Not everyone is good enough to be enshrined in the Hall of Miller and Eric – only the 212 best ever to play the game. And it’s that time in the election cycle again where we determine that there are certain players who will never receive our vote for the HoME. We pay tribute to those near-greats through these obituaries. And to make our process going forward 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 eighteen elections complete, we’ve elected 100 and put to rest 286 others. You can read more about the dead below and by looking over our RIP category. We now have 358 players to consider for our 112 remaining spots in the HoME. In other words, we can elect over 31% of those who remain.
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 1978 78 6 84 5 12 67 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 1978
Don Buford was a serviceable infielder/outfielder for the White Sox and Orioles for the decade from 1963-1972. Three times leading the league in caught stealing, Buford was also willing to take a walk, turning a .264 batting average into a .362 career OBP. And he holds a couple of interesting distinctions. He’s the hardest hitter ever to double up, grounding into one every 138 at-bats. And he’s the first player, later joined by Dustin Pedroia to homer to lead off a World Series. Tom Seaver gave up this noteworthy homer in 1969.
A slugging 1B who knew how to take a walk, Dolph Camilli has much of the profile we’re looking for in a HoMEr. During his peak, from 1936-1942, he trailed only Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize, Mel Ott, and Arky Vaughn in value. But that was essentially it for Camilli. He totaled only 3.3 additional WAR in his lifetime. On a positive note, he did record the last out of Babe Ruth’s career. On a less positive one, he retired as the all-time NL strikeout leader (since passed by many). And on a really negative note, his brother, Frankie Campbell, died after a 1930 boxing match with Max Baer.
Smiling Stan Hack was a third baseman for the Chicago Cubs from 1932-1947. He led the NL in hits and stolen bases twice each, and he was named to five All-Star teams. For the 40 years from 1919-1958, there wasn’t a more valuable 3B in the game. Indeed, 3B was a bit of a black hole in terms of greatness until the days of Eddie Mathews, who took the title from Hack in 1959 and held it until Mike Schmidt. Hack was a fine player, but the depth of the position since around 1960 has been very impressive. While he was the best of his era, that’s a bit of faint praise.
At the time of his retirement, Waite Hoyt was the winningest pitcher in World Series history. Since passed by Whitey Ford for that distinction, Hoyt won 237 games in his career, including an AL-high 22 for the juggernaut Murderers’ Row Yankees of 1927. The next season he won 23 games and led the AL in saves. Some of his best pitching came in his first World Series in 1921. He hurled three complete games for the Yankees on their way to an eight-game loss against the Giants. Hoyt didn’t give up an earned run in the Series, but he did lose the deciding game after a Roger Peckinpaugh error allowed a run to score in the first and Giant hurler Art Nehf shut out the crosstown rival Yanks.
With a career record of 194-183, it’s hard to see just how talented a pitcher Larry Jackson was. Today, Jackson would make $12.5 million per season as a third starter workhorse who could throw 200+ innings. His 24 wins for the 1964 Cubs led all of baseball and helped him finish second to Dean Chance in the Cy Young voting. Perhaps his career highlight was earning a hold in the 1957 All-Star Game, one of four such games in which he pitched, where he retired the likes of Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, and Al Kaline.
Carl Mays is the only pitcher ever to kill a batter with a pitch. Mays wasn’t generally considered a friendly guy, and hitting Ray Chapman in the temple with a pitch in 1920 certainly didn’t change that reputation. Mays, of course, said hitting Chapman was an accident. Not helping Mays’ argument was an incident with Ty Cobb five years earlier when he was said to have thrown at Cobb’s head each time the Georgia Peach stepped to the plate. Mays was a talented pitcher, winning at least 20 games five times and leading the AL in victories with the 1921 Yankees. Perhaps his career highlight was winning the two games Babe Ruth didn’t, including the clincher, to help the Red Sox win the 1918 World Series.
Known for having one of the game’s greatest double play pivots, Bill Mazeroski put in seventeen seasons at second base for the Pirates, and he was rewarded for his career by being inducted into the Hall in 2001. This wasn’t the wisest selection. Over-evaluation of a player’s glove can make that happen. Also at least partially to blame is one of the most important hits in the game’s history. Maz had the first walk-off home run to end a World Series and the only one ever in the seventh game. The Yankees had tied Mazeroski’s Pirates in the ninth inning of the deciding game, but up stepped Maz against Ralph Terry in the bottom of the ninth. And the rest is history. Some mistaken history. If you listen to Pirate radio announcer Chuck Thompson’s call, you’ll hear him mention Art Ditmar as the pitcher who surrendered the home run. In fact, Ditmar was warming in the pen.
Known as “The Apollo of the Box” because of his good looks, Tony Mullane was ambidextrous and pitched both lefty and righty in the same game at least three times. After playing for four teams in his first four seasons, he was suspended by the American Association in 1885 for jumping from team to team. It would seem he learned his lesson, as he moved to Cincinnati the next year and remained there until an 1893 trade to Baltimore. In spite of not staying in one place for too long, Mullane is the career leader in wins and shutouts in the AA.
Herb Pennock is in the Hall of Fame. He shouldn’t be. But there was an election in 1948 just weeks after his early death due to a cerebral hemorrhage. The lefty did win 241 games and posted a 5-0 record and 1.95 ERA in 55.1 World Series innings, but he’s kind of similar in value to Brad Radke. Notably, only he Bert Blyleven, and Mike Morgan won games in the majors in their teens and in their forties.
For a guy known for his personality on the diamond, Dizzy Trout doesn’t have a whole lot of interesting trivia connected to him. In 1943, he led the AL with 20 wins. The next season, he took home an ERA crown and won 27 games without managing to lead the league – teammate Hal Newhouser won 29. In 1951 Trout tied for the AL lead in losses with 14. He and the five other ALers who lost 14 that year set a record for fewest losses by an AL leader in a non-strike year. And with only 22 starts that season, it’s likely Trout holds that record as well.
With 307 career victories, Mickey Welch is the winningest pitcher who we’ve killed. To be honest, Welch was a product of the times much more than a result of greatness. He led the league in winning percentage in 1885, going 44-11 for the New York Giants. Otherwise, his only other Black Ink is consecutive walks “titles” from 1884-1886. Overall in 1884 and 1885 he was quite valuable. He was also decent in 1880 and 1881 plus 1886-1890. But that’s it, just decent. Overall, he’s a decent amount like Mickey Lolich – very good, just not good enough.
When Maury Wills, mainly a Dodger shortstop, set the single-season stolen base record in 1962 (later broken by Lou Brock and then Rickey Henderson), he wasn’t just fast, he was SB-Ruthian. He stole 104, and no other team in baseball that year topped 99. Wills took the NL MVP that season even though Willie Mays, as he was nearly every season, was likely the Senior Circuit’s best player. He was also awarded the first ever All-Star MVP that season when he singled, stole a base, and scored two of the three NL runs in a 3-1 victory over the AL. Wills would win six stolen base titles in all, and he’s #20 on the all-time list.
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 1979 election for more obituaries.