Refreshed from seeing our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, I’m back to business. So it’s a new month and a new addition to My Own Little Hall of Fame. This time a pair of newly retired players, one from the everyday players list and one a pitcher.
“Wee” Willie Keeler was a star outfielder from 1892 through 1910. With a career average of .341 he managed to hit above .300 in the first 15 years of his 19 year career. Twice leading the National League in hitting, once at above .400, he was a key member of pennant winning teams in both Baltimore and Brooklyn. He led the NL in hits three times and in runs once.
George “Rube” Waddell was the premier strikeout pitcher of his era, winning strikeout titles in six consecutive seasons. His 349 strikeouts in 1904 is a record among pitchers throwing from a mound. He posted more than 20 wins four seasons and won two ERA titles.
Now the commentary:
1. The two men enshrined this time are easily the kind of men that would be elected to an existing Hall of Fame in 1916. Both were well-known and both had the kinds of numbers that impressed in the period.
2. Keeler, as is usual for the big names of the pre-1910 era, had a lot of hits, scored a bunch of runs, and had very high averages. He was also one of the players I was able to find out quite a bit about. He was extremely popular and well-known (He was elected to Cooperstown in 1939, very quickly after it was formed).
3. Waddell is a bit more problematic. He didn’t get anywhere near 300 wins, notching only 193. That’s not a lot for an era obsessed with high win totals among pitchers. He did, however, have an enormous number of strikeouts and was dominant for a while. The statement that his 349 strikeouts in a season is a record is correct for 1916. It has since been passed several times. His personality was a bit of a difficulty, which I ultimately decided was worth overlooking. There were a handful of things I found that seemed to indicate that some writers didn’t take him seriously enough to elect him to a 1916 Hall of Fame. Offsetting that was the knowledge that he was dead by 1915 (he died in 1914) and that should have led to a certain amount of sympathy vote.
4. The newly eligible for the Class of 1917 includes one certainty, Cy Young, and a handful of other players. Bill Dahlen, Roy Thomas, and Fred Tenney are probably the best of the everyday players coming up. All have a distinct problem from a 1917 perspective and Tenney is probably DOA Hall-wise. Deacon Phillippe and Jesse Tannehill (old Pirates teammates) show up with Young and probably, but not certainly, will have to wait if they are elected at all. Young would, I believe, so dominate the pitching list that all other pitchers would find themselves downgraded for at least that one year. Among Conributors, Bill Carrigan who won two World Series’ while manager of the Red Sox shows up. No idea at this point how much that achievement was lauded in the era. If he hangs around my ballot the chances are that early pioneer Bob Ferguson drops off.
5. The 1917 class puts me half way through this project. I intend to go through 1934 which will come in December next year and will get me very close to the opening of the actual Hall. That seems like a good place to stop. After announcing the 1917 class, I intend to do a post about what I’ve learned midway through this project. Hopefully, it will explain some about how I got to that point.