We’ve come to that time in the election process once again when we realize that there are certain players who will never receive our vote for the HoME. As such, 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. In homage, we offer a brief write-up in this column that sometimes includes a little trivia about their careers or lives.
There were 744 players on our list for HoME consideration. With seventeen elections complete, we’ve elected 95 and put to rest 274 others. You can read more about those 274 below and by looking over our RIP category. We now have exactly 374 players to consider for our 117 remaining spots in the HoME. In other words, we can elect a bit over 31% of our remaining players. The process is becoming more difficult.
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 1977 86 6 92 2 11 79 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 1977
It says something about a guy that he’s a better ball player than twelve of his siblings, including one who made it to the majors. Clete Boyer, a 3B for the A’s, Yankees, and Braves can make such a claim. Boyer’s finest hour on the diamond may have been in the 1962 World Series, eventually won by his Yankees in seven games when Bobby Richardson snared Willie McCovey’s liner. In the first game, with the score even at two, Boyer smacked a decisive home run to left-center off Giant Billy O’Dell.
The 1964 Cy Young Award winner Dean Chance twice won 20 games and totaled 110 wins through his age-27 season. But he would win only 18 more games and retire in 1971, just 30 years old. His is not a very atypical career, really. One great year, two others that were very good, two or three more solid campaigns, and that’s about it. Chance was an atrocious hitter, posting a .066/.113/.069 line in 759 trips to the plate.
“After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.” That’s what Curt Flood wrote to baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1969 after being traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies. The ensuing lawsuit led to free agency for Major League baseball players and changed the game forever. When the HoME adds a wing for pioneers, the 1964 NL leader in hits will be one of the first inductees.
Pitching almost exclusively for the Pirates during his 16 years, Bob Friend led the NL in wins in 1958 and totaled 197 to go along with 230 career losses. In spite of rough win/loss record, Friend was a talented hurler. He totaled at least 5 WAR in each of 1955, 1956, 1960, 1962, and 1963. However, indicative of the era before we really understood statistical performance, Friend finished tied for third in the Cy Young voting in 1958 when we led the NL in wins, despite being, arguably, as weak as his tenth best campaign.
“The Big Bohemian,” Ed Konetchy, totaled more triples, 182, than any player in history who’s not in the Hall of Fame. Of course, he never did lead the league in triples, though he took a doubles title in 1911 and a total base title in the Federal League four years later. In his second to last season, he finally reached the World Series with the Brooklyn Robins, who lost in seven games to the Cleveland Indians in a series culminating in a Stan Coveleski shutout. Konetchy struggled, hitting just .174, but he did have a triple.
Jim Maloney was a hard-throwing righty who pitched almost exclusively for the Reds. The owner of two 20-win seasons and two no-hitters was one of baseball’s best pitchers from 1963-1967. Still, he pitched in only one All-Star game, the 1965 contest in which he gave up five runs, including two-run bombs to both Dick McAuliffe and Harmon Killebrew in a game NL would go on to win 6-5
A five-time All Star, “Little Potato” Camilo Pascual led the AL in whiffs each year from 1961-1963, and he reached 20 wins in the latter two seasons. The 174-game winner is in the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame, the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Twins Hall of Fame. Trivially, he pitched in the first game in both Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium and Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field.
Kip Selbach was a fine baseball player and perhaps a better bowler. I mean, the only thing he ever led his league in was triples in 1895. But his bowling career included the 1903 American Bowling Congress doubles title with Herm Collin. And the left fielder was named the 12th best bowler in the country just a year earlier. According to WAR, he was the 10th best player in the NL in 1897 and the 5th best in 1900, so maybe he was a better baseball player. It’s close.
In 1945, the great Babe Ruth advised Curt Simmons to give up pitching and concentrate on hitting full-time. Obviously Simmons didn’t listen, and two years later he was a great enough as a high schooler that he could garner a $65,000 signing bonus from the Phillies. He reached double figures in wins nine times in his twenty-year major league career. And for more evidence Ruth wasn’t right, see Simmons’ career SLG of .196.
Ezra Sutton, primarily a third baseman, played in both the first game in the history of the National Association in 1871 and the first game in the history of the National League in 1876. His argument for the HoME is that he was the third best third baseman of the nineteenth century. A strike against him is that he could have ranked as low as eighth. After his career, he began to suffer from locomotive ataxia, which made him unable to control his body’s movement. He eventually became paralyzed. The real tragedy occurred in November of 1905 when a lamp exploded while he and his wife, Susie, were eating dinner. Her dress caught on fire, she suffered severe burns, and Ezra could do nothing but watch. She died six weeks later.
Fred Tenney is one of two players in big league history with the same name. Oddly, both attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. This Fred Tenney was one of the greatest 1B ever to step on the field. He and shortstop Herman Long were said to be the first players to participate in a 3-6-3 double play. Oddly, if it weren’t for him, the infamous Merkle’s Boner play may never have happened. See, it was Tenney who should have been playing that day, but he missed his one and only game of 1908 that day due to back pain.
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 1978 election for more obituaries.