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. Read the rest of this entry »

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