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1999, RIP, Obituaries of Players We're No Longer Considering

RIP, Players Falling Off the 1999 Ballot

Kiner Microphone

We’ll miss you, Ralph.

Obituaries are often sad. Not these! Today we kill off nine players, including one of my all-time favorites. Writing these obituaries means we’re on step closer to filling the Hall of Miller and Eric (or at least knowing who won’t be getting in).

It took some tim in both of their cases, but today we’re killing our 52nd and 53rd Hall of Famers, Ralph Kiner and Enos Slaughter. And we’re also killing two players whose cases we’ve reviewed in each of our first 39 elections, Joe Start and Ned Williamson.

At the start of our project, we had 744 players in our database for review. In 1999 we inducted George Brett, Carlton Fisk, Nolan Ryan, and Robin Yount. That means we’ve elected 162 of the game’s greats in our 39 elections. And now we’re up to a robust 427 obituaries. That means we have 156 players to review for our 50 remaining HoME spots. Right now we can elect just over 32% of the remaining population.

Below is the tally from each election since our first in 1901.

Year   Carried     New      Considered   Elected   Obituaries  Continuing to
         Over    Nominees  this Election                       Next Election
1999      30         9          39          4           9           26
1998      33         9          42          4           8           30
1997      40         3          43          3           7           33
1996      42         7          49          4           5           40
1995      41        11          52          4           6           42
1994      38       8+1          47          3           3           41
1993      41         9          50          3           9           38
1992      40        10          50          3           6           41
1991      40         9          49          1           8           40
1990      42         9          51          3           8           40
1989      45        10          55          6           7           42
1988      44         7          51          2           4           45   
1987      44         3          47          0           3           44
1986      44         4          48          1           3           44
1985      47        10          57          1          12           44
1984      50         5          55          2           6           47
1983      52         8          60          5           5           50
1982      51         8          59          3           4           52
1981      59         8          67          1          15           51
1980      59         8          67          3           5           59
1979      67         6          73          6           8           59
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 1999

John CandelariaKnown as “The Candy Man,” John Candelaria was quite a talented pitcher for about four seasons, including a 7-win 1977. And he was a mediocre pitcher for another fifteen seasons, winning a total of 177 games along the way. The most important work of his career came in Game Six of the 1979 World Series. With his Pirates trailing the Orioles three games to two, Candelaria pitched six shutout innings in front of Kent Tekulve, and the Pirates pulled even one night before they’d go on to win the World Series.

Brian Downing, 91I think Brian Downing is one of my favorite players of all-time. That’s because about a decade ago Eric paid me a compliment saying that Downing is the baseball player I reminded him of. I though Downing was a forward-thinking guy who worked his butt off and got everything he could out of his talent. Nicer words could hardly be said about a person. Downing spent much of his early career as a catcher and later developed into a power-hitting outfielder. At age-30, his career high in homers was 12; he had only one time hit over 10. From age-31 on, for eleven years, he never failed to reach double figures and smacked 20 + six times. Downing also drew a bunch of walks, converting a career .267 batting average into a .370 OBP. Jim Rice easily beats him in their five peak seasons. Rice also leads at eight and ten seasons. But Downing begins to close the gap at ten. At twelve seasons, the gap is only about 2-WAR. And by season 15, Downing takes a 3-WAR lead. For their careers, with all of the adjustments I make, Brian Downing beats Jim Rice by nine WAR. And don’t think it’s bias in my adjustment that holds Rice back. By straight BBREF WAR, Downing wins 51.4 to 47.4.

Ralph Kiner, 1951Ralph Kiner may or may not have said, “Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, and singles hitters drive Fords.” What we do know is that with seven consecutive home run titles to start his career, Kiner is easily the most powerful slugger who’s received an obituary from us. In addition to those HR titles, Kiner won three SLG titles, three BB titles, and one title each in R, RBI, and OBP. Kiner’s problem as it relates to gaining a HoME plaque is that he played only ten seasons. Two were great, three others very good, and four others not without value, but there’s just not a lot of depth to his career. Maybe one day we’ll elect Kiner as a combo candidate when we consider his announcing career. But for now, to paraphrase Kiner, he’s gone. Goodbye.

Charlie LeibrandtChange up artist Charlie Leibrandt won 140 games over his 14-year big league career. As a rookie, he got the Opening Day start in Cincinnati in 1980, and he pitched a five-hitter. Overall, Leibrandt was a fine pitcher, looking like an All-Star on three occasions. At his peak from 1985-1988, only Roger Clemens and Teddy Higuera had more value on the mound among AL hurlers. But he wasn’t great in the playoffs, going 1-7 in 13 games including allowing Kirby Puckett’s 11th inning walk-off in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series.

Dale Murphy Atlanta Braves August 9, 1982 x 27192 credit:  Manny Rubio - assignThe 1982 and 1983 NL MVP and one of the game’s great guys, Dale Murphy was indeed a superstar at his best. He was probably one of the game’s ten best in the 1980s. And for six seasons he played like an All-Star. That’s a height matched by only 14 other center fielders in history. However, Murphy’s career was really little more than those six seasons, totaling just 8.5 WAR in his other 12 campaigns in the majors. He reached a high of 23.2% of the vote on the second year of his Hall of Fame ballot, and there was a fairly serious campaign for him toward the end. But the voters got it right. Murphy deserved his 15 years of consideration. But the seven-time All-Star and winner of five Gold Gloves didn’t deserve to get in.

Enos SlaughterCardinal great Enos “Country” Slaughter might be best known for his Mad Dash against the Red Sox in the seventh and deciding game of the 1946 World Series. Slaughter was off with the pitch, Harry Walker hit what some called a single and the game’s official scorer called a double, and Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky may or may not have held the ball. Whatever the case, Slaughter’s Cards took the lead on his dash and finished off the Series one inning later. But this dash is far from the only highlight of Slaughter’s career. He got to ten All-Star Games, led the NL in triples twice and doubles, ribbies, and total bases once each. Capping off an impressive career, the Veterans Committee elected him to the Hall in 1985. The Hall of Miller and Eric doesn’t have a Veterans Committee.

Joe StartKnown as “Old Reliable”, Joe Start was born before Alexander Cartwright “invented” the game of baseball. He first began playing for the Enterprise club of Brooklyn in 1860 in the National Association of Base Ball Players. After a successful eleven seasons in Brooklyn, all but the first for the Atlantic club, Start became the first baseman for the New York Mutuals when the National Association began. He went on to play sixteen years in the majors after eleven in the NABBP, and he was the game’s oldest player for the last nine seasons of his career.

Ned WilliamsonA third baseman, mainly for the National League’s Chicago White Stockings, Ned Williamson became baseball’s single season home run champ when he hit 27 long balls in 1884, most in Chicago’s tiny Lakeside Park. Babe Ruth topped Williamson’s total in 1919, but it’s that 1884 season that let Williamson remain on our ballot for so long. Maybe it shouldn’t have. The National League was in full effect that year. The American Association was in its third year. And the Union Association had their one and only campaign as a “major” league. Because talent was diluted, there were many players in 1884 who put up incredible numbers. Overall, we might see six All-Star-level seasons when looking at his career. But there are only eleven seasons that have any value at all. There are going to be many, many close calls as we narrow our lists. Williamson is narrowed now.

Mike WittIn the mid-1980s, Mike Witt was a fine pitcher. Overall he won 117 games, made two All-Star teams, and finished third in the 1986 AL Cy Young voting. As an Angel, he won the opener of the 1986 ALCS against the Red Sox. And his signature game was a perfect one, the eleventh in the game’s history, on the final day of the 1984 season.

That’s it for our 1999 election. Please check out our Honorees page to see the plaques of our four new members and all of the HoMErs. And check back here after the 2000 election for more obituaries.




2 thoughts on “RIP, Players Falling Off the 1999 Ballot

  1. I was a big Murphy fan, but I reluctantly agree with your choice. I do think you should reconsider Start once you’ve finished your 2015 vote and begin to look at Negro Leagues, contributors, pioneers, etc. I wish the real Hall would take another look at him as a pioneer.

    Posted by verdun2 | December 29, 2014, 8:55 am
    • Start certainly isn’t off our radar. That he lasted for 39 elections certainly says something. And you’re right that he adds value as a pioneer. He’ll absolutely continue to get consideration.

      Posted by Miller | December 29, 2014, 9:10 am

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