By Glen Sparks
Well, that was a big bunch of nothing.
The Golden Era committee, charged with looking into the Hall of Fame cases of 10 nominees, elected no one. Sluggers Dick Allen and Tony Oliva came the closest. They both got 11 of the required 12 votes from the 16-member group.
I’m surprised the committee pitched a shutout. I figured Jim Kaat and Minnie Minoso would get in. Maybe Allen and Oliva. And I thought Ken Boyer and Luis Tiant had a chance. I was less certain about the two Dodgers, Gil Hodges and Maury Wills, or about Billy Pierce and Dick Howsam.
Kaat got 10 votes, Wills got nine and Minoso eight. No other candidate earned more than three votes. So, half the players didn’t even get 25 percent of the vote. That seems a bit stingy.
In her announcement Monday that no Golden Era candidate would be going to Cooperstown, Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Bryant Clark said, “The results today are a reminder that election to the Hall of Fame is incredibly difficult and the highest honor an individual can receive in baseball.”
A committee member could vote for a maximum of four players. That means there were only a possible 64 votes total. The process is supposed to be tough, Clark said. Only one percent of the approximately 18,000 players who have made it to the majors is in the Hall of Fame.
I get that, but the Hall of Fame voters decided long ago that it would vote in more than just the elite of the elite. You don’t need to be Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Willie Mays or Hank Aaron to get into the Hall of Fame. You can be Bill Mazeroski, “High Pockets” Kelly, “Catfish” Hunter and Jim Rice. And, that’s fine. Unless you only want 20 or 30 guys in the Hall of Fame.
My question is this: How does Catfish Hunter get in with 76.3 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot, but Luis Tiant can’t muster four votes from the Golden Era committee? Tiant has the edge over Catfish in several important categories. Similarly, if Ron Santo is in, why isn’t Ken Boyer? If Willie Stargell is in, why isn’t Dick Allen? And, so on.
Pat Gillick, one of the Golden Era committee members, said there was plenty of spirited debate before the voting Sunday at the Baseball winter meetings in San Diego. “I think there were very, very healthy conversations on each candidate –the pros and and cons–and most of the conversation yesterday was on the very, very positive of these candidates,” Gillick said. “It’s just unfortunate that one or two didn’t get in.”
The 16-person Golden Era Committee consisted of Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Gillick, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and Don Sutton; baseball executives Jim Frey, David Glass, Roland Hemond and Bob Watson; and veteran media members Steve Hirdt, Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe and Tracy Ringolsby.
Most of the players on this year’s Golden Era ballot will be on the ballot again in 2017. The Golden Era is made up of players and executives who made most of their contributions from 1947-72. Like the other committees, it meets every three years.
Last year, the Expansion Era committee, which looks at candidates who made their mark after 1972, elected managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. Next year, the Pre-Integration committee will meet.
(I hope you enjoyed my articles about the candidates. I plan to write several more posts about the Hall of Fame, and I will be making a few tweaks to the articles I have posted. Also, my Tony Oliva post will be getting a fairly extensive reworking in the next few days. Please, check back.)