By Glen Sparks
Minnie Minoso patterned his game after a fellow Cuban. Martin Dihigo hit for power, hit for average and ran hard. Oh, he could pitch, too. In 1938, Dihigo batted .387 in the Mexican League and went 18-2 with a 0.90 ERA on the mound.
Dihigo was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1977. Minoso, from Perico, outside Havana, has a chance to join his boyhood idol in Cooperstown. He is one of 10 Golden Era candidates up for induction. Like the other candidates, he needs 12 of the 16 committee members to vote for him. The Hall of Fame will announce any new members on Dec. 8.
Minoso hit for some power (186 home runs in 17 seasons, at least 20 home runs four times) and a solid average (.298 lifetime, at least .300 nine times). He could run (205 lifetime steals. He led the American League in thefts three times.), and he could drive in runs (1,023 career RBI, four seasons with at least 100). … No word on whether he could pitch.
Minoso made nine All-Star teams, with both the Indians and White Sox, and finished fourth in the MVP voting four times. He also had a high pain threshold. Minoso led the league in getting hit by a pitch 10 times. He took a bruising for the team.
Once, Minoso was hit by a pitch and slammed a home run in the same at-bat. He had turned into a pitch that plunked him. No, stay right here, the ump said. Minnie had made no attempt to get out of the way, according to the man whose opinion matters most in such things. No problem. A few pitches later, Minoso drilled a home run.
The delighted star crossed home plate. He looked at the ump. “Give me my first base the first time,” Minoso said.
The opposing pitcher and catcher probably agreed.
Minoso topped the A.L. in hits one time, doubles one time and triples three times. Oh, and he scored at least 100 runs in a season four times. So, how did one of the best all-around players of the 1950s do in the Hall of Fame voting? Not well at all. In 15 years on the ballot, Minoso topped 20 percent just two times. … Huh?
Bill James uses a stat called “age similarity” score. He compares one player with an already retired player when they were the same age. (For example, the most similar player to Mike Tout at age 22 was Mickey Mantle.) The most similar player to Minoso from age 28 through age 36 was Enos Slaughter, the long-time St. Louis Cardinal.
Slaughter was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1985. Generally, Slaughter got pretty strong support every year, receiving at least 40 percent of the vote nine times.
Slaughter hit 169 home runs in a 19-year career. He drove in 1,304 runs and batted .300. He had 2,383 hits, scored 1,247 runs and had 71 steals. Slaughter made 10 All-Star teams and finished once in the second in MVP and twice third.
Here is a little bit more about Slaughter and Minoso:
The stats look fairly similar. Minoso’s numbers suffered a bit because he spent a few years in the Negro Leagues when he should have been playing in the Major Leagues. Minoso, the so-called Cuban Comet, didn’t play a full big league season until he was 25. “Country” Slaughter was already an established star at that age. Slaughter also missed three important 27-29 seasons while serving in World War II.
Minoso, now 89, waited several years ago for a call from the Hall of Fame. A committee had been set up to look at overlooked players from black baseball. Many thought Minoso, who starred for the New York Cubans before going to the Majors, would be elected for enshrinement. That call never came.
Many people today remember Minoso for how he retired. Or, more precisely, how he didn’t retire. He left the White Sox after 1964 to go to the Mexican League as a player-manager. He was “El Charro Negro,” the Black Cowboy.
In 1976, Minoso went back to the Majors and to White Sox as a coach. The big club activated him in September, and he went 1-8 at the age of 50. He also pinch-hit twice in 1980 for the White Sox, going 0-2. He is major league baseball’s only five-decade player, appearing in a game in the 1940s, ’50, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. (His streak didn’t end there. In 1993, at the age of 67, Minoso grounded out as a member of the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League. He drew a walk for the Saints in 2003, an 87-year-old ballplayer. Minoso is a seven-decade man.)
Minoso still lives in Chicago. They call him Mr. White Sox on the South Side. He a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, the Hispanic Heritage Museum Hall of Fame, the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in Exile and the Mexican Professional Baseball of Fame. Is this going to be the year that Minoso makes it into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.?
By Glen Sparks
Dick Allen sure made things hard on himself. That might be one reason he is not already in the Hall of Fame.
Well, maybe that is the wrong way to start this post.
Dick Allen supporters might say that people made things hard on Dick Allen. And, they’d be right about that.
Allen, clearly a sensitive guy, put up with bigotry and booing. He didn’t handle either very well, in the minors or in the majors.
On the field, Allen gave fans plenty to cheer about. He hit long home runs, won the Rookie of the Year award, put up an MVP season and was as good as anyone in baseball from 1964 to 1974.
He also sulked a lot, left his team in a snit, and punched at least one teammate in the face. Add to that, Allen battled managers and front offices. He showed up late to more than a few games, not exactly in playing shape.
What did all this add up to? Allen, one of the most feared hitters of his time, did not once even pick up 20 percent of the Hall of Fame vote.
Now, he is getting another chance. And isn’t that what Dick Allen is all about? Another chance?
The former slugger for the Phillies, White Sox and other teams is one of 10 nominees on the Golden Era ballot. If he can get 75 percent of the vote, he’s in. The Hall of Fame will announce the vote results Dec. 8.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote about Allen in a column published Tuesday. Predictably, Allen did not apologize for some of the controversies that swirled around his 15-year baseball career.
He said, “I would not change a thing in my life.”
And, some people would not ask Allen to change anything. Goose Gossage, a Hall of Fame pitcher and a teammate with the White Sox, has called Allen the greatest and smartest baseball player he has ever seen.
Allen was born March 8, 1942, in Wampum, Pa., outside Pittsburgh. The Phillies signed him out of high school for $70,000. In 1963, Allen played AAA ball in Little Rock, just six years after the integration of Central High School. It was a mess.
Fans booed him unmercifully for any errors or other mistakes, according to a SABR bio article written by Rich D’Ambrosio. Some people around town fired racial insults at him, according to the article. Allen thought about quitting. (It is only fair to note that, despite the problems, Allen still led the league in home runs with 33, and the fans voted him the team MVP at season’s end.) The Phillies called Allen up late in 1963. He got seven hits in 24 at-bats.
Allen hit 29 home runs, batted .318 and put up an impressive 8.8 oWAR (Baseball Reference) in his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1964. He followed that with a 7.2 oWAR in 1965 and an 8.3 in ’66. Allen was hammering the ball in one of the greatest pitching eras in baseball history. He blasted 40 home runs and slugged .632 in 1966. In six full seasons in Philly, Allen never had an OPS+ lower than 145.
The Cardinals traded for Allen in 1970. He responded by hitting 34 home runs and driving in 101 runs (oWar 3.8, OPS+ 146). The following season, Allen hit 23 home runs for the Dodgers (oWar 6.8, OPS+ 151).
Allen’s MVP season came in 1972, after the Dodgers traded him to the White Sox for Tommy John. He batted .308 and hit 37 home runs with 113 RBI. Besides leading the league in those two categories, Allen set the pace in walks (99), on-base percentage (.420), slugging (.603), OPS (1.023) and OPS+ (199).
Allen’s last big year was 1974 in Chicago. He led the league in homers (32), slugging (.563) and OPS (.938). He played three more seasons and called it a career.
He was done at 35. So, some people say, Allen simply did not hang around long enough to merit a Hall of Fame selection. But, maybe it was all that other stuff. And, as I mentioned, there was a lot of that.
Some of the problems come across as a bit petty on both sides. The Phillies wanted to call Allen “Richie.” He wanted to be “Dick.” He said “Richie” was a kid’s name. This went on for years.
Allen also held out for more money in 1965. Management didn’t like a young player making salary demands after just one season, good as it was. That created another sore spot.
Around the batting cage once, Frank Thomas (not the Hall of Famer) made some inflammatory comments to Allen, who socked Thomas in the jaw. Thomas probably deserved it, but the fans blamed Allen. They put up “WE WANT THOMAS” banners at Connnie Mack Stadium after the Phils released Thomas. (Note: Thomas only played 74 games for the Phillies. He was hardly a mainstay.)
Allen began wearing helmets onto the field, something he continued to do for years, as protection from fans throwing batteries and other objects at him. He also scribbled things into the dirt with his cleats, stuff like “Boo.” (Didn’t this just make things worse?)
He missed flights, got benched for being in no condition to play and lost time due to suspensions. He welcomed a trade to the Cardinals, but only lasted one season in St. Louis. He welcomed a trade to the Dodgers but only lasted one season in Los Angeles.
Allen pounded the baseball for the White Sox, got rewarded with the biggest contract in the game and lasted three seasons. Dick Allen wore out his welcome fast.
Dick Allen and Willie Stargell
One of baseball’s most controversial players ever retired after the 1977 season. He finished with 351 home runs, 1,119 RBI, a .292 batting average, .378 on-base percentage, 534 slugging percentage and a 156 OPS+. Plus, a lot of headaches, got and given. He had an oWAR of 69.9 with highs of 8.8, 8.8 again, 8.3 and 7.2. He made seven All-Star teams.
Willie Stargell was a few years older than Allen, a lot happier and much more popular. Stargell was “Pops.” Everyone loved him. He played his entire 21-year career with the Pirates and famously led the 1979 “We Are Fam-i-ly team to a World Series title.
The voters put Stargell into the Hall of Fame right away (82.4 percent on the first ballot). But was Pops better than Allen?
Stargell finished with more home runs (475) and RBI (1,540). He had a lower batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.360), slugging percentage (.529) and OPS+ (147). His career oWAR was (63.8) with highs of 7.4, 6.9, 5.6 and 5.3. (I am only using oWAR. Neither Allen nor Stargell did much on defense. They were in the line-up to hit.) Like Allen, Stargel was selected to seven All-Star teams.
At his best, Allen was a better player than Stargell. With a whole lot more baggage. Is it time to forget about some of that stuff? How much will the committee take into account the problems that Allen faced? How much will it take into account the baseballs he pounded into the bleachers? We will find out Dec. 8 at about 2 p.m. eastern time.
By Glen Sparks
I need to make a confession. Until I read an article about the Golden Era nominees for the Baseball Hall of Fame, I didn’t know anything about Billy Pierce.
Shame on me.
One of the fun parts about writing this blog is doing research on players I know and, in some cases, players I don’t know. I had to do plenty of research on Pierce.
The next few paragraphs should give you the skinny on this former pitcher. (If you already know about Pierce, give yourself 10 Dazzy Vance Chronicles bonus points.):
The left-hander grew up in Detroit. He played on three teams in his 18-year career (1945, 1948-1964). Pierce broke in with his hometown Tigers, but he enjoyed most of his big years with the White Sox. The Giants traded for him after the 1961 season; he played three seasons in San Francisco.
Over his career, Pierce went 211-169 with a 3.27 ERA (ERA+ 119). He was the American League ERA champion in 1955 and made seven All-Star teams. Pierce struck out 1,999 batters. He led the American League in complete games from 1956-58.
Besides featuring a curveball and slider, Pierce threw an outstanding fastball despite his small stature (Baseball-reference.com lists him at 5-foot-10, 160 pounds). The great Joe DiMaggio once said, “That little so-and-so is a marvel. So little, and all that speed.”
The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers by Bill James and Rob Neyer, published in 2004, rated Pierce as having the sixth-best fastball among pitchers active from 1950-54 and the ninth-best fastball for 1955-59. Of note, James did not rate Pierce among his 100 pitchers in the New Historical Baseball Abstract, published in 2003.
The Sporting News awarded Pierce its A.L. Pitcher of the Year Award for 1956 (20-9, 3.32 ERA, 123 ERA+) and ’57 (20-12, 3.26, 115 ERA+). The following year, on June 27, 1958, Pierce threw a perfect game for 8 2/3 innings. For the season, the hurler went 17-11 with a 2.68 ERA (137 ERA+)
Here are some more points about Pierce:
- Pierce was on the Hall of Fame ballot for five years (1970-74). He never got more than 2 percent of the vote.
- The White Sox sometimes held out Pierce to pitch against the Yankees. His career mark against New York was just 25-37. However, the National League record in the World Series against the Yankees in that same period was just 27-41.
- Pierce’s ERA of 1.97 in 1955 (200 ERA+) was the lowest in the majors between Newhouser’s 1.94 in 1946 and Sandy Koufax’s 1.88 in 1963
- Besides his ’55 season, Pierce had two seasons with an ERA+ of more than 140. His ERA+ in 1952 was 152. He went 15-12 and had an ERA of 2.57. The next year, he had an ERA+ of 147 to go along with an 18-12 record and 2.72 ERA.
- Pierce once put together a consecutive scoreless innings streak of 39 2/3.
- The lefty threw four one-hitters and seven two-hitters.
- Pierce went 16-6 for the pennant-winning 1962 Giants
Now, will Pierce go into the Hall of Fame? We’ll find out Dec. 8. Please check out my Nov. 20 post to read more about the Golden Era committee and all the nominees.
In that post, I wrote about Kaat’s qualifications to make the Hall of Fame. I compared his stats with Hall of Famer Don Sutton and with Tommy John, who is not in the Hall but who usually gets talked about in the same breath with Kaat.
In this post, I am comparing Pierce with another guy from Detroit, Hal Newhouser, who played almost his entire career just a few miles from where he grew up. Newhouser was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1992.
Here is a look at some key statistics of Newhouser and Pierce.
207-150, 580 pct.
3.06 ERA (130 ERA+)
212 complete games
2,993 innings pitched
211-169, .555 pct.
3.27 ERA (119 ERA+)
193 complete games
1,178 base on balls
Summing it up
The numbers look pretty similar. Newhouser has the advantage here, Pierce has the advantage there. Newhouser, of course, is most famous for his big years in 1944, ’45 and ’46 when he went a combined 80-27. In the days before the Cy Young Award, Newhouser won the MVP in ’44 and ’45 and was runner-up in ’46. It should be noted that he was more than just a three-year wonder. Newhouser made six All-Star teams.
A little bit more on Pierce. His strikeout numbers might not seem impressive given the K numbers of the last several years. More batters strike out today than did in the 1950s. That noted, Pierce’s average of 5.62 strikeouts per nine innings was the highest of any pitcher in the 1950s who threw at least 1,000 innings. His average of 7.96 hits per nine innings number ranked him third in the 1950s behind Hall of Famers Whitey Ford and Early Wynn. Finally, Pierce’s 3.06 ERA for the decade also ranked him third, behind Ford and Hall of Famer Warren Spahn.
I have no idea whether Pierce will be voted into the Hall of Fame. I do know it was fun learning about this outstanding, and overlooked, big-league pitcher.
By Glen Sparks
My Oct. 1 post gives an account of the Black Sox scandal and its aftermath. I hope you get a chance to read it and to take a look at the slide show. You’ll learn a few things about the key participants.
If you want to find out more about the scandal, you can choose from plenty of options. I am listing some books, movies and web sites.
Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. Eliot Asinof and Stephen Jay Gould (Introduction). 2000 edition of 1963 book. This is the most popular account of the scandal and the basis for the 1988 movie.
Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles Comisky. Tim Hornbecker and Bob Hole. 2014. Did Charles Comiskey’s penny-pinching habits really inspire his players to throw the World Series for money? This book offers a different take on the man people called “Commie.” Continue reading
By Glen Sparks
You may know that the most famous story connected with the Black Sox scandal never happened. The story goes that a kid, with tears in his eyes, afraid that his favorite team had thrown the World Series for money, races up the Chicago courthouse steps, tugs at the pants of the great—now sullied—“Shoeless” Joe Jackson and pleads to his fallen hero, “Say it isn’t so, Joe.”
Jackson, not a really articulate guy, solemnly says, “It is so, kid.” He then takes one more step toward the clicking cameras, the eager reporters and his doomed, and sealed, fate.
The story is a good one; it certainly captures the poignancy of the moment. Jackson, though, said that no one–not a crying kid, not a hotshot news man—spoke to him as the grand jury testimony concluded. Apparently, he left through a back entrance and hitched a ride home with a court deputy. Continue reading