Year Inducted: 1990 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 411/444)
The 1950’s saw a few teams relocate to new cities. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved out west to capitalize on the new markets in Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectfully. The St. Louis Browns, a perpetually losing franchise stuck in a city that had a successful franchise already, moved out east to Baltimore and became the the Orioles. The O’s began building upon a solid core (including having both Brooks and Frank Robinson) in the 1960’s to become one of the top teams in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s American League. But, it wasn’t until one man began pitching that the O’s saw some dominance. That man was, of course, Jim Palmer.
Year Inducted: 1955 (BBWAA, ballot #16, 205/251)
Many players have a straightforward path to the Majors. Most will get drafted (or in the older days sign out of a semipro league), spend a couple of years in the minors crafting their skill and finally get called up to the majors. Sometimes they’ll sputter on first call-up and need some fine tuning, but usually after 3 years the player is fully adjusted and (if he is a Hall of Famer) dominating the league. Some players don’t have that path. Some may have the call-ups and sputters and demotions and seem to never really pan out. Some need a miracle. Legend has it that a poker game was the miracle for Dazzy Vance.
Year Inducted: 2007 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 532/545)
It’s always fun to see a player spend his entire career with one team, isn’t it? As fans, there’s nothing finer than watching a young player grow up in the team’s system, break out in the majors, play there for 20 years and then make it into the Hall of Fame. Other than hoisting a World Series Trophy, there’s no greater joy. Even for players like Ken Griffey, Jr that don’t play their entire careers with one team, they can become so incredibly linked that induction brings about euphoria. Such is the case of Tony Gwynn, the lifelong Padre.
Year Inducted: 2011 (BBWAA, ballot #14, 463/581)
There are some pitchers that become synonymous with a particular pitch. Classic examples include: Phil Niekro and his knuckleball, Mariano Rivera and his cutter, Bruce Sutter and his split finger, Pedro Martinez and his changeup and Nolan Ryan and his fastball. All of these pitchers, of course, are either in Cooperstown already or going to be in very soon. The curveball, according to lore, was first developed by Candy Cummings, and while many have thrown it very few have become linked to the pitch. The man who is most linked to the curveball is Holland’s own Bert Blyleven.
Year Inducted: 1991 (BBWAA, ballot #3, 334/443)
There are some players that have heart breaking stories; stories that make people cry and stories that movies should be made out of. Today’s pitcher lost his mother when she was 52, was divorced once, lost his second wife to an automobile accident, then lost his fiance to suicide while she also killed their 3-year old daughter. Through it all, instead of going clinically insane he dominated the game and became an ambassador for several charities and the first Canadian in the Baseball Hall of Fame. That man was Ferguson Jenkins.
Year Inducted: 1953 (Veterans Committee)
Baseball can sometimes be a battleground for race it seems. The first professional African American players (Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby) had to endure a ton of pressure and hate and played amazingly despite it. Go back even further in history, the first great Jewish sportsman (Hank Greenberg) went through similar troubles though not quite as severe. Even further back, Irish players like Hugh Duffy had to face racial angst. The country has had tenuous relations with all of those ethnicities, as they have with Native Americans. And, one of the first great Native American players was Chief Bender.
Year Inducted: 1994 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 436/456)
Money has long been the driving force of baseball. Before the banning of the Reserve Clause in 1975, players were on the short end of the stick. No matter how much a player liked or hated playing in a certain city, the rights to his contract belonged to the team even after its expiration. There was little guaranteed money tied up in contracts, so if a player was released he most likely got nothing. Lots of players, some stars some role players, would hold out at contract time to force the team’s hand. Most famously, players like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale once waited out most of Spring Training to get a raise from the Dodgers. Some owners were so cheap that if a contract dispute came up, no matter how great the player was, they would ship them off in a trade to lessen payroll. That is why, instead of twenty years of a dream rotation with him and Bob Gibson in St. Louis, Steve Carlton moved on to Philadelphia and cemented his Hall of Fame legacy there.