My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1918

Time again for the monthly look at a Hall of Fame set up in 1901. As World War I comes to an end, this time one pretty obvious guy and one not so obvious get in. One is in the current Hall, the other isn’t.

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen was a shortstop with four teams in the National League. When he retired in 1911 he was a top ten all-time leader in walks, extra base hits, doubles, and RBIs. A superior fielder, he helped Brooklyn to two NL pennants and a victory in the Chronicle-Telegraph post season championship games. He helped the New York Giants to two pennants and the 1905 World Series championship.

Elmer Flick

Elmer Flick

After four years in the National League, including a season when he led the league in RBIs, Elmer Flick moved to the American League where he starred from 1902 through 1910. He led the AL triples three times, in batting once.

Now the commentary:

1. What took so long with Flick? Primarily Flick’s problem was that for most of his career he was the second best player on his team behind Nap LaJoie. He never seemed to get the press that LaJoie got and Cleveland never won while he was there. Worse, from our standpoint (but I never saw this in contemporary sources) he left the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902, the year they won the 2nd AL pennant. That makes it look like they were better without him (but he was only in 11 games with Philly). Perception sometimes needs to be examined more thoroughly.

2. Dahlen? Really? Well, yes, Dahlen. Really. First, I think the current Hall is making a big mistake by leaving him out (just as they are with near contemporaries like Jack Glasscock). He, in fact, makes more sense in 1918 than does George Davis, who is probably a better overall player. By now, Dahlen’s numbers don’t look all that great, but at the time he left baseball he was in the top 10 in the categories I mentioned above (although RBIs were neither official nor standardized at this point). In some ways, his election in 1918 makes more sense than it does now because just looking at his traditional statistics (which is all the 1918 guys would have), he’s not up to the cut against modern shortstops. But in context of his time, he’s really good. But, he wasn’t particularly well liked and that could hurt him in 1918 much more than it would hurt him today. Maybe it’s just a tradeoff.

3. With World War I in full swing for the US (Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel) and baseball having to cut its season there seems to be something of a mild nostalgia for the “good ole days” of the sport. That’s the kind of thing that would help both Dahlen and Flick. So I used it as a chance to put them in. A cursory look at 1919 through about 1922 (which is the year that will show up in December on this site) indicates that will fall off a lot as the disappointment of intervention in WWI and the Versailles settlement kicks into high gear. Also kicking into high gear are the “Roaring ’20s.” So any move to put in some guy from way, way far back is going to have to come into focus in the next year or two. Already, the 1860s-1880s are disappearing in the public mind. Barring a concerted effort on the part of fans or a group of writers, we seem to be at the end of a period when players prior to about 1890 have a legitimate shot at getting into a Hall of Fame. My guess is that will change in the 1930s when the Great Depression sends another wave of “good ole days” nostalgia through the public (but I haven’t checked that yet, so don’t bet on it).

4. The next couple of years don’t add much to the backlog of players, so it will be easier to take a few older players or players that might not otherwise make it (that “might not otherwise make it” sounds awful doesn’t it, but I think the ballot list has much to do with who gets elected). Another handful of Negro League players and executives (Bill Monroe, Frank Leland, Sol White) begin showing up and it will be a good time to add some of them in. Having said that, the rising racial tensions of the early 1920s (race riots in a lot of places and the rebirth of the KKK) make it much more problematic that a black member could get elected. I’ll have to decide whether to continue allowing them in despite what I know to be true of the era, or take this opportunity to do it more historically. I lean toward letting them in, but I’ll let you know.

5. The 1919 list of eligible everyday players looks like this: Cupid Childs, George Davis, Gene DeMontreville, Jack Doyle, George Gore, Dummy Hoy, Bill Joyce, Bill Lange, Herman Long, Johnny Kling, Tommy McCarthy, Cal McVey, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Cy Seymour, Fred Tenney, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren. Not a bad list, but not a great one either (BTW if you notice I’ve obviously left someone off, don’t hesitate to tell me). Frank Chance and Mike Donlin are the biggest names coming in 1920. Interestingly enough both are quite famous, although much of Donlin’s glory lies in his Broadway efforts. I doubt that would help him get into a Hall of Fame (well, maybe an acting one), but when he wanted to play ball instead of act, he was pretty good  at swinging a bat.

6. The 1919 pitchers list looks like this: Bob Carruthers, Jack Chesbro, Dave Foutz, Brickyard Kennedy, Sam Leever, Tony Mullane, Deacon Phillippe, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White, Vic Willis. Willis probably has the best chance, although Chesbro’s 41 wins in 1904 still resonates with fans and writers and that makes him a better choice in 1919 than it does today. And the “if you notice…” comment above also holds true here. Clark Griffith shows up in 1920 strictly as a pitcher without reference to his managing or his ownership of the Senators (the managing aspects of his career come in 1921). His best chances of making a Hall of Fame probably lie in combining his managerial and pitching skills (and later as an owner).

7. And the contributors are: Bill Carrigan, Jim Creighton, Candy Cummings, Tim Hurst, Frank Leland, Lip Pike, Henry C. Pulliam, Al Reach, Jack Sheridan, John K. Tener, Chris von der Ahe, William R. Wheaton. Carrigan was a two-time World Series winning manager. Creighton, Cummings and Pike played in the 1860s and 1870s. Pulliam and Tener were NL Presidents, von der Ahe and Reach were owners. Hurst and Sheridan were both umps (and Hurst managed a little). Wheaton was the primary author of a 1830’s set of rules. Leland was an early Negro League executive. I’m also considering moving McVey from the everyday player list to this list. The contributors are the hardest to determine if they deserve Hall status. Fielder Jones shows up as a manager in 1920 as does Negro League old timer Bill Monroe (obviously not to be confused with the “Bluegrass” musician).

8. As a sort of follow-up to number four above, the period 1918-1920 and again from 1925 through 1927 are periods when the everyday players give us guys like Duffy Lewis and Larry Doyle, pitchers like Hippo Vaughn, and contributors like Pat Moran and Ben Shibe. It’s not really a bad list, but it’s nothing particularly special. It means that I’m going to have a handful of backlog players getting in (which kind of reminds me of the Veteran’s Committee situation) or that some very marginal players are going to slide in. Frankly, I’d prefer the former.

9. In 1926, the middle of the 1925-27 hiatus, the Black Sox begin to show up as well as guys like Hal Chase. Chase I know exactly what I’m going to do with him, but I want to think about the Sox a bit before making a final decision. I’m prone to toss all of them on the ash heap with Chase, but I’ve got until next year (2016, not 1919) to decide and may change my mind. Frankly, doing this based on what was known and accepted in the 1920s is going to make it very hard to see them elected. There’s not just a whole lot of support for them in the 1920s.

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5 Responses to “My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1918”

  1. Precious Sanders Says:

    It’s unfortunate how the press can make or break a player’s reputation. It’s not fair, but it is what it is, I suppose.

  2. Miller Says:

    I like your call and your reasoning on Flick. Playing at a time with more famous (I think) left fielders like Wahoo Sam Crawford and Wee Willie Keeler wouldn’t help him either.

    As for your Bill Dahlen call, I’m kind of surprised. Don’t get me wrong, I rank him 3rd all-time at the position, in a battle with Glasscock, Davis, Ripken, Vaughan, and Appling. Honus leads by a ton, but any of the other six could be second in my book. However, Dahlen’s profile 100 years ago wasn’t as special as it appears today, I don’t think. Two areas that might not have been seen are defense (if others were flashier) and being very, very good for a very long time. He only had one truly awesome season in my book. But he had nine more that were excellent and another seven that were good to very good.

    Hey, I’m not complaining. I love Dahlen. But I think I’m a little surprised.

    Continued great stuff. Thanks!

  3. wkkortas Says:

    Do you think there’ a sympathy vote in there for Tiernan? He died in late 1918 (I think it may have been TB, but I haven’t checked that), and he had some strong numbers.

  4. William Miller Says:

    When I look at the list of HOF Right-Fielders, which includes Flick, Harry Hooper, Sam Rice, Kiki Cuyler and Chuck Klein, I have to ask, why not Bobby Bonds?
    I do think Bill Dahlen belongs in the HOF.
    Nice overview of this particular batch of players.
    -Bill

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