Election number nineteen brings a surprising six entrants into the Hall of Miller and Eric. We welcome Willie Mays, Art Fletcher, Mordecai Brown, Willie Keeler, Pee Wee Reese, and Joe Tinker. Congratulations all – from “Say Hey” and his first-ballot entry, all the way to Willie Keeler, who took 16 ballots to get here. With these six, we’re half way full at 106 of the greatest players in the game’s history. We have 106 more to go, and we fully expect our second half to be as exciting as our first half.
Per our rules, players have to be named on both ballots for induction. Shorter ballots certainly aren’t happening as we move to yearly elections. Notably, this is the first election where Miller put more names on the ballot than Eric. Here’s how we voted.
Miller Eric 1 Willie Mays Willie Mays 2 Art Fletcher Art Fletcher 3 Red Faber Pee Wee Reese 4 Mordecai Brown Mordecai Brown 5 Willie Keeler Willie Keeler 6 Whitey Ford Joe Tinker 7 Pud Galvin 8 Joe Tinker 9 Pee Wee Reese
The Class of 1979
Willie Mays: Mays is tied with Rogers Hornsby with seven seasons of other-worldly 10-win ball. The pair trails only Babe Ruth, and Mays has legitimate claim as the best CF ever considering his era and caliber of competition. You could go so far as to argue for Mays as the second greatest player in the game’s history. He could do it all on the field, as evidenced by his record-tying 24 All-Star Games. He was the quintessential five-tool talent. He could hit (12th in career base-knocks), hit for power (4th in career home runs), run (four consecutive NL stolen base titles), throw (4th in career assists for a CF), and field (he battles Tris Speaker, Andruw Jones, and Paul Blair for the title of best defensive center fielder ever). He has one of the game’s signature smiles, one of the game’s signature lines (Say Hey!), and one of the game’s signature catches. On his first ballot, of course, Willie Mays enters the HoME.
Art Fletcher: Few shortstops have ever picked it like Art Fletcher. He’s in the conversation with Joe Tinker, Ozzie Smith, and Mark Belanger for best ever at the position. He was smart at the plate, five times leading the NL in being hit by pitches. Well, maybe he wasn’t so smart. He wouldn’t take a walk. In fact, in 1916 he earned more free passes by being hit than he did by watching ball four pass. No matter, it’s his glove rather than his bat that gets him to the HoME, even though his bat was quite good for his position. With proper adjustments, we’re looking at a guy with a pair of MVP-level seasons and six more at the All-Star-level. After 13 times on the ballot, welcome to the HoME, Art.
Mordecai Brown had a bizarre nickname, “Three Finger,” for a guy with about four and a half fingers on his right hand. He may have been a little klutzy as a child, losing part of a digit in a thresher and breaking others purportedly chasing a rabbit, but he was often masterful as an adult. He led the NL in ERA in 1906, wins in 1909, and retroactively in saves from 1908-1911. He helped lead the Chicago Cubs to two World Series titles, pitching a shutout against George Mullin and Tigers to close things out in 1907 and throwing two outstanding innings of relief in the first game of the 1908 Series before shutting the Tigers out to win the fourth game as well. He was a fine starting pitcher and the dominant relief ace of his time. Combine 238 wins, being the stopper of a great early dynasty in the two-league era, having the seventh best ERA+ in history, and having more value than any pitcher in the game from 1905-1911 other than Christy Mathewson and Ed Walsh, and you have a deserving member of the HoME, even if it took him 14 ballots to get in.
Willie Keeler: “Wee Willie” was able to use his small, 5’4½” frame to do things that almost no other batsmen in the game’s history has been able to do. For over 100 years, his record of 206 singles in a season stood until it was beaten by Ichiro. He had a record eight straight 200-hit seasons, a mark Ichiro also broke. And his hits in 44 consecutive games to begin the 1897 season remain a record today. He won two batting titles and hit .341 in his career. His two hit titles led to 2932 total. He was truly remarkable at the plate, as his .383/.428/.480 line from 1894-1900 shows. Yes, his value was driven by his batting average, but it doesn’t matter how you get there but that you do get there. After 16 ballots, Willie Keeler has gotten there, into the HoME.
Pee Wee Reese: Reese started his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1940 and ended it with the Los Angeles Dodgers in their first year out west, 1958. He was a fine hitter for a shortstop, and he was a plus defender to boot. Known for his consistency, he was an All-Star every year he played from 1942-1954, and he finished in the top-9 in MVP voting on eight occasions. Looking at WAR, Reese played like an All-Star six years, and he was at 3.5 WAR or more five other times. Since it looks like there will be around 20 shortstops elected to the HoME before we’re through, Reese gets in as one of the 20 best shortstops ever to play the game. No, he wasn’t great at anything, but he did a lot of things pretty well, and those things push him over the line in his sixth election.
Joe Tinker: Many of us think of Joe Tinker as merely part of baseball’s most famous double play combination with Cubbie mates Johnny Evers and Frank Chance, forever immortalized as part of Baseball’s Sad Lexicon. At the very least, we should think of Tinker as the best of those three players. A spectacular defender, Tinker led his league in defensive WAR six times. He was second five other times, third once, and fourth once. Michael Humphries’ DRA credits him with saving more runs than any shortstop of the dead ball era, and calls him the fourth best defensive shortstop in history. While he wasn’t a great hitter in the first half of his career, he improved later, becoming at least formidable at the plate. And his adjusted WAR totals tell the story – an absolute superstar in 1908, and at or near an All-Star level nine other times during his 12 full seasons in the National League. Joe Tinker is deserving of his plaque, even if it took him ten elections to get one.
Each season, some guys are elected, while others receive votes from only one of us. For this election, and for the first time in HoME history, only Miller had solo votes. Below are the explanations.
Red Faber: This is the eleventh time I’ve voted for Red Faber. And though I’ve yet to be joined by Eric, HoME readers shouldn’t think we’re too far apart in our evaluations of the White Sox hurler. In fact, in the most recent shared iterations of our rankings, Eric’s numbers put Faber just four places lower than mine among eligible. But the fact that he’s not moving on Faber makes sense. Red had two seasons that were pretty great, two more that were very good, and nine more that were worth between 2.3 and 3.7 wins. For a guy who embraces peak, I can see keeping a vote from Faber. On the other hand, when I include my calculations of peak, I rank Faber as #50 all-time on the mound. I could see reasonable people using my numbers dropping him another ten spots, perhaps. But that would still get him into the HoME. While I don’t see Faber as any greater than I have in past elections, I’m as convinced as I’ve ever been that he’s over the line.
Pud Galvin: Eric kind of ignores career totals. Ty Cobb’s hits, Hank Aaron’s home runs, and Randy Johnson’s strikeouts are pretty awesome, but they’re HoME-worthy because of their tremendous value, not because of one great number. There was nothing magical about the day Craig Biggio stroked his 3000th hit that made him worthy of immortality. He’s either worthy with or without that hit. So I pretty much ignore career totals too. Except when I don’t. Sometimes they’re so huge or noteworthy that I have to take notice. Pud Galvin pitched over 6000 innings. Sure, many of them were in the days when pitchers just initiated action and let their fielders do the work. And sure, many of them occurred at a time when pitchers threw 500+ innings in a season. But he still did something other pitchers couldn’t accomplish. HoMErs Ed Walsh and Wes Ferrell pitched fewer innings combined than Galvin did. So did HoMErs Rube Waddell and Hal Newhouser. So did HoMErs Dazzy Vance and Sandy Koufax. My point is that some numbers are so outrageous that we should take notice and vote on their basis. Or we could just look at Galvin’s career value. Even with a ton of downward adjustment, I rank him #58 all-time. We’ll elect more than 58 pitchers. I feel good about the Galvin vote.
Whitey Ford: A number of weeks ago, Eric wrote a great piece about Ford, one that should have made all of us think about the Yankee lefty’s credentials. Before I get there, I want to mention that Ford got my vote for two reasons. First, I haven’t put together any hypothetical HoME that doesn’t have him in it. If we’re going with 60+ pitchers, one with his record has to be part of it. Second, even if you think he’s close to the line, his post-season accomplishments push him over it. Now, to Eric’s work. There’s a third reason I voted for Ford this election. I forgot what Eric wrote. Having reread it, I regret my Ford vote just a bit. I’m not saying that Ford’s not deserving; I’m just saying I’m not certain he is. Here’s why, just in case the link above is too far away to reach.
That’s all for our 1979 election. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.