Year Inducted: 1975 (Veterans Committee)
A lot of players that have short careers have trouble on this, don’t they? It’s tough to compare someone that played less than 15 years to one that played more than 20 and expect the shorter career to come out on top. What’s more, it’s tough sometimes for the shorter career, no matter how great it is, to get proper recognition from the Hall of Fame. Ralph Kiner was lucky he got in on his final ballot, Jackie Robinson barely squeaked in above 75%. Some players don’t get that lucky and have to wait longer to get in by the Veterans Committee like Earl Averill.
Averill played only 13 years, mostly in Cleveland, and put up some fantastic offensive numbers. He hit .318/.395/.534 for a wRC+ of 131. He hit 238 home runs, with 401 doubles and 128 triples during his career while driving in 1164 and scoring 1224. Despite only playing for the Indians for about 10 seasons, Averill still leads them in RBI and runs, is 3rd in doubles, 4th in HR, and 6th in OPS. He was a truly dynamic offensive player, despite not being a good base runner (-15 runs as a base runner in his career) nor a good fielder (-57 fielding runs).
His career stats don’t look special, and indeed players with longer careers have blown by his numbers. However, when compared to his fellow center fielders of his career, he really does shine. He hit more than twice as many home runs as the average center fielder in his career, as well as hitting about 100 more doubles accounting for his slugging to be 100 points higher than average. Averill was a truly powerful hitter, and a dynamic presence at the plate.
Averill suffers from one bad event, besides having a short career. In 1937, Averill was facing Dizzy Dean in the All Star Game. He lined a pitch off Dean’s foot, breaking Dean’s toe. This led to Dean altering his throwing motion, which led to him hurting his shoulder, which led to him ruining his career. It’s highly likely that the BBWAA held that against him when it came to Hall of Fame voting, leading to Averill saying that if he was elected posthumously that he didn’t want his name in the Hall of Fame. It’s unfortunate that it nearly came to that, as he was inducted 8 years before his death. Meanwhile, the Veterans Committee was busy inducting many, many, many, many lesser players. The politics behind the Hall of Fame voting, especially of the 1970s Veterans Committee, may be the most infuriating thing about baseball. The Hall of Fame has learned from those mistakes, and has taken good precautions with the new Eras Committees to ensure things like this never happen again.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 9/20/16 The Hall of Fame has 4 center fielders that played their entire career with one team. Three of them were Yankees. This was the fourth.