Baseball Hall of Fame president is wrong about how ‘very selective’ Cooperstown voting has been

1 02 2016

Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson is in denial about the history of the Hall and the players it has honored.

In an interview last month with Graham Womack for Sporting News, Idelson said:

A lot of fans, I believe, don’t realize that only one percent of those that played the game have a plaque in Cooperstown. So it’s very selective and very difficult to earn election.

Note that 1 percent figure; we’re going to come back to it. In the same interview, Idelson defended the Hall of Fame’s use of a Pre-Integration Era Committee that every three years schedules consideration of “major league” (which means white) players from before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Consideration of Negro League players from the same era stopped in 2006. The Hall of Fame includes 29 Negro League players and more than 120 white players whose careers were all or mostly played before 1947.

That 1 percent figure is bogus, even if it’s accurate. “Of those who have played the game” includes everyone active in the past five years, when baseball has 30 teams, and none of those players is yet eligible for Hall of Fame voting. I don’t know the history of roster size in baseball, either for most of the season or when rosters can expand in September. But more than 50 players appeared for the Yankees in 2015 and 2005, compared with 40 each in 1965 and 1955, so the recent years, because of roster size and league expansion, have more players than seasons in the distant past, when all the players have been retired long enough to be eligible for Cooperstown consideration.

And the measure of how “selective” the Hall of Fame is or how difficult it is to “earn” election is not Ken Griffey Jr., this year’s first-ballot Hall of Famer, or Mike Piazza, elected this year on his fourth year on the writers’ ballot. The players who wait decades for their Cooperstown moments are the true measure of how “selective” the Hall is: Veterans Committee choices like Deacon White, a 19th-Century player elected in 2013; Ron Santo, elected in 2012; Joe Gordon in 2009.

No player who played in 1990 has yet been eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee. So “those that played the game” includes thousands (a quarter-century’s worth of players) not eligible yet for that second-chance consideration that determines how selective the Hall of Fame truly is. That makes the 1-percent figure grossly misleading. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




World Series champs nearly always feature Hall of Famers

30 11 2015

As I pondered the Hall of Fame prospects of young members of the Kansas City Royals 2015 World Series champions, I wondered how rare it would be for a world champion to have no Hall of Famers.

While any young star faces long odds of reaching the Baseball Hall of Fame, quick research showed that a World Series winner without anyone making it to Cooperstown is also exceedingly rare.

I just went back to 1947 in answering my question, because, as I noted in an October post, Hall of Fame standards were much lower before baseball integrated.

So I will note year by year the starters and other important contributors of world champions who eventually became Hall of Famers. While I won’t speculate on whether players appeared bound for Cooperstown at the time (the point of yesterday’s post), I will note their ages at the time they won. If a player is in the Hall of Fame, but primarily for his play with another team, I will note that.

Joe DiMaggio autograph

My Joe DiMaggio autograph

1947

Champion: New York Yankees. Hall of Famers: Yogi Berra, 22; Phil Rizzuto, 29; Joe DiMaggio, 32.

1948

Champion: Cleveland Indians. Hall of Famers: Larry Doby, 24; Bob Lemon, 27; Bob Feller, 29; Lou Boudreau, 30; Joe Gordon, 33.

1949-53

Champions: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Mickey Mantle, ’51-3, 19-21; Whitey Ford, ’50 and ’53, 21 and 24; Berra, all years, 24-28; Rizzuto, all years, 31-5; DiMaggio, ’49-’51, 34-6. Johnny Mize, a member of all five Yankee teams, was not a full-time starter most of these seasons. He joined the Yankees at age 36 and is in the Hall of Fame primarily for his slugging for the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants.

1954

Champion: New York Giants. Hall of Famers: Willie Mays, 23; Hoyt Wilhelm, 31; Monte Irvin, 35.

1955

Champion: Brooklyn Dodgers. Hall of Famers: Duke Snider, 28; Roy Campanella, 31; Jackie Robinson, 36; Pee Wee Reese, 36.

A ball autographed by "Larry Berra," before he started signing "Yogi."

A ball autographed by “Larry Berra,” before he started signing “Yogi.”

1956

Champion: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Mantle, 24; Ford, 27; Berra, 31. Rizzuto, 38, was a part-time player, as was Enos Slaughter, 40, elected to the Hall of Fame primarily as a St. Louis Cardinal.

1957

Champion: Milwaukee Braves. Hall of Famers: Hank Aaron, 23; Eddie Mathews, 25; Red Schoendienst, 34; Warren Spahn, 36.

Whitey signed this ball "Ed. Ford" before his better-known nickname stuck.

Whitey signed this ball “Ed. Ford” before his better-known nickname stuck.

1958

Champion: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Mantle, 26; Ford, 29; Berra, 33; Slaughter, 42.

1959

Champion: Los Angeles Dodgers. Hall of Famers: Don Drysdale, 22; Sandy Koufax, 23; Snider, 32.

1960

Champion: Pittsburgh Pirates. Hall of Famers: Bill Mazeroski, 23; Roberto Clemente, 25.

My Mantle autograph

My Mantle autograph

1961-2

Champions: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Mantle, 29-30; Ford, 32-3; Berra, 36-7.

1963

Champions: Dodgers. Hall of Famers: Drysdale, 26, and Koufax, 27.

1964

Champions: St. Louis Cardinals. Hall of Famers: Lou Brock, 25; Bob Gibson, 28.

1965

Champions: Dodgers. Hall of Famers: Drysdale, 28, and Koufax, 29.

1966

Champions: Baltimore Orioles. Hall of Famers: Jim Palmer, 20; Brooks Robinson, 29; Frank Robinson, 30, and Luis Aparicio, 32.

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.

1967

Champions: St. Louis Cardinals. Hall of Famers: Steve Carlton, 22; Brock, 28; Orlando Cepeda, 29; Gibson, 31.

1968

Champion: Detroit Tigers. Hall of Famers: Al Kaline, 32; and Mathews (a part-time player in his final year at age 36). Since yesterday’s post was about Hall of Fame projections, I should note here that 24-year-old Denny McLain, who won 31 games that year and won the Cy Young and MVP awards, looked like a lock for Cooperstown, but didn’t make it.

1969

Champion: New York Mets. Hall of Famers: Nolan Ryan, 22, and Tom Seaver, 24.

1970

Champion: Orioles. Hall of Famers: Palmer, 24, and the Robinsons, 33 and 34.

1971

Champion: Pirates. Hall of Famers: Willie Stargell, 31; Mazeroski (playing part-time at 34); Clemente, 36.

1972-4

Champions: Oakland A’s. Hall of Famers: Rollie Fingers, 25-7; Catfish Hunter, 26-8; Reggie Jackson, 26-8. I don’t count Cepeda, who had just three at-bats for the ’72 A’s and didn’t play in the post-season.

1975-6

Champions: Cincinnati Reds. Johnny Bench, 27-8; Joe Morgan, 31-2; Tony Pérez, 33-4. Pete Rose, 34-5, would be in the Hall of Fame, but he accepted a lifetime ban from baseball for betting on games.

1977-8

Champions: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Jackson and Hunter, both 31-2; and Goose Gossage, 26 (’78 only).

1979

Champions: Pirates. Hall of Famers: Bert Blyleven, 28, and Stargell, 39. Dave Parker of this team probably deserves mention with Denny McLain as a player who appeared on his way to the Hall of Fame. Cocaine use sidetracked Parker’s career.

My Steve Carlton autograph

My Steve Carlton autograph

1980

Champions: Philadelphia Phillies. Hall of Famers: Mike Schmidt, 30; Carlton, 35. Rose, 39, was also on this team.

1981

Champions: Dodgers. No Hall of Famers yet. Steve Garvey probably has the best shot of making it someday.

1982

Champions: Cardinals. Hall of Famers: Ozzie Smith, 27, and Bruce Sutter, 29.

1983

My Ripken autograph

My Ripken autograph

Champions: Orioles. Hall of Famers: Cal Ripken Jr., 22; Eddie Murray, 27; Palmer, pitching part-time at age 37.

1984

Champion: Tigers. No Hall of Famers yet. Jack Morris, 29, probably has the best shot.

1985

Champion: Kansas City Royals. Hall of Famer: George Brett, 32.

1986

Champion: Mets. Hall of Famer: Gary Carter, 32. As noted in yesterday’s post, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, 24, of this team appeared headed for the Hall of Fame before drug use stalled their careers.

1987

Champion: Minnesota Twins. Hall of Famer: Kirby Puckett, 27, and Blyleven, 36. Carlton, 42, pitched nine games for the Twins that year, but not in the post-season.

1988

Champion: Dodgers. Hall of Famer: Don Sutton, 43, was in his last year. He pitched only 16 games, none in the post-season. Of major contributors on this team, Orel Hershiser, 29, and Kirk Gibson, 31, may have the best shots at reaching Cooperstown someday.

1989

Champion: Oakland A’s. Hall of Famer: Rickey Henderson, 30, and Dennis Eckersley, 34. This is the first champion where performance-enhancing drugs are keeping a player out of the Hall of Fame (Mark McGwire, 25, for sure, possibly Jose Canseco, 24).

1990

Champion: Reds. Hall of Famer: Barry Larkin, 26.

1991

Champion: Twins. Hall of Famer: Puckett, 31.

1992-3

Champions: Toronto Blue Jays. Hall of Famers: Roberto Alomar, 24-5; Henderson, 34 (just on ’93 Jays); Paul Molitor, 36 (also just in ’93); Dave Winfield, 40 (only in ’92).

1995

Remember, baseball had no champion in ’94 because of a strike. Champions: Atlanta Braves. Hall of Famers: John Smoltz, 28; Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, both 29. Chipper Jones, 24, appears to be a certain Hall of Famer, but retired in 2012, so he won’t be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration until the 2018 election.

My Derek Jeter rookie card

My Derek Jeter rookie card

1996

Champions: Yankees. Hall of Famer: Wade Boggs, 38. Derek Jeter, 22, and Mariano Rivera, 26, appear certain to reach Cooperstown when they become eligible for election: 2019 for Rivera and 2020 for Jeter. Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada are less likely to make the Hall of Fame, and will be on the ballot in 2019 (Pettitte) and next year (Posada).

1997

Champion: Florida Marlins. No Hall of Famers. Gary Sheffield is another player whose Hall of Fame chances are hurt by PED use.

1998-2000

Champions: Yankees. Again, Jeter, 24-6, and Rivera, 28-30, are certain Hall of Famers. Roger Clemens, 36-7, pitched for the ’99-2000 Yankees, but suspicion of PED use is keeping him out of Cooperstown. Tim Raines, 38, a ’98 Yankee, got 55 percent of the baseball writers’ vote last year and almost certainly will make the Hall of Fame someday, but mostly for his play for the Montreal Expos.

2001

Champion: Arizona Diamondbacks. Hall of Famer: Randy Johnson. Curt Schilling will certainly join him. He got 39 percent of the writers’ vote last year, his third year on the ballot.

2002

Champion: Anaheim Angels. No Hall of Famers and no likely prospects.

2003

Champion: Florida Marlins. Miguel Cabrera, 20, is a Triple-Crown winner and two-time MVP. He’s still playing and only 32 years old but certain to make the Hall of Fame if he stays free of scandal. Iván Rodríguez would be a certain Hall of Famer if not for allegations that he used PEDs.

2004

Champion: Boston Red Sox. Hall of Famer: Pedro Martínez, and Schilling will follow. David Ortiz, who’s still playing, would be an automatic selection if not for his failed drug test. Manny Ramírez won’t be on the Hall of Fame ballot until 2017, but drug issues are likely to keep him out of the Hall of Fame, too.

2005

Champion: Chicago White Sox. Hall of Famer: Frank Thomas, a part-time DH at 37.

2006

Champion: Cardinals. No Hall of Famers yet, but Albert Pujols, a three-time MVP, is a lock if he can avoid scandal.

2007

Champion: Red Sox. This seems a good place to stop this exercise. No star of the ’07 Red Sox, or any subsequent champion, is already in the Hall of Fame, and most aren’t even eligible yet. I’ve already addressed Schilling, Ortiz and Ramírez. While I projected the Hall of Fame chances of the 2015 Royals, I’m not interested in doing that for the young stars of other recent teams.

What does this mean?

Obviously, the numbers or Hall of Famers on some of these teams, especially the more recent ones, will grow, as Morris, Raines, Schilling and others eventually get elected.

But already the vast world-champion teams have multiple Hall of Famers. In a 60-year stretch, only five teams don’t have Hall of Famers yet. From 1947 to 1980, the 1960 Pirates and ’68 Tigers were the only World Series champions without at least two Hall of Famers elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

All of the champions with no Hall of Famers or even just one played since 1980, so many of their best players aren’t even eligible for Hall of Fame consideration yet (or are being kept out of Cooperstown because of drug suspicions). Few of the contenders who aren’t automatic Hall of Famers have had second chances yet through the Expansion Era Committee.

As I noted in yesterday’s post, I expect at least two players from the 2015 Royals to join the Hall of Fame. If I’m wrong, they will be one of few exceptions among World Series champions.

Source note: Players’ ages are taken from the Baseball-Reference.com team rosters for the championship years.





Comparing Yankees to other teams in starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame

20 10 2015

This continues my series on Yankee starting pitchers.

Six pitchers might seem like a lot of Hall of Famers, and it is.

The Yankees have six starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame who pitched primarily for New York. But if great pitching wins championships, a team with 27 champions ought to have more than six pitchers in the Hall of Fame who primarily pitched for that team (keep in mind that Jack Chesbro, one of the six, pitched for the New York Highlanders before any of the Yankee championships).

Though I’m focused on starters here and only counting them, I also should note that the Yankees were the primary team of Hall of Fame reliever Goose Gossage. And Mariano Rivera is a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, presuming his reputation remains unscathed the next few years.

But the starting pitcher is the most important player in every game and a team can’t win a championship without solid starting pitching. And you can’t win a bunch of championships without a bunch of great starting pitchers.

Let’s see how other teams stack up: Read the rest of this entry »





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 »





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.