Rating the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time

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

Another nice team-specific site is at

The online sports almanac by fans and for fans is

All Baseball Teams deals with baseball history, stats, players and stadiums
All Baseball Teams

Want to weigh in yourself? Write me at the address below, or surf to rankings on just about everything at



09/29/2002 - 10/06/2002 10/06/2002 - 10/13/2002 10/13/2002 - 10/20/2002 10/27/2002 - 11/03/2002 11/03/2002 - 11/10/2002 11/17/2002 - 11/24/2002 12/15/2002 - 12/22/2002 12/22/2002 - 12/29/2002 12/29/2002 - 01/05/2003 01/05/2003 - 01/12/2003 01/19/2003 - 01/26/2003 01/26/2003 - 02/02/2003 02/02/2003 - 02/09/2003 02/09/2003 - 02/16/2003 02/23/2003 - 03/02/2003 04/06/2003 - 04/13/2003 04/13/2003 - 04/20/2003 06/08/2003 - 06/15/2003 07/20/2003 - 07/27/2003 07/27/2003 - 08/03/2003 08/03/2003 - 08/10/2003 08/10/2003 - 08/17/2003 08/17/2003 - 08/24/2003 08/24/2003 - 08/31/2003 08/31/2003 - 09/07/2003 09/07/2003 - 09/14/2003 09/28/2003 - 10/05/2003 10/12/2003 - 10/19/2003 10/19/2003 - 10/26/2003 11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003 11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003 12/21/2003 - 12/28/2003 12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004 01/04/2004 - 01/11/2004 01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004 01/18/2004 - 01/25/2004 02/29/2004 - 03/07/2004 03/07/2004 - 03/14/2004 03/14/2004 - 03/21/2004 03/21/2004 - 03/28/2004 03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004 04/04/2004 - 04/11/2004 04/18/2004 - 04/25/2004 04/25/2004 - 05/02/2004 05/02/2004 - 05/09/2004 05/09/2004 - 05/16/2004 05/23/2004 - 05/30/2004 05/30/2004 - 06/06/2004 06/06/2004 - 06/13/2004 06/20/2004 - 06/27/2004 06/27/2004 - 07/04/2004 07/04/2004 - 07/11/2004 07/11/2004 - 07/18/2004 07/18/2004 - 07/25/2004 08/01/2004 - 08/08/2004 08/08/2004 - 08/15/2004 08/15/2004 - 08/22/2004 08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004 09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004 09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004 10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004 11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004 12/26/2004 - 01/02/2005 01/02/2005 - 01/09/2005 01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005 01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005 01/30/2005 - 02/06/2005 02/06/2005 - 02/13/2005 02/13/2005 - 02/20/2005 02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005 02/27/2005 - 03/06/2005 03/06/2005 - 03/13/2005 03/13/2005 - 03/20/2005 03/20/2005 - 03/27/2005 03/27/2005 - 04/03/2005 04/10/2005 - 04/17/2005 04/17/2005 - 04/24/2005 04/24/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/15/2005 - 05/22/2005 05/22/2005 - 05/29/2005 05/29/2005 - 06/05/2005 06/05/2005 - 06/12/2005 06/12/2005 - 06/19/2005 06/19/2005 - 06/26/2005 06/26/2005 - 07/03/2005 07/10/2005 - 07/17/2005 07/17/2005 - 07/24/2005 07/24/2005 - 07/31/2005 07/31/2005 - 08/07/2005 08/07/2005 - 08/14/2005 08/14/2005 - 08/21/2005 08/21/2005 - 08/28/2005 09/04/2005 - 09/11/2005 09/11/2005 - 09/18/2005 09/18/2005 - 09/25/2005 10/09/2005 - 10/16/2005 10/16/2005 - 10/23/2005 11/06/2005 - 11/13/2005 03/26/2006 - 04/02/2006 04/30/2006 - 05/07/2006 05/14/2006 - 05/21/2006 05/28/2006 - 06/04/2006 06/04/2006 - 06/11/2006 06/11/2006 - 06/18/2006 07/02/2006 - 07/09/2006 07/09/2006 - 07/16/2006 07/23/2006 - 07/30/2006 03/04/2007 - 03/11/2007 06/17/2007 - 06/24/2007 07/13/2008 - 07/20/2008 08/03/2008 - 08/10/2008 08/10/2008 - 08/17/2008 08/17/2008 - 08/24/2008 01/11/2009 - 01/18/2009 11/21/2010 - 11/28/2010 02/20/2011 - 02/27/2011 07/10/2011 - 07/17/2011 07/24/2011 - 07/31/2011 09/04/2011 - 09/11/2011 01/20/2013 - 01/27/2013 01/27/2013 - 02/03/2013 02/03/2013 - 02/10/2013 02/10/2013 - 02/17/2013 02/17/2013 - 02/24/2013 02/24/2013 - 03/03/2013 03/03/2013 - 03/10/2013 03/17/2013 - 03/24/2013 03/24/2013 - 03/31/2013 04/07/2013 - 04/14/2013 04/14/2013 - 04/21/2013 04/21/2013 - 04/28/2013 06/09/2013 - 06/16/2013 06/23/2013 - 06/30/2013 07/14/2013 - 07/21/2013 07/28/2013 - 08/04/2013 08/04/2013 - 08/11/2013 08/11/2013 - 08/18/2013 02/02/2014 - 02/09/2014 05/18/2014 - 05/25/2014 05/25/2014 - 06/01/2014 08/03/2014 - 08/10/2014 08/10/2014 - 08/17/2014 02/01/2015 - 02/08/2015 02/08/2015 - 02/15/2015 02/22/2015 - 03/01/2015 08/28/2016 - 09/04/2016 04/01/2018 - 04/08/2018 09/09/2018 - 09/16/2018 10/14/2018 - 10/21/2018 08/04/2019 - 08/11/2019 08/18/2019 - 08/25/2019 12/15/2019 - 12/22/2019 08/09/2020 - 08/16/2020 08/16/2020 - 08/23/2020 10/04/2020 - 10/11/2020 10/18/2020 - 10/25/2020 04/04/2021 - 04/11/2021 04/25/2021 - 05/02/2021 09/25/2022 - 10/02/2022 03/19/2023 - 03/26/2023 04/07/2024 - 04/14/2024 This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Saturday, April 13, 2024

 This is not the first book about Pete Rose. It's not even the first book about Pete Rose titled "Charlie Hustle." I have one from a number of years ago with that title. It is, however, a new book about that former baseball player, convicted tax evader, and admitted bettor on baseball before such a thing was legal, that is a comprehensive and tightly reported book about the life and times of Rose, and the circumstances that led to his rise and then fall from grace. Also, his failure to take responsibility for his own part in that fall.

O'Brien combines a thorough look at Rose's career in sports, and many hours of interviews with those involved, plus the documents compiled by the FBI, Sports Illustrated, and investigator John Dowd, to give us the most complete story yet of what exactly happened to Pete Rose, how he became who he was, what his actions, both good and bad, were, and how it all went right and then went wrong. It is partly a biography of a famous baseball player, but more than that it is a character study of a curious personality, and the character traits that both made him a good athlete, and a bad human being in many ways. Must the drives to be excellent so often lead a person to ruin? In the case of Rose, it seems so.

My nit to pick with this book is that twice (that I noticed) it mentions the area of "southeast Ohio" in reference to Cincinnati. The city is, of course, in southwest Ohio. I also remember some of these events, many of them in my youth, somewhat differently than they are portrayed here. No matter: memory is a funny thing, and living outside Cincinnati I was not as immersed in the culture of the time and place.

This book is the clearest and best accounting of what made Pete Rose who he was, both for good and for bad. One wonders how things might have been different is Rose had been able to admit responsibility for what he had done, rather than trying to cast blame on everyone but himself. Alas, this is an all too familiar human condition. Rose failed his wives, his children, and ultimately baseball fans everywhere. It is a sad story. It is a compelling story.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

 This rambling, unfocused book is a love letter to the baseball scouts of the 20th century and the game they helped build. Using nine different scouts from different eras as a starting point, the book takes off from there and looks at players famous and not and how they helped shape baseball from the early 1900s into the 21st century.

You won't read this book for its brilliant prose or its focus on any particular person or theme. The author introduces a scout, and then takes off from there, giving their influences in the game and how they got their start, then how they got into scouting, and from there branches out into their scouting finds and their careers, flitting from one place to another much how a hummingbird flits from flower to flower. It's a sampler of baseball history, really.

The book does not focus much on the ins and outs of scouting, and despite the title does not look at how scouting has changed in today's world of travel teams and video. This is a look at the past, and how things used to be done. This is nostalgia, a look at a time gone by and how things were back then. This is about the Yankees and Cardinals of yesteryear, about the plethora of minor leagues in the 1950s, and how things used to be.

I noticed several factual errors in the text, and some repetitiveness in the writing, things which are not usually seen in books from University of Nebraska Press books which usually sport better editing. This book could have done with a good fact-checking pass, without harming the narrative. I downgrade the book a bit because of those flaws.

Still, if you buy this book, you buy it more for the trip down memory lane, or to learn about a piece of baseball's past. It is fun and enjoyable for those things. That is what books like this are for.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Dr. Balmer is a noted historian specializing in religion and a faculty member at Dartmouth with an impressive reputation. This is his first foray into a "popular" field, and it unites his professional interests in history and religion with his experiences as a sports fan, and in particular an observer of sports talk radio. In fact, this book began germinating nearly thirty years ago as the author first experienced the peculiar world of the sports call-in show.

The thesis of the book is captured in the subtitle: How Religion Shaped Sports in North America. In some ways, it could be argued (and Dr. Balmer does) that sports has replaced religion in the American psyche. The emergence of organized sports, especially in the college and professional ranks, has replaced the ties that used to be based on religion over the last 200 years or so.

This is a somewhat slim volume, at a bit more than 130 pages plus copious reference notes, in six sections: an introduction that presents the reason for the book and the thinking behind it; four chapters, each on a different sport (baseball, football, hockey, and basketball) that provides an overview of the history of the sport and the racial prejudices that often accompany it; and a final conclusion summarizing the author's conclusions. I was most captivated by the chapter on hockey, because I knew little of the beginnings of that sport before reading the book.

Dr. Balmer makes some astute observations on the place of sport in today's society, on how he beginnings of each sport depend in large part on religious underpinnings, and how each sport reflects a different aspect of society that is tied to the time and place of its origin and how it spread. The development of these entertainments has both had an impact on society and has been shaped strongly by that society. This is a strong academic effort. While the book is very readable from an academic point of view, it is not a breezy read for all; Dr. Balmer writes more with an academic viewpoint than that of a popular writer of books for quick consumption. Still, this is a book worth the time to read it for observers of sports and society.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

 Originally planned to coincide with the 2020 Olympics, but postponed when that competition was delayed, it is out now: Total Olympics, a book about the highs, lows, and oddities about the Olympic athletes and the competition itself.

An attractive volume, a chunky hardback with no dust cover, the book is a bunch of short snippets of stories, about 300 pages and nearly as many entries of the best, the brightest, the bravest, and sometimes the least admirable people in Olympic history. You are bound to find something you didn't know in this wide-ranging volume, which covers all of the modern Olympics since 1896, including the short-lived "Intercalated Games" for off years, and a few looks back at the original events, though that history is a bit less reliable.

The stories are collected into six topics: Forgotten History, Legends, Wild and Strange, First, Discontinued Sports, and Forgotten Heroes. There is some bleeding over, but no topic choice can be too hard and fast. You will find out things about people from Jim Thorpe to Ian Thorpe, from Muhammad Ali to Suzy Chaffee, from John Carlos to Tommie Smith, from John and Sumner Paine to Babe Didrikson Zaharias. You will learn about sports from curling to auto racing.

I enjoyed this book, written in a light, enjoyable style. The detail is limited, with so much to cover, but the reach is admirable. I am a fan of the events and a student of history but this book told me a lot of things I didn't know; like how pistol dueling used to be an Olympic event (they used dummies).

If you enjoy watching the Olympics and revel in the international nature of the games, you will enjoy this book. It is heavy on the USA, but that is the target audience and you get a look at a lot of international competitors along the way. Good stuff.

Disclaimer: I received this book as a free review copy and did not buy it myself.

Friday, April 09, 2021

 The new autobiography by Dave Parker, with ghostwriter Dave Jordan, is an excellent read. The book, Cobra, concentrates on Parker's young life and time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and reaches a climax with its stories of the 1979 World Championship season. It is an honest and forthright tale.

One of the greatest strengths of the book is how powerfully Parker's voice leads it. It seems like Dave is talking straight to you, the reader. Co-author Dave Jordan clearly worked hard on the book, which is so well organized and chronological, weaving together Parker's memories seamlessly. But Jordan disappears into the background so deftly that all you hear is Parker's voice. It is an exceptional accomplishment as the writer half of an autobiography.

The book is very strictly chronological, moving year by year. It picks up with Parker's time as a middle school athlete, moves into high school and his knee problems which knock him out of senior year sports completely. Parker is then passed over for football scholarships, his first love, but drafted by the Pirates in the summer of 1970 in the 4th round. After a decent bonus, he begins a pro career. We then move season by season into his minor league adventures, then to the majors in Pittsburgh with Willie Stargell and the gang. Most of the book is on those pro days with the Pirates. The latter part of his career, including his four years in his hometown playing with the Cincinnati Reds, gets somewhat less attention.

Parker deals honestly but discreetly with racial matters, hanging out with other Black players, a plentiful crew in those 1970s in Pittsburgh. He also comes clean about the 1980s cocaine problems, not throwing anyone under the bus but accepting responsibility for his actions. This book achieves a balance often difficult in the genre; honest, but without an apparent axe to grind. No scores are settled here, and when speaking critically, the book speaks softly. This is a celebration.

I highly recommend the book. Disclaimer: I did not buy this book, and reviewed it from a PDF provided by the publisher.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

 How do you think baseball got its start? Most likely, you are wrong. The Abner Doubleday story set in Cooperstown was a created fiction, as was the story about Alexander Cartwright. Neither upstate New York in 1939 nor the Elysian Fields of Hoboken in 1846 were the birth site. So, how did baseball come about? Pick up this book, and let Thomas Gilbert tell you the long, complicated story of how this happened. The short version: a kid's game was transformed, over time and mostly in New York City, into a pastime for adults, which in a few decades became the National Pastime.

This book is as much a history of America in the mid-1800s as it is about baseball, because you can't talk about baseball without talking about the country where it was born. America shaped baseball, then baseball shaped America. There are a lot of hands involved in the birth, and not all of them are clean. Gilbert takes us on a ride with people like Doc Adams, Harry Wright, Asa Brainard, Henry Chadwick, Mike Walsh, Frank Jones, and Jim Creighton. You will learn how militias, volunteer fire companies, and chowder dinners are linked to the early days of baseball. You will find out about the lines between amateur and professional baseball, and how those became blurred. And you will encounter historical figures like William Lloyd Garrison, Millicent Fenwick, Aaron Burr, Matthew Brady, and the Bowery Boys, plus the strange history of Tammany Hall.

Gilbert writes with the cynicism and skeptical outlook needed for someone investigating a story that is purposely surrounded in mystery due to the money that became involved in it, and for the mystique-building used by people trying to popularize the sport and sell it first as a healthful way to exercise, then to sell sports equipment (read: Albert Spalding). It is well-written, informative, and a way to lose yourself in a misunderstood period of American history. It's about 350 pages of text, but it reads fast. Gilbert will engagingly tell you lots of things you didn't know, and that you didn't know you didn't know. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

 From the title, The Called Shot, you get a pretty good idea that this is a book about the Babe Ruth home run in the 1932 World Series. And it is, to a point. A better description is the subtitle: Babe Ruth, The Chicago Cubs, and the Unforgettable Major League Season of 1932. But even that isn't quite right. This is really a look at America in 1932, the depths of the Great Depression, through the lens of a baseball season, and the only pennant the Yankees would win between 1929 and 1935, in the last strong season of then 37-year old Babe Ruth, and the pennant race that ensued.

It's about Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby, Charlie Root and Charlie Grimm, John Dillinger and Al Capone, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, Billy Jurges and Violet Popovich, the Anamosa Mens' Reformatory, Guy Bush and Kiki Cuyler, the "Bonus Army," Earle Combs and Bill Dickey, Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig, Snap Hortman and Charlie Ireland, Bernard Malamud and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Judge Landis and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Lon Warneke and Hack Wilson, William Veeck and William Wrigley. There are so, so many stories in this book. 

There are some errors; not all the stories ring true. Hack Wilson's 56-home run season is twice stated to be 1929; it was 1930, an error easily fixed by proper editing. The press of 1932 was not always worried about accuracy, and reliance on them probably leads to some incorrect statements. But there is such richness here, that a few misses do not diminish the totality of the work. It's a walk down memory lane to a time when there are few left alive to remember, and from the chaos agent that was the Babe to the loose laws of the city of Chicago, it was a different time. I think you will like this book.

Note; I received this book as a free review copy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

 Let's say you're a baseball fan. It started when you were a kid, watching games on TV, maybe going to a few in person, and you got into buying baseball cards, those little cardboard bits of delight, with an inedible stick of gum and 15 rectangles with a picture of a player on the front, and his stats on the back. Pure magic.

And let's say you grow up, and decide to get a pack of cards; not just any pack, but a pack from the year you started collecting cards, with the help of ebay where anything can be found and purchased. And you decide to take that pack of cards, and find those players on the card, and interview them in person and write up the interviews for a book. 

That's what Brad Balukjian did. He got a wax pack of 1986 Topps cards, back when the cards were still made on the brown cardboard and sealed with a layer of wax, and opened the pack to find 15 cards; one was a checklist card, but the other 14 carried pictures of big league players, and 13 of them long-time players of ten seasons or more in the major league. One was already deceased, but the others were alive, from Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk to All-Stars Rick Sutcliffe and Garry Templeton to journeymen Randy Ready and Jaime Cocanower. Over his summer break in 2015 from his job as an adjunct instructor of biology at a small college, he sets off on an 8-week journey across the country to find these pieces of the past, men in their late 50s and early 60s, former professional athletes.

The story is nostalgic and involving and funny and sad and...well, it's a must read. Whether you are a fan of baseball, or of road trip sagas, or just the life of Americans in America, this book is wonderfully written, absorbingly emotional, and shockingly personal. I think you will love it from beginning to end.

Disclaimer: I received this book as a free review copy.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

 Book review: Billy Ball: Billy Martin and the Resurrection of the Oakland A's by Dale Tafoya.

Billy Martin was the greatest manager in baseball...in the short term. No one could turn a team around like Billy. Losers quickly turned into winners in his hands. These turnarounds came at a price. Billy, a terrific baseball man, was high energy and high pressure, and the burnout rate around him was almost as quick as the results.

Martin identified the players he thought could help him, and rode them hard. He used very aggressive tactics in managing, especially on the basepaths. Push hard, make the plays, out-hustle the other team and win, was the Martin way. All that required a level of energy that could only be sustained for so long. Sooner or later, things got away from Billy. It was always a hell of a ride along the way.

Tafoya, an A's fan, writes an affectionate book of the 1980-1982 era in Oakland, when a moribund team turned around and got to the playoffs. The 1979 A's club lost 108 games and looked pathetic and listless on the field. Martin was hired by equally mercurial owner Charlie Finley that offseason, and with few player acquisitions, the A's had a winning record in 1980 and made the playoffs in 1981. Fans came back to the Oakland Coliseum once again. Baseball in Oakland was saved. The savior, more than anyone, was Billy Martin.

As much as a story of Billy Martin, this is the story of a city and an era. The early 1980s were an interesting time in baseball, with free agency still new, a new age of the powerful manager in the mold of Martin, Whitey Herzog, and Jack McKeon, and the emergence of a future Hall of Famer in Oakland, local native Rickey Henderson. Billy Martin, most famous for managing the Yankees, returned to his Bay Area roots to take over the A's. Magic occurred, like a meteor burning across the sky.

Tafoya writes lovingly of all this, in a style that is mostly based on the accounts of participants and first-hand observers, with quotes from interviews conducted by the author and quotes taken from contemporary publications. That kind of approach leads to some repetition and overlapping observations, but it keeps things real and in the moment. This is a snapshot of time, remembered by those who were there.

Tafoya spends his first two chapters on the story of the A's leading to the moment, the third on a mini-biography of Martin, and spends the rest of the book on 1980-82. After the setup, we get the payoff. A's fans, fans of baseball history, and lovers of a good story will enjoy this book.

A signed copy of the book was graciously sent to me by the author for this review. Thanks, Dale!

Friday, December 20, 2019
A book review of the new biography, Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball's Greatest Forgotten Player by Jeremy Beer.
Oscar Charleston was a star of the Negro Leagues of the 1920s and 1930s, largely for the Pittsburgh Crawfords but also for others teams, then managed for several years afterward before his death in 1954. Like many of the Negro League players who did not make the major leagues, he largely faded from view after his death as the country buried those days, in equal parts uninterested and ashamed. It was not until the 1970s, after a special committee had been formed to elect a group of players from that time period, that Charleston got some recognition with his posthumous election in 1976.
That kicked off a period of interest in the old segregated leagues that continues today. Researchers began digging in to the period, first with oral histories, then with the painstaking reconstruction of what statistical records survived. Stories were told and published, and the world of the Negro League player, barnstorming the country and living their lives, came alive to a new audience.
Oscar Charleston was among the stories told, and he began to appear on some lists of the greatest ballplayers ever. That reached its peak with the publishing of Bill James' New Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001, where he named Charleston the fourth-greatest player of all time. With the sterling reputation of James in the world of baseball analysis, that got people's attention.
No one had published a thorough biography of Charleston, largely because of a dearth of source material. Charleston left behind no heirs to carry on his name or promote his cause. He had no depth of correspondence. Because of his death, so soon after baseball integration, he had little time to get his story out into the world of Major League Baseball. Some would speak of him, but there was no great paper trail, only scattered anecdotes.
Jeremy Beer undertook the task, a daunting one at best. He located family members and photos, dug through archives of black newspapers for scraps of information, and gathered all the information that could be found. What he has produced is far from perfect and sometimes unsatisfying, but is certainly as good as anyone could have done, and I thank him for it.
The coverage of Charleston's career is good, because that is what exists in the available material. For biographical material such as birth and marriage records and family, Beer has often had to turn to census records, which are not always accurately reported. He has filled these in with the best reconstructions available. This book is the best synthesis of the life of Oscar Charleston possible.
It's a really good book. I wish it could be better, but that's the best we can do with the information that exists. Beer puts the information together in a readable style, mentions but rejects the clear apocryphal material, and forges ahead to stitch together a smooth whole.
If you are interested in baseball history, the Negro Leagues, or the segregated US of the first half of the 20th century, you will enjoy this book. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019
A book about one of the great teams, the 2018 Boston Red Sox, by a newspaper guy who was a beat writer for the team. That bit has been done before, sometimes well, sometimes not. This one succeeds in part because of the approach, which also takes a look at how the team was built, beginning with the 2011 draft, by a scribe who was on the scene for all of it.

This, Speier's book begins during the regime of Theo Epstein, proceeds through the Ben Cherington era, and into the dawn of the Dave Dombrowski epoch. It's a look of ups and downs at Fenway, and presented with an insider's eye. A lot of work went into this and it pays off.

Speier is more of a newspaper guy than a novelist, more of a nuts and bolts writer than a lyrical tale spinner. This is more Gammons than Angell. What you will find here is good solid reporting by a guy who does that sort of thing for a living. It's good solid writing that will keep the pages turning. It's a good story well told, no matter which team you spend your days rooting for.

This book is highly recommended. Disclaimer; I received this book as a free review copy, I did not pay for it.

Saturday, August 10, 2019
The new book by David Epstein isn't really a sports book, although it starts off this way. What it is, is a fascinating look at how specialization is making innovation more difficult. So, it's sort of a science and innovation book, but has implications for all kinds of policy and societal areas.

Epstein starts off with the Tiger vs. Roger, or Woods vs. Federer, argument: is it better to specialize in one thing from the beginning, as Tiger Woods did with golf, or by doing a wide variety of things and settling on one thing later, as did Federer? A lot of stories and conventional wisdom says that to excel at something, it is best to specialize as soon and as much as possible. In wide practice this is not usually the case, Epstein argues.

The book ranges far, from sports to music to movies to painting to the Girl Scouts to NASA to curing disease. There will likely be some topic of interest to you discussed within these pages. Epstein writes in a very readable and engaging style. I found myself turning pages quickly, absorbed and waiting to see what would come next. Epstein weaves his thesis in and out through conversations with a large variety of individuals, and takes other's interviews with a few who passed away before he could speak with them himself. The interviews are also fascinating reading, and provide a variety of voices within the text.

I really enjoyed this book, and think there's a good chance you will like it too. Disclosure: I received this book free as a review copy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
In every era there is one book that captures the way baseball is played at the time. That book has now been written for this era of baseball, and it is the new tome by veteran writer Rob Neyer titled Power Ball, taking apart and examining our current era of lots of home runs and lots of strikeouts. This is the perfect writer for the book that describes the baseball of the late 2010s.

The book is modeled after Dan Okrent's classic Nine Innings, published in 1985 and centered around a 1982 game that examined the way baseball was played in the 1980s. That book and this one used the framework of a single ballgame to look at the many issues surrounding the game; the players, the owners, the rules, and often life in general. Okrent's original stands up as a slice of baseball in that time. Neyer's book will do the same.

Neyer was an assistant to Bill James, a free-lance writer, and for more than a decade was ESPN's main baseball writer on its website. He also wrote or co-wrote six books in that time, including the three volumes in his "Big Book of Baseball ____" series that were well-researched and entertaining. This, his seventh book, is his best to date.

Neyer is the perfect writer for such a volume. He excels at the short-essay format, which is baked into the book. It allows him to go off on tangents related to the happenings of the game, and look carefully into the many facets of the game today, plus what is working...and what isn't and should be changed.

Neyer is a talented writer who never forgets what it is like to be a fan. His long time writing about the game gives him a deep perspective, and his background in analysis and sabermetrics lets him use all the modern tools to look deeply into the game as it exists. This is a great read, and an instant classic. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 10, 2018
What follows is a review of Baseball Cop: The Dark Side of America's National Pastime by Eddie Dominguez with Christian Red and Teri Thompson. I received this book free for review and did not purchase my copy.

As the subtitle says, this book takes a look at the "dark side" of baseball, and you should not pick it up looking for a light or happy read. You won't find that here. What you will find is some truth, and also some inspiration in the story of Dominguez and his battle with pancreatic cancer, the most beautiful part of the book.

We can assume that the "artful" portion of this book is shaped by professional writers Red and Thompson, both writers for the New York Daily News with a background in stories that reflect the dark underbelly of sports, which is likely how they came to be familiar with Dominguez, a detective who came to work for baseball. The book is readable, but is not what I would call well-crafted; it jumps around on the timeline, annoying for a linear thinker like myself, and tends to wallow in criticism of the various miscreants, players and commissioners alike, involved in the dark doings. The book works best and rings truest when focusing on the often gripping stories of Dominguez's exploits.

Dominguez was a Boston PD detective who got into doing some security work for the Red Sox on the side, then eventually into the new Department of Investigations that came out of the Mitchell Report on the prevalence of drug abuse in baseball. Doninguez tells stories of investigating drug dealers in the U.S. and abroad, and also those who try to take advantage of Latin American players in various ways. Dominguez was especially useful in this work as a Cuban refugee and native Spanish speaker. Bilingual is helpful on the mean streets.

These tales of the gritty work of investigations alternate with the developing resistance of the baseball establishment to having their dirty secrets exposed. Players like David Ortiz certainly do not like having those in their entourage under investigation for shady dealings, but baseball officials grow to dislike having their multi-billion dollar business brought into a bad light. In time all the investigators are fired, apparently for doing their jobs too well.

The retelling of the work of the DOI investigators rings true. The book is at its best when Dominguez following up evidence, tracking down leads, and attaining a measure of justice. It's maddening when he is prevented from doing so. Don't read this book if you want a happy story, but you can read it if you want a good one.

Friday, April 06, 2018
A book review of Singles and Smiles: How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball's Color Barrier.

Artie Wilson came from a single-parent home; he met his father exactly once. He lost the tip of a thumb as a teenager to a machine in the factory where he was working. In spite of those things he became a baseball player, and a pretty good one, breaking into the Negro Leagues for his hometown Birmingham Black Barons in 1944 since his thumb meant he was not eligible for the war draft. So, Artie was playing for the Black Barons in 1948 when Willie Mays also played there. In 1949 Artie went into "white baseball" in the Pacific Coast League, at a time when there was speculation the PCL would become a third major league. Artie got a chance at the major leagues in 1951 when he started the season with the New York Giants, but was sent to the minors in April when Mays was called up. He eventually ended up back in the Coast League.

Artie was a slick infielder and a slap-hitting singles hitter who hit for high averages and stole bases. He was a valuable player, even though he rarely walked and hit for little power, because he kept slapping out hits and played solid defense. As a major leaguer, he could have been at worst a good bench player and at worst a decent middle infield starter, probably at second base because the thumb made throwing more difficult though he had excellent range. As a dark-skinned man when integration was new, he never really got that chance. He did become so popular in Portland, Oregon that he made his home there the rest of his life, selling used cars and talking baseball with people at the dealership. He got to play baseball, and briefly in the white majors, and lived a good life. People who knew him liked him as he had a friendly manner and a ready smile.

These things are easily discerned from a reading of the text and make the book enjoyable. Artie Wilson is a winning personality. The book itself, unlike its subject, is not a work of art. The prose is choppy and often repetitive. Author Gaylon White writes like the newspaper scribe he used to be and feels ill-used at book length. The book is roughly chronological but suffers from a lack of flow because the same ground is covered repeatedly. There are many side trips off the main track. Part of writing a story is deciding what to put in and what to leave out, and White seems to want to put a lot of things in. It doesn't all fit well.

The book is a positive because of the appeal of the subject. I cannot recommend it based on the writing. I will because it's a fascinating window into an important time in America's past.

Sunday, August 28, 2016
You can't really make a Leap Day team, as there's only 13 guys, but there were a few good ones; Pepper Martin of the Gashouse Gang Cardinals, Al Rosen, the fine third baseman whose career was cut short by back injuries, Terrence Long, a solid outfielder for a few years, relief pitcher Steve Mingori, and Dickey Pearce, a shortstop from the pre-history of baseball.

Definitely no Hall of Famers here.  Only two guys who made an All-Star team.  Don't expect much.

1. Dick Kokos, RF
2. Moose McCormick, LF
3. Frank Malzone, 3B
4. Terry Turner, SS
5. Marty Perez, 2B
6. Jim Wohlford, CF
7. Rufino Linares, 1B
8. Neftali Soto, C

1. Jake Miller
2. Lil Stoner
3. Jeff Niemann
4. Brian Bannister

Bullpen:  Aroldis Chapman, Ricky Stone, Howie Krist, Jack Easton, Brian Reith.

Bench:  Homer Ezell, IF; Ron Samford, IF; Trent Oeltjen, OF;

That's a reach for a catcher.  I don't think Soto played an inning as a catcher in the majors, but he played there some in the minors.  Great closer, though!

Friday, February 27, 2015
No Hall of Famers here, and the pitching looks really thin.

1 Johnny Pesky, SS
2 Denard Span, CF
3 Matt Stairs, 1B
4 Ron Hassey, C
5 Connie Ryan, 2B
6 Craig Monroe, LF
7 Chick Fullis, RF
8 John Wockenfuss, 3B

Bench: Cy Perkins, C; Carl Warwick, OF; Sammy Taylor, C;  Pat McNulty, OF.

1 Yovani Gallardo
2 Anibal Sanchez
3 Pete Smith
4 Rube Melton

Bullpen:  Greg Cadaret, Cliff Politte, Willie Banks, Bud Teachout, Jumbo Diaz.

Not a bad team, but short on infielders.  Wockenfuss at third is a stretch.

Not much hitting, but a Hall of Famer on the mound.

1 Jack Brohamer, 2B
2 Mark DeRosa, RF
3 J.T. Snow, 1B
4 Kelly Gruber, 3B
5 Johnny Blanchard, C
6 Dustin Ackley, CF
7 David Howard, SS
8 Danny Gardella, LF

Bench:  Sam LaRocque, IF; Darrell Miller, C-OF; Bill Conroy, C

1 Pete Alexander
2 Preacher Roe
3 Rip Collins
4 Josh Towers

Bullpen:  Don Lee, Scott Service, Gary Majewski, Hector Rondon, Dennis Kinney.

Short on outfielders for some reason.  A decent team, with one really good starter.  Not much depth to the lineup.

Friday, February 13, 2015
Two Hall of Famers again, but not much starting pitching.

1 Cesar Cedeno, CF
2 Ron Santo, 3B
3 Paul O'Neill, RF
4 Monte Irvin, LF
5 Andy Pafko, 1B
6 Bob Brenly, C
7 Jack Lohrke, 2B
8 Jack Hannifin, SS

Bench: Shannon Stewart, OF; Bob Bescher, OF; Danny Cater, 1B-3B; Roy Weatherly, OF; David Hulse, OF.

1 Denny Lemaster
2 Al Hollingsworth
3 Ed Lynch
4 Jim Britt

Bullpen:  Key Dayley, Kevin Hickey, Henry Rodriguez, Dana Kiecker.

Thin pitching, good lineup overall but I had to get two 19th century nobodies for the middle infield.  In actuality, though I usually try to avoid doing that with teams, Santo and Irvin would play middle infield and Stewart and Bescher would go into the outfield.  Pafko could take third with someone at 1B.

On this team, we get two Hall of Famers, and another guy who could be.  Best birthday team in days.

1 Bob Seeds, RF
2 Honus Wagner, SS
3 Eddie Murray, 1B
4 Mike Lowell, 3B
5 Nick Esasky, LF
6 Bubba Phillips, CF
7 Earl Grace, C
8 Joe Dolan, 2B

Bench: DeWayne Wise, OF; Pinky Pittenger, IF; Chris Parmalee, OF-1B; Del Wilber, C.

1 Wilbur Cooper
2 Bronson Arroyo
3 Bugs Raymond
4 Nick Blackburn

Bullpen: Rene Arocha, Lynn Nelson, Eury de la Rosa.

Not much depth, and we've got two corner men (Esasky and Phillips) playing out of position in the OF, though both played some there.  Still, enough talent to beat most teams we've seen so far.

Sunday, February 01, 2015
Our 2/23 team will have a decent lineup, but no real pitching to speak of.

1 Ron Hunt, 2B
2 Rondell White, CF
3 Bobby Bonilla, 3B
4 Elston Howard, C
5 Roy Johnson, LF
6 John Shelby, RF
7 Ken Boswell, 1B
8 Rudy Hulswitt, SS

Bench: Mike Tresh, C; Billy Lauder, IF; Willin Rosario, C.

SP Scott Elarton
SP Edgar Gonzalez
SP Luke Prokopec
SP Lou Lowdermilk

Bullpen:  Juan Agosto, Don Shaw, Jason Boyd, Phil Haugsted.

Terrible pitching, though this team would score some runs.

I think the February 22 team will be our worst yet.    Best players are relief pitchers, some of which will be starters on our roster.

1 Russ Johnson, 3B
2 Kelly Johnson, 2B
3  Joe Lefebvre, RF
4 Casey Kotchman, 1B
5 Daniel Nava, LF
6 Johnny Lucadello, SS
7 Eric Yelding, CF
8 Roy Spencer, C

Bench: Bill Baker, C; Marty Hopkins, IF.

SP Steve Barber
SP Clarence Mitchell
SP Jumbo McGinnis
SP Tom Griffin

Bullpen:  J.J. Putz, Kaz Sasaki, Ryne Duren, Chet Nichols, Karl Drews.

Yeah, there's not much here.  It's a pretty thin talent base.

We will resume the birthday teams with the February 21 group.  No Hall of Famers, but a guy who should be.

1 John Titus, RF
2 Alan Trammell, SS
3 Joe Foy, 3B
4 Ted Savage, LF
5 Franklin Gutierrez, CF
6 Joel Skinner, C
7 Oscar Azocar, 1B
8 Tom Shopay, badly out of position at 2B

Bench: Brandon Berger, OF; Rene Reyes, OF

SP Jouett Meekin
SP Jack Billingham
SP Dummy Taylor
SP Fred Newman

Bullpen:  Rick Lysander, Snipe Hansen, Bill Slayback.

Serious lack of top-level talent as well as depth.  This would be one of our worst birthday teams.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Part 5: The 1970s.

The membership of our alternative history Hall of Fame now stands thus:

20th century players: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson; Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Pete Alexander; George Sisler and Eddie Collins; Rogers Hornsby and Rube Waddell, Lou Gehrig, Sam Crawford, Eddie Plank, Harry Heilmann, Three-Finger Brown, Frankie Frisch, Frank Baker, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Terry, Goose Goslin, Burleigh Grimes, Red Faber, Eppa Rixey, Edd Roush, Heinie Groh, Lefty Grove, Gabby Hartnett, Charlie Gehringer, Carl Hubbell, Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, Paul Waner, Joe Cronin, Ted Lyons, Mel Ott, Hank Greenberg, Bill Dickey, Red Ruffing, Ducky Medwick, Arky Vaughan, Stan Hack, Luke Appling, Billy Herman, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Lou Boudreau, Dizzy Dean, Johnny Mize, Zack Wheat, Max Carey, Dazzy Vance, Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Larry Doby, Ted Williams, Hal Newhouser, Richie Ashburn, Stan Musial, Early Wynn.

19th century players: Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Willie Keeler, Cy Young; Ed Delahanty, Old Hoss Radbourn, Herman Long, and King Kelly; Jimmy Collins and Fred Clarke; Kid Nichols and Amos Rusie, John M. Ward, Roger Connor, Pud Galvin, Dan Brouthers, Tim Keefe, Billy Hamilton, John Clarkson, Jesse Burkett, Mickey Welch, George Davis, Bid McPhee, Bill Dahlen, Jake Beckley, Jim O'Rourke, Bobby Mathews, Harry Wright, Davy Force, Joe Start.

Non-players/pioneers: John McGraw, Connie Mack, George Wright, Morgan Bulkeley, Ban Johnson, Alexander Cartwright, Henry Chadwick, Al Spalding, Judge Landis, Bill Klem, Tommy Connolly, Ed Barrow, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel and Branch Rickey.

Our Hall is at 108 members, while the real-life HOF in Cooperstown 115. Cooperstown has passed our number sooner than I expected, and the gap will only grow. One of the problems of the frequent measures taken to tighten up the Hall is that they invariably backfire. Pressure builds up, and it must escape somewhere. Our Hall, with a more measured approach, is not prone to such problems. It also helps being imaginary.

The 1970s will bring the Negro Leagues Committee: our alternate choices will parallel those of real life. One pitfall of the 1970s, the profligacy of the Veterans' Committee, we will avoid. Our VC is mostly for non-players now, and we don't have a backlog of ignored past stars, nor a committee that can be affected by a single Hall of Famer with some sportswriter allies dominating the proceedings.

1970 brings eligibility for Duke Snider, who gains election, and Billy Pierce, who misses. He'll draw interest in subsequent ballots but it's a long shot for him. Our VC will ignore the real-life group's election of Ford Frick. Cooperstown has made a habit of electing each commissioner, but we will stick with Landis.

1971 brings the election of Yogi Berra and Warren Spahn, with Nellie Fox falling short. Like Pierce, he could get a second look. The Negro Leagues Committee made its first selection, choosing Satchel Paige, and we will make that same pick. The VC had an active year but we will pass.

1972 sees the election of two pitchers in Robin Roberts and Sandy Koufax. Koufax has only 165 wins but the precedent of Dizzy Dean and his short-term dominance make Koufax electable. Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson get the call from the Negro Leagues committee.

The 1973 vote elects Whitey Ford, and also picks up Nellie Fox this time. The Negro Leagues committee selects Monte Irvin. And, after his unexpected death, Roberto Clemente is singled out in a special election, similar to the honor bestowed on Lou Gehrig.

1974 sees the election of Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews. The Negro League choice is Cool Papa Bell. The 1975 vote chooses Ken Boyer and Don Drysdale, with Negro League pick Judy Johnson.

1976 sees no new outstanding candidates, so Billy Pierce makes it through for election. Oscar Charleston is the Negro Leagues choice. The real-life VC is being very prolific, with Frankie Frisch's playing cronies and also executives and umpires. We are ignoring these choices.

In 1977 Ernie Banks and Jim Bunning gain election through our BBWAA, and the Negro Leagues committee chooses Martin Dihigo and Pop Lloyd, then votes to disband. Would that all committees were so cooperative, and did their work so well. This committee is actually the inspiration, in many ways, of this exercise. Often there is a better way. Our VC will concur with the real-life one in one matter, electing manager Al Lopez to the Hall.

1978 sees the election of Hoyt Wilhelm; Clemente would have been eligible here save for his early recognition. We close out the decade in 1979 with the election of Willie Mays, a fitting end for any exercise.

To sum up, the decade sees the election of:

20th century players: Duke Snider, Yogi Berra, Warren Spahn, Robin Roberts and Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford and Nellie Fox, Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Ken Boyer, Don Drysdale, Billy Pierce, Ernie Banks, Jim Bunning, Hoyt Wilhelm, Willie Mays.

Negro Leagues: Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson, Oscar Charleston, Martin Dihigo, Pop Lloyd.

Non-players: Al Lopez.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Part 4: the 1960s.

We continue our look at what an ideal Hall of Fame selection process might have accomplished, with a better thought out election process, groups dedicated to selecting 20th century and 19th century players, and money committed to doing research years before the actual fact of the Baseball Encyclopedia and the Society for American Baseball Research happened in the real world. The result, we hope, is a better process leading to better results.

Our world of might-have-been has produced a Hall with these members through 1959:

20th century players: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson; Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Pete Alexander; George Sisler and Eddie Collins; Rogers Hornsby and Rube Waddell, Lou Gehrig, Sam Crawford, Eddie Plank, Harry Heilmann, Three-Finger Brown, Frankie Frisch, Frank Baker, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Terry, Goose Goslin, Burleigh Grimes, Red Faber, Eppa Rixey, Edd Roush, Heinie Groh, Lefty Grove, Gabby Hartnett, Charlie Gehringer, Carl Hubbell, Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, Paul Waner, Joe Cronin, Ted Lyons, Mel Ott, Hank Greenberg, Bill Dickey, Red Ruffing, Ducky Medwick, Arky Vaughan, Stan Hack, Luke Appling, Billy Herman, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Lou Boudreau, Dizzy Dean, Johnny Mize, Zack Wheat.

19th century players: Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Willie Keeler, Cy Young; Ed Delahanty, Old Hoss Radbourn, Herman Long, and King Kelly; Jimmy Collins and Fred Clarke; Kid Nichols and Amos Rusie, John M. Ward, Roger Connor, Pud Galvin, Dan Brouthers, Tim Keefe, Billy Hamilton, John Clarkson, Jesse Burkett, Mickey Welch, George Davis, Bid McPhee, Bill Dahlen, Jake Beckley, Jim O'Rourke, Bobby Mathews, Harry Wright, Davy Force, Joe Start.

Non-players/pioneers: John McGraw, Connie Mack, George Wright, Morgan Bulkeley, Ban Johnson, Alexander Cartwright, Henry Chadwick, Al Spalding, Judge Landis, Bill Klem, Tommy Connolly, Ed Barrow, Joe McCarthy.

We have 94 men in our Hall at this point; Cooperstown in 1959 had 84 members of the Hall. Our exercise is ahead of reality, but that will not last. The actual Hall would get quite enthusiastic in the 1960s, and downright prolific in the 1970s.

In both 1958 and 1960 the real-life BBWAA failed to elect anyone; rather than going to yearly elections, they decided to try runoffs. Yearly elections resumed with 1966, and continue to this day. The Veteran's Committee was electing some people at this point. Our 1960 BBWAA election, not finding any worthy new candidates (Johnny Pesky and Allie Reynolds are the top names), looks backward and researchers produce Max Carey as a worthy name, who gains election. 1961 has a similar problem (Ralph Kiner, Vern Stephens, and Hal Newhouser are considered), and similarly Dazzy Vance is chosen.

1962 has no such issues. Jackie Robinson and Bob Feller both join the ballot and are elected immediately. Phil Rizzuto draws some support. The 1963 ballot elects Roy Campanella, and now the color line of the HOF is fully broken. More to come. George Kell and Dizzy Trout were also-rans.

1964 elects Pee Wee Reese to the Hall with Bob Lemon in the mix. In 1965 we gain Larry Doby with Enos Slaughter following on the voting list. 1966 brings Ted Williams, and his famous induction speech calling for the addition of Negro League players to the Hall. Spurred into action, our researchers work on the problem. Our Veterans' Committee also mirrors the action of the real-life version, and votes in Casey Stengel and Branch Rickey as non-player HOFers.

1967 produces no outstanding new candidates, with Ted Kluszewski likely the best player. Hal Newhouser is elected. In 1968 Richie Ashburn gains election. Herb Score reminds of what might have been. In 1969, it's Stan Musial and Early Wynn. Gil Hodges and Red Schoendienst draw interest.

The 1960s has passed quietly for us in our exercise. The effects of the World War II era show in the absence of candidates in some years, but also enables some research to catch a few misses. Our new members for the decade:

20th century players: Max Carey, Dazzy Vance, Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Larry Doby, Ted Williams, Hal Newhouser, Richie Ashburn, Stan Musial, Early Wynn.

Non-players: Casey Stengel and Branch Rickey.

Thursday, August 07, 2014
Part 3: the 1950s.

Our alternative history Hall so far:

20th century players: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson; Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Pete Alexander; George Sisler and Eddie Collins; Rogers Hornsby and Rube Waddell, Lou Gehrig, Sam Crawford, Eddie Plank, Harry Heilmann, Three-Finger Brown, Frankie Frisch, Frank Baker, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Terry, Goose Goslin, Burleigh Grimes, Red Faber, Eppa Rixey, Edd Roush, Heinie Groh, Lefty Grove, Gabby Hartnett, Charlie Gehringer, Carl Hubbell.

19th century players: Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Willie Keeler, Cy Young; Ed Delahanty, Old Hoss Radbourn, Herman Long, and King Kelly; Jimmy Collins and Fred Clarke; Kid Nichols and Amos Rusie, John M. Ward, Roger Connor, Pud Galvin, Dan Brouthers, Tim Keefe, Billy Hamilton, John Clarkson, Jesse Burkett, Mickey Welch, George Davis, Bid McPhee, Bill Dahlen, Jake Beckley, Jim O'Rourke, Bobby Mathews.

Non-players/pioneers: John McGraw, Connie Mack, George Wright, Morgan Bulkeley, Ban Johnson, Alexander Cartwright, Henry Chadwick, Al Spalding, Judge Landis.

We'll pick up our imaginary exercise in 1950. The Veterans' Committee, tasked with electing 19th century players, has declared its mission complete and disbanded itself, pending more research that reveals other deserving players, such as those from the very early years before league play. In the meantime, our version of the BBWAA continues to vote with statistics provided by our researchers, but mainly just pass judgment on those newly eligible five years after their retirement. A steady stream of candidates has been picked, pleasing Coopertown by providing for sufficient inductions, but not so many nor so many at a time as to cheapen the Hall.

On the 1950 ballot Al Simmons is elected. Chuck Klein misses because our researchers see him as a product of his home parks. It is a good, positive reversal of the earlier quick election of George Sisler although Klein remains eligible.

1951 marks the eligibility of several players whose careers were somewhat artificially extended by World War II. As a result, there are more good players on the ballot than is typical. Jimmie Foxx and Paul Waner are elected, others who might be qualified are passed by...for now. Joe Cronin and Bob Johnson, Lon Warneke and Paul Derringer draw interest but miss election.

1952 comes and Joe Cronin, one of last year's eligibles, is elected along with Ted Lyons. Tommy Bridges tops the also-rans. In 1953 Mel Ott and Hank Greenberg get in, but there is some controversy among others who have not yet gained election. Billy Herman, Stan Hack, Ernie Lombardi, Red Ruffing, Mel Harder, and Dizzy Dean draw lots of interest, but fall short of election. Is the system broken? Perhaps there are just a lot of good candidates coming onto the ballot. The Hall's directors express satisfaction with the process.

In real 1953, the VC got active and elected several non-players: Bill Klem and Tommy Connolly, representing NL and AL umpires, respectively; Harry Wright, a name from the beginnings of baseball; and Ed Barrow, one of the the first to fit the role of "general manager," from the Yankees. Our VC will concur with these picks, and with their research will make two other picks from the game's beginnings; Davy Force and Joe Start, stars whose beginnings predate the league version of the game.

Perhaps hearing the criticism, our BBWAA accelerates their pace. No more than two players have been elected in any one year for some time, but 1954 brings three: Bill Dickey, Red Ruffing, and Ducky Medwick. The grumbling slows but doesn't stop as some favorites still have not gained election. This time Arky Vaughan falls short among new eligibles.

The 1955 class of 1949 retirees is judged not to have any worthy candidates (Augie Galan and Dixie Walker are the best of the lot) and so some old choices are taken: Arky Vaughan and Stan Hack are elected. A controversy over Dizzy Dean's non-election ensues: are only 150 wins enough, with a high peak and emphasis on the "fame?"

1956 features the election of Luke Appling and Billy Herman. Dean is once again passed over, his short career the main issue. Joe Gordon and Bucky Walters also fall short in the voting.

The real-life BBWAA did not hold an election in 1957, having decided to vote only in even-numbered years; a Veteran's Committee would vote in odd-numbered years. We will pick up here with a VC that votes on non-players, whom we have been largely ignoring, and considers older players as well.

Our 1957 brings the election of Joe DiMaggio, along with longtime teammate Joe Gordon. The VC chooses their manager, Joe McCarthy. Bobby Doerr draws some votes.

1958 sees the election of Lou Boudreau, and the voters also buckle under popular pressure and elect Dizzy Dean. Dean is an anomaly in our Hall, but gains a place due mainly to the "Fame" part of the Hall.

Our BBWAA elects Johnny Mize in 1959, and the VC goes back over its research and chooses Zack Wheat from the past as a worthy candidate. Bob Elliott and Bobo Newsom draw interest but fall short.

So overall it is a quiet decade, with many worthy players recognized. We have come through something of a down period because of the effects of the war, which cut into the careers of many players. Several elected spent a few years in the military. Others likely did not make it because of their service. This effect will continue for a while into the 1960s.

So, with the 1950s concluded, elected this decade are:

20th century players: Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, Paul Waner, Joe Cronin, Ted Lyons, Mel Ott, Hank Greenberg, Bill Dickey, Red Ruffing, Ducky Medwick, Arky Vaughan, Stan Hack, Luke Appling, Billy Herman, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Lou Boudreau, Dizzy Dean, Johnny Mize, Zack Wheat.

19th century players: Harry Wright, Davy Force, Joe Start.

Non-players: Bill Klem, Tommy Connolly, Ed Barrow, Joe McCarthy.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014
Part 2: The 1940s.

In our alternative Hall, we have 33 members compared to the 26 in the actual HOF in Cooperstown at this point, the first induction ceremony in 1939. To recap, our members are:

20th century players: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson; Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Pete Alexander; George Sisler and Eddie Collins; Rogers Hornsby and Rube Waddell, Lou Gehrig.

19th century players: Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Willie Keeler, Cy Young; Ed Delahanty, Old Hoss Radbourn, Herman Long, and King Kelly; Jimmy Collins and Fred Clarke; Kid Nichols and Amos Rusie.

Non-players/pioneers: John McGraw, Connie Mack, George Wright, Morgan Bulkeley, Ban Johnson, Alexander Cartwright, Henry Chadwick, Al Spalding.

In real life, there were no elections in 1940 or 1941. No veterans' committee met, and the BBWAA had decided to vote only every three years: they would vote in 1942, then in 1945. In our imaginary world, the BBWAA will continue to vote yearly on 20th century players, and a committee of experts will continue to vote on 19th century players. Also, the research commissioned will begin to produce a comprehensive record of the game's statistics. The effective jump-start of the Baseball Encyclopedia project and the Society for American Baseball Research about 35 years ahead of their actual existence will guide our voters as we get into the 1940s. Certainly the country was distracted with the war breaking out in Europe and soon to envelop the whole world, but we will suppose that does not affect our progress, though it might limit some Cooperstown induction ceremonies due to travel restrictions.

So, in our imaginary world, the Cooperstown people make it clear that a yearly induction is needed to keep visitors coming to the Hall and the game itself funds research to help the process. Old Reach Guides and the archives of The Sporting News, as well as city newspapers that covered the game, provide the materials and the relationship of baseball and the press helps makes these tools available.

We also get firmer rules. We will start enforcing the five-year rule in 1940, that players are not eligible to be elected until five years after they retire. We think of that now as always being the case but it was not in effect in the real world until the 1960s. Players including Lefty Grove, Joe DiMaggio, and Warren Spahn received votes while still active. Had this policy been in effect all the time Babe Ruth could not have been inducted until 1941. This will be another by-product of our research.

The effect of the research is that now, ballots are sent out with an information packet, presenting credentials of a number of candidates, and voters are allowed to select up to ten. With that here are our alternative votes.

1940: the BBWAA vote elects Sam Crawford and Eddie Plank, based on the information of the researchers. The 19th century voters, with more to rely on than faulty memories, select John Montgomery Ward, Roger Connor and Pud Galvin.

1941: The BBWAA picks Harry Heilmann and Three-Finger Brown. The Veterans choose Dan Brouthers and Tim Keefe.

In real life, the 1942 vote elected Rogers Hornsby. We've already elected him, so our 1942 ballot chooses recent retiree Frankie Frisch plus Frank (Home Run) Baker, while the VC selects Sliding Billy Hamilton and John Clarkson.

In 1943 again there was no actual vote; our voters are still at it, though. The BBWAA chooses Mickey Cochrane and Bill Terry. The VC picks Jesse Burkett and Mickey Welch, getting the last of the 19th century 300-game winners in addition to "The Crab". We won't quite follow the love for voting in all of the 1890s Baltimore Orioles, however.

In the real 1944 Judge Landis died, and a hastily-called meeting of the Veteran's Committee voted him, and only him, into the Hall he helped create. Landis was the first and to this point only Commissioner of Baseball. Our committee will likewise elect Landis with the Veterans also picking George Davis and Bid McPhee. The BBWAA, increasingly concentrating on recent retireees, chooses Goose Goslin and a somewhat controversial pick in Burleigh Grimes. Few pitchers without 300 wins have been selected so far, but Grimes with 270 victories tops the NL list for many years around. Only Grove wins more in this era. Rube Waddell and his 193 victories are controversially used as a case in point in this vote.

Now, the voters returned. The war was winding down in 1945, and the BBWAA voted but could not elect anyone with so many candidates to consider but no direction and no momentum from an annual election. Frank Chance came the closest, polling 72.5 percent with 75 percent needed. He was seven votes short of election. With that result, the Veterans' Committee went hog-wild, electing ten men. Some were qualified and some not.

On our own vote, only one truly qualified retiree from 1939 comes up, and that's Gehrig, already in. The BBWAA reaches back for two pitchers, Red Faber and Eppa Rixey, both with over 250 wins. This somewhat eases the controversy aroung the election of Grimes, but there is talk about diluting the Hall. Debate: is 250 wins to be the standard? The VC goes for Bill Dahlen and Jake Beckley.

Another real-time election in 1946, and again the BBWAA could not choose anyone. They even tried a runoff election, putting the top 20 on another ballot. It didn't work, as top vote-getter Frank Chance went from 71% on the first ballot to 57% on the runoff. The VC again decided to make up the difference and elected 11, including Tinker, Evers, and Chance as a group. Those who argue for a "small Hall" lost their argument right there. Our procedure and inclusiveness to this point will eventually have the effect of keeping our Hall smaller.

In our imaginary timeline the 1946 BBWAA selects Edd Roush and Heinie Groh, while the VC takes Orator Jim O'Rourke and Bobby Mathews, and declares its work to be done. More 19th century players, including those from pre-league days, will have to be chosen through more research that could take many years and the VC decides that it will not be a yearly voting committee though it will meet every year for discussion. This becomes established in a group much like the Society for American Baseball Research in our real history, but with a more official standing.

With the logjam broken the BBWAA in real time 1947 elected four and came near to electing a fifth. We will proceed apace, and our imaginary BBWAA elects Lefty Grove and Gabby Hartnett. Our BBWAA also elects Charlie Gehringer in 1948. In 1949 we get Carl Hubbell. It is also decided about this time that the burgeoning radio business and the announcers that work on air deserve the same priviliges as print journalists, so the broadcast guys are offered a chance to be BBWAA members.

The electees in our thought exercise from the 1940s:

20th century players: Sam Crawford, Eddie Plank, Harry Heilmann, Three-Finger Brown, Frankie Frisch, Frank Baker, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Terry, Goose Goslin, Burleigh Grimes, Red Faber, Eppa Rixey, Edd Roush, Heinie Groh, Lefty Grove, Gabby Hartnett, Charlie Gehringer, Carl Hubbell.

19th century players: John M. Ward, Roger Connor, Pud Galvin, Dan Brouthers, Tim Keefe, Billy Hamilton, John Clarkson, Jesse Burkett, Mickey Welch, George Davis, Bid McPhee, Bill Dahlen, Jake Beckley, Jim O'Rourke, Bobby Mathews.

Non-Players: Judge Landis.

Monday, August 04, 2014
Beginning a new series:
Baseball Hall of Fame Alternative History Part 1

Anyone who follows the game knows that a number of mistakes have been made in the history of Hall of Fame balloting, both by the BBWAA and the various incarnations of the Veterans' Committee. Let's imagine what might have happened if better choices had been made, right from the beginning.

First, let's imagine that the push to make a Hall of Fame for baseball was accompanied by a push to compile an accurate record. So, a committee was established to put together accurate statistics for the history of the game, nearly thirty years before the actual Baseball Encyclopedia project. Without computers this would proceed slower than it actually did, but some benefits could be realized right away, especially with the 19th century. And, since they were closer to the time, finding references and records could actually have been easier for them.

The first vote was taken in 1936 and we will continue that timeline. That vote was by two different groups; the general membership of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voting on the 20th century players, and another group (membership lost to history) to vote on the 19th century. Let's postulate that the 19th century group was better defined and chosen, composed of some historians and other experts in the period, and that we avoid confusion like both groups voting on some crossover players like Cy Young as actually happened at the time.

So we will say this first 20th century group turns out the same as it did: the election of that "first class," a classic of the genre, with Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson being selected. It really couldn't have gone much better than that. Never mind that Ruth had only been retired a year and would not have been eligible by today's rules, or that some active players got votes. We'll clean that sort of stuff up as we go and more quickly than the actual BBWAA did.

In real life the 19th century committee couldn't focus on any candidates and ended up electing no one: our imaginary group does better, and chooses the four who got the most votes from the committee: Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Willie Keeler, and Cy Young. That's an equally fine group to be the first choices of the old-timers. Only Young out of that group was still alive by 1936 (or 1939, the first induction, for that matter) but it works.

So we are underway, with nine worthy representatives. A second ballot was taken in 1937; Young was elected by the BBWAA then, but he's already in by the Old-Timers in our alternate history, so we will suppose three players are elected but not quite the same three. In our alternative Nap Lajoie and Tris Speaker make it, as they did, but also Pete Alexander, who finished 4th and came up a little short on the original ballot. Also, the various committees made the first non-player selections; managers John McGraw (who died in 1934) and Connie Mack (Mack was still active), early player and manager George Wright, and the first president of each league (National and American) Morgan Bulkeley and Ban Johnson. We will stand by the elections of these pioneers.

Apparently deterred by the failure of the actual 19th century committee, that group did not vote again. Its purpose was folded into the regular voting by the BBWAA. We will instead suppose that our more effective group continued for a second year and picked the next four on the original voting list: Ed Delahanty, Old Hoss Radbourn, Herman Long, and King Kelly. Long will be our first pick who is not in the actual Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; he was a longtime shortstop, mostly with Boston's NL club. This seems a reasonable expectation of what would have happened had this committee been continued in the real world.

Moving on to 1938, actual election winner Alexander is already in our Hall so we will look to the next in line. Assuming the research has not had time to catch up to our present levels, George Sisler (next in votes) will be elected, as well as Eddie Collins. Both got a lot of support in real life. Sisler is not as highly regarded today as he was then but a .340 career average and high peak got him recognized. Alexander Cartwright and Henry Chadwick, two sportswriters who did a lot to popularize the game and standardize rules, were also elected and we will concur. Reaching back to the 19th century, we will suppose our committee votes yet again, and picks Jimmy Collins and Fred Clarke (even though Clarke was just as much a 20th century player; he got votes from the committee initially). So far we are doing pretty well.

Then comes 1939. The guys actually elected by the BBWAA (Sisler, Collins, and Keeler) are already in for us, so we will look at the next guys who drew support; that would be Rogers Hornsby and Rube Waddell, so they get in for our election. Waddell won just 193 career games and will become a controversial selection in our imaginary exercise. Lou Gehrig was also elected in a special vote after his illness was announced early in the season, and we will do the same. Meantime the Old-Timers committee made six selections; three are already in for us (Anson, Ewing, and Radbourn) so we don't have to worry about them. We will ignore the dubious selections of Charles Comiskey and Candy Cummings, and go along with the pick of Al Spalding. He was the power behind the throne for a good bit of baseball history, but we will choose him as an early player rather than an executive. Our 19th century committee will also pick up Kid Nichols and Amos Rusie, giving us a nice roster for the first induction ceremony. To wit:

20th century players: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson; Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Pete Alexander; George Sisler and Eddie Collins; Rogers Hornsby and Rube Waddell, Lou Gehrig.

19th century players: Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Willie Keeler, Cy Young; Ed Delahanty, Old Hoss Radbourn, Herman Long, and King Kelly; Jimmy Collins and Fred Clarke; Kid Nichols and Amos Rusie.

Non-players/pioneers: John McGraw, Connie Mack, George Wright, Morgan Bulkeley, Ban Johnson, Alexander Cartwright, Henry Chadwick, Al Spalding.

That's a pretty storied group, and a good representation of baseball history to 1939. In real life, even though they had only actually put 26 rather than 33 in the Hall, the BBWAA decided not to vote again until 1942. That's a mistake we will not repeat (partly because Cooperstown doesn't like it: no inductees means fewer visitors) and also suppose that research efforts are now bearing fruit.

To be continued!

Sunday, May 25, 2014
The 2/20 team shows some early promise:  a Hall of Famer, four guys who made five or more All-Star teams, 12 guys with ten major league seasons, a total of 21 with five.  We should at least have some material to work with this time.

1 Sam Rice, LF
2 Muddy Ruel, C
3 Tommy Henrich, RF
4 Brian McCann, 1B
5 Ryan Sweeney, CF
6 Frankie Gustine, 2B
7 Tom O'Brien, 3B
8 Charlie Babb, SS

Bench:  Shane Spencer, OF; Harry Raymond, 3B; Ryan Langerhans, OF; Julio Borbon, OF.

1 Justin Verlander
2 Livan Hernandez
3 Bill Gullickson
4 Clyde Wright

Bullpen:  Roy Face, Tom Buskey, Derek Lilliquist, Dave Davenport, Jim Wilson.

So, two good right fielders, two good catchers, a decent infielder, and not much else for positions.  Pretty good staff.  Had to mix and match at positions.  Very poor infield depth; only one infielder who played several seasons.  All in all, not terrible.

Saturday, May 24, 2014
The February 19 team isn't looking any better than the Feb. 17 squad.  Only three All-Star Game players, with one time each.  Only six guys got in ten major league seasons, and only 15 had at least five.  Tumbleweeds here.

1 Dick Siebert, LF
2 John Morrill, 2B
3 Gail Hopkins, 1B
4 Josh Reddick, RF
5 Alvaro Espinosa, SS
6 Russ Nixon, C
7 Chuck Aleno, 3B
8 Don Taussig, CF

Bench:  Chris Stewart, C; Larry Chappell, OF; Stan Sperry, IF.

1 Dave Stewart
2 Miguel Batista
3 Weldon Wyckoff
4 Bob Sadowski

Bullpen:  Tim Burke, Keith Atherton, Bill Kelso, Chris Zachary.

Wow, this may be the worst birthday team yet.  A couple of decent pitchers, but almost nothing in the lineup.  This team would have trouble competing in a triple-A league.  Dave Stewart was a fine pitcher for several years, but he's the best guy on this club.

The February 18 birthday team will be better than the previous day:  we've got one Hall of Famer and 20 guys with 10 years of big league experience.  It already shapes up as pretty good.

1 John Valentin, SS
2 Manny Mota, LF
3 Joe Gordon, 2B
4 John Mayberry, 1B
5 Alex Rios, CF
6 Jerry Morales, RF
7 Jamey Carroll, 3B
8 Frank House, C

Bench:  Rafael Ramirez, SS; Dal Maxvill, IF; Frank Fennelly, IF; Marc Hill, C; Chad Moeller, C; Brian Bogusevic, OF.

1 Kevin Tapani
2 George Mogridge
3 Sherry Smith
4 Bruce Kison

Bullpen:  Bob Miller, Luis Arroyo, Huck Betts, Herm Wehmeier, Shawn Estes.

Not much outfield depth, but pretty decent otherwise.  Lots of good on-base guys, and a power guy in Mayberry to drive them in.  I don't know that Valentin got much leadoff time, but he always had strong on-base numbers.  Pitching is a bit thin.

Time to get back to this long-neglected series.  We get back into it with the birthday boys of February 17, which may be the worst team we have yet compiled.  Only one All-Star appearance in the group, just one guy that reached 15 years, 9 with ten, 21 total with five years in the majors.  Not promising.

1 Alan Wiggins, 2B
2 Nemo Liebold, CF
3 Wally Pipp, 1B
4 Josh Willingham, LF
5 Willie Kirkland, RF
6 Dave Roberts, C
7 Cody Ransom, SS
8 Joe Miller, 3B

Bench:  Ike Boone, OF-1B; Steve Evans, OF-1B; Eddie Phillips, C;

1 Ed Brandt
2 Stump Weidman
3 Dick Bosman
4 Roger Craig

Bullpen:  Scott Williamson, Jaime Easterly, Danny Patterson, Brian Bruney, Jim Umbarger.

Definitely not impressive.  It's hard to tell where the strength of this team would be.  They'd be a decent AAA team.

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.

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.

Saturday, August 10, 2013
In our fourth installment we will be looking at the voting in the 1950s.  After some lurching back and forth about defining the Hall, it was during this era that the Hall really came into its own, and became a respected institution.  We have some very smart votes during this time period, with just a few  hiccups.

In the 1951 BBWAA vote, Mel Ott and Jimmie Foxx were elected as a very strong class.  In 1952 Harry Heilmann and Paul Waner got the call.  In 1953 the BBWAA selected Dizzy Dean and Al Simmons.  You could argue with Dean's election due to his short career, but he excelled at the "fame" part.  Here we see the BBWAA doing a solid job of moving people through the ballot and generally selecting deserving candidates.

In 1953 we also have the first voting by the new Veterans Committee.  As usual with a new electorate, there is a desire to stake out their own territory.  The VC selected the first umpires for Cooperstown, choosing NL veteran Bill Klem and AL arbiter Tommy Connolly.  They also chose as "executives" Harry Wright, from the very beginnings of baseball, and Ed Barrow, arguably the first "general manager" as we understand the term today.  They also picked old-time players Chief Bender and Bobby Wallace, both marginal selections, but they were trying.

In 1954 the BBWAA selected Rabbit Maranville, Bill Terry, and Bill Dickey.  In the weird logic of the voters, they bypassed Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg in doing so.  1955 brought a bonanza of four choices:  DiMaggio, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance, and Gabby Hartnett.  The VC selected the deserving Home Run Baker and the questionable Ray Schalk.  In 1956, Hank Greenberg and Joe Cronin were elected by the BBWAA.  The BBWAA, having done such good work, promptly decided to go to every-other-year voting.

On one level, it was reasonable to do this.  The voters had done a great job of working through the backlog of good candidates, and the war had thinned out the candidate list through that era, an effect felt in the results.  However, that war effect was washing out, an outcome the BBWAA did not foresee.  They probably should have, with the Jackie Robinson/Willie Mays era underway, and other big stars like Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks were emerging.  Those guys would change the shape of things in the very short run.

What was decided was that the VC would fill in the BBWAA off-years.  In 1957 the VC selected player Sam Crawford and manager Joe McCarthy.  With the 1958 BBWAA ballot, no one was elected.  154 men received votes, including the still-active Warren Spahn.  Only Max Carey reached 50%, and he was at 51%.  So, it was over the the VC for 1959.  They chose Zack Wheat.  Back to the BBWAA for 1960 for...nobody.  Edd Roush topped the list at 54%.  In fairness, they were not looking at many spectacular candidates.  In a less complimentary analysis, the voting was a mess.  In 1960, Lefty Grove got six votes.  Grove had been elected in 1947.  Possibly those six voters had intended to vote for Lefty Gomez and either spelled it wrong, or illegibly, or made a typo.  Still, six votes for a guy already elected.  The best guys actually awaiting election were likely shortstops Arky Vaughan and Luke Appling.  They should have been obvious, perhaps, but the best of the rest were arguable candidates like Johnny Mize, Goose Goslin, and Red Faber.  No one was blowing the doors off the place.  That would change.

When last we left the Hall voting, the baseball writers (BBWAA) charged with doing the voting had elected 12 players to Cooperstown's museum, while various committees of voters had elected seven early executives (including the first president of the NL and AL, respectively), two managers (the redoubtable John McGraw and Connie Mack, even though Mack was still active), and three 19th century players, all in time for the Hall's opening in 1939.  Following the special election in 1939 of Lou Gehrig, after he was diagnosed with the fatal disease that still bears his name, they declared it a job well done and did not vote again until 1942, a three-year gap.  It is there we pick up our story in this third essay.

The 1942 vote saw Rogers Hornsby elected with 78% of the vote.  Since Hornsby's last big league play had been in 1937, five years before, some would think it was his first time on the ballot, but this is not the case.  This was the fifth time Hornsby had been named, on each ballot taken so far.  In these early days, there was not always a hard-and-fast rule about not voting for active players, though that was now widely observed, and no five-year waiting period.  At any rate, Hornsby was an obvious selection and still got just 78%.

The only other players above 50% in voting were Frank Chance and Rube Waddell, both at 58%.  72 players drew votes, and while Hornsby was most qualified guys like Frankie Frisch and Mickey Cochrane did not draw enough votes to be elected, and several 19th century players drew votes but not enough for enshrinement.  By this time, most of the voters had not seen these old-timers, and the memory of guys like Ed Delahanty and Kid Nichols had faded.

And again, the next vote was scheduled for three years down the road, in 1945.  This was THE moment for the "small Hall" argument.  Cooperstown was never more exclusive than it was at this point.  If you believe in a Hall only for the greatest of the great, this was that moment in history.  All was about to change.

Commissioner Landis died in 1944, and they quickly arranged a committee meeting to elect him to the Hall.  It followed precedent, with both first league presidents already with plaques.  And a crossroads had been reached.

Without realizing it, the Hall had reached a tipping point.  For only the very best, or a wider membership?  With World War II drawing to a close, the museum officials were realizing more visitors would come if players were inducted.  A broader Hall made better business sense.  But, with every-third-year voting and a backlog of candidates, the BBWAA was having a hard time electing anyone.  The 1945 vote came and...no one reached 75%.  Frank Chance was closest at 73%, coming seven votes short of election.  Rube Waddell, Ed Walsh, Johnny Evers, Roger Bresnahan, Miller Huggins, and Mickey Cochrane, in order, got at least 50%.  95 players, including the still-active (but off at war) Joe DiMaggio received at least one vote.  Voting was a mess.

So, an "old-timers committee" was formed to vote on 19th century players, and they voted in a cartload, ten names in all:  Wilbert Robinson, a 19th century player but elected mostly for his managing, and nine players:  Roger Bresnahan, Dan Brouthers, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Hugh Duffy, Hughie Jennings, King Kelly, and "Orator" Jim O'Rourke.  They ranged from the great to the very good, but none of these guys was a BAD choice.  However, not all of them were up to the established standard.  And electing Bresnahan as a 19th century guy was stretching the definition of the term a bit, though he did start his career in 1897.

That eased the backlog a bit.  Bresnahan had been fifth in the BBWAA voting, Collins 8th, Delahanty 9th, and the others had also received some votes.  Also, the BBWAA decided to go back to yearly ballots.  So they took a vote again in 1947, and promptly elected nobody.  Frank Chance was again tops, this time with 71%.  A total of 76 guys received votes.  So they decided to have a runoff vote, and vote again on the top 20 guys...only it was 21 because of a tie for 20th.  This time, Chance got only 57% of the vote, so no one was elected again.

The situation was becoming untenable, with gridlock settling in for the ballot.  Even Lefty Grove and Charlie Gehringer couldn't break through to get elected.  There was an impasse between the "wait your turn" school, which wanted to see the guys getting the most votes already get elected first, versus those (a minority at this time) who wanted to elect the newer, more qualified guys.  As a result, no one was getting elected.

What happened now was what has historically happened:  a committee was selected to break the backlog of no one getting elected, and they elected to many, changing the standards of the Hall.  Eleven more were added to the Hall.  Chance and poem-mates Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers, who had collected at the top of the voting lists, were all elected, as were pitcher/executive Clark Griffith, plus Jesse Burkett, Jack Chesbro, Tommy McCarthy, Joe McGinnity, Eddie Plank, Rube Waddell, and Ed Walsh.  This group included some of the weakest inductees of all time, particulary McCarthy and Chesbro.  The "small Hall" argument was effectively rendered moot forever in one fell swoop.  However, it did clear the decks for the ballot.

The decks were cleared so effectively that four players were elected by the BBWAA in 1947.  Carl Hubbell, Frankie Frisch, Mickey Cochrane, and Lefty Grove all got the required 75%, and Pie Traynor fell just short.  Charlie Gehringer, Rabbit Maranville, Dizzy Dean, and Herb Pennock also got at least 50%.  Only 39 players received votes, so the casting of ballots was much tighter.  That's how people get elected.

The number of voters was also down.  In 1947 only 161 cast ballots, down from a high of 274 in 1939.  For the 1948 vote that number went down to a new low, 121.  That remains the fewest number of ballots ever cast by the BBWAA in a Hall election.  They also elected a weak class, Herb Pennock and Pie Traynor.  No one else reached 50%, even though there were many better-qualified candidates.  Pennock posted a career 106 ERA+. Traynor a 107 OPS+.  In the meantime, the ballot included Al Simmons, Charlie Gehringer, Paul Waner, Jimmie Foxx, and others.

In 1949, the second-smallest BBWAA electorate ever (153) elected no one.  Charlie Gehringer led the voting at 67%.  They tried the top 20 runoff again, and this time Gehringer got in with 85% of the 187 ballots.  Not sure why more voted in the runoff, or how that worked, but someone did get elected even if it took them two tries.  The old-timers committee met again and elected Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown and Kid Nichols.  Brown had just died in 1948, though Nichols was still alive.  This continued the Hall's fascination with death that remains to this day.

In 1950 the BBWAA elected no one.  This time they did not have a runoff.  Mel Ott got the most votes with 69%, and also over 50% were Bill Terry, Jimmie Foxx, Paul Waner, Al Simmons, Harry Heilmann, and Dizzy Dean.  What to do?  We'll see what happens in our next installment.