Early Baseball Committee

I’ve railed about the postponement of the Early Baseball and Golden Days Committees last month. MLB held its winter meeting virtually due the COVID-19. The veterans committees normally meet just before the winter meeting. The HoF for whatever reason felt the committees just couldn’t meet virtually themselves. It’s nonsense, of course, but it’s done. They’ll meet this coming December instead. Their one year delay doesn’t mean I can’t put my two cents in. This post is my hypothetical ballot for the Early Days Committee, and who I would vote for were I on said committee.

The various committees are presented ballots with ten nominees. 12 of the 16 members have to agree to elect someone. The ballot can included players, managers, baseball executives and contributors. To me, very very few owners or executives really belong. There are, in fact some owners (Yawkey) and commissioners (Kuhn) I’d like to remove. No such person is on my ballot. 1869-1950 is already, generally, well represented in the HoF, but there are still some wrongs to be righted. Every player on the ballot is better than some that are already enshrined. I’m not one who thinks “THAT guy is in, this guy should be too” is a valid argument, so I’m not advocating all to be enshrined.

  1. Buck O’Neil. He played in the Negro Leagues from 1937-1949 and 1953. 1937 was with the Memphis Red Sox, the rest with the Kansas City Monarchs. He also managed the Monarchs 1948-1955, leading them to Negro American League championships in 1953 and 1955. He was an All Star three times and averaged .288 for his career (led the NAL at .353 in 1947). Like so many other players, he lost two years of his career to serving in the military in the Pacific in WWII.
    He left his position as the Monarch’s manager to become a scout for the Cubs, and remained one until 1988 when he joined the Royals scouting department. It was he who brought Lou Brock and Ernie Banks to the Cubs. In 1962 he was also named a coach for the Cubs, making him the first black coach in modern MLB. He led efforts to create the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in KC and served as its board chairman until he died in 2006 at 94.

Would I vote for him. In a heartbeat. He should have been in years ago. Even if we ignore how good a player, manager, and scout he was, his breaking the coaching color barrier and contribution to baseball as a whole through the Negro League Baseball Museum are more than enough to qualify him. The other day, I wrote that the one time I concur with using the character clause is to boost the case of the truly awesome person—to that end, consider me shouting from the rooftops “Put this man in the hall of fame!!”

2. Minnie Minoso. There’s supposed to be a tilde over the n, but I haven’t figured out how to do that on my phone. Previously his case has been considered by the Golden Days Committee, and he came up just short. Because MLB now recognizes the Negro Leagues through 1948 as major leagues, Minoso’s major league career began in 1946, so I’ve moved him here. He played three seasons with the New York Cuban Americans before joining the White Sox. He was an All Star 9 times. He had three Gold Gloves and led the AL in stolen bases three straight years (1951-1953). He had over 4,000 professional hits, over 2000 between MLB and the Negro Leagues. In MLB, he hit .298/.389/.459 (OPS+ 130). He also played and managed in the Mexican leagues 1964-1973. He’s enshrined in the Mexican baseball HoF. He made brief appearance with the White Sox again in 1976 and 1980. While, yes, that was for publicity, it does show just how popular he was on the South Side. It also means he was the last active Negro Leagues player.

Would I vote for him? You bet.

3. Dom DiMaggio. He played for the Boston Red Sox 1940-1953—only 11 seasons though due to losing three seasons to serve in WWII. He was an All Star 7 times, hit .298/.383/.419 and was an excellent fielder. Would I vote for him? WWII makes it tough for a number of candidates who lost prime years and thus didn’t get to typical milestones. I waffle but am going to say no. Still a very, very good player.

4. Bill Dahlen. A shortstop from 1891-1911. He has 75.3 WAR, the most of any position player not already in the hall. Why isn’t he already in then? He had a reputation as a hard-partying, hard drinking sort that likely cost him votes in the early of the HoF. Would I vote for him? 70+ WAR says yes.

5. Firpo Mayberry. Love the name. He was a pitcher from 1923-1946 and is considered the first great reliever. He racked up a 148-88 record with 99 saves. He led the league in saves 6 times and the majors 4 times. He led the league in appearances six times. He set a then record with 22 saves in 1926. He was the first to make 50 relief appearances in a season and 300 in a career. He played for the Senators (1923-1932 and 1936), Tigers (1933-1935), and Giants in 2936. Would I vote fore him? No. However, he deserves to be remembered.

6. Bob Caruthers. He played 1884-1893. In just 10 years he racked up 59.6 WAR as a two-way player. He, as a right fielder, hit .282 with a 134 OPS+. He also pitched his way to a 218-99 record and career 2.83 ERA. Would I vote for him? No, but his career was really cool.

7. Pete Browning. He played 1882-1894. He was nicknamed “The Louisville Slugger,” and a certain bat company was named after him. He slugged 46 homers (dead ball era), hit .341 with a 163 OPS+. Would I vote for him? Yes.

8. Jim McCormick. He played 1882-1892. In 11 seasons he racked up a 265-214 record, 2.43 ERA, and 76.7 WAR. It was a different time—he had 45 wins 1883, 40 losses in 1879. Would I vote for him? Yes.
9. Cy Williams. He played from 1912-1930. He led the NL in homers 4 times—once with 12 (1916), once with 41 (1923). When he retired, he owned the NL record for career homers with 251. Overall he hit.282. Why is he not in the HoF already? He was a victim of bridging the Dead Ball and Live Ball eras, and people like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig totally overshadowed him. Would I vote for him? Yes.

10. Lefty O’Doul. He played 1919-1920, 1922-1923, and 1928-1934. He started out as a relief pitcher, got derailed by injuries, went back to the minors and five years later returned as a position player. He was a great hitter, averaged .349. The only problem is his seven years as a regular position player just isn’t enough, so it’s a no from me. He is in the Japanese baseball HoF though as a key figure in popularizing the sport there. He named the Tokyo (Yomiuri) Giants after the team he played for, the NY Giants, and the two teams having the same colors is not a coincidence. He also was extremely successful as manager of the SF Seals of the PCL and owned a still-open restaurant in San Francisco (not in its original location though). There’s also a bridge by the Giants stadium named for him. He’s in no danger of being forgotten.

Others worthy of consideration: Jack Glasscock, Charlie Buffinton, George Van Haltren, Jimmy Ryan, Sherry Magee, Babe Herman, Stan Hack, Phil Cabaretta, Carl Mays, Pepper Martin, Jake Daubert, Mel Harder, Stuffy McInnis, Paul Derringer, Cecil Travis, Duck Bartell, Vern Stephens, and “Indian” Bob Johnson.

2 thoughts on “Early Baseball Committee

  1. Re Buck O’Neil – when his Old Timers opportunity expired without his election, I turned away from the HOF and anything to do with it in utter disgust. In addition to all the reasons anyone but a blithering imbecile (ie, spawrtsriter) should have voted him in, he was also one of the greatest ambassadors for the game – putting aside the indignity of being a pre-Jackie Robinson segregated player at that. When he didn’t make it in at his last opportunity he was, as always, a perfect gentleman whose could only speak about how blessed he felt to have been able to play the game and to have lived to see the color barrier come down.
    Of course he deserves no less now than he did then to be inducted, but he passed away a few years ago and the gratification it would bring him passes to us. It wouldn’t be a hollow victory, exactly, but bittersweet to say the least.
    If a member of that clueless Old Timer’s committee who passed on him were starving to death, I wouldn’t shit in his mouth.


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