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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Saturday, February 08, 2014
 
Resuming a dormant series:

1970s Hall of Fame voting was a mixed bag.  The BBWAA did a good job with their votes, and a Negro Leagues committee was formed to deal with those players and did a fantastic job.  The Veterans' Committee, however, opened a time of great shame for those people.

1971 was the first year for the Negro Leagues Committee and they took the very logical step of electing Satchel Paige to the Hall.  Paige was the most well-known of the Negro Leaguers and a well-qualified athlete, and was an excellent choice.  The BBWAA was not as successful, with no one reaching the 75% level.  Yogi Berra came fairly close in his first year on the ballot with 67%, but that wasn't a good showing for the greatest catcher to this time (some would still say the best ever).  Not a good showing for the writers that the three-time MVP could not garner enough votes for election.  300-game winner Early Wynn was also close but short in his third try at 66.7%.  Ralph Kiner, in his ninth try, came in at 59% as the other candidate to draw a majority of votes.

It was the VC that coughed up a hairball this time.  They elected SIX men to the Hall.  Executive George Weiss along with players Jake Beckley, Chick Hafey, Harry Hooper, Joe Kelley, Rube Marquard, and Dave Bancroft got the vote.  Weiss was reasonable as execs go, and Beckley and Kelley were fine players from the turn of the century.  Bancroft, a fine shortstop, was a decent selection.  Hooper and Marquard were "Glory of Their Times" selections, as interviewees in that classic book who got a boost from the fame of the publication.  As HOFers, they are not the best choices.  Hafey is one of the worst choices ever, a short-career slugger with era-inflated stats.  He is one of the "Frisch selections," as Frankie Frisch began to be the most influential voice on the committee and started lobbying for the election of the guys with whom he played.

The Hall acted to place limits on the number of guys the VC could elect, and that put the brakes on somewhat.  Frisch would still run amok for some time.  Things went better in 1972.  The Negro Leagues Committee picked Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard, two more excellent selections, and Sandy Koufax joining the BBWAA ballot swelled the voting as Koufax, Berra, and Wynn all gained election.  Koufax remains the youngest man ever elected, because he retired at such a young age.  The VC made fewer selections but just as poor, picking exec Will Harridge, and two poorly-qualified players in Lefty Gomez and Ross Youngs.  Youngs was another short-career slugger from an offensive ear, and Gomez failed to win 200 games lifetime in spite of pitching for the dynastic Yankees.  At least Gomez and Koufax made an interesting pair for induction.

1973 saw the election of Monte Irvin from the Negro Leagues, and Roberto Clemente in a special election after his sudden and untimely death.  A trio of aces in Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, and Robin Roberts all hit the ballot in the same year, and only Spahn gained election.  Ford, Kiner, Gil Hodges, and Roberts all drew at least 50% of the vote, so several were close.  The VC picked umpire Billy Evans, 19th century pitcher Mickey Welch, and another Frisch special in George "High Pockets" Kelly.

The sting of having to wait a year was eased for Whitey Ford when he was elected along with teammate and buddy Mickey Mantle.  Roberts, Kiner, Hodges, and Bob Lemon in his 10th outing got over 50%.  Cool Papa Bell got the Negro Leagues vote, and the VC gave us umpire Jocko Conlan, 19th century guy Sam Thompson, and Frisch special Jim Bottomley even though Frisch had died by this time.  His legacy was still alive.  Ford and Mantle sharing the podium was fun.

Ralph Kiner finally edged over the 75% mark in 1975, with Robin Roberts just short and Lemon and Hodges over 50%.  Judy Johnson got the Negro Leagues vote while the VC elected Bucky Harris as a manager, plus Earl Averill and Billy Herman, two pretty good choices.

Roberts and Lemon got the votes in 1976, Oscar Charleston finally got his due, and Roger Connor got an overdue nod from the VC.  The VC gave us two more odd selections, offering up another umpire in Cal Hubbard plus another Frisch special, Freddie Lindstrom.  Lindstrom?  Really?  Complaints about the VC were getting very loud by now.

Ernie Banks was elected in his first try, and a group was pushing for the top that included Eddie Mathews, Gil Hodges, Enos Slaughter, Duke Snider, and Don Drysdale all above 50%.  Pop Lloyd and Martin Dihigo were elected by the Negro Leagues Committee, which then declared its work done and voted to disband.  If only all committees were so effective.  The VC picked manager Al Lopez, 19th century pitcher Amos Rusie, and a big question mark in Joe Sewell.

The worst for the VC was in 1978.  The BBWAA gave up a solid pick in Eddie Mathews, the Vets went with exec Larry MacPhail, and with pitcher Addie Joss.  Joss does not qualify as a Hall of Famer, because one of the qualifications is to have played in ten seasons.  Joss played in nine.  The VC voted to suspend the rules for him.  It was a big and ridiculous overstep.  The move hurt the Hall and further damaged the reputation of the Veteran's Committee.  It was a group proudly waving the proverbial finger at the Hall of Fame.

In 1979 the BBWAA had a can't-go-wrong pick with Willie Mays, and the VC again dithered with exec Warren Giles, a decent pick, and a short-career slugger in Hack Wilson, a mediocre pick.  They had done much worse.  The 1980 vote got first-timer Al Kaline and finally picked Duke Snider on his 11th try.  The VC made two more mistakes by picking Tom Yawkey and Chuck Klein.

So, it was a good decade overall for the BBWAA and an excellent decade for the Negro Leagues Committee.  The Veterans' Committee almost undid all that good work, all by themselves.  A decade like the VC had is why people often want to redesign the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.