Satch Sanders (elected as a contributor). Setting Sanders aside, that’s 10 Hall of Famers from one dynasty in a sport where you can only start five men. But the Celtics aren’t comparable to this Yankee dynasty. And a 13-year dynasty goes through considerable turnover.

So let’s compare Bernie to the Hall of Famers from a team that won two championships in four years, just half as successful as Bernie’s Yankees: the New York Knicks of the 1970s. The Knicks won NBA titles in 1970 and ’73. And six players from those champs were Hall of Famers: Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Jerry Lucas, Bill Bradley and Earl Monroe (Lucas and Monroe played only on the 1973 champions). And that doesn’t include Phil Jackson, elected as a coach. So this is a two-time championship team with all of its 1973 starters and one sub in the Hall of Fame.

Bradley doesn’t make the top 250 in career NBA and ABA scoring. Reed ranks 226th, with Heinsohn the only Hall of Famer nearby. DeBusschere and Lucas are tied for 156th, without a Hall of Famer around them in the standings. Frazier ranks 113th, a few notches ahead of Celtic Hall of Famers Dennis Johnson and Sam Jones. Monroe ranks highest, 72nd, three notches below Magic Johnson and three above Kevin McHale.

In career rebounds, Jerry Lucas ranks 16th, with Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bob Pettit and Wes Unseld near him on the charts, along with sure Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. DeBusschere is in Hall of Fame territory at 42nd, just ahead of Hall of Famer Mel Daniels and three notches behind Bob Lanier. Reed ranks 64th, with no Hall of Famers nearby. Monroe, Frazier and Bradley don’t make the top 250.

In career assists, Frazier ranks 54th, near Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Rick Barry, but without any Hall of Fame guards around. Monroe ranks 129th, three notches away from Hall of Famers Pete Maravich and Elgin Baylor (like Monroe, known more for their scoring). Lucas ranks 238th, with no Hall of Famers around. Reed, Bradley and DeBusschere don’t make the top 250.

In case you weren’t keeping track, Bradley didn’t make the top 250 in any of the key statistics. Now, to be fair, Bradley played only 10 years (that alone would keep him out of baseball’s Hall of Fame), so maybe we should judge his qualifications by per-game averages or shooting percentages. But he didn’t make the top 250 in points or rebounds per game or in field-goal percentage. I finally found him on leader boards at 76th for free throw percentage and 227th in assists per game.

Almost every member of the Knicks has a similar Hall of Fame case to Williams, and Bradley’s case is nowhere near as strong as Williams’. But they were a great team and the Basketball Hall of Fame recognized the team members accordingly.

Other champs also loaded up the Hall of Fame. Two one-time NBA champs from that era placed four players in the Hall of Fame, the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers with Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Hal Greer and Chet Walker (Cunningham is comparable to Williams) and the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers with Elgin Baylor, Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich and Jerry West.

The problem for Bernie is that he played baseball, and championship play is irrelevant in Hall of Fame selection in baseball. Throw out the 1920s and ’30s, which benefited from promiscuous selections by the Old Timers Committee, allowing induction of virtually all borderline players. Since World War II, can you name a player who’s comparable to Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Willis Reed or Bill Bradley — inducted because of his championship play? Don’t answer Bill Mazeroski: He was the best National League second baseman of his time, and the best of his time at any position nearly always makes the Hall of Fame. If the best player of his time at his position had made one of the most famous Super Bowl-winning plays of his time, he wouldn’t have waited 29 years after his retirement to get into Canton.

The only Yankee Hall of Famer since World War II who’s at all marginal is Phil Rizzuto. Perhaps championships played a role there. But he was inducted 38 years after he retired. If he hadn’t lost three prime years to World War II, his career stats would easily have been Hall of Fame caliber for a shortstop, and voters made allowances on career stats for several World War II veterans. He was an MVP and clearly one of the three best shortstops of his era. Four shortstops from the 1980s and ’90s are already in the Hall of Fame. Championships were a secondary factor at most.

Baseball’s dismissal of championships in Hall of Fame consideration doesn’t affect just the Yankees. Curt Flood, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Maury Wills, Dave Concepcion and George Foster, and perhaps others, would be sure Hall of Famers if baseball operated like football and basketball.

But of course, the Yankees, having won the most championships, are the team that is most affected by the Baseball Hall of Fame’s devaluing of championships. The Yankees from 1950 to 1964 are baseball’s equivalent of the Celtics dynasty. And, amazingly, even though baseball teams have more players, the Celtics have more Hall of Famers. Yankees from that era in the Hall of Fame are Rizzuto, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. Even if you throw in Enos Slaughter and Johnny Mize, whose best years were in the National League, the Yankees have only seven Hall of Famers in that era, compared to 10 for the Celtics over a shorter dynasty. But really it’s five Hall of Famers who were primarily Yankees.

It’s not just that the Yankees didn’t match the Celtics’ total. They didn’t even have the most Hall of Famers from baseball in that era. They won five straight World Series and nine total series in a 16-year stretch and played in 14 total World Series. Only the Dodgers, with three World Series wins, won more than one other championship in that stretch. The Dodgers had six Hall of Famers from that period: Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider.

The Giants, with just one championship in that stretch, also had six Hall of Famers: Orlando Cepeda, Monte Irvin, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry. (Perry’s career was just getting started in that stretch, but if you subtract him, they’re still even with the Yankees. And if you insist on counting Slaughter and Mize for the Yankees, you need to count not only Perry but Duke Snider, who joined the Giants late in his career.)

The Cardinals — with one championship during that stretch and one three years later — matched the Yankees’ five Hall of Famers: Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Slaughter. The Indians made it to one World Series during that stretch (and were swept by the Giants) but had as many Hall of Famers as the Yankees: Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Early Wynn.

The 1961 Yankees are often recognized as the greatest team of all-time, or one of the few in that debate. They had just three Hall of Famers: Berra, Mantle and Ford. That same year, the Chicago Cubs had five Hall of Famers: Richie Ashburn, Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Ron Santo and Billy Williams. They were seventh place that year and haven’t won a World Series in over a century. The Giants also had more future Hall of Famers that year than the Yankees: Cepeda, Mays, Marichal and McCovey. And the Milwaukee Braves (Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn), Chicago White Sox (Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Early Wynn), Dodgers (Snider, Drysdale, Koufax) and Cardinals (Gibson, Schoendienst and Musial) all matched the Yankees with three Hall of Famers.

Another Yankee team sometimes called the best of all time was the 1927 Murderers’ Row Yankees. As I’ve noted, the Hall of Fame admitted everyone who was close from the 1920s and ’30s. So the ’27 Yankees who are comparable to Williams — Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri — are in Cooperstown. Those two plus Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock gave the Yankees six Hall of Famers that year.

But even then, championships didn’t count notably in Hall of Fame selections. The Philadelphia A’s had seven Hall of Famers that year. The Cardinals and Giants matched the Yankees with six Hall of Famers that year. The Pirates (whom the Yankees swept in the World Series) were close behind with five. The Yankees of that time won more championships than any of those teams.

These guys I’m talking about (at least since World War II) all belong in the Hall of Fame. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be there, just that several Yankees have been barred because the Baseball Hall of Fame voters don’t value championships the way the football and basketball voters do.

The most obvious Yankee to add to the Hall of Fame would be Roger Maris, whose case I’ve made in three different blog posts. He’s Exhibit 1 for the case of anti-Yankee bias in Hall of Fame voting, a two-time MVP who set one of baseball’s most important records and is way more famous than most of his contemporaries who made it to Cooperstown. But he’s an even better exhibit for the case of championship meaninglessness in Hall of Fame voting, because he won his third championship and played in his sixth and seventh World Series after joining the Cardinals.

Another Yankee from that dynasty who absolutely would be in the Hall of Fame if championships mattered is Allie Reynolds. Like Maris, he should be in anyway. Reynolds only won 20 games once, but he was unique in baseball history. Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz made their cases for Cooperstown by excelling as starters and relievers, but they switched for whole seasons. Reynolds started and relieved not only within seasons but even within World Series. Again and again.

Reynolds won 20 games (losing only eight) and saved six games (his only six relief appearances of the year) in 1952. And he led the league in ERA with a 2.06 mark and in shutouts with six, finishing second in the MVP voting. Then he added two wins, a loss and a save with a 1.77 ERA in the World Series. The year before, he was 17-8 and had seven saves in 14 relief appearances (and again led the league in shutouts, this time with seven), good for third in the MVP voting. Back to back years, he was first in the league in shutouts and fourth in saves.

In 1953, Reynolds relieved more games (26) than he started (15), winning 13 games and saving 13, third best in the league. He had another good year in 1954, again splitting time between starting and relieving, 18 games each way. He was 13-4 with seven saves. However, during the season, the Yankees’ team bus crashed into an overpass in Philadelphia and Reynolds injured his back. He retired after the season.

His record of 182-107 with 49 saves, with two league strikeout titles, should get him into the Hall of Fame. The win total is low for a starting pitcher, but his uniqueness should offset that.

If championships mattered in baseball voting, Reynolds’ World Series play should put him over the top. He was 7-2 with two shutouts, four saves and an ERA of 2.79 in helping the Yankees to five straight championships (more than any team ever). He won or saved the clinching games in relief in the 1950, ’52 and ’53 World Series. He’s tied for second in career World Series wins and tied for third in career World Series saves. That’s just amazing: A guy with nine World Series starts is third in saves. And he’s all alone at third for career strikeouts. No comparable Super Bowl player or NBA champ who’s been retired long enough to be eligible for Hall of Fame induction has been passed over. But Reynolds has been retired nearly 60 years and he’s not in.

Elston Howard, an MVP playing a key position for a dynasty with strong stats, might also be a Hall of Famer in football or basketball. Maybe a few others from that dynasty: Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, Hank Bauer, Bobby Richardson.

From the Yankees of the 1970s, Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson and Graig Nettles would be sure Hall of Famers under football standards. Maybe Willie Randolph.

And for the dynasty of the 1990s, Bernie Williams would certainly make the Hall of Fame if championship contributions mattered. But championships are nearly irrelevant in Baseball Hall of Fame selection.

Note: Stats and facts in this post come from Baseball Reference, Pro Football Reference, Basketball Reference, the Baseball, Pro Football and Basketball Halls of Fame, Wikipedia and a New York Times obituary of Allie Reynolds. I don’t follow hockey closely enough to make a similar comparison to how selection works for the Hockey Hall of Fame.


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3 responses

17 01 2013
Linking and checklists could have prevented journalists from Manti Te’O ‘girlfriend’ hoax embarrassment « The Buttry Diary

[...] to an obituary — the New York Times obit of baseball player Allie Reynolds — in a blog post I wrote last weekend. I did find a few details for the post in the obit and linked there for attribution and [...]

2 11 2013
Wrapping up the 2013 season: Congrats to Red Sox, Mo, Pettitte | Hated Yankees

[…] I’d like to see the rebuilding come from a strong farm system. The dynasty of the ’90s was built heavily on homegrown talent: Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams. […]

31 12 2013
Reviewing 2013 on my blog: lots of leadership and ethics posts | The Buttry Diary

[…] Kevin Youkilis joining the Yankees (and others who have played for the Yankees and Red Sox), how Bernie Williams would be a sure Hall of Famer in football or basketball, Mariano Rivera’s incomparable career, Tommy John’s continuing exclusion from the Hall […]

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