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1961, RIP, Obituaries of Players We're No Longer Considering

RIP, Players Falling Off the 1961 Ballot

Passing away in 2012, Johnny Pesky will be missed by Red Sox fans everywhere.

Passing away in 2012, Johnny Pesky will be
missed by Red Sox fans everywhere.

Done correctly, this process of choosing the Hall of Miller and Eric takes quite a while. And it can be messy. To make a messy and time-consuming path easier to navigate, we need to remove players from active consideration. After each election, once we realize that there are certain players who will never receive our vote for the HoME, we pay tribute to them through these obituaries. Their tribute is a brief write-up in this column along with a little trivia about their careers or lives.

There were 733 players we considered for the HoME as we began. Since the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot has been revealed, we now add our 2014 players to that list and reach 744 up for consideration. With thirteen elections complete, we’ve elected 74 and put to rest 201 others. As you’ll note by looking over our RIP category and reading below, we now have 469 players to consider for our remaining 135 spots in the HoME. In other words, we can elect less than 29% 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
        Over    Nominees  this Election                         to 1966
1961     91        24         115           6         15           94
1956     92        32         124           7         26           91
1951     93        27         120           9         19           92
1946     94        26         120           8         19           93
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      0        54          54           3         18           33

Dead in 1961

Harry Brecheen was a good player, not a great one, but he did have a pretty amazing 1946 World Series. Brecheen’s Cardinals beat the Red Sox in seven games, and Brecheen took home three wins, despite teammate Howie Pollet being the better pitcher throughout the season and starting the first game. In the second game, he shut out the Sox and Mickey Harris. In the sixth game, he came within a run of doing the same. In the seventh game, with Murry Dickson struggling, Brecheen came into the game in the eighth inning, the Cards scored on Enos Slaughter’s mad dash, and Brecheen had his third World Series win.

George J. Burns was a National League outfielder, mostly for the New York Giants, from 1911-1925. He’s not to be confused with Tioga George Burns who was an American League first baseman from 1914-1929. Another guy who shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, by the way. He also shouldn’t be confused with God. A productive leadoff hitter, Burns led the NL in PA, runs, and BB five times each. And with 62 he also holds the Giants single-season stolen base record (since they started counting them in the way we do today).

The only man active in the majors during the careers of both Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, Phil Cavaretta was one of the great young players in history. It was just two months after he turned 18 that he joined the Cubs in 1934, and he would play for them or their crosstown rivals until 1955. Along the way he won the 1945 NL MVP in a league still depleted by WWII. If you don’t believe that assertion, note that the next five players in the balloting were Tommy Holmes, Red Barrett, Andy Pafko, Whitey Kurowski, and Hank Bowery.

The son of a jockey who nearly won the Kentucky Derby, Ferris Fain was surprisingly tall at 5’11”. And even at that height, Fain has a strike zone that pitchers couldn’t seem to find. In five of the six years in which Fain played 120 games, he drew 100 plus walks. And his OBP is 13th in history, right between HoMErs Eddie Collins and Dan Brouthers. Maybe Fain drew so many walks because he had a great eye. Or maybe he was just more relaxed at the plate than most players.

Not just the name of your favorite grandfather, Sid Gordon was a corner outfielder and third baseman for three National League teams from 1941-1955, save a couple of years off for World War II. Clearly he’s not a Hall of Famer himself, though he was replaced by Hall of Famers whenever he left a team. When he left the Giants, Monte Irvin took his job. Hank Aaron replaced him as a Brave. And the Pirates turned to Roberto Clemente after Gordon left. He may not be in Cooperstown, but he is in Commack, the home of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

Tommy Holmes hit in a modern NL record 37 consecutive games for the 1945 Boston Braves, a “record” that would stand until Pete Rose hit in 44 consecutive in 1978. 1945 was Holmes’ finest season. In addition to the streak, he led all of baseball in homers, hits, doubles, and slugging percentage. Most impressively, he struck out only nine times that season while hitting the majors-high 28 homers.

Rafael Palmeiro juiced. Andy Pettitte juiced. And Eddie Joost. I know, it’s not the same thing. Joost was an infielder who managed 17 seasons in the bigs despite hitting just .239. Perhaps that’s because he put up a career OBP of .366 due to his outstanding ability to draw a walk. He was also the regular shortstop on the 1949 A’s, the team that turned the most double plays in history.

Chuck Klein was one of baseball’s best hitters at a time when the ball was its liveliest. In the five years from 1929-1933 the Phillie slugger amassed 180 home runs and 693 runs batted in while posting a .359/.414/.636 line and winning the 1933 National League triple crown. More noteworthy than his line is that he only had about the ninth most value in baseball while he was doing that. Lively ball indeed.

Firpo Marberry is the first relief pitcher we considered and the first relief pitcher we rejected for the HoME. As, perhaps, the first notable reliever, he was the first to 100 saves, to 50 relief appearances in one year, and to 400 relief appearances in a career. He also led the league in saves five times, with a high of 22 in 1926. (Saves didn’t become an official statistic until 1969. Marberry was credited with his saves retroactively). The coolest thing about Marberry isn’t his saves though. It’s that he gave up four consecutive triples in a game. Red Sox Carl Reynolds, Moose Solters, Rick Ferrell, and Bucky Walters connected against him on May 6, 1934.

Wally Moses was one of the harder players of his time to strike out. In 1944 he whiffed only 22 times in 588 trips to the plate. He also made a couple of All-Star teams and performed quite well in the one World Series in which he competed. Playing for the Red Sox against the Cardinals in 1946 fall classic, Moses hit .417. In a Game 4 blowout loss, Moses was the one bright spot for the Sox, collecting four hits against Cardinal hurler Red Munger.

Johnny Pesky, if you’ll excuse the pun, was a pesky little hitter, three times leading the AL in hits and finishing his career with a .307 average. He’s best known for two things for which he maybe shouldn’t be known. In the 1946 World Series, Enos Slaughter famously scored from first on his “mad dash” home. Whether or not Pesky held the ball, as has been legend for almost 70 years, isn’t clear. The other is the “Pesky Pole”, the right field foul pole in Fenway Park. Pesky hit just six home runs in his Fenway career. How many of those went around the pole isn’t clear either.

“Superchief” Allie Reynolds was a righty pitcher who threw for the Indians and Yankees from 1942-1954. As a Yankee, he seldom lost, pitching 1700 innings over eight seasons with a .686 winning percentage – which would be good for seventh all-time had he not pitched for Cleveland for a few seasons previously. Reynolds was just as successful during the World Series, winning seven of his nine decisions in six World Series championships with the Yankees.

Hey Edd Roush, what’s with the extra “d?” It wasn’t for “defense.” Roush wasn’t a good fielder in center. It wasn’t for “debut.” He has just one hit in ten at-bats in his first season before heading to the Federal League to hone his game. Maybe it was for “daring.” From 1920-1925, the only years of his career during which we have caught stealing data, Roush was successful 109 times but unsuccessful 92 times, for a pretty pitiful 54%. Whatever it was for, Roush was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962. He’s never getting into the HoME.

Known as “The Brat”, possibly because he worked the count so well and was able to draw a tremendous number of walks, Eddie Stanky was a 5’8” second baseman who battled for the Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, Giants, and Cardinals over parts of eleven seasons. As a small guy who played in the middle of the diamond, Stanky was injury prone, only eight times getting into more than 67 games in a season. In three of those seasons he led the NL in walks, and in two of them he led the NL in OBP.

Roy Thomas was a center fielder, primarily for the Philadelphia Phillies, from 1899-1911. His main skill, like many we’re killing this year, was drawing a walk, something he led his league in seven times. It was said that he could foul off pitches until he found one he liked – or more likely until the pitcher threw the fourth ball. He was such an extreme walk-taker that he drew two-thirds as many free passes (1042) as he had hits (1537). And his leadoff duty and willingness not to swing combined to give him more than three times as many runs scored (1011) as runs driven in (299).

That’s all for now. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those who have made it into the HoME, and check back here after the 1966 election for more obituaries.

Miller

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