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.

 

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Thurman Munson belongs in the Hall of Fame

6 01 2010

Congratulations to Andre Dawson on election to the Hall of Fame. More on that later. With today’s announcement of this year’s Hall of Fame, I want to write about one of the most outrageous failures by the narrow-minded baseball writers who choose their favorite players for the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame should include the greatest players at each position. And you can’t come up with an accurate list of the greatest catchers ever that doesn’t include Thurman Munson.

I should state at the outset that I am not arguing for any breaks for Munson based on his shortened career. He would have accumulated greater offensive statistics if he hadn’t died in a 1979 plane crash. But the Munson argument for the Hall of Fame is not based on what might have been. He belongs in the Hall of Fame based on the career he had.

Compare Munson to the 13 catchers in the Hall of Fame: Read the rest of this entry »