Man, this is fun! Election #37 adds three more members to the Hall of Miller and Eric. Dwight Evans makes it his first time around. Bill Freehan gets in after 16 elections. And Billy Herman makes it after 26. Herman, of course, is in the Hall. The Veterans Committee honored him in 1975. Freehan and Evans, on the other hand, haven’t gotten close. Evans saw just three ballots, peaking at 10.4% in 1998. And Freehan saw just one ballot. The same number of voters found him worthy as found Jim Brewer worthy – just two. Now, they’re all in the HoME.
Through the 1997 vote, we’ve elected 154 of the greatest players in the game’s history, or about 73% of our final total. We still have 58 more to elect through 2014, which means over 32% of the remaining players still up for discussion will eventually find spots in the HoME.
Seven different players earned votes this election. Miller gave votes to three Eric didn’t, and Eric supported one Miller didn’t. Since players have to be named on both ballots to gain induction into the HoME, some will be back around next election. Let’s look at how we voted in 1997.
Miller Eric 1 Dwight Evans Dwight Evans 2 Red Faber Bill Freehan 3 Whitey Ford Dave Bancroft 4 Don Sutton Billy Herman 5 Billy Herman 6 Bill Freehan
The Class of 1997
Dwight Evans: Dewey started relatively slowly, putting up just about 25 WAR through his age-28 season. But then his BB rate moved from about 10% to about 15%, and his game overall moved up a notch. He had his best two seasons in ’81 and ’82 and could easily have been named the 1981 AL MVP in the year he tied for the league lead in homers. One thing that sets Evans apart from many is his excellent late-career play. He totaled another 25ish WAR from age 32-37. Evans was known for his incredible arm in right field, and that reputation was deserved. He made only three All-Star teams, which seems about right. But he had 13 years of 3-win play. Even at a position as deep as right field, there are only nine other guys who can say that. And only Willie Mays can say he had more hits, hit more homers, drew more walks, and won more Gold Gloves than Evans. Only Mays. Significant? Probably not. But it’s food for thought.
Bill Freehan: Catchers who can hit don’t come around very often. In fact, there are only 17 ever with at least 1500 hits and 150 homers. Catchers who can hit and field come around even less frequently. Of those 17 catchers, only Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez can match Freehan’s five Gold Gloves. As an 11-time All-Star, Freehan dominated the AL at his position. In fact, he was the league’s most valuable catcher other than Yogi Berra for about 40 seasons from the middle of Bill Dickey’s career until the middle of Thurman Munson’s. In his 16th year on the ballot, Freehan finally makes it into the HoME.
Billy Herman: Second baseman Billy Herman was a fine defender who possessed a more than capable bat. He’s a ten-time All-Star for the Cubs and Dodgers who was the NL’s top second baseman for half a century (1925-1974) other than Jackie Robinson. Herman owns a doubles title and a triples title. He led the NL at his position in putouts seven times, double plays four times, and assists three times. And his DRA was among the ten best in the NL four times. He gets into the HoME in part because of what we see as a small advantage in career WAR over the likes of Bobby Doerr, Jeff Kent, and Cupid Childs. It may have taken 26 tries, but William Jennings Bryan Herman is a HoMEr.
Since seven different players received votes this election, but only three of them were supported by both of us, we have some solo votes to discuss.
Red Faber: At 28 votes and counting, I kind of think I’m becoming part of the Faber family. And I’ll admit to being totally out of new things to say. Except for this one thanks the Play Index at BBREF. In the 80 years of baseball from 1902-1981, only Walter Johnson has more pitching WAR among AL righties than does Faber. Seriously. I’m going to type it again. For 80 years of AL baseball, he was the best righty pitcher by pitching WAR aside from Walter Johnson. He’s an easy call.
Whitey Ford: It’s tie-breaker time. Playoffs count. But even without the post-season, Ford looks good to me. Just messing around with the BBREF Play Index again, he’s one of only 13 pitchers since 1901 with 40 WAR, 40 shutouts, 220 wins, and a 120 ERA+. I know that doesn’t mean anything. I’m just sharing something I found. Again, I’m just being silly, but over the same period of time, with 50 WAR and 40 shutouts, a 120 ERA+, and fewer than 120 losses, it’s Ford and Koufax. That’s it. Again, it’s significant of nothing, just fun.
Don Sutton: You want the list of all pitchers who beat Sutton in wins, strikeouts, and shutouts? Here it is. (No, I didn’t forget to include the list).
Dave Bancroft: An MVP-type year, four solidly All-Star years, a near-All-Star year, three other years of 4.0-plus wins, two half-years at that same pace, and one year as an average regular. At this juncture, I’ll take it.
Thanks for checking out our 1997 election. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.