Part two of my comments on the impending Veteran’s Committee vote. This time the Outfield. As there are less outfielders than either infielders or pitchers, I decided to add the lone executive to this post (I can feel the tingle of excitement from each of you). The same caveat as last time applies here.
Howsam was a general manager and executive for lots of years. He’s most famous for putting together the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” of the 1970s. Using homegrown talent like Johnny Bench and Pete Rose and melding them with trades for players like Joe Morgan and George Foster he created a baseball Goliath that won National League pennants in 1970 and 1972 and won the World Series in 1975 and 1976. He also worked with Branch Rickey to form the Continental League, which led ultimately to the first Major League expansion since 1914 (Federal League) and was general manager for the 1964 Cardinals World Series champions. He retired in 1977 and died in 2008.
Minnie Minoso played first in the Negro Leagues winning a Negro World Series with the New York Cubans in 1947. As such he’s one of a handful of Hall of Famers (or in his case hopefuls) who won a Negro World Series and played in the MLB World Series (Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, and Satchel Paige all won both and Willie Mays played in both). He made the transition to the Major Leagues (Cleveland) in 1949, then settled in with the White Sox in 1951. He stayed through 1957, making five All Star games three stolen base, three triples, and a doubles title. He also led the American League in total bases in 1954 and in hit by pitch a gazillion times. In 1958 he went back to Cleveland, made two more All Star teams, then was traded back to Chicago where he led the AL in hits in 1960. His last good year was 1961, when he was 35. He hung on through 1964. He played and managed several seasons in the Mexican League, got back to Chicago in 1976 as a coach. As a gimmick he got into three games in 1976 (age 50) and two in 1980 (age 54). He managed one hit, a single. His career totals include a .298 average, an OPS of .848, and an OPS+ of 130. He stole 205 bases (and was caught 130) and ended up with 192 hit by pitch. In 1957 he won a Gold Glove in the first year of its awarding. His career WAR (Baseball Reference.com version) is 50.1, peaking at 8.2 in 1954. He was considered a good teammate, a great fielding outfielder noted for his speed. He first plays more than 10 games in the Majors in 1951, when he was 25. The color barrier cost him some years of MLB playing time and also some commentators think that the gimmick games at 50 and 54 gave him a reputation as more clown than serious ballplayer (I’m not one of those).
Tony Oliva was, like Minoso, from Cuba. He also got to the big leagues a little late, this time because of politics not the color barrier. He escaped Cuba using his brother’s passport and signed with the Minnesota Twins. At 25 he was Rookie of the Year in the American League (1964) and won a batting title. He won another the next year, helping Minnesota to its first World Series (they lost). He remained an All Star calibre player through 1971, winning a third batting title that season (and the AL slugging title). He developed bad knees and struggled through the rest of his career, which ended in 1976 at age 37. Besides the three batting titles and the slugging title, he led the AL in doubles four times, in hits five, and in total bases once. His career average is .304 with an .830 OPS and an OPS+ of 131. His career WAR is 43, peaking at 7.0 in 1970. He was an excellent right fielder leading the league in putouts and assists several times. His career is short, but impressive prior to the knee injuries.
So where do I stand. I’d vote for both Minoso and Oliva easily. Howsam is another story. Frankly, I don’t find much to dislike about him (except that several sources say he wasn’t a particularly loveable human being), but right now the so-called “Golden Era” of 1947-72 has another major contributor who isn’t in the Hall of Fame, Danny Murtaugh. As long as Murtaugh is excluded from Cooperstown, I can’t bring myself to elect another non-player from his era.
As an aside, notice that fully one-third of the players on this ballot (Minoso, Oliva, and Tiant) have Cuban backgrounds. It’s a tribute to the level of talent and competition in Cuba.