2012 Veteran’s Committee Ballot: the Ump and some thoughts

This is the final set of comments on the upcoming Veteran’s Committee vote for the Hall of Fame. I want to look at the one umpire nominated, Hank O’Day, and to offer a few comments on the ballot, including my own picks.

Hank O’Day

Hank O’Day was, like many umpires, a former players. He got to the Major Leagues in 1884, playing for Toledo (the same team as Tony Mullane, another person appearing on the ballot). He was a pitcher, went 73-110, and ended his playing days in the Player’s League. He had a couple of undistinguished years in the minors, then turned to umpiring. He was considered one of the finest umpires of his day, appearing in 10 World Series: 1903, 1905, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1916, 1918, 1920, 1923, and 1926 (only Bill Klem did more–18). He’s probably most well-known today as the plate umpire in the “Merkle Game” of 1908, although he did not make the call that declared Merkle out. In 1912 he took a sabbatical from umping to manage the Cincinnati Reds. They finished fourth at 75-78. After a year back umpiring, he took over managing the Cubs in 1914. Again they finished fourth, this time at 78-76. After that he returned to umping and remained an umpire through the 1927 season. He was the second base umpire who called Bill Wambsganss’ unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series. After retirement he served as league scout for umpires, dying in 1935.

I have no idea how to assess O’Day’s qualifications for the Hall of Fame. When it comes to players, I have criteria that I consider when asking if I think a player is Hall of Fame quality. I’ll bet you do also. Yours may be different from mine, but there is a set of criteria. Same with managers, owners, executives. But exactly what criteria do you use for an umpire? Integrity? Decisiveness? Knowing the rules? All of them are important for an umpire, but any truly good umpire should have all three of them. If that’s the case, there ought to be 100 or more umps in the Hall of Fame. So how do we pick out O’Day from, for example,  Bob Emslie, the other umpire in the Merkle game, who was an umpire for 33 years and called four no hitters?

All the above should tell you that I have no inherent reason to not vote for O’Day. It’s just that I don’t have a  particular reason to do so. If he’s elected, I’m not going to be upset, but I’m also not going to say “Well, it’s about time” either.

So now a few comments on this entire ballot.

1. If I were on the Veteran’s Committee, I would vote for three people: Deacon White, Jacob Ruppert, and Samuel Breadon. White I mentioned on the post about the everyday players.

2. Why Ruppert? Well, I think Jacob Ruppert is the most overlooked person eligible for the Hall of Fame (except possibly for Marvin Miller). He is the foundation stone for the greatest of all baseball dynasties and if you’re going to put in his players and his general manager (Ed Barrow) you need to put in the man who had the intelligence to pick up all those people and weld them into a  team for the ages.

3. Why Breadon? Simply put, he’s Ruppert in the National League. As SportsPhD pointed out in a comment on the owners post, Breadon’s Cardinals were only slightly less successful than Ruppert’s Yankees over a comparable period. His players weren’t as spectacular as Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio, but they were as effective. And Musial and Dean are close to what the Yanks put on the field.

4. I have no problem if they put in Reach, but I’d rather see the other owners first. His sporting goods empire makes no impact to me on his Hall of Fame qualifications and his team is never all that good. The Reach Guide was good, but most of that was due to the editorial skills of Henry Chadwick, not Reach.

5. The pitching list is particularly interesting to me. Obviously I wouldn’t cast a vote for any of them, but they are still interesting. Much of it has to do with the following question, “Is this really the best set of pitchers left from the period before World War II that isn’t in the Hall?” If the answer to that is “yes”, then we can congratulate ourselves for having  enshrined in Cooperstown all the great pitchers of the era. Maybe we have. Or maybe we haven’t My point here is that if these are the three best pitchers still available for the Hall of Fame from the 1876-1946 era then we’ve pretty much gotten the best of the pitchers already in Cooperstown.

6. I wonder if the people putting together the ballot have a quota of some kind. Note there are 3 position players, 3 pitchers, 3 owners, and 1 umpire. Doesn’t the symmetry strike you as a bit strange? Are there really only 3 everyday players capable of making the ballot? Are there really as many as 3 owners who outshine all but 3 everyday players?

Anyway that’s my take on the 2012 Veteran’s Committee ballot. Feel free to disagree.

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4 Responses to “2012 Veteran’s Committee Ballot: the Ump and some thoughts”

  1. W.k. kortas Says:

    Again, I disagree about Breadon–if you leave Reach out because he essentially piggybacked onto the abilities of Henry Chadwick, why does Breadon deserve to be in on the coattails of Branch Rickey?

    • verdun2 Says:

      First, Reach used Chadwick in a magazine, not in the front office, so I don’t think the 2 things compare. Second, as I said with Ruppert (who you seem to think is OK to elect) if the man is smart enough to hire Rickey, take his advice, accept the farm system idea, then that’s worth a lot of points with me. BTW in truth, I doubt Breadon will actually get in. I don’t see 2 owners getting in at one time and I think Ruppert is the best choice.
      v

  2. W.k. kortas Says:

    I wouldn’t say I’m a proponent of Jacob Ruppert of being in–in my view, Ed Barrow is to Ruppert as Rickey is to Breadon. There are very few owners who put such a stamp on their clubs and the game itself to, in my view, deserve to be in Cooperstown. Bill Veeck? Yes. Walter O’Malley? Yes. Connie Mack? More so as a manager, but yes. George Steinbrenner? For all his warts, yes. After that, I can’t (off the top of my head, anyway) I can’t think of any owner who should be a slam-dunk.

    • verdun2 Says:

      All your comments concerned either Breadon or Reach. There were no negative comments on Ruppert. Hence, I presumed you had no complaints about him. We obviously are going to disagree. As I said at the end of the post, feel free to do so.
      v

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