Baseball History: Hall of Fame Inductions

Gil Hodges

Gil Hodges

This time of year my focus always turns to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

A visit to the induction ceremony should be on any baseball fan’s bucket list.

My list was checked in 2000. Tony Perez, Sparky Anderson, Carlton Fisk and Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman were the highlights of the weekend.

But from a historical standpoint, it’s the players who are not enshrined that come to the forefront each year.

As a baseball fan, my voice is silent.

During the 2000 ceremony, Bid McPhee was inducted. Despite following the Reds for my entire life, McPhee was not on my radar. The Reds have one of the top team Hall of Fame museums in existence, but McPhee wasn’t a member of that group until two years after his induction in Cooperstown.

Here is my point. Did the experts miss him for over 100 years? He played for the Reds from 1882 to 1899. How was he ignored for so long? I’m glad he is in both Halls. Probably should be and that‘s OK.

It was disappointing back in 2014 when the Veterans Committee selected Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre for membership into Cooperstown. It’s not that they shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. They should. Again, my frustration is with who didn’t make it.

Fans make Cooperstown what it is by attending the inductions and flocking to the pinnacle of baseball greatness.

Here’s a novel idea for the voice of fans to be heard. This year, fans voted in the Franchise Four promotion by Major League Baseball. It seems to have been a great success. A lot of players were honored and it created interest and many debates. Fans vote for the All-Star teams. Yes, that system may not be perfect, but it works.

tony oliva 1967Let the fans have a vote for the Hall of Fame. In case, you missed that …. Let the fans have a vote for the Hall of Fame. It can be a one time deal or maybe every decade. Doesn’t matter, just make it happen.

It will require some work, but it should be possible. Have the experts come up with a list potential or borderline candidates. Fans can then sign up for a ballot (preferably only one) and through the magic of the internet actually vote just like the writers.

Then, and only then, will the voice of the fans be relevant at the Hall of Fame. In case you are wondering, my votes would be cast for Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Dick Allen and as a Reds fan, Dave Concepcion.

It’s not about the career numbers. It’s more about the accomplishments of the players in their era. See Bid McPhee from above. His numbers are not spectacular. He had 2,258 hits and batted .272 in his 18-year career.

Hodges was an eight-time all-star, who played 18 years mostly with the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Although he never led the NL in homers, he did hit 370 long balls with a career-high of 42 in 1954. Near the end of his career, he picked up three Gold Gloves. He also later managed the New York Mets to their World Series title in 1969.

Oliva was an eight-time all-star with the Minnesota Twins and the 1964 AL Rookie of the Year. He won AL three batting titles, while leading the way in hits five times. He also won a Gold Glove.

dick allen 1974A seven-time all-star, Allen was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1964 with the Philadelphia Phillies and the American League Most Valuable Player in 1972 with the Chicago White Sox.

Concepcion was a member of the Big Red Machine that dominated the 1970s. He was a nine-time all-star and won the MVP award in 1982’s mid-summer classic. He won five Gold Gloves as a shortstop and had a Silver Slugger to his credit in 18 years with the Reds.

It’s difficult to understand how these guys continue to be passed by for enshrinement, particularly Hodges. In his 15 years on the ballot, Hodges reached at least 60 percent of the votes on three occasions.

Perhaps the most telling stat for Hodges is in the final year on ballot in 1983 when Brooks Robinson and Juan Marichal were inducted. Hodges was seventh in the voting that year with 63.4 percent.

The other four above him not elected that year, Harmon Killebrew, Luis Aparicio, Hoyt Wilhelm and Don Drysdale are all now in the Hall of Fame.

But here is the injustice. There are seven more players who were below Hodges who are in the Hall of Fame. Nellie Fox, Billy Williams, Red Schoendienst, Jim Bunning, Orlando Cepeda and Bill Mazeroski made it. Torre, who finished 22nd in the voting made it last year as a manager.

dave concepcion 1971Olivia’s last time on the ballot was in 1996 when no one was elected. He was sixth that year and future inductees Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter were seventh and eighth.

Allen, who hit 351 homers in 15 years, was off the ballot in 1997. His top percentage was 18.9 in 1996.

Career assists by a shortstop might be one of the most obscure references, but Concepcion is 11th on that list. Behind him in 26th-29th are Hall of Fame members Pee Wee Reese, Barry Larkin, Joe Tinker and Joe Cronin.

Numbers can be crunched to suit any purpose. Of those four legendary shortstops, only Larkin has more hits than Concepcion, who finished with 2326. Larkin ended his 19-year career with 2340 hits.

The only real numbers that count, however, could be from the fans if they are allowed a voice in the process. Someone needs to make it happen because the experts keep striking out.

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