Friday, November 2, 2012

The Best of the Pre-Integration Ballot

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 10 finalists for the Pre-Integration Ballot yesterday, with the decision to be made by a distinguished panel comprising Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gary Hughes, Bob Watson, Jim Henneman, Steve Hirdt, Peter Morris, Phil Pepe, Tom Simon, Claire Smith, T.R. Sullivan, and Mark Whicker.

Not a bad panel.  (I should point out that I am friends with Peter Morris, whom I believe to be one of baseball's foremost researchers.)

Here are my thoughts.

(Further reading:  Rob Neyer wrote a great piece with a verdict on each nominee as well.)

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Non-Players

Sam Breadon:  St. Louis Cardinals owner, 1920-1947.  The Cards won a ton while Breadon was in charge, thanks mainly to the brilliance of Branch Rickey.  I am utterly disinterested whether we should give credit to Breadon for hiring Rickey.  Should we care if he's a Hall of Famer?  No.  Unless you're a Cardinals fan, not particularly.  Breadon hired the right people and got out of the way.

Col. Jacob Ruppert:  New York Yankees owner, 1915-1939.  He lucked into Babe Ruth, sure, and he benefitted hugely from executive Ed Barrow and managers Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy, all of them Hall of Famers.  Should we care if he gets inducted?  Just like Breadon, not one bit.  The real reasons the Yankees became a powerhouse are already enshrined.

Hank O'Day:  umpire, 1895-1927.  Made the key call in the famous Merkle's Boner.  Umped 10 World Series, including five of first seven.  He was clearly respected.  Here's the weird thing, though:  There've been a ton of umps already inducted, including his contemporaries, so how come they didn't include Hank?  Should we care?  On paper, Hank O'Day looks like an iconic Hall of Fame umpire.  I just wish we knew why he's not already in.  That's a huge mark against him.

Alfred Reach:  From the Hall of Fame's own description - "Established the A.J. Reach company to produce baseball and other sporting equipment, producing the official baseball of the American League.  From 1883-1989, published "Reach's Official Base Ball Guide,"providing readers with statistics and stories, which served as the official publication of both the American Association and American League."  Well, should we care?  They mean 1889, right?  Anyway, cool story.  Would you really complain if they inducted the guy who provided the official baseball of the American League?  Not me.

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Players  (This will go quicker)

Bill Dahlen and Deacon White:  Dahlen was a superstar shortstop at the turn of the 19th century.  White was a superstar catcher near the game's beginning who played till he was 42.  If you check this out (near the bottom), Dahlen's Top 10 similarity scores match him with seven Hall of Famers plus Omar Vizquel and Dave Concepcion.  He was sensational.  Meanwhile, the aforementioned Peter Morris dedicated the Afterword in his most recent book, "Catcher," to detailing the Hall of Fame case for the remarkable White.  Do they belong?  Heck yes, a million times yes.

Tony Mullane:   "The Apollo of the Box"!  Great stories about Tony abound, from his racism to his handsomeness to his ambidextrousness.  Should he go to Cooperstown?  Nope.

Marty Marion:  The best defensive shortstop of his era!  (The 1940s)  Hall of Famer?  Not a chance.  Couldn't hit, didn't play long.

Wes Ferrell:  The pitcher who could slug!  Batted .280 with 38 homers.  What do you say?  No, sir.  I know, his brother Rick is in Cooperstown with worse hitting numbers -- and Rick was a catcher! -- but Wes wasn't good enough.  If you check his similarity scores, there's no one close to him who's in the Hall.

Bucky Walters:  He... No.  Really?  Bucky Walters?  Had about four really great seasons out of 19 years in the Majors.  Fine ace for the Reds for a little while, but there's nothing Cooperstownian about him.


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