2016 Veteran’s Committee

The Veteran’s Committee failed to elect anyone into the Hall of Fame this year, although they had plenty of worthy candidates. Whenever the Committee is handed a ballot, only ten former players/managers/executives are listed, and this year listed were:

Doc Adams, who, as someone that pours over baseball history, I, admittedly, know very little about. Clearly I wouldn’t have placed him on a ballot I drafted. (2) Sam Breadon, who was the Cardinals’ magnate when they were the cream of the National League during their Gashouse Gang days and World War II era dynasty. (3) Bad Bill Dahlen, the greatest shortstop, and perhaps infielder in general, not in the Hall of Fame. For you WAR buffs, his lifetime WAR exceeds the almighty Derek Jeter (4) Wes Ferrell, a surly starting pitcher with a terrific winning percentage in the high-offense 1930s. (5) Garry Herrmann, former Cincinnati magnate who owned the Reds when they beat the Black Sox in the 1919 World Series. (6) Marty Marion, a slick-fielding shortstop who won an MVP Award during the war years. (7) Frank McCormick, a hard-hitting first baseman for the Reds prior to World War II. (8) Harry Stovey, the five-tool superstar of the long forgotten American Association, who held the all-time homerun record for a spell. (9) Chris Von der Ahe, the colorful owner of the American Associations’ greatest team, the St. Louis Browns, who is widely regarded for introducing beer sales to the game and (10) Bucky Walters, a solid pitcher of the 1930s who was a converted third baseman.

Among the group offered, I would cast a vote for Bad Bill Dahlen without any hesitation; how he keeps getting left out of the Hall of Fame is a great mystery. Sam Breadon would also get my vote. His Cardinals teams were always in the thick of things and they brought home many pennants during his tenure. Harry Stovey would also get my final vote. There may never have been a better five-tool star in the game’s history than Stovey. He could steal 100 bases a season and lead the league in homeruns.

When I first saw the Veteran’s Committee ballot I was a little taken aback. For one, I never expected to see a name foreign to me on any baseball Hall of Fame ballot, but Doc Adams hearkens back to pre-organized days. He came before Spalding, McVey, Anson and Deacon White. He came before Dickey Pearce, Nate Berkenstock, Dick McBride and Davy Force. I was very much pleased seeing his name on the ballot—it gave license to researching, and I adore research about as much as anything.

Three names were rather shocking to see on this ballot: Garry Herrmann, Frank McCormick and Chris Von der Ahe. There was a rather heavy Cincinnati Reds bias on this veteran’s ballot, with Walters joining Herrmann and McCormick as men whose ties are primarily to the Reds. Herrmann hasn’t much business on the ballot, in my opinion. He owned the Reds from 1902 to 1927. They won one NL pennant in that span, under Miracle Man Pat Moran, with far more second division finishes. In 16 of those seasons, the Reds finished fourth or worse in the standings—there were only eight teams in each league then. There are many, many more deserving candidates than Herrmann that could have been placed on this ballot. Sam Breadon, by contrast, won nine pennants with the Cardinals—he’s on this ballot legitimately. Frank McCormick is another head-scratcher: he was a fine ballplayer, but he played first base in the era of Foxx, Gehrig, Greenberg and Mize, and was nowhere near as good as them. He wasn’t much better, if any better, than Hal Trosky and Dolph Camilli, who also played first base in his time. McCormick had three real good years with the Reds when they were contenders prior to World War II. If Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy’s windows of excellence were too narrow for HOF voters, than McCormick hasn’t much business on a ballot such as this.

Chris Von der Ahe is one of the most interesting characters in the history of baseball, and I’m actually inclined to vote for him, but having done quite a bit of research on the former Browns owner, I’m still not certain if he was the game’s preeminent dunce, or a shrewd businessman. He loved his Browns, even if most people connected to the game thought he didn’t know a baseball bat from an officer’s cudgel. He was boisterous, a show-boat unrivaled and made headlines more for the things he said and did than for anything smacking of baseball acumen. About his entrance into baseball, J.B. Sheridan wrote, “Von der Ahe knew nothing of baseball. He knew a lot about beer. He found out that the sun and heat and hollering at baseball games made spectators thirsty. So he thought that baseball was, like pretzels, salt crackers and politics, an excellent stimulant of thirst. He became interested in baseball as a side issue. It was akin to the lunch counter at his saloon. It made people buy beer” (Ogden Standard Dec 30, 1916).

If I were delegated to create a list of ten pre-integration baseball figures for the Veteran’s Committee, Bill Dahlen would assuredly be on it, as would Sam Breadon and Harry Stovey, but I’d probably leave off the rest. I’d much rather see someone like Al Reach, whose contributions to the game of baseball are more known, and hence greater appreciated than Doc Adams. Early manager Jim Mutrie might make my list, or his Giants owner John B. Day. Reach’s business crony and former Athletics magnate Ben Shibe seems to me more deserving of consideration than Herrmann, as does Charles Stoneham and John Brush, who owned the Giants during the heyday of John McGraw. Pitcher Jim McCormick would have been a much wiser McCormick to have placed on this list than former Reds first baseman Frank. Where’s Buddy Myer, the old Senators’ second baseman, who if it weren’t for Charlie Gehringer, would be regarded as the best second baseman of his time. And while we’re on second basemen, how about Cupid Childs, Laughing Larry Doyle and Fred Dunlap? Pete Browning would be another ideal selection; the old batting champion of the now defunct Louisville Colonels.

There were some terrific players who had their careers cut short by World War II, unlike Marty Marion and Frank McCormick, who played through the fighting. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it is seeing Frank McCormick on this ballot. Cecil Travis and Dominic DiMaggio were stellar players who missed sizable portions of their careers, prime years, mind you, to service during WWII, and lesser lights like Marion and McCormick are on this ballot. Where’s curveball wizard Tommy Bridges, the former ace of the Detroit Tigers teams of the 1930s, who was a superior hurler to Wes Ferrell? A couple shortstops from the 1800s, Ed McKean and Jack Glasscock might make my list, as would some pre-World War I first basemen like Jake Daubert and Stuffy McInnis; maybe even Fred Tenney. Where’s George Van Haltren? Has time done away with John T. Brush, a magnate during the AL/NL wars? Nick Young presided over the National League for many years as president and was a charter member of the game’s organization. Few men loved the game like Uncle Nick.

I’d like to see an old catcher like Jack Clements or Deacon McGuire get some exposure to the Veteran’s Committee, and truth be told, third base is lacking representatives in the Hall of Fame, although the Veteran’s Committee has a handful of worthy men to analyze: Bill Bradley, Harlond Clift, Lave Cross, Larry Gardner, Heinie Groh, Willie Kamm, Ned Williamson, and one of my personal favorites, Smiling Stan Hack. Cy Williams was a terrific outfielder in the days of Babe Ruth, as was Ken Williams. Sherry Magee had his name on this ballot a few years ago, and Indian Bob Johnson would be a worthy selection as well. Babe Herman and Riggs Stephenson, two hit machines, used to get their names bandied about a lot among Hall of Fame enthusiasts. And pitchers like Bob Shawkey, Hippo Vaughn, Will White, Urban Shocker, and others could have made this list also, perhaps more deserving than the two hurlers they selected: Ferrell and Walters. Let’s not forget the Negro League stars like Dick Lundy, Spot Poles, Buck O’Neil and Newt Allen; it would also be nice to see on this ballot old umpires like Tim Hurst, Beans Reardon and Honest John Kelly.

As you can see, the task of compiling a list of ten is an endeavor of immense difficulty, and I pity the men that had the task. I really don’t like the Veteran’s Committee system; choosing ten individuals for selection, but that’s the method the Hall of Fame has adopted, and until something better is presented, that’s just the way it is.

1 comment
  1. Don said:

    Great analysis of veteran’s committee candidates. Just discovered your website this morning. It is fantastic.

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