The Kid vs. The Man: the Opening Games

August 22, 2014

The 1946 World Series began in Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis on Sunday, 6 October. There were a number of questions that hung over the Series. How would Ted Williams do? How would Stan Musial do? Was either pitching staff up to the task? Would St. Louis employ the “Williams Shift”? The Shift was designed to defend against Williams’ tendency to pull the ball to right field. The shortstop (in this case Marty Marion) would move to the first base side of second while the third baseman (in this case Whitey Kurowski) would assume Marion’s normal shortstop position. As long as second and third base were unoccupied it gave the defense a distinct advantage versus the best hitter in the American League. The short answer was “Yes,” the Cardinals would use the Shift.

Rudy York

Rudy York

Game 1

For the opening game, the Cards sent Howie Pollet to the mound. He pitched reasonably well, giving up three hits and striking out another three. He did, however, give up four walks, two to Williams. The Red Sox picked up a run in the second when Pollet hit Rudy York with a pitch. York went to second on a walk, and came home on a single by Pinky Higgins. The Cards got the run back off Boston starter Tex Hughson when Red Schoendienst singled then scored on a Musial double. In the bottom of the eighth, they got another run when Kurowski singled and catcher Joe Garagiola doubled to plate Kurowski. Pollet needed three outs to clinch game one. With one out Higgins singled and was replaced on base by Don Gutteridge. A Rip Russell single sent Gutteridge to third. With two outs, right fielder Tom McBride singled to score Gutteridge and tie up the game. It went 11 innings. In the top of the 11th, York homered off Pollet and reliever Earl Johnson set down St. Louis without a run to pick up the win and put Boston ahead.

Harry Brecheen

Harry Brecheen

Game 2

The second game of the Series was held the next day. It was a pitching masterpiece for Cards starter Harry Brecheen. He pitched a complete game shutout allowing four hits, three walks, and struck out four. He allowed a first inning single, then got out of the inning on a double play. In the second he walked two (one intentionally) but got out of it with three harmless groundouts. In the fourth it was a walk and a single that put two men on, but again a groundout ended the threat. After that he never allowed two men on in any inning. Meanwhile, St. Louis got a run in the third when catcher Del Rice doubled and Brecheen singled to score Rice. They tacked on two more in the fifth when Rice and Brecheen scored on a single by Terry Moore and groundout by Musial (Brecheen could hit a little too.). Both runs were unearned. Losing pitcher Mickey Harris went seven innings, gave up six hits, walked three, struck out three and gave up all three runs.

After game two the Series shifted to Boston with the teams tied at one win each. How were the questions being answered? So far Williams was one for seven with two walks and a strikeout. Musial was one for nine (a double) with two RBIs and a strikeout. Both pitching staffs had done well. St. Louis had given up three runs, one in extra innings, and Boston had given up five, only three of which were earned.

 

The Kid vs The Man: St. Louis

August 20, 2014
Stan The Man

Stan The Man

If Boston was new at winning pennants, to St. Louis it was something like old hat. The Cards had picked up two pennants in the 1920s (one Series championship), three in the 1930s (two championships), and three in the 1940s (winning two championships). But the team underwent changes in the aftermath of World War II, including losing former MVP Mort Cooper to the Braves along with his brother Walker to the Giants. Long time manager (and Hall of Famer) Billy Southworth was gone. In his place was rookie manager Eddie Dyer. He managed to get the team to a 96-58 record and a tie with Brooklyn for first place. In the best of three playoff format of the era, the Cards won the first two games (4-2 and 8-4) to claim the pennant and advance to the 1946 World Series.

The Cardinals infield consisted of Hall of Famer and 1946 MVP Stan Musial at first (he also played 42 games in the outfield). It was a fairly typical Musial year leading the National League in runs, hits, doubles, triples, batting average, slugging, total bases. Throughout their 1940s pennant run, St. Louis had burned through a series of second basemen with names like Creepy Crespi and Emil Verban. In 1946 they finally decided to move a new outfielder named Red Schoendienst into second base. It worked. He hit .281, stole 12 bases (tied for the team lead), scored 94 runs, and eventually made the Hall of Fame. Marty Marion held down shortstop. He had his usual solid season in the field leading the NL in defensive WAR (Baseball Reference.com version), assists, putouts, and double plays. Unfortunately, he hit only .233. At third, Whitey Kurowski hit .301 with 14 home runs, and 89 RBIs.

The outfield was in transition. Musial spent more time at first and center field stalwart Terry Moore became the fourth outfielder for much of the year (although by the World Series he was doing most of the center field work). Hall of Fame right fielder Enos Slaughter had a good year hitting .300 with 18 home runs (which led the team), and driving in 130 runs (which also led the team). Harry “the Hat” Walker (Dixie Walker’s brother) took over the bulk of the center field work but hit only .237 (he’d win a batting title later). It got him sent into something like a platoon situation in left field by the time the World Series came around. He also had 12 stolen bases to tie Schoendienst for the team lead. Erv Dusak played left field more often than anyone else, but hit only .240 with nine home runs. Joe Garagiola, who went on to fame as a broadcaster (he won a spot at the Hall of Fame as both a broadcaster and humanitarian) was a 20-year-old catcher. He hit .237 with neither power nor speed. Del Rice did a lot of the backup catching.

For much of their history, the Cardinals have produced a slew of pitchers who were very good for a short period of time, then faded for whatever reason. The 1946 staff was right inline with that tradition. With former ace Max Lanier in Mexico (and banned from the Major Leagues for five years), the Cards relied to two right handers: Johnny Beazley and Ken Burkhart. Both gave up more hits than they had innings pitched and had more walks than strikeouts. From the left side Harry Brecheen (the old man of the lot at 30) and Howie Pollet had ERA’s under 2.50 and had more strikeouts than walks. They also had more innings pitched than hits allowed. Both Murry Dickson and Al Brazle split time between starting and the bullpen with Ted Wilks and Red Barrett working mostly out of the bullpen.

All in all the team was not as formidable as the 1942 version (which some people still insist is the best ever Cardinals team) but was solid. The stretch run and playoffs against the Dodgers helped make the team more seasoned than the Red Sox (who coasted to victory). For the World Series, they would have home field.

 

 

The Kid vs. The Man: Boston

August 18, 2014
Ted Williams hitting

Ted Williams hitting

Most of us would agree with the statement that the two finest hitters of the 1940s were Ted Williams and Stan Musial. I’m sure some would hold out for Joe DiMaggio, but my guess is that most would prefer Williams and Musial (and I’m also sure some of you will pick DiMaggio just to show me how wrong I am). They were in different leagues, so they only faced off at the All-Star Game. Except, of course, in 1946 both their teams won pennants and squared off in the World Series.

The Boston Red Sox of 1946 were a team of hitters with a handful of pitchers who were good enough to keep the team in the game. They finished second in walks, third in strikeouts, and fourth in ERA. The hitters led the American League in runs, hits, doubles, walks, and average, while finishing second in home runs. Manager Joe Cronin’s team had 104 wins (50 losses) and won the AL pennant by 12 games over defending champ Detroit.

The infield (first around to third) consisted of Rudy York, who hit 17 homers, drove in 119 runs, and hit .276; Hall of Fame member Bobby Doerr who had 18 home runs, 116 RBIs, and hit .271; shortstop Johnny Pesky who managed 208 hits, scored 115 runs, and hit .335. During the season Rip Russell played more games at third than anyone else, but by season’s end and the World Series Pinky Higgins, who’d come over from Detroit and was in his last season, was getting the majority of time at third. Higgins hit .275 with 55 hits in 64 games.

Ted Williams, “The Kid”, held down left field. He hit .342, had 38 homers, and 123 RBIs. All that got him his first ever MVP Award (his second came in 1949). Dom DiMaggio (Joe’s brother) played center field. He hit .316, scored 85 runs, and led the team with 10 stolen bases. Right Field was unsettled with Catfish Metkovich  starting opening day. He got into 76 games in right, hit .246, and had 100 total bases. He split time with Leon Culberson who hit north of .300. The catcher was Hal Wagner, a .230 hitter with six home runs. Roy Partee, hit .300 in 40 games and backed up Wagner.

Tex Hughson, Dave “Boo” Ferriss, Joe Dobson, and Mickey Harris all started at least 20 games. Hughson and Ferriss both won 20 games. All four had more strike outs than walks, but Harris allowed more hits than he had innings pitched and Ferriss broke even with 274 of each. Only Harris was left-handed. The main man out of the bullpen was 38-year-old Bob Klinger who relieved in 20 games and picked up nine saves.

Boston last won a pennant in 1918, with Babe Ruth splitting time in the outfield and on the mound (although mostly an outfielder by 1918). Also-rans for almost 30 years they were finally in the World Series. They would have to face the St. Louis Cardinals (who they’d never faced in Series play) and “The Man.”

 

 

Bud

August 15, 2014

 

Bud Selig, reminding us who's number one

Bud Selig, reminding us who’s number one

So we’re about to have a new commissioner are we? I’m always of two minds about a change like that. It can be good. It can be horrid. I guess we’ll find out soon enough which, if either it turns out to be this time. But first we have to say good-bye to the old commissioner. Here’s a few thoughts on Bud Selig.

First, as with getting a new commissioner, I’m of two minds about the old one. He, like most of us, got some things right. He, like most of us, got some things utterly wrong. In your life you hope the former is true more often than the latter. You also hope that’s true about the commissioner of any sport.

He has three strikes against him that bother me a lot (so technically, I guess he’s out). One is the way the 1994 strike and postseason were completely botched. I’m not sure how much I blame Selig for it, but he’s certainly at least partially responsible. The second is the whole problem with the All Star Game. First there was a tie then to fix that they decided to have the winning league have home field for the World Series. Imagine that. Home field for the World Series is determined by who wins an exhibition game that most managers still treat as an exhibition. Finally, of course there is the whole steroid issue. Selig did a good job of looking like he was out ahead of the game, once it became obvious to we peons that there was a steroid game going on. But he really wasn’t ahead of the game. As far as I can tell he was complicit in the entire thing, at least in the sense of turning a blind eye to it and saying “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” Maybe I’m wrong there, but it’s going to take a lot of effort to convince me otherwise.

So what did he get right? Well, the Major Leagues expanded twice bringing baseball to Colorado, Arizona, and Florida (both Tampa and Miami). Also he facilitated the move from Montreal to Washington. I know that set up the awful problems Miami has, but it did bring baseball back to the nation’s capital, a place where it should be. The expanded playoffs have worked. It’s more exciting coming down the stretch than it used to be (but of course not every year) and more teams make the postseason, which is good for their fan base. I initially thought interleague play was an awful idea. I was wrong. I love watching the Dodgers play the Angels, the two Texas teams take on each other (until Houston moved to the AL), The Cards face the Royals. You also get the Rockies-Twins, but if you do interleague play you have to take the great with the goofy. But mostly, he’s managed to keep labor peace and for that I can forgive a multitude of other sins.

Now Selig rides off into the sunset (as a car dealer I guess he uses an automobile rather than a horse). As with every other commissioner he’s had his warts, but he’s also had his positive actions. I suppose the best thing I can say is that he’s had his moments, some good, some not so good. Adios, Bud.

 

The Strike

August 13, 2014

 

"Solidarity Forever, the Union will prevail"

“Solidarity Forever, the Union will prevail”

Yesterday marked the 20th Anniversary of the 1994 Strike that crippled baseball. Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter:
1. The Montreal Expos were in first place. Let me try that again. The Montreal Expos were in first place. In their entire time in Montreal, the Expos were in first place at the end of a season exactly twice: the 1981 split season strike year and 1994. Talk about bad timing.

2. The Texas Rangers were in first place. They had a losing record. It’s a measure of how weak the AL West was in ’94 that a team with a losing record was in first.

3. We missed a chance to see Tony Gwynn and Matt Williams do something extraordinary. Gwynn was close to hitting .400 and being Gwynn he might have pulled it off. Williams had a legitimate shot at 62 home runs. He didn’t get close ever again.

4. We lost a World Series for the first time since John McGraw refused to play in 1904 (90 years earlier). The revenue, the emotion, the interest that a Series, especially a good one, produces were all lost. Had Montreal won then Canada would have won three in a row (they’ve won none since).

5. It was hard to root for either side. The idea of a guy making $10,000 an inning versus a billionaire over the issue of money made it difficult to favor either side. I know there was more than money involved, but ultimately most people fixated on the cash. Around here most people also favored the owners. Maybe it’s just a Red State issue, but most of the people I know would have given up their first-born to be Moonlight Graham, so it was hard to have sympathy for someone willingly giving up playing ball for something other than age or injury.

6. Neither Bud Selig nor Don Fehr came off looking good. Selig was new and still acting commissioner (he got the job in 1992) and looked lost and when he occasionally looked found he seemed absolutely pro-owners and couldn’t be considered nonpartisan at all. Fehr appeared to care only about the cash, not the fans. In both cases they were doing their job but neither seemed at all concerned about the game itself. Neither man had their finest hour. Fehr ultimately hurt the union more than Selig hurt the owners when Fehr refused to support drug testing before Congress and Selig did support it (again both were doing their job, but for Fehr it turned into a PR nightmare).

7. Cal Ripken couldn’t save things alone, so the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” attitude of both owners and players over steroids was allowed to take full flight. Things got temporarily better because “chicks dig the long ball”, but ultimately baseball took another hit.

8. But they apparently learned. There hasn’t been a work stoppage since. I think we should celebrate that, but I also think we ought to keep a wary eye cast toward both parties.

Some of my thoughts on the strike. There are others. I’m sure you have your own. Feel free to express them.

William V. Babcock and the Atlantic

August 8, 2014

In trying to decide who I’d like to put into My Own Little Hall of Fame, I have from the beginning considered pioneers, owners, and team founders as legitimate candidates. So I’ve written down a bunch of names, some of which will be familiar to you, others utterly obscure. While on the phone with my son one day I ran down the list for him. He almost immediately asked, “Who’s William V. Babcock?” Here’s an answer to his question, and most likely the question you’re currently asking.

The great pre-National Association of Professional Base Ball Players team was the Atlantic of Brooklyn (hereafter the Atlantics). They were formed in 1855 and dominated New York baseball through the 1860s. Their primary founder was William V. Babcock.

Babcock was born in 1833. He was an engraver and printer who happened to like baseball. In August 1855 he was the primary force in forming the Atlantics (Thomas Tassie, who did much of the administrative work for the club and Caleb Sniffen, the original pitcher were the other men who helped Babcock form the club). Initially the team was, like many of the better teams in New York and Brooklyn, a gentleman’s club formed to promote recreation among the businessmen of the area (this time Brooklyn). The most significant form of recreation and exercise was baseball so they formed a ball team. Babcock was initially a shortstop who did a little pitching.

By 1857 he was vice president of the club but was looking for new opportunities. In late 1857 he moved to California, setting up shop in San Francisco. He is credited with forming in 1858 the first team on the West Coast to play baseball using the National Association of Base Ball Players rules. The game was played in November 1858 with Babcock, who knew the rules better than anyone else, acting as umpire.

By 1859 he’d had enough of California and returned to New York (there’s a joke there, but I’ll let you write your own) where he again hooked up with the Atlantics. He served as vice president and later club president during much of the 1860s. During that period the Atlantics established themselves as the best team in baseball. They won pennants in 1859, 1860, 1861, 1864, 1865, 1866, and 1869 (a record to make even the Yankees proud). The 1860 pennant was controversial as the Atlantics were losing to Jim Creighton and the Excelsiors when a crowd stormed the field and play was cancelled. The game was not rescheduled and the Atlantics, as defending champions, were declared the new champs (try that today).

After the founding of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, Babcock went back to being strictly a printer, having little input into the team, which did not join the Association. He again drifted away from Brooklyn. He’s still there in 1887 (according to a city directory) but moved shortly thereafter. He settled in Washington, DC by 1888 (he shows up in a city directory) where he worked printing bank notes. By the 1905 New York state census he’s back in Brooklyn as a printer.

In the book Our Devoted Friend: The Dog there’s a story of Babcock embalming his 21-year-old pooch (named Dot), then getting a rosewood coffin and burying the dog in the Hillsdale Pet Cemetery. The dog was apparently a gift from his son. The book is from 1902. Babcock seems to have survived the dog by 13 years. He died in September 1915 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn (along with a number of other pioneers of baseball).

Babcock isn’t one of the first people you think of when you think of paleolithic baseball. But by creating the best team of the era, he formed the first great baseball dynasty. As such he should be remembered as a founder of the game.

 

The Black Wagner

August 6, 2014

 

John Henry Lloyd

John Henry Lloyd

I’d normally hold this post until my usual look at Negro League baseball in February, but with all the hoopla over Derek Jeter’s retirement and his continued passing of greats like Carl Yastrzemski and Honus Wagner on the all-time hits list, I’m beginning to see a lot of lists trying to fit Jeter into the pantheon of shortstops. You’ve probably seen a few of these. They rank the top 10 (or 5 or 20) shortstops and place Jeter where they think he fits on the list. I’ve seen him number one (which is silly) and as low as ninth (which is also silly). But all these lists (at least the ones I have  seen) manage to leave out one man: John Henry Lloyd.

Lloyd was born in Florida in 1884. He was a superior ballplayer and by 1906 had gotten the attention of the Cuban X-Giants, one of the premier black teams in the country. He was quick and agile, a natural shortstop who could hit. That made him much in demand so he wandered a lot from team to team. It wasn’t that people didn’t want him, it was, as he said, “where the money was.” He played with the Philadelphia Stars from 1907 through 1909 then spent years with the Leland Giants, the Lincoln Giants, and finally with Rube Foster’s American Giants. (Do you note a pattern with the use of the name “Giants” for Negro League baseball in the era?). In 1912 he became manager of the Lincoln Giants and in 1913 led his team to a win over the American Giants in an early version of the Negro World Series (which began officially in 1924).

He spent time also in Cuba beginning in 1907. Between 1908 and 1930 he spent at least parts of 12 seasons playing in Cuba. His team won three championships (1912, 1925, and 1926). He is credited with hitting .329 in Cuba, but the records are sketchy.

Equally sketchy are the US stats. Baseball Reference credits him with hitting .340 and slugging .452 in 810 documented games. Per 162 games, they credit him with 32 doubles, 11 triples, four home runs, and 23 stolen bases. Those numbers are admittedly very incomplete. By way of proof, his Wikipedia page lists his batting average as .343.

He stayed in baseball, coaching local teams as late as 1943. Lloyd died in 1964 (that’s on his gravestone, some reports state his death occurred in 1965) in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His turn in the Hall of Fame came in 1977.

How good was he? It’s tough to tell, but contemporary reports compare him to Wagner. When told of the comparison, Honus Wagner said he was honored to be considered in the same category with Lloyd. That’s a good enough endorsement for me.

 

 

John Henry Lloyd's final resting place

John Henry Lloyd’s final resting place

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1906

August 4, 2014

Here’s the latest installment of My Own Little Hall of Fame:

Pete Browning

Pete Browning

Louis Rogers “Pete” Browning has the highest batting average in the 19th Century. He won three batting titles, two with Louisville and the other with Cleveland in the Player’s League. Meticulous about his bats, he became the original “Louisville Slugger” when he ordered bats from a local company.

Frank Selee

Frank Selee

Selee was a premier manager in the 1890s. Leading Boston from 1890 through 1901, his Beaneaters won five pennants, including the split season 1892 pennant. He later managed the Chicago National League team, retiring in 1905. His .598 winning percentage is among the highest in professional baseball history.

Joe Start

Joe Start

Premier first baseman for the Atlantic in their championship years of the 1860s, Joe Start made the transition to the National Association in 1871, playing for the New York Mutuals. He moved to the National League playing for the Mutuals, Hartford Dark Blues, and Chicago White Stockings. In 1879 he moved to the Providence Greys and helped them to pennants in both 1879 and 1884. He retired after the 1886 season at the age of 43.

And now the commentary you always expect.

1. What took so long on Browning? Pete Browning raises a number of questions. I’ve decided most of them are modern questions. In 1906 when baseball wasn’t very far from some really short seasons, the fact that Browning plays few games and get s few hits shouldn’t have been the problem to contemporaries as it is to us. It took a while to figure that out. Also Browning never plays for a winner, not even in the Player’s League. Further, he plays his truly best years in the American Association, by general consensus the weaker of the two leagues. BTW, it turns out (according to Baseball Reference.com) that Browning doesn’t have the highest average of 19th Century players. Both Billy Hamilton and Dave Orr are listed as higher. But in the period I’m researching (and in a lot of modern stuff too), Browning is listed higher, so I used what was received knowledge at the time in my initial comment above.

2. Selee was the manager of the best of the 1890s teams (sorry Baltimore fans) and his winning percentage is still fourth all time. BTW he would die only a couple of years later.

3. Joe Start? It seems to me that the pioneers of the game should be recognized, particularly in a year when there are no overwhelming candidates for a Hall of Fame. I looked at several candidates (Lip Pike, Bob Ferguson, etc.) and finally decided on Start. He had three things going for him. First, he was a member of the Atlantic, the best team of the pre-professional leagues and somebody from there had to be good enough to make it. Second, Start has a pretty good National Association and National League career. Easily the best of any of the old Atlantic players and arguably the finest of any of the 1860s era players. Finally, he’s a major contributor to two pennant winners in the NL. I simply couldn’t find anyone from the 1860s period with that kind of career. My guess is that Start would never receive 75% of the vote in the era (75% of the voters probably never heard of him), but I’m also presuming a Veteran’s Committee type organization that would be tasked with looking for people like Start.

4. No fourth or fifth inductee? As I said last time, the pickings are getting kind of thin. This is a list of the pitching candidates I haven’t put in who are eligible and who I consider worthy of consideration: Bob Caruthers, Dave Foutz, Bobby Mathews, Jim McCormick, Tony Mullane, Gus Weyhing, Will White. Not a bad list, right? But also not just a really first-rate list either, right? I’m beginning to see why Hall’s frequently put in a bunch of people quickly then start to slow down. Next year Amos Rusie shows up, but he’s not eligible until then. My guess is most of the Caruthers-White list is going to fail (although Mullane and Matthews might slide over the top in some year in which there aren’t a lot of really good candidates).

5. Same problem with everyday players? Yep.  Cupid Childs, Jack Glasscock, George Gore, Paul Hines, Charlie Jones, Bill Joyce, Bill Lange, Arlie Latham, Andy Leonard, Tommy McCarthy (who is actually in the Hall–and his name here should tell you what I think of that), Cal McVey, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Mike Tiernan are the guys I’m looking at. Not a bad lot of players, but Hall of Fame quality? Maybe I’m viewing them from too far away in time, but they just don’t look as good as I thought they would. I’m beginning to see why it took so long for guys like Eppa Rixey and Max Carey to get elected to Cooperstown. Once they were initially overlooked, they were overrun by a later generation who looked at least superficially better (and maybe not so superficially either). If I do this right, I’ve discovered it’s a lot more difficult than I expected. I’m beginning to understand why “marginal” Hall of Famers get elected. I’m also noting a temptation to put in someone, anyone. That also helps me understand why that same group of “marginal” people are elected. I’m also learning a new respect for the writers who seriously look at the candidates before voting (and even less respect for those who just haphazardly fill out a ballot). It’s a lot harder than I thought. Next year I get lucky and Billy Hamilton shows up.

Bottom of the Hall

July 30, 2014

Continuing along with my current obsession with the Hall of Fame, it’s almost impossible while there and immediately upon leaving not to speculate on the membership of the institution. Of course you want to praise the addition of guys like Greg Maddux and speculate on the chances of currently eligible players to make it on the next ballot. One of the things you also do is look at a plaque and wonder “What’s that guy doing here?”

After leaving the Hall, my son and I engaged in a fun little game of trying to figure out if you could put together a full team of players (one at each position) for various teams. Some we could, although we had to get really obscure with some players (like remembering that Arky Vaughn played third for the Dodgers for a while in the 1940s). Some teams we got a full team, some we didn’t.

But one of the things we debated was the question of how good could a team be that consisted only of the bottom rung of the Hall of Fame. OK, the idea of a “bottom rung of the Hall of Fame” sounds like a true oxymoron, but of course there are those guys in the Hall who aren’t up to the Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Walter Johnson class of player. Here, briefly, are our conclusions.

First, we picked a team off the top of our heads (in other words no looking up stats or going to computers for help). We took two pitchers, one left and one right. We then took a catcher, one infielder at each position, and three outfielders (trying to make sure we had a left, center, and right fielder rather than just three outfielders at random. Here’s our team:

Jesse Haines is our right-handed pitcher and Rube Marquard is the lefty. Rick Ferrell catches. The infield is Highpockets Kelly at first, Fred Lindstrom (pictured above) at third, Dave Bancroft at short, and Johnny Evers at second. The outfield is (left to right) Chick Hafey, Lloyd Waner, and Harry Hooper. I’ll be the first to admit we could have probably come up with a weaker team than that one, but neither of us thought of some of the other choices (Schalk, Maranville, McCarthy, etc.).

Now the question became how good would they be. Well, we didn’t have access to anything like what Kevin at Baseball Revisited uses when he does his wonderful World Series replays, so there was no way to prove whatever we decided. But we did decide that if you put this team in the field and ignored you only have two pitchers, the team would still win a lot of games. They’d probably win a pennant or three and even an occasional World Series.

What I realized was that no matter how much we might question the choices the voters and committees make when it comes to the Hall of Fame, they don’t really choose bad players. Each man was actually a bona fide excellent ballplayer (try getting to the Big Leagues without being very, very good) and whether he was Hall of Fame quality or not, he was a benefit to his team. In doing this little exercise, I gained a renewed respect for the men who are on most people’s list as the very bottom of the Hall of Fame. Whether they should actually be in the Hall of Fame is another question.

 

Changing the Hall Vote

July 28, 2014

On this, the 100th Anniversary of the opening of World War I, I note that the Hall of Fame just announced that it is changing the voting for election to the Hall. I was going to do something akin to what I did for 28 June, but decided to go another way.

Currently players receiving a minimum vote can remain on the Hall ballot for 15 years. Beginning with the next election that will change to a maximum of 10 years. As I seem to be on a Hall of Fame kick anyway, here’s some thoughts on the change.

1. I’m glad to see they’ve grandfathered in Don Mattingly, Lee Smith, and Alan Trammel. They are the only people currently on the ballot who have been there for more than 10 years. I think if you’ve passed the 10 year limit and were expecting to get 15, you should get the 15.

2. I wonder how much it will affect guys who are close to 10, but not there yet. Tim Raines now has three years left, not eight. I’ll be interested to see if his vote total, and others like him, takes a significant jump based on writers who weren’t voting for him (or others)  on the idea that they had plenty of time left to get inducted.

3. I like the change that makes the list of voters public. I wish they’d gone a step further and forced the ballot to become public.

4. Making the writers sign a pledge to do their own voting rather than foist if off on others (Hello, Dan LeBetard) is also a good idea. I just wish they’d cut out some of the deadwood writers who haven’t covered baseball in eons.

5. It will make it certain that a decision on the PED boys will occur quicker. Mark McGwire now has two years left, not seven. Sosa has eight, not 13. Ditto for guys like Clemens and Bonds. It will be interesting to see if any of them takes a sudden jump in vote totals because of this. On a personal note, my best guess here is that the writers will kick them down the road to the Veteran’s Committees and let them make the hard choices.

6. They still didn’t change the 10 person vote limit. A writer still only gets 10 votes per ballot.

Would be interested to hear other comments on the changes, either in comments below or on your own blog. If you do comment on your own blog, be sure to let me know.

And finally, congrats to the newest inductees.


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