The year 1920 saw “A Return to Normalcy” in the United States. At least that’s what Presidential candidate Warren G. Harding called his election. Well, I’m not sure how “normal” the 1920s were, but they did see a change in baseball. The Deadball Era ended and the home run took center stage. The US moved toward a return to isolation in world affairs and much of the nostalgia that as evident in the World War I era was gone. With it went much chance of electing any really old-time players to a 1920 Hall of Fame. But that doesn’t mean an 1890s player couldn’t get in. Here’s the Class of 1920 with commentary to follow:
Frank Chance was a player-manager for the turn of the century Chicago Cubs. Beginning as a catcher and moving to first base, he piloted the Cubs to pennants in consecutive years 1906 through 1908 and again in 1910. He won two World’s Championships and his 1906 team holds the record for wins in a single season.
Now the commentary:
1 That’s all? You’re kidding, right? Wish I was. The 1920 and 1921 classes are particularly weak among players. It will straighten out some in 1922, but right now is not a particularly strong period for retired players. I’ve committed to adding at least one person (player or contributor) a year and this is the best I can do for 1920. This shows me why it’s wise that the true Hall of Fame does not require the writers (or vets committee) to elect at least one person per year.
2. Chance? Frank Chance is, to me, one of those players who stands at the very edge of Hall of Fame quality. He’s pretty good for a handful of years, but his career is really short and his peak isn’t all that high. As a manager he’s better and that gives him a push he wouldn’t get if he was being evaluated strictly as a player. Additionally he was extremely well-known in the era, without reference to the poem.
4. You sound like you’re trying to convince yourself as well as us. That’s because I am. This isn’t much of a class and I acknowledge that, but every Hall of Fame has down periods when the true greats of the game are either in the Hall or not yet eligible. In 1920 you’ve got one of those times. Best I could do was Chance and without the managerial experience I’m not sure I’d take him. His period of playing excellence is pretty short and the peak isn’t all that great (as I said earlier) so his managerial years weigh heavier on his selection than anyone else I’ve chosen except John McGraw (other than guys chosen strictly as managers like Frank Selee). I think part of the problem is that it’s Chance’s first opportunity to make this Hall of Fame and he’s certainly not, in the modern sense of a first timer being special, a first try inductee. Of course I’ve argued that first time induction shouldn’t be seen as a test of true greatness (after all Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra weren’t first timers–in fact Bench is the only catcher to ever be a first ballot winner) and a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer (one of the main reasons I don’t like limiting the number of players a voter can check on his ballot). So staying true to the positions I’ve staked out on this blog, I pick Chance on the first ballot.
5. Next year (1921) Fred Clarke shows up among everyday players and as a manager as does A’s stalwart Danny Murphy. My guess is one is in and one is toast.
6. By now the statistics are beginning to standardize. I’m seeing the same ones over and over and the numbers are beginning to agree wherever I look (but not yet entirely). Life is getting a bit easier for me in this regard.
7. By now the nostalgia craze is pretty much over, as I mentioned above. That bodes poorly for guys like Cal McVey, Lip Pike, and any number of National Association players like Dave Orr. On the other hand 1890s players are still at least semi-well known so their chances aren’t dead yet (but they’re on life support). Also Nat Strong’s New York “league” of black teams and Rube Foster’s Negro National League are just beginning to form and it will make it just a bit easier to determine which black players will be considered for this Hall.
8. The 1921 list of eligible everyday players looks like this: Roger Bresnahan, Cupid Childs, Fred Clarke, George Davis, Mike Donlan, Jack Doyle, George Gore, Dummy Hoy, Bill Joyce, Bill Lange, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Johnny Kling, Tommy McCarthy, Danny Murphy, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Cy Seymour, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren. Not a bad list, four Hall of Famers (Bresnahan, Clarke, Davis, McCarthy) on it and a host of decent players, but again not a just “got to have” list (except probably for Clarke and I’ve dealt with Davis previously).
9. The 1921 list of pitchers: Bob Carruthers, Jack Chesbro, Dave Foutz, Clark Griffith, Brickyard Kennedy, Sam Leever, Tony Mullane, Deacon Phillippe, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White. Again not a bad list (with 2 HofF types–Chesbro and Griffith), but not one you just want to go out and embrace either. Griffith still has his managerial phase to consider (see below) and also his ownership phase. So he’s got a better chance as a contributor than as a pitcher. And then there’s that Pirates staff of 1900. A lot of good pitchers, but no really outstanding one. Still not sure what will happen here.
10. And the contributors list for 1921: Bill Carrigan, Jim Creighton, Clark Griffith, Tim Hurst, Hughie Jennings, Cal McVey, Lip Pike, Henry C. Pulliam, George Stallings, William R. Wheaton. That’s 4 managers (Carrigan, Griffith, Jennings, Stallings), 4 pioneers (Creighton, McVey, Pike, Wheaton), a league president (Pulliam), and Hurst who was both an umpire and a manager. Griffith shows up again, but I want to wait until into the mid-1920s (when his Senators start winning) to make a final decision on him. I may have done a disservice to the pioneers by not putting one of them in during the World War I nostalgia period because that’s dried up and I don’t see (at least with a short look) it occurring again during the 1920s (maybe when the Great Depression hits in 1929).
Tags: Frank Chance