Our 24th election, that of 1984, brought a couple of small surprises. We added two players to the HoME who had been part of our backlog for many elections – Joe Sewell in his sixteenth time around, and Bob Johnson in his fourteenth. With their additions, HoME membership is now up to 120 of the greatest players in the game’s history. We have 92 more to go. And since our next couple of elections won’t include many borderline candidates, I think we might be able to work on our backlog even more.
Per our rules, players have to be named on both ballots for induction. We have two five-man ballots this time, but our votes went in different directions.
Miller Eric 1 Red Faber Wilbur Cooper 2 Whitey Ford Dave Bancroft 3 Pud Galvin Billy Herman 4 Joe Sewell Joe Sewell 5 Bob Johnson Bob Johnson
The Class of 1984
Joe Sewell: Joe Sewell doesn’t scream HoMEr to many people, but consistent production at the plate and in the field over 14 seasons for the Indians and then the Yankees gets him in. He played primarily shortstop for his first nine years and then transitioned to 3B for final five. Two of the things that made Sewell shine so brightly were his durability and his ability to put bat on ball. From 1921-1929 he never played in fewer than 152 games, and his 1,103 consecutive games played were second at the time to Everett Scott’s record. Regarding putting the ball in play, Sewell was better than almost anyone ever. He once went 115 games without whiffing, and his one strikeout per 62.5 at-bats over his career is second only to Willie Keeler. A career line of .312/.391/.413 suggests that he was a good hitter. An OPS+ (OBP + SLG adjusted to ballpark) of 108 confirms that he was very adept for a shortstop. But about shortstops, we’ve discussed positional balance a lot around here, and it seems we have a bunch of electees at short. However, positional balance isn’t about hitting a quota, but about being sure that we don’t under-elect at positions out of ignorance of their rigors and historical circumstances. Shortstop happens to be blessed with a lot of strong candidates because it is where the best right-hand-throwing athletes play until it’s clear they can’t hack it there anymore. Thus more shortstops. Right field, left field, and first base are slugging positions that also support durability, and so there are lots of good, long careers there to honor too. So, with an MVP-level season in 1923, four more All-Star-level seasons, and two others worth in excess of four wins, Joe Sewell makes contact with the HoME in this, his sixteenth election.
In 1948 and 1956 a total of two writers voted for Bob Johnson to become a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Today two more have voted him into the Hall of Miller and Eric. Johnson was cursed by his manager preferring veteran Mule Hass, which kept him stuck in the minors for up to three years more than was necessary. He was cursed with the full complement of major leaguers returning to the bigs in 1946, thereby ending his career when he was still productive. In between, Johnson never disappointed. His WAR never fell below 3.0. Not once. He topped 20 homers each of his first nine seasons, and he drove in over 100 runs eight times. Johnson was also cursed by never playing for good teams – seven All-Star Games but never once in the World Series. Johnson’s profile benefits from little things – he drew 78+ walks on ten occasions; he was in the top-five in the AL in OF assists ten times. And because of a lack of play-by-play data during his time, much of the greatness of his arm may be undocumented in the numbers. Basically, he’s in on the numbers we know, and there’s only upside remaining in those we don’t. It’s that upside that provides a slight window of separation between him and nearby candidates Joe Medwick and Joe Kelley. Never so sexy but absolutely spectacular, we welcome Bob Johnson into the HoME in his fifteenth election.
Sometimes we don’t agree on who should get elected. When that happens, we explain our solo votes. And below both Miller and Eric do so for three players. Also below, Eric explains why he’s no longer voting for Roger Bresnahan.
Red Faber: For me, Faber is pretty easy. In this iteration of my mound numbers, the White Sox righty slots in at #50. If we’re just looking at career numbers, he’s #41. Like I said, pretty easy.
Pud Galvin & Whitey Ford: These two are somewhat harder calls. Galvin is #61, and Ford follows him at #62. Galvin has a bonus in his durability and Ford in his playoff work, but a reasonable person could see them on either side of the line. It’s not time to worry yet; Eric and I still have 30+ elections during which we can figure these guys out.
Wilbur Cooper: I rank him among Joe McGinnity, Sandy Koufax, and Mordecai Brown. Not as peaky as McGinnity and Koufax (or Rube Waddell for that matter), but not quite as flat as Brown (or for that matter fellow and nearby backlogger Early Wynn). He’s been comfortably within the mix for many elections, but I’m only now willing to pull the trigger.
Dave Bancroft: Beauty, Sewell, and Hughie Jennings are all still in the mix, and all bring strengths and weaknesses. Jennings is the one about whom I have the most doubt, so for now, he’s out. My system likes Bancroft a little better than Sewell, so he’s ranked higher this election. Ultimately, Bancroft has a couple fewer All-Star type years but a couple more productive years than Sewell. It’s splitting hairs.
Billy Herman: More split hairs. Same basic idea as with Bancroft except that Herman’s got three straight fringe MVP years, to Sewell’s one. Really, that’s how ridiculously close these guys are.
Eric’s Retracted Vote:
Roger Bresnahan: I may yet vote for Bresnahan again, however, I have decided to pull him back this time around pending ongoing research about whether the 1900s are overpopulated in the HoME.
That’s all for our 1984 election. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.