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. To make our process going forward is a bit easier, we remove them from intellectual consideration, though not actual consideration. To pay tribute, we offer a brief write-up in this column along with a little trivia about their careers or lives.
There are 744 players on our list for HoME consideration. With sixteen elections complete, we’ve elected 93 and put to rest 263 others, as you’ll note by looking over our RIP category and reading below. We now have 388 players to consider for our remaining spots in the HoME. Given the elections of Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas to Cooperstown, that number is now 119. In other words, almost 70% of our remaining players will receive obituaries at some point.
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 1976 82 26 108 6 16 86 1971 87 21 108 6 20 82 1966 94 26 120 7 26 87 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 1976
There haven’t been many better games than the one Joe Adcock had to close out July of 1954. To start the second, he homered against Don Newcombe. An inning later, he hit a measly double against Irv Palica. By the time Adcock came up in the fifth, Irv Palica wasn’t so great. He surrendered Adcock’s second homer of the day. In the seventh, Pete Wojey was on for the Dodgers. And Adcock smacked his third homer of the day. By the time Adcock came up for the last time to lead off the ninth, Johnny Podres was on. And Adcock continued his slugging brilliance. Another homer and a major league record at the time of 18 total bases. The record was topped in 2002, but that one game nearly 60 years ago won’t soon be forgotten.
Slugging outfielder and career-long Senator/Twin Bob Allison won the 1959 Rookie of the Year in the AL when he smacked 30 homers and led the Junior Circuit in triples. Allison would go on to hit 256 long balls in his career and represent his team in three All-Star games. He was pretty bad in the playoffs, going just 2-26 with 10 strikeouts, but he does hold a couple of interesting home run distinctions. Against the Indians on July 18, 1962, he and Harmon Killebrew became the first teammates ever to hit grand slams in the same inning. And on May 2, 1964, he was one of four Twins to hit consecutive home runs in the 11th inning against the A’s.
Smoky Burgess is one of the greatest pinch hitters in the game’s history. A catcher when he wasn’t swinging the bat, Burgess wasn’t at all fast, and he holds records that suggest as much. He wasn’t able to score a single run in 1966, though he did have 67 at-bats, 21 hits, and 15 runs driven in – all records for a player with no runs scored.
A six-time All Star and seven-time 30 home run hitter, Rocky Colavito hit 374 homers during a career of only a dozen full seasons. He’s best remembered as a Cleveland Indian who became a Detroit Tiger after a blockbuster trade right before the start of the 1960 season when the defending AL home run champ was traded for the defending AL batting champ, Harvey Kuenn. The Tigers won the trade. Kuenn played only one season in Cleveland and put up only 5.0 WAR for the rest of his career. Colavito, meanwhile, homered 139 times in four years in Detroit, and he posted 27.2 more WAR in his career.
There were nine seasons when Del Crandall caught over 75 games. In eight of those seasons, he represented the Braves in the All-Star Game. His strong arm helped him throw out over 45% of attempted base stealers during his career and contributed to his four Gold Gloves. And his powerful bat for a catcher contributed to 179 career homers, fourth most for an NL catcher at the time of his retirement.
Best known for his 18-1 mark in 1959, Roy Face was one of the games early great relievers. Making his debut for the Pirates in 1953, the righty managed 16 years in the majors, during which he made three All-Star teams. He also led the league in saves three times, and recorded his third 20-save season before any other reliever had two. After retirement, Face received Hall support for fifteen years, though never eclipsing the 18.9% he garnered in 1987 when he finished in a 14th place tie with Ron Santo.
It’s pretty hard to believe how many of these obituaries can include the “Snodgrass’ Muff” game. Larry Gardner is one more of those players. In the tenth inning of the deciding eighth game, he drove in Steve Yerkes with the winning run of the Series. Gardner was a fine defensive third baseman, known for his ability to field bunts. Even though it was during the Deadball Era, hitting just .198 in 98 trips to the plate over four World Series, all wins, isn’t impressive at all.
A fine player was lifetime Dodger Junior Gilliam. A 2B and 3B who would occasionally play LF as well, Gilliam led the majors in triples as a rookie in 1953. He made two All-Star teams during his 14 seasons. It was in the 1959 game when he homered against Billy O’Dell that he became the only player to homer in both the Negro League’s East/West Game and MLB’s All-Star Game.
Dick Groat was the long-time double play partner of Bill Mazeroski in Pittsburgh. Groat was a pretty good defender himself, but it was his offense, particularly his league leading .325 batting average that propelled him toward the 1960 NL MVL Award. Of course, it’s not like he deserved the award. The five-time All-Star was a lesser contributor than Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and others in 1960. But he did win that batting title. His 26 games in the NBA were nice, but they don’t help his HoME cause. As a two-time All-American at Duke, he was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
The first black player to suit up for the New York Yankees was the versatile Elston Howard. He only got into 100 games eleven times in the majors, but in nine of those seasons he was an All-Star. From 1961-1964, he was a very valuable player, winning the AL MVP in 1963. Howard, who homered against Don Newcombe in his first World Series at-bat, might have been more influential on the game than even his playing record would indicate. He’s said to be the creator of the donut used to add weight to bats so those on deck can prepare for their at-bats. And it’s also possible that he was the first person to use the index finger and pinky finger to signal that there are two outs – because it was more easily seen from the outfield, not because he was against peace.
You might have heard that Roger Maris hit 61 homers for the Yankees in 1961. Somewhat famously, such a dangerous hitter coming off an MVP season the year before too didn’t draw a single intentional walk that year with Mickey Mantle batting behind him. Some people still call him the single-season record holder in homers because he didn’t use PEDs. Didn’t he though? I have no clue. This is idle speculation, but greenies, which is a cute term for speed, which is a cute term for amphetamines, were prominent in major league clubhouses when Maris played. Hell, some people still celebrate Babe Ruth because he hit his 60 in only 154 games. Me? I say the leader is Ned Williamson for the 1884 Chicago Cubs. He hit a record 27 before the powers that be moved the mound back from a manly 50 feet to a pathetic 60 feet 6 inches.
Stu Miller was a fine relief pitcher. Really, he was. He led the NL in ERA in 1958, and he posted the most games and saves in baseball in 1963. But Miller is best known for his performance in his one All-Star Game in 1961. Pitching for the NL in San Francisco, Miller was actually blown off the mound by powerful winds. And I’d say a lack of balance. No problem. He struck out four in his 1.2 innings and took the win as Roberto Clemente drove in Willie Mays and Frank Robinson to give the NL a 5-4 triumph in ten innings.
Appropriately known as “The Monster”, Dick Radatz was a superstar out of the Boston bullpen from 1962 to 1965. Then he was pretty much done. Perhaps that’s because he threw more than 134 innings of relief per year during that time. He led the AL in saves in 1962 and 1964, and he set a relief record by fanning 181 in 1964. Over the next four seasons he threw about as many innings as he averaged at his height. And then he was done.
Known as “Moose” not because of his size but because of his hair’s resemblance to that of Benito Mussolini, Bill Skowron was a talented first baseman, mostly for the Yankees, who went to six All-Star games and won five World Series. All told, he hit .293 in 141 trips to the plate in the Series, and he homered eight times.
Bill White had a remarkable career in the game. As a player, he was good but nothing special. His six consecutive 20-homer seasons led to 202 in his career. He put up 200 of his 1706 career hits in 1963. And he won every NL Gold Glove Award at first base from 1960-1966. After his playing days, he spent 18 seasons calling Yankee games. And upon leaving there he became the second to last President of the National League.
Known as “The Walking Man”, Eddie Yost was the prototypical Billy Beane player half a century too early. Eight times he drew at least 120 free passes, leading the league six of those times. His career batting average was a paltry .254, but he got on base at an outstanding .394 clip. In addition to walking, Yost showed impressive durability. His 829 consecutive games played from 1949-1955 remains one of the top-ten such streak’s in the game’s history.
That’s our death toll this election. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those who have made it into the HoME, and check back here after the 1977 election for more obituaries.