Posts Tagged ‘Hall of Fame’

The Writing on the Plaque

March 14, 2019

Lou Brock postcard from the Hall of Fame

I’ve been to Cooperstown twice. It’s a great place, but like most enterprises of its type it has a store. Of course there’s going to be crass commercialization and the stuff will be overpriced. One of the cheaper items is the postcard collection. These are 4×6 standard sized postcards with a picture of the player’s plaque in the Hall of Fame hall. They’re 50 cents each so you can get 20 for $10 (plus tax). I picked up some and was looking them over the other day. That led to this post.

The one above is the card for Lou Brock. It’s kind of hard to read at this size, but it basically says he has the record for most stolen bases in a season and for a career. One of the things I noticed was that you can almost always tell when a player was inducted into the Hall of Fame by reading the plaque. Older plaques tend to be shorter and a bit more vague (that’s not universally true). There’s a lot more emphasis on batting average in the older ones and more on wins and losses by pitchers (again not true every time).

The Brock card struck me because it’s no longer true. Brock holds neither the seasonal nor career stolen base record. They both belong to Rickey Henderson. Of course Henderson’s plaque notes that he now holds both records. And I decided that it was fine to show both men as record holders because it does two things that, to me, are important.

Rickey Henderson postcard from the Hall of Fame

First, it shows the upward progression of the stolen base record and thus celebrates both players and their achievement. And before you ask, Billy Hamilton’s plaque also gives him credit for both records. So by simply reading these plaques you can follow the stolen base record, both seasonal and career, from the 1890s into the 21st Century.

“Slidin'” Billy Hamilton postcard from the Hall of Fame

Second, I think a lot of people who simply look over the Hall of Fame list wonder “What the heck is he doing here?” I know I do and will continue to do so because there are several questionable inductees. But sometimes the plaque tells you exactly why the guy is in the Hall of Fame because it makes a point of giving you information that was, when the player was chosen, critical to his election. So when someone asks why Billy Hamilton is in the Hall of Fame (and I suppose there are a lot of visitors who know nothing about 19th Century base ball–correct spelling in the 19th Century) you can read that the Hall decided that the man who had more stolen bases than anyone else ought to be in the Hall of Fame. When you get to Lou Brock’s plaque you find the same is still true and then again when you stand in front of Rickey Henderson’s.

So the plaques are more than just a celebration of a player and a game. They are also an historical record of the course of the seasons and of careers.

For those interested the postcards are available at the Hall of Fame website’s shop (and I don’t get a cut).

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Nine Thoughts on the Class of 2019

January 23, 2019

Roy Halladay

The voters have spoken in both the Veteran’s Committee (whatever they call it today) and among the writers. There are six new member of the Hall of Fame. In keeping with my traditional use of nine, here’s a few thoughts on the class of 2019.

1. Congratulations to Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith on their election to Cooperstown.

2. I’m gratified to see someone finally get all the votes in the BBWAA election. I’m certain Mariano Rivera shouldn’t have been the first (see, Ruth, Babe; Aaron, Henry), but I’m happy someone finally made it.

3. Mike Mussina came as close as you can to failing enshrinement. That’s a shame, he was a terrific pitcher who, like Sandy Koufax, quit when he seemed to still have plenty in the tank. I’d have liked to see more of him, but he made the decision he felt best for himself. So far, he doesn’t have the same glow as Koufax (as a pitcher who went out on top).

4. Harold Baines still is an awful choice, but I hope he, his family, and his fans enjoy the induction ceremony.

5. Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds failed inclusion again. They each got around 60% of the vote (actually 59.5 and 59.1). Clemens turned out to receive two more votes than Bonds. I’m not sure how you justify voting for one and not the other and I do not expect the 2 guys who did to explain it.

6. Which leads to the question, are they ever getting in? There are too many variables for me to make a valid prediction, but my guess (and that’s all it is) is that both will either make it in their 10th and final try so that the writers can say they punished them as long as the could, or that the writers will kick the can down the road and let the Veteran’s Committee make the call. That call will, of course, depend on who the preliminary committee puts on the ballot. That action should tell us what the keepers of the keys to the cathedral think of Clemens and Bonds.

7. Curt Shilling came closest to getting in of all the people not chosen. He’s moving steadily up and has three years remaining on the ballot. I think that bodes well for his election. Listen, I don’t think much of his politics, and I’d hate for him to espouse them at a Cooperstown ceremony, but enshrinement should be based on his career, not his politics.

8. Larry Walker has one year left on the ballot and made a major jump this time. Maybe he makes it in 2020.

9. Fred McGriff missed out for the 10th and final time. Look for him to appear on the next ballot for which he is eligible. With the support he got this time, there’s a good chance he gets in (see Smith, Lee).

 

The Limits of Knowledge

December 13, 2018

With the recent election of Harold Baines to the Hall of Fame there is a lot of comment going on about the entire election process. I have to admit to having added my share. But whether the election is problematic or not, and I feel it is, it brings up some things we need to note.

Over at the Hall of Miller and Eric website, a site each of you should go visit often, there’s an article that’s titled “Harold Baines is the Single Worst Hall of Fame Choice Ever,” written by the Miller of Miller and Eric. On the face of just the headline, that sounds, considering some of the earlier Hall picks, like one of the most idiotic articles ever written. But if you delve below the headline and actually read the article, he makes a great deal of sense. His basic point is that with the glut of information available today versus what was known 20 or 30 or 50 years ago, Baines is a more terrible choice than anyone else, because we have more knowledge than we had back that 20 or 30 or 50 years ago.

The Hall of Fame was founded in the mid-1930s. The first crop of inductees was a fairly obvious pick (Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner alphabetically). All but Mathewson were still alive and most of the voters had seen much of the career of all five. But frankly, there wasn’t a lot of “modern” information available. By modern, I mean the huge log of statistics. Macmillan hadn’t yet published its Encyclopedia, Bill James wasn’t born, BaseballReference.Com wasn’t even a cock-eyed idea yet. What you had were newspaper accounts if you could find them, a handful of Spaudling Guides, Reach Guides, the Elias people and whatever else you could find. And you had the “I” and “eye” tests (“I saw him with my own eyes”). All of those were well and good, but weren’t at all complete.

Back a few years ago I ran a series of articles postulating a Hall of Fame as if it was erected in Cincinnati in 1901 and inducted at least one person each year until the real Hall of Fame was built. I was allowed to use only the information that I could find for the period. There was no WAR or OPS+ or triple slash line. There weren’t even saves yet. There were frequently no walk or strikeout totals. Sometimes there was no fielding information available at all. Frankly, I thought I did a pretty good job with what I had. But I also realized that I was putting in some guys that probably didn’t deserve a spot in Cincinnati’s hallowed halls because I have access today to information unavailable to me in 1910 that told me “You probably got this one wrong, Slick.” One thing I didn’t have available for use was the “Eye” or “I” test, even I’m not that old.

And those sorts of things caused the original Hall voters, and the people who followed them to make some interesting choices. Apparently there were articles at the time (I’ve run across a couple old newspapers that say it) indicating that Candy Cummings invented the curve ball. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but the people voting had that info and used it to put in what to me is a terrible choice. There are other choices like that, not to mention the cronyism that has plagued the Hall voting since its beginning.

It’s tough to call Baines the “worst choice ever” based on who’s in the Hall of Fame, but you have to give something of a pass to the guys who didn’t have the information we have available today. They made mistakes, but many of them were in good faith. But when you take a look at how much information we have today the Baines pick becomes, as the Hall of Miller and Eric guys point out, pretty much indefensible. You can, if you want, make the argument that stats are subject to interpretation and subject to which you determine are important and which are not. And that’s true. But it would take a strange and long set of interpretations and determinations to put Baines in the Hall.

And before I finish I have a complaint. I’ve read a few people attacking Baines himself for his election. Quit that, people. You want to yell at someone for it, yell at the group that put together the ballot or at the 12 men who voted for Baines, not at Baines himself. All he did was put up numbers and play a game he loved. He didn’t create this problem.

Watching the Tracker

January 22, 2018

Jim Thome

Wednesday marks the announcement of the latest class in the Hall of Fame. It appears to be a significant class.

I’ve been following along with the balloting by checking in on a Hall of Fame Tracker run by Ryan Thibodaux. He scours the internet and social media looking for Hall of Fame voters who announce their ballot early. He then posts a running total without commentary. It’s a quick and convenient way to keep track of who’s in and who’s out.

As I type this he’s recorded a little less than 50% of the total voters. It’s possible to see as many as six or as few as three players enshrined in Cooperstown. Polling at over 90% (remember that’s 90% of the 50% recorded, not 90% of the total vote) are Vlad Guerrero, Chipper Jones, and Jim Thome. Edgar Martinez is at 80% while both Trevor Hoffman and Mike Mussina are in the 70% range (Hoffman just over 75% and Mussina just under the magic line). Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds are all in the 60% range, with Schilling being just ahead of the other two. Larry Walker is the only other player above 40%.

Depending on the way the other 50% of the vote goes Martinez and Hoffman are currently in and Mussina will just miss. The other three would almost have to totally whiff on the rest of the votes to fail election.

I’m not sure what I think of all this. I’m not a supporter of the “steroid boys” getting elected, so I’m OK with them waiting another year. I’m happy to see Walker doing well and thrilled that Edgar Martinez is finally getting his due. Even if he doesn’t make it this year, it’s a good sign for next year. And Hoffman I would support, but he’d be toward the bottom of my list of 10. He’d certainly come in below Mussina. But it’s also a good sign that Moose is moving up the line enough. We might see him jump over the magic 75% next year (or just maybe this year). I also wonder how much the utterly ill-defined “character clause” is effecting Schilling. Don’t care much for his politics, but they’re not electing him mayor, they’re electing him to the baseball Hall of Fame.

So there the vote stand less than a week from the big reveal. Good luck to all six who are close and the others can remember the old Brooklyn cry, “Wait ’til next year.”

 

Having just gone through a major family crisis, I’ve been away from here for a while (except for the post just below). Although the problem isn’t yet completely solved we’re mostly through it, so I hope to get back to something like a regular musing again. Thank you for your patience.

Modern Era Ballot Released

November 10, 2017

The latest iteration of the Veteran’s Committee for the Hall of Fame just released the ballot for the “Modern Era” Committee (that’s the most recent retirees). Here they are in the order that shows up on the Hall of Fame website (it’s alphabetical):

Steve Garvey

Tommy John

Don Mattingly

Marvin Miller

Jack Morris

Dale Murphy

Dave Parker

Ted Simmons

Luis Tiant

Alan Trammell

Committee members will vote in December and are allowed to vote for up to five people.

Commentary to follow.

 

“Out, Damned Spot”…

July 28, 2017

Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act V, Scene 1). (Do you supposed she was trying to get the dog to go out for the night?)

Pie Traynor

Over at The Hall of Miller and Eric they’ve begun running a series rightfully castigating the Hall of Fame for leaving out some of the people who have been shunted aside (guys like Ted Simmons). They have their own Hall and one of the requirements is that the two Hall’s be the same size (excluding umpires and they’re in the midst to trying to figure out how to add Negro Leaguers). So that means for every guy they put in who isn’t truly in the Hall, they have to kick to the curb someone who is enshrined in Cooperstown (which doesn’t mean they put someone in, then toss someone else out). That’s not exactly how it works, but I trust you get the idea. It’s a site worth checking out, team. It’s also a project with some interesting ideas that are worth considering.

All of that got me to wondering about the bottom of the Hall (to use Kevin Graham’s phrase, “the bottom-feeders”). I’ve done a thing or two on the bottom of the Hall, but never actually sat down and went about trying to figure out in something like a systematic way who actually is the bottom of the Hall. These are the guys who, if they ever decided to pare down the Hall of Fame, should be the first shown the door. And before I go further, let me emphasize that I am in no way suggesting that these, or any other players currently enshrined, be ousted from Cooperstown (and neither are the Miller and Eric team). Once you’re in, you’re safely in.

What comes below is a 25 man roster with 2 men at each position, one reliever, and 8 starting pitchers that make up the lowest rung of the Hall of Fame. Although I have reservations about WAR as the be all, end all of stats (any stat existing in multiple versions is automatically suspect), it’s a good quick way to measure the players involved. I simply looked at Baseball Reference’s list of players by position and by WAR for each position and took the two (one, eight) guys with the least WAR for my team. As usual this easy system comes with a load of caveats. First, there are several managers (Stengel, Harris, Southworth, etc.) who show up on a position list and have less WAR than at least one other Hall of Famer on the same list. I excluded them as they are in the Hall as much, if not more, for their managerial acumen as for their playing ability. Second, I dumped guys who played way, way back (George Wright, Jim O’Rourke, Candy Cummings, etc.) because they played much or most of their career with shorter schedules, no mound, and in some cases (Cummings) a very different game. Finally Monte Irvin showed up as the left field Hall of Famer with the least WAR. I excluded him and would have excluded other similar Negro League stalwarts.

Got all that? Then here’s the list of the bottom of the Hall. I draw no conclusions from it (except as mentioned at the end of the article) and merely pass it along for those interested.

Catcher: Ray Schalk, Rick Ferrell

First Base: George Kelly, Jim Bottomley (ain’t it great that someone named Bottomley is in the bottom tier?)

Second Base: Johnny Evers, Bill Mazeroski

Shortstop: Travis Jackson, Rabbit Maranville

Third Base: Pie Traynor, Fred Lindstrom

Left Field: Lou Brock, Heinie Manush

Center Field: Hugh Duffy, Lloyd Waner (I know Duffy spent most of his career in the 19th Century, but he also played most of it after the advent of the pitching mound and longer schedules, so I added him.)

Right Field: Ross Youngs, Tommy McCarthy

Starters: Jesse Haines, Rube Marquard, Lefty Gomez, Jim Hunter, Herb Pennock, Jack Chesbro, Chief Bender, Addie Joss

Reliever: Rollie Fingers

OK, team, that’s the list. A couple of final points. First, these are not players who lost significant time to World War II or other long term military service (I thought there might be one or two of those). Both Joss and Youngs died while still active (at least more or less active) so their WAR is effected by that and it should be remembered. I decided to add them anyway. For what it’s worth, if you toss Joss off because of odd circumstances (like a death) then Waite Hoyt is his replacement. And Sam Thompson replaces Youngs. As a final bit of an aside, I remember when Pie Traynor was (in 1969) picked the greatest of all third basemen. Now he makes this team.

Still a formidable team.

 

Outside Waiting

May 4, 2017

“Cannonball” Dick Redding

Back in 2006 the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown decided to right a wrong. They’d already begun making strides towards that goal in the 1970s, but made a big splash in 2006. What did they do? They created a special Negro Leagues committee to look over all the information available and decide on a long list (about 100) of Negro League players, managers, and executives to be enshrined at Cooperstown. They had people comb through all the info they could find to prepare a set of statistics and other pertinent facts (and not a few legends) to lay before the select committee. They got, in Shade of Glory, a pretty fair book out of it too.

So the committee met, whittled the list down to about 30 and then made one final vote. Sixteen players, managers, executives, and whatnot got in. It was a heck of a list. It is, at least in my opinion, one of the best jobs the Hall of Fame has done over the years. And you know there’s a “but” coming. “But” they also announced, sort of announced (they never actually said it officially), that they were now through with the Negro Leagues. They done what they could. They’d found the best people (including Effa Manley, the only woman in the Hall), gotten the best available stats, gotten the best experts, so they could now say that the Hall had the Negro Leagues taken care of, period.

In the years since 2006, there has not been one player who was primarily a Negro Leaguer who has appeared on any ballot in any of the versions of the Veteran’s Committee. Not a single one. Minnie Minoso showed up, but he could be excused because he had an excellent (and possibly Hall of Fame) career, but he was being looked at as a Major Leaguer. For 10 years that standard has held.

And they are wrong. There are a number of good choices for enshrinement in Cooperstown among Negro Leagues who are currently outside waiting for their chance. Not a one has even been considered by a Veteran’s Committee. Maybe none of them are of the quality necessary for the honor, but they ought to at least be considered. Take a look at the pre-1950 players showing up on the recent ballots and tell me that no outside Negro Leaguer was better (or at least as good) as the people on the list. Frankly, I don’t think you can do it.

This is a plea for the Hall of Fame to begin again to consider Negro League players for inclusion on the early Veteran’s Committee ballot. Don’t say “we have all we need” or “we have all there is.” Look harder, people.

And to give you some sense of who’s left out, here’s a pretty fair team of Negro Leaguers who currently aren’t in the Hall of Fame:

Pitchers: “Cannonball” Dick Redding, Bill Gatewood, Rube Currie, Phil Cockrell, Nip Winters, Bill Holland

Infielders: Lemuel Hawkins, Frank Warfield, Bud Fowler, Newt Allen, Bingo DeMoss, John Beckwith, Dobie Moore

Outfield: Heavy Johnson, Steel Arm Davis, Spottswood Poles, Hurley McNair

Cacher: Bill Pettus, Bruce Petway, Double Duty Radcliffe

Manager: Buck O’Neill, “Candy” Jim Taylor

That’s 20 of a 25 man roster (plus the managers). I left a few holes for you to fill in with your own favorites that I left out (like a Dave Malarcher or a Terris McDuffy).

I’m not saying all of them are Hall of Fame quality. What I’m saying is that all of them deserve a look.

BTW got the above picture from a blog called “The Negro Leagues Up Close.” Definitely a site worth looking at if you’re interested in the Negro Leagues. Type it in on Google.

2017 Spink and Frick Awards Announced

December 20, 2016

It dawned on me that I’d never mentioned the winners of two more Hall of Fame awards for the coming year. Along with player, manager, executive, and contributor enshrinement, the Hall of Fame has three other awards it gives out. The Buck O’Neill Award isn’t annual, but the other two are.

 

Claire Smith

Claire Smith

The winner of the 2017 J. G. Taylor Spink Award is Claire Smith. Ms. Smith is the first female winner of the award. The Spink Award is for print (and now digital) writers. She currently writes of ESPN, but previously was employed by the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Bulletin, Hartford Courant. She joins Effa Manley as the only women honored by the Hall of Fame.

Bill King in the booth

Bill King in the booth

The winner of the Ford Frick Award is the late Bill King (he died in 2005). The Frick Award is given to a broadcaster. King spent years as the primary voice of the Oakland Athletics.

Congratulations to both Ms. Smith and to Mr. King’s family.

My Own Little Hall of Fame Recap: II

December 15, 2016

Last post (Recap I) I listed the people making My Own Little Hall of Fame and commented how it compared to the one in Cooperstown. This time I want to look at what I learned (and didn’t) during the project.

1. I found it was harder than I thought. I expected to be able to read a few newspapers, check out some old baseball guides, and happily go about my business. It turns out that if you can find it, there’s quite a lot more information available than I thought. It can be hard to find, but mostly it’s spotty. Info on some teams is pretty easy, others are much more obscure.

2. I knew the statistics weren’t uniform. I was stunned how much they wandered all over the place. As time went on they tended to stabilize, but the wandering numbers continued throughout the project.

3. I knew some statistics were new, others ancient (by baseball standards). What I didn’t know was how few were generally accepted early on. RBIs, a staple of modern stats, was fairly new. So was the compilation of both walks and strikeouts. Pitcher walks and strikeout numbers weren’t too bad, but trying to find out exactly who they struck out was much more difficult. I had to resist using volumes like Nemec’s works on the 19th Century because those compilations were unavailable.

4. For years I was critical of the Hall of Fame for not inducting at least one player (or manager, or executive) every year. I felt they owed it to the fans. So I required my Hall to elect at least one every time. Then I got to the era of about 1920 and ran into a number of years where I was stretching it to elect someone. So there are, even after all the work, people in my hall that I’m not sure ought to be there really.

5. I knew to expect minimal information on 19th Century players, especially players from the American Association. I was struck by how little information actually existed. I admit to looking at more modern things to find some sense of which players I should be looking for when it came to the 1860s and the American Association of the 1880s.

Having said all those things, it was, I think, a worthwhile project, especially the decision to add Negro League players. I enjoyed trying to remember all those research skills I’d learn way back in graduate school. How accurate I am, is another story. Because there was no Hall of Fame in 1901 we can never know how close I am to what a 1901 Hall would look like. That may be good for my results.

 

 

My Own Little Hall of Fame Recap: I

December 13, 2016

With the end of this three-year project I’m going to do some recapitulation work on it. This post simply gives you the list of the people who got in. You can go back month by month and get a list, but it seems simple to put them all in one post. This way you don’t have to go through 34 months, but can in one place decide for each individual “Yay”, “Yuck”, or “Who?”
Just a quick comment before I do. The list is by position. Each player is put in the position most commonly associated with them. Particularly in the 19th Century, players regularly played multiple positions. Knowing that, I chose one for each player knowing that Deacon White, for example was also a catcher as well as a third baseman, which is where I put him. A couple of people are listed primarily as “contributors” because it was hard to pigeon-hole them. Also I did not separate the outfielders by left, center, and right as a number of the early players held down all three positions with some frequency. Having typed all that, here’s the list.

First Base–Cap Anson, Jake Beckley, Dan Brouthers, Frank Chance, Roger Connor, Dave Orr, Joe Start (7)

Second Base–Ross Barnes, Nap LaJoie, Bid McPhee (3)

Third Base–Frank Baker, Jimmie Collins, Deacon White (3)

Shortstop–Bill Dahlen, George Davis, Jack Glasscock, Joe Tinker, Honus Wagner, George Wright (6)

Outfield–King Kelly, Jim O’Rourke, Tip O’Neill, Harry Stovey, Pete Browning, Billy Hamilton, Ed Delahanty, Jesse Burkett, Sam Thompson, Hugh Duffy, Joe Kelley, Paul Hines, Willie Keeler, Elmer Flick, Fred Clarke, Sam Crawford, Sherry Magee, Harry Hooper, Bobby Veach, Zack Wheat, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker (22)

Catcher–Roger Bresnahan, Buck Ewing, Cal McVey (3)

Pitcher–John Clarkson, Tim Keefe, Charles Radbourn, Mickey Welch, Pud Galvin, Tommy Bond, Amos Rusie, Jim McCormick, Addie Joss, Kid Nichols, Joe McGinnity, Rube Waddell, Cy Young, Vic Willis, Mordecai Brown, Christy Mathewson, Eddie Plank, Ed Walsh, Walter Johnson, Urban Shocker (20)

Managers–Harry Wright, Jim Mutrie, Frank Selee, Ned Hanlon, John McGraw, Hughie Jennings, Connie Mack, Miller Huggins (8)

Umpire–Hank O’Day (1)

Executives–William Hulbert, Albert Spaulding, Charles Comiskey, Al Reach, Clark Griffith, Ban Johnson, Barney Dreyfuss (7)

Contributors–Daniel “Doc” Adams, Henry Chadwick, John Montgomery Ward (3)

Negro League–Rube Foster, Bud Fowler, Frank Grant, Frank Leland, Jose Mendez, Louis Santop, George Stovey, Sol White, Christobel Torriente (9)

A total of 92 people. In a real world only 83 would have a chance at enshrinement because the nine Negro League players and executives would surely be excluded. In the actual Hall 115 people were added in the first 34 years, the same number of years I used in this project. Although I consider myself a “big hall” person it seems I’m actually more conservative than the real Hall of Fame. I would have never guessed that was true. By the way, only two of the true Hall’s 115 were black (Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella). Of my 83, seventeen are not in both Halls (20%).