The Veteran’s Committee, this year, will focus on players that debuted before World War II. Their latest of countless alterations mandates that the Veteran’s Committee will only focus on ten individuals from the pre and post WWII era, with the eras under scrutiny flip-flopping ever year. Next year, they will analyze the merits of players who debuted after World War II. That being said, this year’s ballot lists a number of names modern fans have never heard of, but some who have legitimate cases for enshrinement. The list is as follows:
Sam Breadon: St. Louis Cardinals owner during famous Gashouse Gang days.
Bad Bill Dahlen: legendary shortstop of the Deadball Era
Wes Ferrell: pitcher during the rock ’em sock ’em prewar days.
Marty Marion: Cardinals shortstop noted more for defense.
Tony Mullane: forgotten pitching star of the late 1800s.
Hank O’Day: well-respected umpire who worked for 30 years.
Al Reach: early baseball pioneer best known for producing the famous “Reach Guide.”
Jacob Ruppert: Yankees owner from 1915 to 1945–responsible for bringing Ruth to New York
Bucky Walters: Reds ace during their heyday prior to WWII.
Deacon White: early baseball ironman who caught and played third base.
Of this group, had I a vote (there are 16 former players, executive and historians that have a vote on the Veteran’s ballot), I would certainly cast one for Dahlen, whose exclusion from Cooperstown is absurd. He is the only person on this ballot that I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for. However, given Ruppert’s ten championships at the helm of the Yankees, he most certainly should be in the Hall of Fame with the likes of Tom Yawkey. Deacon White deserves serious consideration and the more I analyze the old star, the more I support his enshrinement. Tony Mullane and Sam Breadon I am iffy on, as well as Hank O’Day–there aren’t many umpires in the Hall, so O’Day would be a good fit. Tim Hurst was an early umpire worth looking at too.
Albert Reach might be the most interesting person on this ballot. A former outfielder/second baseman, Reach hit .353 the first year baseball was organized, but his numbers fell off drastically after that. Reach isn’t on the ballot for his playing, however, for the man is best known as a baseball pioneer, much in the fashion of Al Spalding. Reach opened a sporting goods store in 1874, which was the largest such company in the States until he merged with Spalding. He nevertheless continued to published his famous “Reach Guide,” an indispensable booklet for the baseball fanatic. Reach and chum Ben Shibe, another baseball pioneer worthy of serious Hall of Fame discussion, created the figure eight pattern used on baseballs since the covering originally employed failed to protect the ball. About designing the figure eight pattern, Reach said, ““There were two manufacturers of reputation when I began to play ball in the fifties—Harvey Ross, of Brooklyn, and John Van Horn of New York. The cover they made was of horsehide, but a different design was used. Their design, a sort of clover leaf, left a weak spot where the ends of the cover were stitched together. It was usually there that the cover ripped off during a hard game, for we had heavy hitters in those days. After the ball with the new design appeared the ‘figure eight’ soon became the standard recognized all over the country” (Sioux City Journal, 8-09-1925).
Reach deserves serious consideration for what he meant to the game during its infancy. Of the remaining group, Bucky Walters was a very good pitcher, and pitched in a hitter’s era, as was Ferrell, but there are better pitchers from that era, such as Tommy Bridges and Charlie Root, who should have made this ballot instead of them. Ferrell has his supporters, but his peripheral stats are atrocious. For a man who never pitched on a pennant winner, he certainly has a very good record, with a winning percentage slightly over .600, but Ferrell’s WHIP is abysmal; he never once finished in the Top Ten in his league in that important category. Ferrell chewed innings (but who didn’t during that time?), but the fact that he coughed up more hits than innings worked while also issuing more walks that strikeouts he racked up, means Ferrell has little business on a Hall of Fame ballot. He was usually among the league leaders in hits allowed and walks issued–two stats you don’t want your name mentioned in. Ferrell led the league in hits allowed three consecutive seasons–he is not a Hall of Famer.
Marty Marion is another suspect selection since there are dozens of players who played before WWII that were quite better than him. A tall, slender shortstop, Marion wasn’t the hitter that shortstop peers like Appling, Boudreau, Johnny Pesky and Cecil Travis were, but his glove kept him around. His claim to fame is winning the MVP in 1944 while a member of the World Champion Cardinals, but Musial, who won the honor the year prior, was clearly the heart and soul of that club. A career .263 hitter, Marion once led the league in doubles and was a good man for a sacrifice, but his worth was with the leather. An elite defensive shortstop, Marion, offensively speaking, doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the four aforementioned players. The Hall of Fame has always placed a premium on offense, which is why Marion’s inclusion on the ballot is a tad strange. However, there are much better all-round players from the prewar era not on the ballot who should be there instead of Marion. Buddy Myer comes to mind, as does Lave Cross and George Van Haltren. Cy Williams, Jake Daubert, Ed McKean, Jack Glasscock, Heine Groh… I could go on and on, would make for better selections than Marion. Marty Marion was a good ballplayer, one of the best defensive shortstops off all-time, but to place him on a list of the the best ten former players and executives of the prewar era is asinine.
That’s my two cents, feel free to cast two copper pieces of your own.