Golden Era Candidates: Part 3
Hall of Fame Discrepancies, Issues, News , Notes & Trivia. Evaluating HOF GMs and Executives, Bob Howsam
Bob Howsam, the General Manager who built the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine of the 1970s is the only non-player nominated for this year’s Golden Era Veterans Committee election. His nomination brings up some thorny issues such as how great would you rate a General Manager’s contribution to a winning team and how ultimately would you rate a baseball executive’s resume as Hall Of Fame – worthy or not.
Hasn’t the groundwork for a championship team often been laid by a GM’s by his predecessor? When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 was Pat Gillick really the genius who masterminded that team’s fortunes or was he merely the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time? Weren’t many of the stars of that team such as Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell drafted and developed during Ed Wade’s regime as GM?
Howsam definitely was the beneficiary of such a situation when Cardinals’ Bing Devine was fired mid-season in 1964 and Howsam was chosen to replace him. The Cardinals then jelled and went on to have a blisteringly hot final two months of the season. With the Phillies collapse they were able to take the pennant and upset the Yankees in the World Series. Howsam would appear to have had the magic touch but most of the pieces of that Cardinals puzzle were assembled by Devine.
That said, being the man who put together “The Big Red Machine” is an awfully good qualification to have on his Hall of Fame resume. Howsam was the Reds chief executive for 11 seasons, 1967 to 1977 and in a seven year run his team went to the World Series four times – losing to Baltimore in 1970, losing to Oakland in 1972, scoring a narrow victory over Boston in 1975 and then making Yankees Haters deliriously happy by sweeping the Pinstripers in 1976.
Future Baseball Executive HOF Candidates: Scheurholz and Cashman When it comes to selecting executive candidates from a more recent era you can’t do any better than nominate and elect John Scheurholz, who was the Atlanta Braves GM throughout their run of 14 straight divisional titles (1991-2005, excepting 1994 when a players union strike prevented the regular season from being played to its natural conclusion.) He’s moved on from the Braves and is still active in baseball. Perhaps the fact that Schuerholz has not yet retired or taken a less prominent role is the only thing that has prevented him from being nominated already.
Maybe some future day the Yankees’ Brian Cashman will be nominated too. He’s only 47, but in 17years since taking over the GM position Yankees teams have won 4 World Series, made 14 postseason appearances and won the American League East division title 12 times. The biggest argument against him would be that he accomplished all this for the Yankees. He was the beneficiary of the Steinbrenner family fortune in acquiring players through the draft, through trades and in signing free agents. Still Cashman has shown exceptional skill in engineering trades, pushing the right buttons and plugging holes in the Yankees roster.
Luis Tiant & Jim Hunter: Similar Stats, Different HOF Fortunes
Luis Tiant’s final career numbers were so similar to those of Jim “Catfish’ Hunter that it was like Hunter had a Latino twin.
Wins 229 224
Winning % .571 .574
20 Win Seasons 4 5
E.R.A. 3.30 3.26
Strikeouts 2416 2012
The pair’s numbers are very close, with the only major exception being Strikeouts where Tiant was clearly better in topping Catfish’s K total by more than 400. However their fortunes have clearly differed when it comes to the Hall Of Fame.
The writers elected Hunter in 1987 in just his third year of eligibility. Tiant became eligible the following year in 1988 failed to gain election in 15 ballots through 2002 and now is up for his fifth election via the Veterans Committee. El Tiante seems to be following the path of Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso and is becoming one of the Hall of Fame’s most overlooked major stars.
Jack Morris’ Future as a Veterans Committee Candidate – which path will he take Fox’s or Bunning’s?
The candidacy of Jack Morris has been controversial to say the least. While his supporters say Morris was close to the best pitcher the American league of the 1980s had to offer, his detractors point out Morris’ relatively high 3.90 earned run average, which his supporters counter by stating that much like Warren Spahn, Early Wynn or Robin Roberts, Morris pitched to the score.
He didn’t try to shut everybody out. Once he had the lead he protected it well and isn’t winning the most important thing. That was the approach the three aforementioned Hall Of Famers took and Morris was no different. Having 253 regular season wins and that 10inning shutout he threw against John Smoltz and a couple of Atlanta Braves relievers in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series that enabled Morris’ Minnesota Twins to capture the world title is great to have on his resume.
Any great World Series achievement could be vital to a player’s HOF chances. Certainly without his 1960 World Series winning home run for Pittsburgh, Bill Mazeroski’s HOF election might not have ever happened or been considerably delayed despite his numerous defensive records at 2B. In January Morris used up his last shot at gaining election by the writers. Two years from now he will be eligible for the December 2016 election of The Expansion Era (1973 to 1990s) for the HOF Class of 2017. His chief competition will come from Steve Garvey, Davey Concepcion, Tommy John and Don Mattingly, who like Morris will be before the Veterans Committee for the first time. Many will rate Morris as the best candidate among that group and certainly no worse than second behind Garvey.
Veterans Committee elections are unpredictable, however. For one thing the nominating committee is never made up of the same people who get the final vote and the Hall Of Fame has taken it upon itself to shuffle the voters around so that the panel of electors for succeeding elections is never exactly the same. Morris had over 61 per cent of the vote this year, but actually had his best showing the previous year.
In the 2013 writers election Morris had 67.7% of the vote, not shy of the required 75 % needed for election by a heck of a lot. How have other near- electees via the writers fared with the Veterans Committee in the past? In their best vote totals via the writers Jim Bunning and Nellie Fox came much closer than Morris did to getting elected. In fact, Bunning and Fox missed election by less than one per cent. Aside from the fact that both these stars once got better than 74% of the vote but had to wait years until their cases advanced to the Veterans Committee to gain HOF election their treatment by the Veterans Committee had little in common.
Bunning who debuted in the majors in 1955, retired after the 1971 season. In his 15 elections by the writers he peaked with 74.2 per cent of the vote in 1988, when Willie Stargell was the only electee. Somehow after this near-miss his vote percentage declined in three more elections until he was off the writers’ ballot. Under HOF rules at the time his case was then taken up in his 24th year after he played his final game. Under the Veterans Committee election rules in place in 1995, a candidate not only had to have 75% of the vote, he had to be the top vote getter, as only one modern day player could be elected. Bunning got 75%, but Richie Ashburn trumped him with unanimous support that year to gain election. In the following year, 1996, in his second year of eligibility, no longer having to contend with the ever-popular Ashburn, it became Bunning’s turn and he made it to Cooperstown that July.
Much like the excruciatingly close vote total that denied Craig Biggio HOF election this past January, Nellie Fox, one of the premier second basemen and leadoff men of his day (1947-1965), failed to gain HOF election by one vote in 1985, his final year on the writers’ ballot. After a three year waiting period before the case advanced to the Veterans Committee jurisdiction (which has been shortened to a one year waiting period today) the late Nellie Fox’s case came before the Veterans Committee for the first time in1989, back when all 20th Century candidates were voted on annually.
You would have thought that after missing election by one writer’s vote in 1985, Fox’s election should have been an automatic, a given, a slam dunk, a can’t miss – and whatever synonym or phrase you’d choose to indicate that Fox couldn’t lose. Instead the choice that year by the VC was Red Schoendienst. Tony Lazzeri, Hal Newhouser, Phil Rizzuto, Ashburn and Bunning would all be elected in an eight year period while Fox’s candidacy was kept on hold.
Finally the Veterans committee deigned to elevate Fox to Hall of Fame status in 1997. It’s obvious that for many a candidate, a good showing in the writers elections that falls a little short of reaching that magic 75% total does not translate into an easy election or carry a lot of weight when the case goes to the Veterans Committee. When a new set of Committee members are given the vote for virtually every election there are different eyes on the candidates and different minds deliberating on the candidates’ worthiness – which may greatly help or greatly hurt any given candidate.
What might be scary for the supporters of Jack Morris for election to Cooperstown is the fact that one of the current Veterans Committee Golden Era candidates, Gil Hodges, has been an unsuccessful candidate for decades. His best election total of 63.4% was similar to Morris’ top total of 67.7.and Hodges over the course of his candidacy actually received more support than Morris.
Hodges topped 50 per cent 11 of the 15 years he was on the writers ballot and topped 60 % three times. So in the future which path will Morris take regarding the Veterans committee? Will it be the quick path to election of Bunning or the lengthy delay, but eventual election of Fox? Hopefully it won’t be the path of rejection and non-election that thus far has been Hodges’ fate.
Sometimes I think it’s too bad that HOF candidates can’t run in tandem, like on a Presidential/V.P. ticket. Package candidates on a ticket and if you don’t like one of the two, you’d still be forced to vote for both of them. You could have the 1960s Minnesota Twins ticket (Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva). The 1950’s White Sox ticket (Billy Pierce and Minnie Minoso). The all-hispanic ticket (Minoso, Oliva and Tiant)… or the best remaining position players from the 1950’s (Minoso and Gil Hodges). When two players are closely identified with each other either by era, position, heritage or team aren’t voters both among the writers and veterans committee electorate subconsciously influenced to vote for both.
Ask Whitey Ford. In 1973 in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot he made a good showing, but didn’t come very close to being elected. The following year, Mickey Mantle became eligible for the HOF for the first time and Whitey, in the vice-president’s secondary role was easily swept into the Hall of Fame Class of 1974 on the coattails of President Mickey.
Minnie Could Set A Record
Minnie Minoso’s birthday will come up soon over Thanksgiving weekend on Saturday, November 29. Officially he will turn 89 then, but some people think that birthday might be his 90th, 91st or even his 92nd. Even if he should be just 89, if he’s elected to the HOF on December 8th through the Golden Era Veterans Committee he would become the oldest living Hall of Famer at the time of election by a large margin. The current record holder is outfielder Elmer Flick, who starred for the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians between 1898 and 1910. It was more than a half-century after Flick hung up his spikes before the1911 season that Cooperstown came calling. Flick was 87 when he was finally elected in 1963 and he lived another eight years (1876-1971).
Here’s some info on the oldest 17 at the time of their election.
Player/position/MLB career span/year of HF election/age at time of HOF election.
1. Elmer Flick – OF - (1898-1910) - 1963 -87.
2. Rube Marquard – P - (1908-1925) – 1971 – 85.
3. Harry Hooper – OF – (1909-1925) – 1971 – 84
4T. Kid Nichols – P –(1890-1906) – 1949 – 80.
4T. Stan Coveleski – P – (1912-1928) – 1969 – 80
4T. Dave Bancroft – SS – (1915-1930) – 1971 – 80.
4T. Bobby Wallace – SS – (1894-1918) – 1953 – 80
8T. Leon Day – P – (1939-1950 NEGRO LEAGUES) –1995 – 79
8T. Hugh Duffy – OF – (1888-1906) - 1945– 79
8T. Rick Ferrell – C - (1929-1947) – 1984 – 79
8T. Travis Jackson – SS – (1922-1936) – 1982 –79
12T. Jesse Burkett – OF – (1890-1905) - 1946 – 78
12T. George Kelly – 1B – (1915-1932) - 1973 – 78.
12T. Clark Griffith – P – (1891-1914) – 1946 – 77
15T. Jesse Haines – P – (1918-1937) – 1970 – 77
15T. Phil Rizzuto – SS – (1941-1956) – 1994 – 77
Finally whether you’re Minoso at 89 or those decades younger than Minnie, likely to be elected by the writers this year, Randy Johnson, 51 or Craig Biggio, 49 – there’s one small club no one wants to become a member of. It’s the small group of those players who lived to learn the news that they had been elected to the Hall of Fame, but who didn’t survive long enough to be inducted.
Three such deaths have occurred in Hall Of Fame history:
Shortstop Walter ‘Rabbit’ Maranville HOF 1954 – age 62. A star shortstop from 1912 to 1935, primarily for the Boston Braves, Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pitcher Eppa Rixey HOF 1963- age 71. He would have been part of the 1963 HOF induction class with oldest living Hall of Famer Elmer Flick. Rixey died a month after his election. He was a star pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies from 1912 to 1933, notching 266 wins
Leon Day: Negro Leagues. A pitching star from the late 1930s to the early 1950’s and a member of the1946 Negro Leagues World Series winning Newark (NJ) Eagles as a teammate of Monte Irvin. Day died on March 13, 1995 six days after learning that he had been elected to the Hall Of Fame Class of 1995 along with MLB executive William Hulbert and major league players Mike Schmidt, Vic Willis and Richie Ashburn.