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Standards Set as Six Candidates Elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame

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MINNEAPOLIS. MN – OCTOBER 7, 1965: (L-R) Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat and Bob Allison in locker room during Game Two of the 1965 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers October 7, 1965 at Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)

On Sunday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced the results of the Golden Days Era Committee and the Early Baseball Era Committee voting. After last year’s vote was cancelled because of the pandemic, the two committees met on December 5, in Orlando, Florida.

With the drama surrounding the BBWAA ballot that will be announced on January 25, 2022, I have been more excited about the Era Committee ballots than I am with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.

Even though I feel that the Era Committees aren’t the best way to go about re-evaluating players that were overlooked on the writers’ ballot as I believe the system could use some tweaking, better oversight, and transparency. They are still a necessary component because of the nature of the rules on the writers’ ballot that limits the number of votes to 10 per ballot.

Case in point is the 2001 BBWAA ballot. Lou Whitaker ended up in 20th place with a total of 15 votes for 2.9%. He ended up falling off the ballot after the first year because he was short of the 5% threshold. As much as I think the writers’ got it wrong, I try to place myself as a voter during the height of the “steroid era” and the lack of knowledge about analytics. There was also a backlog of players that ended up getting inducted in later years. Jim Kaat is one player who was on the 2001 BBWAA ballot.

So, do you leave Jim Kaat off and put Lou Whitaker on? The popular solution that has been talked about is to get rid of the 5% threshold and/or get rid of the limit of 10 votes per ballot. Unfortunately, that only creates more candidates on the ballot for future years, creating a slew of borderline to worthy candidates to sift through. It doesn’t solve the problem.

Thus, the Era Committees (a.k.a. Veterans Committees) are needed to re-evaluate and give overlooked and ‘squeezed-off-the-ballot’ players, and other baseball influencers, a chance to live in the plaque gallery. That is really what this is all about. At the end of the day, it is a plaque in the gallery…and lots of merchandise sold for MLB teams, and the Hall of Fame. It also allows the newly elected Hall of Famer to charge extra for appearances and autographs.

Don’t get me wrong, it still is a monumental moment for the players, their families, their teammates, and their fans. When I first read that Jack Morris and Alan Trammell had been elected in December 2017, I was so excited, that I booked a trip to Cooperstown that week.

I have been to the Hall of Fame, and I can tell you that Barry Bonds has his name on top of the ‘Home Run’ leaderboard. Pete Rose has his name on top of the all-time ‘Hits’ leaderboard. It is a museum, so all the history is told. The only thing that’s lacking is that Bonds and Rose don’t have plaques in the gallery. That is all. Yet it ignites so much debate and passion, that when a player that you have argued for finally gets in…you feel a part of the joy and process too.

I felt that joy and excitement for the Hall of Fame Class of 2018, so I understand how fans of the six new electees are feeling right now. It feels like you finally won, and someone finally listened and understood.

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COOPERSTOWN, NY – JULY 29: (L-R) Inductees Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Jim Thome pose for a photograph with the plaques at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 29, 2018 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Before the announcement on Sunday, I thought that maybe two or three players had a chance to get the necessary 75% of the vote. One from each committee. But I wouldn’t have been surprised if no one got elected either.

With the recent announcement that the Negro League statistics from 1920 to 1948 will now be considered Major League statistics, I felt that Minnie Minoso would get a boost since it now shows he has over 2,000 hits. Which all along, should have been part of his overall case, but now it is official. He was also close to gaining election on other Veterans Committee ballots as well.

I also thought Dick Allen was going to be voted in. It was a sinking feeling when he passed away on December 7, 2020, knowing that one day he will be voted in and won’t be there for the Induction Ceremony. It was similar to the feeling Chicago Cubs fans had when Ron Santo finally got the votes for election, a year after he passed away.

With the Early Baseball Era Committee, I didn’t know what to expect. I half thought that Bill Dahlen might have a shot, since he is a player from that era that has actual known statistics, and the analytics to back up his case. He also received 8 votes his last time on the Pre-Integration Era ballot in 2016. I also knew that pre-integration black players were on the ballot for the first time, so that was an unknown. Was it going to be about honoring players that were treated unfairly in pre-integration days? Were they going to watch the newly found footage of John Donaldson during the meeting and discuss if he had a decent windup? Who knew what was going to be talked about?

When the announcement came that six players were elected, I was surprised and happy at the same time. It’s hard enough to get 12 people to agree to vote on the same one or two players, let alone six different players. Considering that the committee voters are limited to four votes per ballot, you can imagine the difficulty in getting 12 votes out of 16 for the required 75%. One voter might wish to place a vote for Dick Allen, but already decided the four players they are voting for.

For the Golden Days Era Committee to elect four players, a lot of voters had to be on the same page. Even the Early Baseball Era Committee electing two players shows some solidarity between the voting panel.

The four new electees from the Golden Days Era are Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, and Tony Oliva. Unfortunately, Dick Allen fell one vote shy for the second straight time. He was one vote short in 2015 as well. No other player received more than three votes.

The two new electees from the Early Baseball Era are Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil. The other candidates were Vic Harris, who received 10 votes. John Donaldson received 8 votes. Allie Reynolds received 6 votes. Lefty O’Doul received 5 votes. George Scales received 4 votes. Bill Dahlen, Grant Johnson, and Dick Redding received three or fewer votes.

I will get into more detail about these newly elected Hall of Famers in my “Who Does This Open the Door For?” series. Right now, let’s talk about the standards that were set with the new electees.

The reason that there was so much enthusiasm and relief for a lot of people with this announcement (besides Dick Allen’s near-miss) is because each player gave all they could to the game of baseball despite lacking statistical milestones, and some broke down barriers along the way.

With Gil Hodges, you have a standard where being a leader, consistent ballplayer on both sides of the ball, and a winning manager provides a channel into Cooperstown. The managerial career was not supposed to be a factor, but it probably helped.

“We won because of our leader, which was Gil Hodges, because he instilled that kind of attitude in the ballclub and he didn’t allow us to make mistakes.”

-Cleon Jones

With Jim Kaat, you have a standard of being a pitcher that doesn’t quite dominate but still has good run prevention throughout a very long career, can get you a place in Cooperstown. The broadcasting career was not supposed to be a factor, but it probably helped.

“I’ll never be considered one of the all-time greats; maybe not even one of the all-time goods. But I’m one of the all-time survivors.”

-Jim Kaat

With Minnie Minoso, you have a standard of being a versatile player that leads the league in several different offensive categories over many years despite not winning home run or batting titles, can still get you to Cooperstown.

I know that baseball fans have me in their own Hall of Fame — the one in their hearts. That matters more to me than any official recognition. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, and I am truly honored to be considered. I’ve given my life to baseball, and the game has given me so much.

-Minnie Minoso

With Tony Oliva, you have a standard where a dominant eight year run of being one of the best hitters in the game can get you to Cooperstown…despite fluke injuries.

“I still dream about everything I achieved. I dream about my career, dream about playing baseball, meeting so many people, traveling so much.”

-Tony Oliva

With Bud Fowler, you have a standard where you can face adversity, and keep trying to play through the adversity, even if you must start your own team…can someday get you recognition.

“Fowler, the crack colored player, is wanted to manage and play with the Orion (colored) club of Philadelphia, but as yet is undecided as to what he will do. He is one of the best general players in the country, and if he had a white face would be playing with the best of them.”

-Sporting Life

With Buck O’Neil, you have a standard where being a good ballplayer, but an even better mentor, coach, scout, and storyteller over a lifetime of baseball memories can pave the way for others.

“You know, I must have told that story a million times. But I never get tired of it. Why would I? Every time I tell it, I’m thirty years old again, playing in the World Series.”

-Buck O’Neil

It’s a good time to set positive standards.

The juxtaposition of these players versus what will happen with the BBWAA ballot feels like a breath of fresh air.

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