Originally published December 7, 2015.
Today, the Veteran’s Committee once again failed to induct anybody. This year, it was the “Pre-Integration Era” panel doing the voting. That in itself is a bit of a problem, as (despite the name) it only focuses on the white portion of the pre-integration days, under the logic that Sol White and other deadball-era Negro Leaguers went in during a special election. This, along with the fact that these guys are long, long dead, have made some people call for the end of this “era” in the Hall of Fame voting.
I can definitely see the reasoning, and it definitely needs to be changed, but the idea that everyone from the ancient days of baseball who is worthy is in the Hall of Fame is flawed. Yes, 95% of fans would have no idea who they are, but that isn’t a reason not to include them.
- Doc Adams helped make baseball as we know it…. baseball as we know it. He even created the position of shortstop. Him not being in the Hall of Fame is sad, a result of not having good publicists like Alexander Cartwright had and more research coming into focus over the years after the time where there would have been people who remembered him.
- Bill Dahlen had a 42-game hit streak, was among the leaders in most offensive categories at his retirement, and was one of the better defensive shortstops of his day.
- Wes Ferrell, one of the few players on the Pre-Integration Ballot who was entirely in the 20th century, has one of the best JAWS scores by pitchers not in the Hall of Fame, and also has the record for most HRs by a pitcher in a career (non-Babe Ruth category, obviously).
- Harry Stovey was one of the few players of the 19th century who could be called a power-hitter, hitting 122 career HRs, becoming the first player in history to have 100, and at one point holding the single-season HR mark (with 14).
- And, finally, there’s Pete Browning. Pete Browning is like my pet overlooked 19th-century ballplayer. Browning’s career .341 batting average is 13th overall, and was one of the greatest hitters of the American Association and the short-lived Players League. Also, he is indirectly responsible for the creation of the Louisville Slugger, as he went to Hillerich and Bradsby for custom-made bats after one of Hillerich’s bats helped him break out of a hitting slump in 1884. Browning, amazingly, didn’t even appear in the latest VC ballot. This- and the fact he isn’t in already- probably came about because his best years came in the American Association and Player’s League, not the National League, and history, as they say, is written by the victors.
So, I say get those guys in… and then drastically change how this is done:
- Make it open to Negro Leaguers as well. Yes, the 2006 inductions did a great job bringing in some of the older Negro League greats from before integration, but there is no reason why they shouldn’t still be considered.
- Make this committee a less-common occurrence. Have it every six years, instead of every three years. Allow the “Golden Era” and “Expansion Era” votes be more common to make up for the difference.
- Either make the committee entirely made up of just experts of the era, or have a slightly lower threshold for election.
So, yeah, that’s what I think.