Yankee starting pitchers who belong in the Hall of Fame: Reynolds, John and Guidry

28 09 2015

This continues my series on Yankee starting pitchers.

Three Yankee starting pitchers who aren’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame should be there: Tommy John, Ron Guidry and Allie Reynolds.

Roger Clemens also belongs there based on his achievements, but is being kept out of Cooperstown because of suspicion that he used performance-enhancing drugs. I dealt with Clemens in the 300-game-winners installment of this series on Yankee starting pitchers, so I won’t address him here.

I have detailed multiple times why John and Guidry belong in the Hall of Fame, so I will just summarize those arguments and link to earlier posts at the end of this one. Here I’ll primarily make the case for Reynolds, whom I touched on just briefly in 2013.

Allie Reynolds

Allie Reynolds' autograph on a baseball my wife's uncle used to take to Yankee Stadium in the 1950s. Yes, that's Mickey Mantle's autograph to the right. Also outfielder Gene Woodling and pitcher Bob Kuzava.

Allie Reynolds’ autograph on a baseball my wife’s uncle used to take to Yankee Stadium in the 1950s. Yes, that’s Mickey Mantle’s autograph to the right. Also outfielder Gene Woodling and pitcher Bob Kuzava. The ball now belongs to my son Mike.

One of the reasons Reynolds isn’t in the Hall of Fame is the longtime disdain of the Baseball Writers Association of America members for giving any consideration to post-season performance. Their anti-Yankee bias would collapse if they gave any weight to World Series success in Hall of Fame selection. But they cling fiercely to that bias, so championships and post-season performance, which count greatly for selection to the football or basketball halls, mean nothing in selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Golden Era Committee ballot included Reynolds in 2011, but he was snubbed by a committee that chose Ron Santo (who never played in a World Series).

Reynolds was arguably the best pitcher ever in World Series play. The only pitchers with as many World Series wins as Reynolds are Whitey Ford with 10 and Red Ruffing and Bob Gibson, tied with Reynolds at seven. Ford also lost eight games, so his actual dominance doesn’t match that of Reynolds, Ruffing and Gibson, who were all 7-2.

Bob Gibson's autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Bob Gibson’s autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Gibson’s 1.82 ERA was better than Ruffing’s 2.63 or Reynolds’ 2.79, and Gibson’s 92 strikeouts beat the 62 for Reynolds and 61 for Ruffing. I would argue that Gibson was the greatest starting pitcher in World Series play, edging out Reynolds.

But here’s what Reynolds did that none of those pitchers did: He saved four World Series games, too, giving him a key role in 11 wins. 

The greatest streak by any team ever in baseball history was the Yankees’ run of five straight world championships from 1949 to 1953. And the greatest pitcher of that greatest dynasty was Allie Reynolds. Here’s what he did in the regular season and World Series during that run:

1949

Allie Reynolds' autograph is faint but visible in this ball belonging to my son Tom. His great uncle collected the autographs at Yankee Stadium in the early 1950s.

Allie Reynolds’ autograph is faint but visible in this ball belonging to my son Tom. His great uncle collected the autographs at Yankee Stadium in the early 1950s.

Reynolds had the first of his five All-Star seasons, going 17-6 in the regular season, with 31 starts, four relief appearances and one save.

In the World Series, he outdueled Don Newcombe, 1-0, for a two-hit shutout in Game One and his second career World Series win, following one in the 1947 Series.

In Game Four in ’49, with the Yankees leading two games to one, they took a 6-0 lead into the sixth inning, with Eddie Lopat pitching. The Dodgers roared back on four straight run-scoring singles, when Reynolds entered with the tying runs on base and two outs. The Dodgers were in easy reach of tying the World Series. Reynolds ended the rally with a strikeout and allowed no base runners in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

This was before the days when closers got ninth-inning saves. This was the Game One starter slamming the door and pitching 3 1/3 perfect innings to preserve a 6-4 lead and give the Yankees a 3-1 Series lead. They wrapped up the series the next day.

Baseball did not award a World Series MVP then, but Reynolds’ 12-plus shutout innings probably would have beaten out the Yankees’ hitting star of the Series, Bobby Brown. Reynolds also went 2-for-4 at the plate in the Series, with a double. (Joe DiMaggio also had two hits in the Series, but in 18 at-bats.)

1950

Again, Reynolds had a solid regular season, with a 16-12 record, an All-Star appearance, 29 starts, six relief appearances and two saves.

In Game Two of the World Series, Reynolds outdueled Hall of Famer Robin Roberts for a 2-1 complete-game win. Reynolds also was 1-for-3 at the plate with a walk.

In Game Four, the Yankees looked poised to sweep the Series, with Ford taking a 5-0 lead into the ninth inning. But Ford was out of gas. After two singles, a hit batter and an error, the score was 5-2 with two men on and the tying run at the plate. Yankee manager Casey Stengel called on Reynolds to wrap up the Series and he struck out pinch-hitter Stan Lopata.

1951

Reynolds pitched two no-hitters in 1951, including the pennant clincher on Sept. 28. (More on those games in a separate post on Yankee no-hitters.)

The no-hitters highlighted a 17-8 season with 26 starts, 14 relief appearances, a league-leading seven shutouts and six saves. Who has ever approached a season like that: leading the league in shutouts, and having twice that many relief appearances?

Reynolds’ invincibility in the post-season ended in Game One of the World Series, when the Giants roughed him up for five runs in six innings. But he bounced back for a 6-2 complete-game win in Game Four. Again, he contributed at the plate, too, going 2-for-6 in the World Series as the Yankees won in six games.

1952

This was perhaps Reynolds’ best regular season, winning 20 games, starting 29, and saving games in all six of his relief appearances. Again he led the league in shutouts, with six, and his 2.06 ERA and 160 strikeouts also led the league.

He was second in the MVP voting and made his third All-Star team.

For the second time in a World Series, Reynolds recorded both a shutout and a save. He lost Game One, 4-2 and pitched a four-hit shutout to win Game Four, 2-0.

The rest of the Series, Reynolds worked out of the bullpen. He struck out Roy Campanella with the tying run on second in the eighth inning, then pitched a scoreless ninth to save Game Six.

In Game Seven, Reynolds entered in the fourth inning with a 1-0 lead and the bases loaded with no outs. The tying run scored on a sacrifice fly, but Reynolds retired the three batters he faced in the fourth. He gave up a run in the fifth but pitched a perfect sixth inning and left with a 3-2 lead. The Yankees won, 4-2, and Reynolds got his second win of the Series.

1953

Reynolds’ work shifted more heavily to the bullpen in 1953, with just 15 starts and 26 relief appearances. He had 13 wins and 13 saves, five complete games and one shutout.

The 1953 World Series was Reynolds’ worst, but he both won and saved games for the fourth time. After cruising through the first five innings of Game One with a 5-1 lead, he gave up two homers in the sixth inning and left with a 5-4 lead. Johnny Sain gave up the tying run in the seventh and got the win in a 9-5 game.

Reynolds then moved to the bullpen, getting a save in Game Five and wrapping up the Series with a win in Game Six. The win was one of those cheap bullpen wins you see occasionally. He relieved Ford in the eighth inning, working around a two-out single to preserve a 3-1 lead. But a two-run homer by Carl Furillo tied the game in the top of the ninth. Reynolds finished strong with two strikeouts to keep the game tied, then got the win on Billy Martin‘s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.

Reynolds 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, seven wins and two shutouts is third in career World Series saves. And he’s all alone at third for career strikeouts. He is, without question, one of the best starters and one of the best relievers in World Series history.

Of course, no one (that I can think of) in Super Bowl play or NBA championship play excelled in dual roles the way Reynolds did. The closest might be two-way football player Chuck Bednarik, who played before the Super Bowl era, and Magic Johnson, who played center once in a championship series when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was injured.

So let’s expand the comparison: Absolutely no pro football or basketball player who made as huge contributions to multiple championships as Reynolds did, 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 baseball’s Hall of Fame because championships and championship play count for nothing there.

The other two pitchers who were most dominant in both starting and relieving roles, Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz, are in the Hall of Fame. But they switched roles for whole seasons. Reynolds started and relieved not only within seasons but even within World Series. Again and again. Back-to-back years, he was first in the league in shutouts and fourth in saves. He’s tied for third in career World Series saves and for fourth in career World Series shutouts. And he hit .308 in six World Series.

After the string of five straight World Series titles, Reynolds 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 at age 37.

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, relief achievements and World Series brilliance should offset that.

Tommy John

John won 288 games, just 12 short of the threshold that ensures selection (unless a pitcher is scandal-tainted). Two-thirds of the pitchers in the Hall of Fame won fewer games than John did. And he made the most epic comeback in baseball history, undergoing a surgery that is now named for him, and getting all three of his 20-win seasons after the comeback.

John and Roger Maris are the ultimate examples that actual fame doesn’t count as much in Hall of Fame selection as anti-Yankee bias.

I’ve made the case for Tommy John here three times:

  1. Tommy John belongs in the Hall of Fame; his name is synonymous with comebacks
  2. Tommy John belongs in the Hall of Fame as a member, not a special guest with his surgeon
  3. Tommy John paved the way to Cooperstown for John Smoltz

Ron Guidry

Ron Guidry, photo I took in 1977 with his daughter

Ron Guidry, photo I took in 1977 with his daughter

Guidry faces two of the strongest biases of Hall of Fame voters: the anti-Yankee prejudice and the insistence on valuing longevity over peak performance. But for nine years, Guidry was the best pitcher in his league. Most Hall of Fame pitchers can’t say that.

I’ve also made the case multiple times for Guidry:

  1. Ron Guidry compares well to three Dodger Hall of Fame pitchers
  2. Bert Blyleven belongs in the Hall of Fame, but not before Ron Guidry
  3. Ron Guidry elevated the great teams he played on
  4. Great pitchers (Justin Verlander, Ron Guidry) really are the most valuable players
  5. Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly’s best year compare well to new Hall of Famers

Also in this series

Other posts in this series on Yankee starting pitchers:

Source note: Unless otherwise noted, all statistics cited here come from Baseball-Reference.com.

Correction invitation: I wrote this series of blog posts over several months, mostly late at night while unable to sleep while undergoing medical treatment. I believe I have fact-checked and corrected any errors, but I welcome you to point out any I missed: stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com. Or, if you just want to argue about my opinions, that’s fine, too.

 

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24 responses

30 09 2015
Yankee pitchers who are nearly Hall of Famers: Mussina, Pettitte, Cone, Tiant, Kaat | Hated Yankees

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1 10 2015
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1 10 2015
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1 10 2015
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[…] Yankee starting pitchers who belong in the Hall of Fame. […]

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1 10 2015
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[…] Yankee starting pitchers who belong in the Hall of Fame. […]

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2 10 2015
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[…] players who used performance-enhancing drugs will get in): Roger Clemens, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Allie Reynolds, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, David Cone, Luis Tiant and Jim Kaat. And Wells and CC Sabathia […]

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12 10 2015
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13 10 2015
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14 10 2015
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[…] I address Reynolds’ full career in my post on Yankee starting pitchers who belong in the Hall of Fame. […]

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15 10 2015
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[…] Yankee starting pitchers who belong in the Hall of Fame […]

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16 10 2015
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[…] by his ethnicity, part Creek Indian. As I recounted in more detail in an earlier post, he absolutely belongs in the Hall of Fame. And he’s the only Yankee with two […]

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17 10 2015
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[…] Yankee starting pitchers who belong in the Hall of Fame […]

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18 10 2015
Other notable Yankee starting pitchers: Al Downing, Don Gullett, Jim Beattie … | Hated Yankees

[…] These guys didn’t make the Hall of Fame, win 300 games (or even 200), don’t have a strong case for the Hall of Fame (or even a long shot), didn’t win a Cy Young Award, pitch a no-hitter, win 20 games, have a […]

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19 10 2015
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[…] Allie Reynolds […]

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20 10 2015
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[…] Belongs in the Hall of Fame: Allie Reynolds. […]

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21 10 2015
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31 12 2015
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[…] notch below. For years, my someday to-do list for the blog had included doing posts on Whitey Ford, Allie Reynolds and Don Larsen, and I think I did justice to all three, as well as Dave Righetti, who wasn’t […]

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10 01 2016
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[…] Williams, Mattingly, John, Ron Guidry, Munson, Nettles, Maris, Elston Howard and Allie Reynolds all have solid Hall of Fame cases. They were among the best of their eras at their positions, […]

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5 04 2016
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[…] he played only seven years for the Yankees (he was traded to the Indians after the 1946 season for Allie Reynolds, who should join him in the Hall of […]

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14 04 2016
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[…] Allie Reynolds came close to making the list as well. If only he didn’t start so many games in his best relief years … […]

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15 04 2016
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[…] around the infield, pitching Ford irregularly against the American League’s best teams and moving Allie Reynolds back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen, Stengel truly reached the greatest sustained success of any manager ever. And he delivered some […]

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25 07 2016
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[…] Maris, Allie Reynolds and Elston Howard are Yankees of this era who should be in Cooperstown but aren’t […]

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18 01 2017
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[…] think of four ex-Yankee starting pitchers who belong there ahead of him: Tommy John, Ron Guidry, Allie Reynolds and Andy […]

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