Once again we’ve reached a sad time for some long-dead players and a happy time for me, the time where we can eliminate some players from the ballot. After each election, once we realize that there are certain players who will never receive our vote for the Hall of Miller and Eric, we pay tribute to them through these obituaries.
To make our next round of voting easier, we’re going to remove them from intellectual consideration, though not actual consideration. They’ll receive a brief write-up in this column along with a little trivia about their careers or lives.
There were 778 players we considered for the HoME as we began. Nine elections in, we’ve elected 44 and put to rest 122 others, as you’ll note by looking over our RIP category and reading below. That leaves us with 612 players for our remaining 165 spots in the HoME. In other words, we can elect just a shade less than 27% of the remaining players we’re considering.
And after each election, I’ll offer the following chart to keep you apprised of our progress.
Year Carried New Considered Elected Obituaries Continuing to Over Nominees this Election Next Election 1941 82 29 111 5 12 94 1936 75 29 104 8 14 82 1931 69 17 86 2 9 75 1926 71 25 96 9 18 69 1921 66 27 93 4 18 71 1916 53 31 84 5 13 66 1911 47 20 67 5 9 53 1906 33 28 61 3 11 47 1901 1st election 54 54 3 18 33
Dead in 1941
Lu Blue was a first baseman who spent almost his entire career in the AL, mostly for the Detroit Tigers. He compiled an impressive .402 career OBP is because he drew a ton of walks. And though I’m no doctor, I’m going to claim he was once concussed. During fielding practice before a 1923 game, Blue was hit in the head by an errant throw and knocked unconscious. But he played. He was a man, dammit! And he even singled in the first, but as the story goes, he was so wobbly as he struggled down the line that his team requested and was granted a courtesy runner.
Earle Combs played the entirety of his twelve hears in the majors with the New York Yankees. He hit .325 with three triples titles, and he hit .350 in four World Series, three of them wins. And speaking of concussions, in an accident that should have brought about padded outfield walls long before they became the norm, Combs ran into the Sprotsman’s Park wall during a 1934 game and fractured his skull. He was knocked unconscious, carried off the field, and spent two months in a hospital. Almost unbelievably, he came back to play in 1935. A broken collarbone ended his career. Wimp.
Not to be confused with drummer for the classic country rock band Poco, George Grantham was one of the better of the 18,000 plus men who have worn major league baseball uniforms. But he wasn’t that great. A second baseman and a first baseman for Cubs, Pirates, Reds, and Giants, he never led the league in anything good (two K titles and one CS title). And he retired before any interesting trivia, at least that I could uncover, could happen to him.
Had the Red Sox not won the 1918 World Series, perhaps we’d have talked all of those years about the curse of Tris Speaker rather than the curse of the Bambino. Sad Sam Jones was acquired by the Red Sox along with Fred Thomas in exchange for the all-time great in 1916. And to be fair, Jones was pretty good, winning 229 games, 225 of which were after the trade, for six AL teams. Jones pitched in four World Series, including two his team won, but he never did win himself. His best performance was in Game 3 of the 1923 Series when a Casey Stengel solo homer gave the Giants a 1-0 win over Jones and his Yankees.
The closest Joe Judge ever got to the Hall of Fame was rooming with Walter Johnson for seven seasons. Basically. In a 1959 Sports Illustrated article, the first baseman who played most of his 20-year career for the Senators, wrote that the Hall was “losing its luster”. In this article, he acknowledged that the baseball writers had a difficult job because they weren’t around for the careers of some of the men they were told to consider. And he was critical of the Old Timers Committee for inducting Tinker, Evers, and Chance, players he said were memorable because of a poem but not the best double play combination in the game. He also questioned the elections of Ray Schalk and Rabbit Maranville, among others, while he campaigned for Stan Coveleski, for example. For anyone interested in the Hall, it’s an article worth reading.
Since 1920, Willie Kamm is the only player in the ever to drive in as many as 60 runs two times without the benefit of a home run. Kamm, a third baseman for the White Sox and Indians, was involved in what must have been one of the oddest plays in the game’s history. I’ll withhold the names to protect the guilty. With Kamm’s White Sox facing the Indians, there were men on second and third with nobody out. Grounder to SS, throw to 1B. Runners don’t advance. One out. Then it gets fun. Kamm got the ball from the 1B, went to 3B to tag the two runners, both of whom were standing there. Two outs. Kamm then put the ball under his arm, waited for the runner to drift off the bag, and tagged him. Three outs.
High Pockets Kelly may not be deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame, but he sure did have an interesting career. The NL first sacker who played mostly for the Giants ended the 1921 World Series with a brilliant defensive play. With a man on first and one out, the hit-and-run was on. Aaron Ward took off as Home Run Baker grounded in the hole between first and second. After Kelly received the ball from second baseman Johnny Rawlings to put out one runner, he attentively threw across the diamond to nail Ward heading to third. Kelly’s Giants won.
Marty McManus was a fine player throughout the 1920s and the first half of the 1930s. He was an infielder, mainly playing 2B and 3B, for the Browns, Tigers, Red Sox, and Braves. And he led the AL in doubles in 1925 and stolen bases in 1930. In 1958, McManus received twice as many Hall of Fame votes as Warren Spahn (2 to 1). Of course, Spahn still had a third of his career in front of him. And the votes for McManus were pretty unwise. Notably, McManus managed the South Bend Blue Sox of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1944-1948.
Lefty O’Doul has the highest batting average of any eligible player not in the Hall of Fame at .349. And though he may not be in Cooperstown, as one of the men chiefly responsible for spreading baseball to Japan, he was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. He won two batting titles and has one of the best records in World Series history, sort of. In 1933, in the only WS at-bat of his career, he smacked a two-run single to help lead his New York Giants over the Washington Senators.
Though he’s the best player ever to play the game, Babe Ruth is also responsible for one of the game’s most bone-headed plays in 1926. Bob O’Farrell, a fine catcher for the Cubs, Cardinals, and Giants, threw Ruth out to end the World Series as the Yankee slugger was trying to steal second base. 1926 was a good year to O’Farrell, as he took home MVP honors that season. Must have been a down year for the NL. The rest of the top four were Hughie Critz, Ray Kremer, and Tommy Thevenow.
Riggs Stephenson is the all-time leader in batting average among players with 5000 at-bats who are not in the Hall of Fame. That says a lot about the era in which Stephenson played, of course, and there are clear and simple reasons that his .336 batting average isn’t enough to get this Indian and Cub left fielder into the Hall. The biggest reason is that only four times in his 14-year career did he amass even 250 at-bats in a season.
It might be surprising to see Hack Wilson, the owner of four home run titles, a pair of RBI and walk titles, and the most runs driven in during a single season with 191 for the 1930 Cubs, here. During his peak, from 1926-1930, only Ruth, Gehrig, and Hornsby were better at the plate. He really was one of the best players in the game. The problem is that he barely had any other decent years. For nearly 70 years, it was Wilson’s 190 runs batted in that were a record. Then in 1999, the Commissioner’s office officially recognized 191 as the total when a RBI from a July 28 game that was originally given to Charlie Grimm was found to be misattributed.
Rest in peace, all. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those who have made it into the HoME, and check back here after the 1946 election for more obituaries.