Bottom of the Hall

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.



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6 Responses to “Bottom of the Hall”

  1. glenrussellslater Says:

    I can think of a few off the top of my dandruff-laden head (hair). Andre Dawson came IMMEDIATELY to mind. What the heck is HE doing in the Baseball Hall of Fame? It’s kind of like how I wonder how The Dave Clark 5 got into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of fame. What the heck????

    Andre Dawson had one great year. ONE. That was late in his career, with the Cubs. 1978, as I recall. Beyond that, was he ever GREAT in any single year?????

    Andre Dawson is the Dave Clark 5 of the Baseball Hall of Fame, in my opinion.


    • wkkortas Says:

      While I would contend that Dawson had some years in Montreal that were great years, I’d agree that he’s not quite a Hall of Fame player. As far as the Dave Clark 5…I don’t know if you’ve seen the induction speech that Tom Hanks made for them, but, dear Lord, is that embarrassing for everyone involved.

  2. wkkortas Says:

    If you cobble together a roster of the “bottom rung” of the Hall of Fame, I think you can safely assume that team would run away with the pennant. While the BBWAA and the Veteran’s Committee have made their share of glaring mistakes, it’s not like they’re letting in the Chico Linds and Rick Mannings of the world.

  3. William Miller Says:

    I think we all have our favorite players who’ve been excluded from The Hall that we believe should be in. That’s where the “bottom rung” argument often comes into play. If, for example, Tommy McCarthy or High Pockets Kelley are in, then why, too, shouldn’t Dwight Evans and Tim Raines also be in? The problem has always been, what is the appropriate cut-off point for a HOF-er, and can it ever be (should it ever be?) objectively determined.
    Your point, though, that even these players should be respected for their contributions to the game is right on the money.

  4. Cooperstown Bottom Feeders vs 1978 NY Yankees | Baseball Revisited Says:

    […] talking about his trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and a discussion he had with his son, on which Hall of Famers were the worst of the best. The Hall of Fame Bottom Feeders that got plenty of respect from the writers and the Veteran’s […]

  5. peacefulhands9 Says:

    I just finished an exhibit for a museum in Culpeper, Virginia … celebrating their TWO Hall of Famers, Eppa Rixey and Pete Hill.

    I was really torn on Eppa Rixey. A fabulous back story, so as a historian, he’s great to dig into. But, as a pitcher? Hmmm … not so sure. The skinny is that the Hall put him in as something of an afterthought when Spahn broke his lefty-wins record.

    He was 266-251 lifetime.

    When Rixey was called and told he had been elected to the HoF he said, “They’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel, aren’t they?” He died the next month.

    I’ll be writing more about him and Pete Hill soon on my page … there was so much interesting info that I couldn’t squeeze into the museum exhibit … I can’t wait to write it all up.

    Thanks for all the interesting reading! 🙂

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