Baseball Hall of Fame changes its absurd (and racist) ‘Era Committees’

25 07 2016

The Baseball Hall of Fame has improved the ridiculous structure of its Veterans Committees and corrected the egregious racism that was part of the old structure.

The three rotating committees used the last several years will now become four committees, with more frequent consideration by the committees that review more recent players. In a significant development, the revised process will allow consideration again for Negro League players and contributors.

The three Eras Committees the Hall of Fame has been using could hardly be more absurd. Each had its own nonsensical aspects:

  • The Pre-Integration Era Committee, as I noted last year, perpetuated segregation in baseball by having one committee that could consider only white players. Consideration of Negro League players of the Hall of Fame ended in 2006, and the rules for the Pre-Integration Era Committee said that it could consider only “major league” players (and coaches, umpire and executives) whose primary contributions came prior to 1947, and that meant whites only.
  • The Golden Era Committee considered players (and others) whose primary contributions fell from 1947 to 1972. Who the hell proclaimed this the “Golden Era” of baseball? Not Cincinnati Reds fans, whose team’s golden era was just getting started in 1972. Not fans of the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks or other teams that didn’t even exist in 1972. Not fans of the Philadelphia Phillies, who won their only championships after the supposed Golden Era. Hey, my childhood fell during this supposed Golden Era. In other circumstances, I might argue that this was the golden era (the Yankees won 10 World Series in the era). Isn’t whenever you grew up the “golden era” of anything? But in designating eras for Hall of Fame consideration, it’s laughable, as though players elected from this era are automatically greater, more golden, than the others. And, you know what ended the Golden Era? Let’s see, what changed about baseball in 1973? That’s when they adopted the designated hitter rule, which self-anointed purists think ruined baseball. Because it’s so much fun to watch pitchers hit.
  • The Expansion Era Committee considered players and contributors whose greatest contributions came since 1973. But what the hell did 1973 have to do with expansion? It’s the Designated Hitter Era (even though the committee hasn’t admitted anyone who was primarily a DH; the only DH in the Hall, Frank Thomas, was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and the Hall calls him a first baseman, even though he played more games at DH). Baseball expanded in 1961 and 1962, adding two teams each year, then in 1969, adding four. So a majority of the expansion teams, eight of 14, were added before the so-called “Expansion Era” of the Hall of Fame’s absurd Era Committees.

The committees rotated, each considering players every three years. Last year the Pre-Integration Era Committee didn’t elect anyone for induction this year.

Now we’ll have four committees: Read the rest of this entry »





The Negro Leagues Museum: Class in the face of bigotry

7 07 2016
Buck O'Neill is an outrageous omission from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. But he gets proper respect at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Buck O’Neill is an outrageous omission from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. But he gets proper respect at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

At the entrance to the museum, Kansas City baseball icon Buck O'Neil watches over a field of statues of the Negro Leagues' greatest.

At the entrance to the museum, Kansas City baseball icon Buck O’Neil watches over a field of statues of the Negro Leagues’ greatest.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is more than a tribute to ballplayers who were cheated of the full glory they deserved. It’s also a reminder of how ugly this nation can be.

I probably waited too long to visit the museum. My mother lives in the Kansas City area, and most of my trips there have flown past swiftly with visits to Mom, present-day baseball games and barbecue dinners. I’d always leave with regrets and good intentions to visit the museum next time I was in KC. But I think I visited at exactly the right time: a time when too many people in this country are again openly practicing and embracing bigotry.

This is going to be a post about the museum and not about politics. But if you think America needs to be made “great again,” and you’re thinking it was great any time before 1947, you need to visit this museum soon.

If you can visit this museum without being outraged at the cruelty and bigotry of racial segregation, and ashamed that our country tolerated it so long, you simply don’t have a conscience. But the museum is still an uplifting experience. It’s the story of people who loved playing ball and relished life, even in the face of such bigotry. It’s astounding that people who actively practiced the bigotry or passively tolerated it were so profoundly mistaken about who was inferior.

This news story about a baseball game between a Negro League team and a Ku Klux Klan team is just sickening. Please read the story.

This news story about a baseball game between a Negro League team and a Ku Klux Klan team is just sickening. Please read the story.

Northerners who regard bigotry as a Southern practice need to visit the museum. Major league ball wasn't even played in the deep South when it was segregated.

Northerners who regard bigotry as a Southern practice need to visit the museum. Major league ball wasn’t even played in the deep South when it was segregated. Even in Northern towns with no whiff of major-league ball, bigotry thrived.

Negro League players who didn't even enjoy freedom in their home country fought in World War II.

Negro League players who didn’t even enjoy freedom in their home country fought in World War II.

Black players in Latin American leagues enjoyed freedoms denied to them at home.

Black players in Latin American leagues enjoyed freedoms denied to them at home.

Read these quotes, then consider that the award for sports writers in the Baseball Hall of Fame is named for Spink.

Read these quotes, then consider that the award for sports writers in the Baseball Hall of Fame is named for Spink.

As a journalist, I found the display on black sports writers interesting (and a valuable reminder of journalism's own shameful history of bigotry).

As a journalist, I found the display on black sports writers interesting (and a valuable reminder of journalism’s own shameful history of bigotry).

Earlier posts on segregation and racism in baseball

Hall of Fame’s ‘Pre-Integration Era’ Committee perpetuates segregation

Black and Latino players in the Baseball Hall of Fame were nearly all automatic selections

Changing standards for the Baseball Hall of Fame always favor white players

Comparing borderline white Hall of Famers with black and Latino contenders

Few teams integrated as slowly or reluctantly as the Yankees

 





Few teams integrated as slowly or reluctantly as the Yankees

9 10 2015

I should acknowledge the elephant in the clubhouse: Few teams integrated as slowly as the Yankees.

This post concludes a series on continuing racial discrimination in baseball, in a blog that normally focuses on the Yankees, so I have to acknowledge my favorite team’s part of that shameful history.

A 2013 Pinstripe Alley post by Steven Goldman details the Yankees’ initial resistance to integration of baseball, then its leisurely minor-league “development” of future All-Stars Vic Power and Elston Howard, who clearly were beyond ready for the big leagues. The Yankees traded Power and didn’t bring Howard up to the majors until he was 26, in 1955, eight years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier.

In this context, it is no excuse that the Yankees won the World Series in 1947, the year Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and then won five World Series in a row from 1949-53. Maybe for a year or two you could say that the Yankees’ success excused their reluctance to integrate (if you’re looking past the moral aspect).

But I cut the Yankee leadership of that time no slack. They got a good look in four of those World Series at the dynamic impact on the Dodgers of such African Americans as Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe. And in the 1952 Series, the Yankees saw the greatness that Willie Mays and Monte Irvin brought to the Giants. And they played in the same city with those guys. They should have seen that aggressive recruitment of African American and Latino players would help continue, strengthen and extend their dynasty. But they worried that attracting African American fans to the ballpark would turn away white fans.

From Manager Casey Stengel to executives Larry MacPhail and George Weiss, the Yankee leadership was slow to recognize the injustice of racial exclusion and the improvement that integration brought to baseball. All those great Yankee teams of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s achieved their records and dynasties without facing some of the best players in baseball: Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Buck O’Neil and the other stars of the Negro Leagues.

Only the Phillies, Tigers and Red Sox were all-white longer than the Yankees. Read the rest of this entry »





Comparing borderline white Hall of Famers with black and Latino contenders

8 10 2015

Which of these players, if either, do you think belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

  • In nearly 17 major league years, Outfielder A had 2,349 hits, scored 1,259 runs, hit 121 homers, drove in 1,024 runs, stole 237 bases, with a .312 batting average.
  • In nearly 18 seasons, Outfielder B had 2,246 hits, scored 1,156 runs, hit 227 homers, drove in 1,062 runs, stole 276 bases, with a .287 batting average.

Let’s start with this clear conclusion: Both players are borderline Hall of Famers, not likely to get voted into Cooperstown by the Baseball Writers Association of America, but possibly candidates for eventual election by a Veterans Committee.

Outfielder A has a slight advantage in hits and runs and a clear advantage in batting average. Outfielder B has a slight advantage in RBI, a clear advantage in stolen bases and a big advantage in homers.

If you were to choose one over the other for the Hall of Fame, it might be based on a few really spectacular years or consistency, perhaps defensive excellence, perhaps some special achievement that doesn’t show up in the stats. But based on the whole career, these two players are closely comparable.

Here’s who the two players are: Read the rest of this entry »





Changing standards for the Baseball Hall of Fame always favor white players

6 10 2015

If you’re a borderline candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame, it sure helps to be a white guy.

Rules, standards and the election process to the Hall of Fame have changed a lot over the years, but one thing is certain: Except for special committees to consider Negro League players, the voting has always been skewed toward white players.

As I noted in the last post, only one Latino player (Orlando Cepeda) and one African American player (Larry Doby) have been chosen to the Hall of Fame by Veterans Committees, the second-chance committees that have chosen most white players in the Hall of Fame.

Part of that is a function of time. Baseball was integrated in 1947, so a player starting a 20-year career in 1950 would retire in 1970. That player then would have to wait five years before going on the writers’ ballot (1975), then, if not elected by the writers, would not become eligible for Veterans Committee consideration until about 1995. So we’ve had roughly 20 years of Veterans Committee consideration of retired black and Latino “major” league players.

And that timetable has pretty much worked out. Three minority players (other than Negro Leaguers) were elected to the Hall of Fame before 1975:

  • Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947 and played only 10 years in the “majors.”
  • Roy Campanella, Robinson’s Dodger teammate who started playing in 1948 and whose career was curtailed by a car accident in 1957.
  • Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972. The Hall of Fame waived the five-year waiting period and he was elected immediately, the first Latino in the Hall of Fame.

After those three, Ernie Banks‘ election to the Hall by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1977 started a steady stream of black and Latino Hall of Famers. He was one of nine selected over the next 10 years. Read the rest of this entry »





Black and Latino players in the Baseball Hall of Fame were nearly all automatic selections

6 10 2015

Nearly every African American or Latino major league player in the Hall of Fame was an easy, almost automatic choice.

Since “major” league baseball integrated in 1947, the minority players who have made the Hall of Fame were nearly all slam-dunk choices who couldn’t be denied their Cooperstown moments.

Of the 25 African American and eight Latino major-league players in the Hall of Fame:

Pitchers

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.

Only four major league pitchers have made the Hall of Fame who are African American or Latino — Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez. None won 300 games, which ensures Cooperstown enshrinement.

But their credentials were undeniable in other ways:

  • Martinez won three Cy Young Awards, Gibson won two and Jenkins one.
  • Jenkins won 20 games seven times, Marichal six, Gibson five, Martinez two.
  • The four pitchers combined for seven ERA titles and six strikeout crowns.
  • Gibson and Martinez were first-ballot Hall of Famers. Jenkins and Marichal lasted just three years on the ballot.

Any black or Latin pitcher who wasn’t a cinch for the Hall of Fame simply hasn’t made it. Not Luis Tiant, Lee Smith (more on him later in this series), Dennis Martínez, Vida Blue, Dave Stewart or Dwight Gooden.

Catchers

The only African American “major” league catcher in the Hall of Fame is a three-time MVP: Roy Campanella, elected in his sixth year on the writers’ ballot. (Yogi Berra, a three-time MVP catcher of the same era, was elected in his second year.) Elston Howard, an MVP and nine-time All-Star, was the best catcher of his day, but he’s not in the Hall of Fame and never reached 21 percent of the writers’ votes. (I’ll compare him to some white Hall of Fame catchers later in this series.)

Second basemen

This is one of the best positions for African American and Latino players to make the Hall of Fame. Carew started his career as a second baseman before moving to first. Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947 and was the first black elected to the Hall of Fame, played second base most of his career. Joe Morgan and Roberto Alomar were the best defensive and offensive second basemen of their times. Alomar was elected in his second year on the writers’ ballot, the others in their first.

No borderline candidates from any minority group have made the Hall of Fame at second base: no Lou Whitaker, Willie Randolph, Davey Lopes or Frank White (if you think these borderline candidates I’m mentioning are long-shot Hall of Famers, compare their career stats to some of the white Hall of Famers from the Jim Crow era).

Shortstop

Again, all the Hall of Famers of color were easy choices by the writers:

  • Banks, who played more games at first base, but played more than 1,100 games at shortstop and won both of his MVPs there, was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
  • Ozzie Smith, a 13-time Gold Glove and 15-time All-Star, is regarded as the best defensive shortstop ever. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
  • Barry Larkin, an MVP and 12-time All-Star, won election in his third year on the writers’ ballot.
  • Luis Aparicio, with nine Gold Gloves and nine straight years leading his league in stolen bases, took six years on the writers’ ballot to make the Hall of Fame.

Again, no borderline black or Latin shortstops have made the Hall of Fame, though Dave Concepción, Bert Campaneris, Maury Wills and Omar Vizquel (who is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame) stack up well against some white shortstops in the Hall of Fame.

Third basemen

No African American or Latino since the Negro Leagues has made the Hall of Fame primarily for his play at third base. Cuban Tony Pérez, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000, played 760 of his 2,777 career games at third base. Dick Allen, turned down by the Golden Era Committee last year, played 652 of his 1,772 games at third base.

Bill Madlock is probably the best African American prospect who is so far eligible. His four batting championships are more than any of the 12 white Hall of Fame third basemen except Wade Boggs, who won five. In fact, the other 11 Hall of Famers combined just match Madlock’s four batting crowns: three for George Brett, one for George Kell and none for the other nine.

Other easy Hall of Fame choices

Most of the Hall of Famers I mentioned as members of the 500-homer and 3,000-hit clubs played outfield or first base. But some other outfielders and first basemen won election easily to the Hall of Fame:

  • Willie Stargell, with 475 homers, and Kirby Puckett, a 10-time All-Star with five 200-hit seasons, were first-ballot Hall of Famers.
  • Billy Williams, with 426 homers and 2,711 hits, was elected in his sixth year on the writers’ ballot.
  • Andre Dawson and Pérez took nine years on the writers’ ballot to make the Hall of Fame.

Later in this series I’ll compare a bunch of African American and Latino outfielders getting no consideration for the Hall of Fame to Segregation Era white outfielders honored in Cooperstown.

Borderline contenders

Only three African American or Latino players who didn’t get into the Hall of Fame on the first 10 years on the writers’ ballot have made it to the Hall of Fame:

Orlando Cepeda's autograph (above Manager Red Schoendienst's) on a ball autographed by members of the 1967 or '68 Cardinals. The ball belongs to my son Joe.

Orlando Cepeda’s autograph (above Manager Red Schoendienst’s) on a ball autographed by members of the 1967 or ’68 Cardinals. The ball belongs to my son Joe.

  • Jim Rice, despite leading his league three times in homers and twice in RBI, getting four 200-hit seasons and hitting .298 for his career, didn’t make the Hall of Fame until his 15th and final year on the ballot.
  • Orlando Cepeda is the only Latino player elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.
  • Larry Doby is the only black player elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

Most white players in the Hall of Fame got there through the Veterans Committees. But black and Latino players have to be automatic Hall of Fame choices, or their chances get really slim.

I will compare white players selected by Veterans Committees to African American and Hispanic players being excluded later in this series.

Also in this series

This is the second of four posts I am writing about racism in selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yesterday I compared the black and Hispanic players rejected last year by the Golden Era Committee to white Hall of Famers at the same positions from baseball’s segregated era.

Next: How second-chance Hall of Fame selection has favored — and continues to favor — white players.

Style note: The Hall of Fame has had various committees and rules through the years to elect players who were passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America as well as umpires, managers, executives and other baseball pioneers. I am referring to them all in this series as the Veterans Committee unless the specific context demands reference to specific committee such as the current era committees or the Special Committee on Negro Leagues. Baseball-Reference.com has a detailed history of the various committees.

Yankee note: This blog usually writes about Yankees. This week I am taking a broader look at continued racial discrimination in baseball, so I didn’t want to disrupt to note Yankee connections in the body of the post. But I’ll note them here: Jackson, Winfield, Henderson, Howard and Randolph all played significant prime years as Yankees. Gooden, Campaneris, Smith and Tiant played for the Yankees toward the ends of their careers.

Starting pitcher series. I have paused my series on Yankee starting pitchers this week for this series on continuing racial discrimination in election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The series on pitchers will resume next week.

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

Correction invitation: I wrote this blog post a few months ago late at night, 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 selections, that’s fine, too.

Thanks to newspaper partners

I offered a shorter (less stats-geeky) version of the first post in this series to some newspapers. Thanks to the newspapers who are planning to publishing the in print, online or both (I will add links as I receive them):

If you’d like to receive the newspaper version of the first post to use as a column, or would like a shortened version of any other posts in the series to publish, email me at stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com.

 





Hall of Fame’s ‘Pre-Integration Era’ Committee perpetuates segregation

5 10 2015

Jackie Robinson ended segregation in major league baseball, but not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame has a Pre-Integration Committee that considers only white players and contributors from long ago for honors in Cooperstown. But the Hall no longer has a Negro League Committee to consider the stars excluded from “major” league baseball. Those two facts revive and perpetuate the exclusion of a bigoted era that is a shame to the sport and our nation.

I hope this result is unintentional (as many actions with racist results were and are), but that doesn’t make it excusable.

The Special Committee on the Negro Leagues elected the final 17 Negro Leaguers to Cooperstown in 2006. (Outrageously, the committee omitted Buck O’Neil; I suggest reading Joe Posnanski‘s The Soul of Baseball to fully appreciate why O’Neil belongs in the Hall of Fame and how he handled this snub with extraordinary class and grace.)

The end of the Negro League selections might be understandable, if that had been the end of consideration for all pre-1947 major leaguers as well. But the Hall of Fame continues selections through a Pre-Integration Era Committee (whose rules say it considers only “major league” players, managers, umpires and executives).

The Hall of Fame announced its Pre-Integration Era Committee ballot today, including six players (Bill Dahlen, Wes FerrellMarty Marion, Frank McCormickHarry Stovey and Bucky Walters). One of the four nominated for off-field contributions was Doc Adams, who was a great 19th-Century shortstop, in addition to a baseball pioneer. The others on the ballot are executives Sam Breadon, Garry Herrmann and Chris von der Ahe. If the committee elects any of them, none will be alive to enjoy the honor. The committee’s choices, if any, will be announced Dec. 7 at the Major League Baseball winter meeting.

More than half of the 244 total players in the Hall of Fame, 126, are white players who played all or most of their careers before Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. That compares to 29 players elected from the Negro Leagues. Add 25 African Americans who played primarily or exclusively in the major leagues and eight Latino Hall of Famers, and the players from the Segregation Era outnumber minority Hall of Fame players more than 2 to 1. (I’m not going to accept Pre-Integration as the name of this era; I’ll try out some more honest names in this post.)

Adding still more players from the Bigotry Era cheapens the Hall of Fame in two ways:

  1. Whatever their achievements, the “major league” hitters before 1947 didn’t have to face Satchel Paige, probably the best pitcher of his time, and other Negro League pitching stars. And the “major league” pitchers didn’t have to face some of the best hitters of their time, such as Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell. So all of the career statistics and other achievements in baseball before 1947 should be discounted.
  2. At all levels of Hall of Fame selection — the Baseball Writers Association of America voting and second-chance elections by various Veterans Committees — standards were not as demanding of players before integration as they have been since.

Lots of players from recent decades who will never make the Hall of Fame had better careers than players from the 1920s and ’30s who are already in Cooperstown (especially the cronies and teammates of Frankie Frisch, who spent six generous years on the Veteran’s Committee).

Last year the Golden Era Committee, considering players whose prime years fell between 1947 to 1972, rejected all 10 players on the ballot. African American Dick Allen and dark-skinned Cuban Tony Oliva each came up one vote short of election, receiving 11 of 16 votes (75 percent of the vote is required). Other minority players rejected by the Golden Era Committee were Maury Wills, Minnie Miñoso and Luis Tiant.

Each of those players clearly measured up to or surpassed multiple counterparts from the Jim Crow Era who are in the Hall of Fame:

Tony Oliva and Minnie Miñoso

Compare Oliva and Miñoso, both dark-skinned Cuban outfielders who couldn’t have played in the majors before 1947, with six outfielders from the Birth of a Nation Era: Kiki Cuyler, Chick HafeyHarry Hooper, Heinie Manush, Zack Wheat and Ross Youngs. (I focused on 20th-Century players, since 19th-Century statistics are so hard to compare to other eras. And I’m looking only at borderline players who made the Hall of Fame, not automatic selections such as Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.)

Like Miñoso and Oliva, none of these outfielders from the Back of the Bus Era reached either of the statistical thresholds that ensured Hall of Fame selection prior to the scandals about use of performance-enhancing drugs: 3,000 hits or 500 homers. None of them came close to winning election by the baseball writers: Cuyler, at 34 percent, came the closest of the white players. Hooper and Manush never got even 10 percent of the writers’ vote. Oliva peaked at 47 percent of the writers’ vote and Miñoso peaked at 21 percent, better than all but Cuyler, Wheat and Youngs.

Injuries shortened Oliva’s career. He played 15 seasons, all for the Twins, well below his peak the last five seasons. Miñoso was a Negro League All-Star before reaching the “majors” full-time at age 25. So both Cuban players didn’t have high career totals in the “majors”: 1,917 hits, 220 homers and 947 RBI for Oliva, 1,963 hits, 186 homers, 1,023 RBI and 205 stolen bases for Miñoso.

But both Cubans had more hits than Youngs or Hafey and more RBI than those two players and Hooper. Miñoso and Oliva hit more homers than any of the white players we’re comparing (most of whom played after Babe Ruth popularized the home run and slugging soared). Only Hooper and Cuyler stole more bases than Miñoso (Wheat matched him with 205).

Though the whites played in a time of inflated batting averages (helps not facing pitchers like Paige and Tiant), one or both Cubans had higher batting averages than Hooper, and higher on-base and/or slugging averages than all the white outfielders and one or both of the Cubans had higher OPS numbers than Hooper, Youngs and Wheat.

So in terms of offensive averages and career totals, Miñoso and Oliva were clearly in the same territory as these Hall of Fame outfielders from the Amos ‘n Andy Era.

But when you look at peak performance measures, the Cubans stand out from their white counterparts. Hafey, Manush and Wheat each won one batting championship, while Oliva won three. Manush was the only one of the white outfielders to lead his league in hits (he did it twice). Miñoso led his league in hits once and Oliva led the league five times. Cuyler, Youngs and Manush combined to lead their leagues in doubles four times, the same number as Oliva did by himself. Miñoso did it once. Miñoso led his league three times each in triples and stolen bases. Manush and Cuyler each led their leagues once in triples. Cuyler outdid Miñoso with four league stolen-base titles (easier to do in an all-white league), but none of the other white outfielders led his league in steals. Most of the white outfielders couldn’t match Oliva’s achievements of leading his league in runs and slugging once each.

Miñoso led his league in being hit by pitches an incredible 10 times.

And keep in mind, Oliva and Miñoso were leading integrated leagues of the very best baseball players. All the others led whites-only leagues.

Simply put, at least a half-dozen outfielders from the Lynch Mob era who were comparable or inferior to Oliva and Miñoso are in the Hall of Fame.

Dick Allen

Allen played 807 games at first base, 652 games at third and 256 in the outfield in a career in which his best seasons were played for the White Sox and Phillies. So I will compare him here to eight Jazz Player Era first and third basemen: Jake Bottomley, Frank Chance, George “High Pockets” Kelly, Bill Terry, Frank “Home Run” Baker, Jimmy CollinsFreddie Lindstrom and Pie Traynor. Traynor and Terry were elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers and the rest were chosen by Veterans Committees. (Though I included two players elected by the writers in this comparison, I did not include a few first basemen who were automatic selections.)

Maybe you don’t think of these (Allen’s career totals) as Hall of Fame numbers: 1,099 runs, 1,848 hits, 351 homers, 1,119 RBI and 133 stolen bases. But they used to be. Allen hit more homers than any of those eight Hall of Famers. Traynor was the only player to exceed Allen’s totals in the other four stats, and Bottomley surpassed Allen in runs, hits and RBI. The other five Hall of Famers didn’t match Allen’s totals in most of the five stats I chose (and stolen bases were not Allen’s sweet spot by any stretch; I threw that stat in because these others played in a time of lots of stolen bases, but only half of them stole more than Allen). Lindstrom and Kelly didn’t match Allen in any of the five offensive stats.

Allen played in an era of lower batting averages, so all eight of these Hall of Famers passed his respectable .292 average. But the other percentages all go in Allen’s favor: Only Chance and Terry topped his .378 on-base percentage, and Allen beat all eight of the white Hall of Famers with his .534 slugging percentage and .912 OPS.

So by most of these important career statistics, Allen was easily better than most, if not all, of these corner infielders in the Hall of Fame, including two elected by the writers.

Placing players in the context of their times, Allen led his league four times in OPS, three times in slugging, twice each in homers and on-base percentage and once each in runs, triples, RBI and walks.

Even the two players who were elected by the writers didn’t dominate their all-white leagues offensively as much as Allen dominated integrated leagues. Terry led his league once each in batting, hits, runs and triples. Traynor led his league once in triples.

Baker and Bottomley came the closest of these white corner infielders to matching Allen’s total of 15 league titles in offensive categories, but their combined total just reached 14.

You simply can’t make a case for excluding Allen, an MVP, Rookie of the Year and seven-time All-Star, from a Hall of Fame that includes these eight players at the same positions from the Plessy vs. Ferguson Era.

Maury Wills

I’ll compare Wills to shortstops from the Separate But Unequal Era elected to Cooperstown by Veterans Committees (highest percentage of writers’ vote in parentheses): Dave Bancroft (16), Travis Jackson (7), Joe Sewell (9), Joe Tinker (20), Arky Vaughan (29) and Bobby Wallace (3). Wills, by the way, peaked at 41 percent of the writers’ vote, higher than any of them.

Let’s start with some basic facts. None of those shortstops:

  • Broke an important all-time record (Wills broke Ty Cobb’s single-season stolen-base record of 96 in 1962)
  • Won an MVP award (Wills was the 1962 MVP).
  • Led his league six straight seasons in stolen bases (Wills led 1960-65).
  • Ranks 20th in career stolen bases (Wills stole 586, more than the combined totals of Tinker and Wallace, the leading two white shortstops).
  • Changed the game the way Wills did, accelerating the increase of stolen bases through much of baseball.

Without question, Wills has a niche in baseball fame and achievement that none of these white shortstops can match. They would have to have remarkably better career achievements in other areas to justify their being in the Hall of Fame and Wills being excluded.

So let’s compare their other career stats: None of these players was a power hitter, so we’ll compare Wills to these six shortstops in four areas: runs, hits, batting average and games played at shortstop. None of the six surpassed Wills in all four categories. In runs, batting average and games at shortstop, he’s right in the middle, ahead of three and behind three. Only Sewell and Wallace had more career hits than Wills’ 2,134.

So like Oliva, Miñoso and Allen, Wills has as strong a case for the Hall of Fame, if not stronger, than a bunch of his peers from the Stepin Fetchit Era.

(Wills is the only player we’re discussing here that I saw play live. My mother took us to see the Dodgers play at Wrigley Field in 1963. We got to see Don Drysdale pitch, and the Cubs tagged Wills out on a hidden-ball play.)

Luis Tiant

Since there are 76 pitchers in the Hall of Fame, I’m going to narrow the comparison here by matching Tiant up to the six Hall of Fame pitchers from the No Coloreds Era who are the closest above and below his 229 career wins (their wins follow their names): Herb Pennock (241), Mordecai Brown (239), Waite Hoyt (237), Stan Coveleski (215), Chief Bender (212) and Jesse Haines (210).

By how I chose the list, all are peers of Tiant in career wins, half a little ahead of him and half a little behind. Tiant, with 31 percent of the writers’ vote, did better than four of the other starters. Pennock was the only one of the seven elected by the writers, topping the 75 percent threshold on his eighth year on the ballot. Bender got 45 percent in his best year, Brown 27, Hoyt 19, Coveleski 13 and Haines 8.

Four of these white Hall of Famers had higher winning percentages than Tiant. Haines matched Tiant’s .571 and Hoyt was a few points lower. But in other measures, Tiant holds his own with these Hall of Famers or surpasses them:

  • Tiant had more career strikeouts than any of the six.
  • Only Brown had more career shutouts than Tiant’s 49.
  • Only Coveleski and Brown had more 20-win seasons than Tiant’s four (and none of the others matched Tiant here).
  • Three of the six had higher ERAs than Tiant’s 3.30 and three were lower.
  • Tiant led his league twice in ERA and three times in shutouts. Coveleski was the only one of the six Hall of Famers to lead his all-white league more times in key pitching stats (ERA and shutouts twice each, winning percentage and strikeouts once each).

Why honor a shamed era?

All five of the black players rejected by last year’s Golden Era Committee — three Cubans and two African Americans — were clearly at least as good as and probably better than comparable Whites Only Era players who are in the Hall of Fame.

So why in the world does the Hall of Fame continue to give any consideration to pre-1947 candidates at all? If you haven’t made it into the Hall of Fame 70 years after the peak of your career, you aren’t going to make it and you probably shouldn’t. And if you do make it, you won’t be alive to enjoy it.

Unless a decision on Pete Rose opens the door for players banned for gambling, which shouldn’t allow much, if anyone, beyond Shoeless Joe Jackson, we should be done with Hall of Fame selections of white guys who played before 1947.

Doc Adams, Bill Dahlen and Wes Ferrell are long since dead. Maybe they deserved their Cooperstown moments as much as Frisch’s cronies did, but most players with similar careers to theirs never make the Hall of Fame.

No need to give them posthumous glory when their Shameful Era was so over-honored anyway.

Next: This is the first in a series of posts I am writing about racial disparities in selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Tomorrow I will look at the African American and Latino players elected to the Hall of Fame.

Style note: The Hall of Fame has had various committees and rules through the years to elect players who were passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America as well as umpires, managers, executives and other baseball pioneers. I am referring to them all in this series as the Veterans Committee unless the specific context demands reference to specific committee such as the current era committees or the Special Committee on Negro Leagues. Baseball-Reference.com has a detailed history of the various committees.

Yankee note: This blog usually writes about Yankees. This week I am taking a broader look at continued racial discrimination in baseball, so I didn’t want to disrupt to note Yankee connections in the body of the post. But I’ll note them here: Pennock and Hoyt were mainstays of the 1920s Yankee pitching rotation. Tiant and Coveleski played briefly for the Yankees, both past their primes. Sewell played three years at third base for the Yankees at the end of his career. Schang and Baker played a few years for the Yankees.

Starting pitcher series. I have paused my series on Yankee starting pitchers this week for this series on continuing racial discrimination in election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The series on pitchers will resume next week.

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

Correction invitation: I wrote this blog post a few months ago late at night, 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 selections, that’s fine, too.

Thanks to newspaper partners

I offered a shorter (less stats-geeky) version of this post to some newspapers. Thanks to the newspapers who are planning to publishing the in print, online or both (I will add links as I receive them):

If you’d like to receive the newspaper version to use as a column, email me at stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com.