Rating the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time

My rankings of the greatest baseball players ever, starting with number 1, in order.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013
 
Our look at voting for the Hall of Fame moves into the 1960s.  The early to mid 1950s had been an era of clearing up a backlog and electing some deserving candidates, moving the Hall in a good direction.  But as the end of the 1950s approached, most of the top candidates had been inducted, the lull caused by the Second World War had set in, and the baseball writers (BBWAA) was having trouble electing anyone.  Due to an apparent dearth of candidates, voting had been switched to the BBWAA voting every other year, alternating with the Veteran's Committee (VC) voting on older players and executives.  That was going pretty well, with Hall historian Lee Allen helping the VC to round up some worthy candidates for consideration and filling in some missing history.

1961 was a VC year, and the group elected 19th century player Sliding Billy Hamilton and another leadoff hitter, Max Carey.  Carey was a bit marginal, but not a terrible pick.  In 1962 Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson both got their first consideration on a HOF ballot, and both gained election.  Oddly, Robinson received only 78% of the vote.  Lingering racism?  Perhaps.  In a switch-up, the VC also voted this year, rather than alternating, and picked manager Bill McKechnie and player Edd Roush.  The VC voted again in 1963 and elected 19th century pitcher John Clarkson, 20th century pitcher Eppa Rixey, and outfielders Elmer Flick and Sam Rice.  Rice had been running about 50% in the BBWAA ballots, and his VC election would, hopefully, help clear the decks.

In 1964, the BBWAA decided to give the runoff a try again after the initial vote failed to have anyone reach 75%.  Luke Appling came in at 71%, Red Ruffing 70%.  The top 30 were listed on the ballot, with the top poller to get into the Hall.  Appling got 94%, Ruffing 91%, but only Appling got in.  Meanwhile, the VC elected six:  manager Miller Huggins, 19th century guys John M. Ward and Tim Keefe, plus Red Faber, Burleigh Grimes, and Heinie Manush.  The 1965 version of the VC added just one, 19th century pitcher Pud Galvin.

With 1966 the BBWAA decided to return to an annual vote.  They also got a prod.  The VC elected Casey Stengel, who had finally retired, and the BBWAA elected Ted Williams, who surprised everyone by using his induction speech to lobby for election to the Hall of Negro League stars such as Satchel Paige.  That project would get underway shortly.  The 1967 vote had Red Ruffing and Joe Medwick tied at the top, with Ruffing winning the runoff for election.  The VC picked Branch Rickey and, in a big hiccup, Lloyd Waner.

On the 1968 ballot Joe Medwick was elected without a runoff, and the VC picked Kiki Cuyler and Goose Goslin.  They were starting to let in way too many 1920s OF, and it would get worse quickly.  The 1969 BBWAA vote elected Stan Musial and Roy Campanella, with the VC going for a couple of marginal pitchers in Stan Coveleski and Waite Hoyt.  VC picks were going downhill.  In 1970 the BBWAA elected Lou Boudreau, and the VC hit a new low by putting in Ford Frick as an executive, plus Earle Combs and Jesse Haines.  None of those three has a strong case.

As we move into the 1970s, the BBWAA will do well and the Negro League Committee will form and do a fine job, while Frankie Frisch gains leadership on the VC and takes it further and further down.  It's a sad era.