“Vets Committees”

Not all of baseball is shut down, just the major league part. In fact, baseball’s winter meeting is still happening. The minor leagues portions are happening this weekend, and so are two of the Hall of Fame’s veterans committees—the Early Baseball and Golden Days committees. Each comprises 16 members and considers 10 people each. To be elected, the person needs 12 votes. (Just as a reminder, these committees were supposed to meet last December and didn’t because they couldn’t meet in person due to COVID-19. The HoF apparently never heard of Zoom.) one thing I just learned is that the committee members only get 4 votes each, which I think is absurd. There shouldn’t be arbitrary limitations placed on committees the HoF themselves chose. However, I’ll play by the rules below when I list my imaginary ballot for each committee.

The Early Baseball Committee will consider: Buck O’Neil, John Donaldson, Bill Dahlen, Bud Fowler, Vic Harris, Grant “Home Run” Johnson, Lefty ODoul, Allie Reynolds, Dick “Cannonball” Redding, and George “Tubby” Scales.

Buck O’Neil played a long time in the Negro Leagues (important to remember that their stats are now considered major league level), had multiple All Star nods, and managed the KC Monarchs to two titles in the 1950’s. He became a coach for the Chicago Cubs in 1962, the first black man to coach for an NL or AL team. However, he becomes a no-brainer for the Hall in the contributor category—for his work establishing and leading the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City and as an all around ambassador for the game.

John Donaldson, like most of the Early Baseball nominees, was a Negro Leagues players. I’ve read comparisons of his pitching prowess to Christy Matthewson’s—high praise. The problem is, he apparently played for 30 years, and yet I only found a couple years of pitching stats. While the Negro Leagues are now considered major leagues, their records are not nearly complete, especially pre-1930. Also, the extant stats do not included barnstorming tours…and that’s how the teams actually made much of their income.

Bill Dahlen—He easily has the highest WAR of any eligible player (excepting some on the current BBWAA ballot) not already in the HoF at 75.2. He also was apparently a heavy drinker and not a “happy drunk” to explain why early voters may have omitted him from their ballots.

Bud Fowler has been recognized as the first black man in professional baseball, in the 19th century before Jim Crow kept them out until 1947.

Vic Harris was a Negro Leagues player and manager in the 1930’s and 40’s. In 18 years as a player he hit .305 with a .800 OPS. As a manager he led his teams to 7 pennants and a Negro World Series title.

Grant Johnson was another Negro Leagues player who apparently played on a number of championship teams in a career that spanned from the 1890’s until 1923.

Lefty O’Doul hit .341 in his 11-year big league career. The problem is that he was only a position player for 7 years. He started his career as a relief pitcher, got hurt, was out of the bigs a few years and came back as a position player. He played a long time in the PCL back when it was almost MLB level, when the majors did not extend farther west than St Louis. He was also a very successful manager in the PCL. His hall case is boosted by his contributions to the game in being instrumental in popularizing baseball in Japan—indeed, he’s in their Hall of Fame already. He also owned a popular bar in San Francisco for decades, so he’ll be remembered whether he’s ever inducted into the HoF or not.

Allie Reynolds was an excellent pitcher in a 13 year career. His career brevity means he didn’t reach 200 wins, let alone 300, in an era when pitchers were expected to pitch complete games. His career ERA was 3.30. He was an All Star 5 times, led his league in ERA once, and strikeouts twice. As I said, he was really good, but I can’t call him a 1940’s version of Sandy Koufax.

Dick “Cannonball” Redding was another really good Negro Leagues (and Cuban league) player from 1911-1928 for whom I could find anecdotes but not much in the way of stats. Sadly, he appears to have had a psychotic break in 1938 and spent the last decade of his life in a mental hospital.

George Scales’ Negro Leagues career lasted 20 seasons between 1923-1946. He hit .319 with a .929 OPS.

My Early Baseball ballot: Buck O’Neil, Vic Harris, George Scales, Bill Dahlen. O’Neil, as I said above, is a no brained in my opinion. Harris and Scales benefit from playing when the Negro Leagues had begun keeping better stats, so we can tell at least somewhat empirically how good they were. I don’t like using the character clause to keep “not nice” guys out, and Bill Dahlen’s on-field prowess is clearly hall-worthy. As for the other 6–I need to know more about the other 4 black players. Lefty O’Doul has a good case as a contributor…and it gets stronger every time a Japanese player finds success here…but I won’t start taking up his case until O’Neil is in. Allie Reynolds was really good, but not a Hall of Famer in my opinion.

The names on the Golden Days Committee ballot are: Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, Ken Boyer, Danny Murtaugh, Jim Kaat, Tony Olivia, Maury Wills, Dick Allen, Billy Pierce, and Roger Maris.

Minnie Minoso—I’ve made his case many times. He’s fallen just short on prior veterans committees/Golden Days ballots. He’s one of very few players to amass over 4000 professional hits. This is the first time the committee will consider his Negro League stats as major league stats, including leading his league in hitting in 1947 and 1948, and leading his team to a championship in 1947. The only outfielder to rack up more WAR in the 1950s was Mickey Mantle. He was the last active player who had played in the Negro Leagues. He was the first black player in Chicago (for either the White Sox or Cubs, preceding Ernie Banks by 2 years. He was the first black Latino player in the AL or NL and faced prejudice for both. Paving the way for Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, David Ortiz, et al makes him truly like the black Latino Jackie Robinson. He was on 13 All Star teams. The Gold Glove only came into being his last 4 full seasons…and he won three of them.

Gil Hodges—The 8 time All Star currently holds the record for highest BBWAA voting percentage for any player never elected by that body for HoF induction (that record is going down this year). He had a 126 OPS and a really good glove too.

Ken Boyer—62.8 WAR, 1964 NL MVP, 11 time All Star, 5 Gold Gloves. Third base is under-represented in the HoF, and Boyer’s absence is part of why.

Danny Murtaugh—He skippered the Pittsburgh Pirates to 1115 wins in 15 years and World Series championships in 1960 and 1971.

Jim Kaat—He was the best fielding pitcher ever other than Greg Maddux, taking home 16 Gold Gloves. He also won 283 games and had a career 3.45 ERA. His last effective season was 1976, but he played until 1983. BBWAA voters have a long history of dinging players for playing “too long” while at the same time using arbitrary numbers like 300 wins as thresholds for HoF entry, encouraging players hanging on.

Tony Olivia—8 times an All Star, a career .304 average, the 1964 AL MVP. He has a career 131 OPS+. He played in 15 seasons, but only 11 full seasons with the Twins. Thus, his cumulative stats aren’t that impressive, but he led his league in hits 5 times and batting average 3 times.

Maury Wills—The 5 time All Star was the 1962 MVP when he stole a then-record 104 bases. He led the league in stolen bases 6 times and finished with 586 total.

Dick Allen—I made the late Dick Allen’s HoF case last year here: https://fan-interference.com/2020/09/05/phillies-retire-dick-allens-number/

He passed away last year on Dec 7, just before when the Golden Days Committee was supposed to meet.

Billy Pierce—The first Cy Young Award was given in 1956. That was bad timing for Pierce. In 1955 for the White Sox he posted a 1.97 ERA, 1.099 WHIP. (Actually he wouldn’t have won due to a 15-10 record and the voters caring about that). For his career he had 211 wins and a 3.27 ERA.

Roger Maris—We all know about 61 homers in 1961. His short 12-year career, marred by injuries, also included 2 MVPs, and 7 all star teams.

My imaginary Golden Days vote: Minnie Minoso, Dick Allen, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva. There are more than 4 players on this ballot I’d vote for is I could. I don’t like the Hall’s rule limiting the committee members to 4 votes each, but I’m following it. As a result, my vote is also influenced by the fact that Kaat, Oliva, and Wills are the only 3 who are still alive. I wouldn’t gripe if Wills got in, but he’s not quite HoF level to me, likewise for Pierce and Murtaugh. My #s 5-7 would be Boyer, Maris, and Hodges in order—and all three belong in the HoF to me.

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