Year Inducted: 1978 (Veterans Committee)
Many rules about Hall of Fame voting have changed over the years. Time on the ballot, number of ballots and the amount of time after retirement for a player to go on a ballot have all been modified since the first ballots were cast in 1936. And yet, one thing to stay constant over the years was the length of a career. In order for a player to be voted upon for the Hall of Fame, he must have played for 10 seasons in the Major Leagues. The Hall of Fame, for extreme circumstances (Lou Gehrig’s early retirement due to ALS, Roberto Clemente’s sudden death, etc.) has passed resolutions to bypass their voting requirements in the past due to tragedy, but that usually happens instantly. Addie Joss, however, had to wait for more than 65 years following the end of his career to be considered for induction.
Joss’s nine seasons were spent pitching for Cleveland (then dubbed the Naps). In his brief career, Joss tossed over 2300 innings. He won 160 games against 97 losses and his ERA was a dazzling 1.89. He struck out 920 batters and walked 364. Joss pitched primarily in the Dead Ball Era, but rarely got burned by a home run. In his 2300 innings of work, Joss gave up only 19 home runs and in two of his seasons he gave up no home runs whatsoever.
There is no denying that Joss was a dominant pitcher, and all the evidence points to it. His ERA ranked 3rd all-time at his retirement (behind two active pitchers in Walter Johnson and Ed Walsh). His WHIP is still the best of all-time at 0.97, and as mentioned before he had seasons where he wouldn’t allow a home run.
Unfortunately, illnesses robbed him of his life. In Spring Training of 1911 he collapsed on the field from the heat. After a stay in the hospital, he still wasn’t feeling well and so stayed with a doctor while the team prepared for the season. He was diagnosed with pleurisy and tubercular meningitis, and died very shortly thereafter. It was one of the earliest tragedies in baseball.
As mentioned before, the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors passed a resolution to consider Joss for induction by the 1978 Veterans Committee, which promptly elected him for the Hall of Fame. There’s no denying that Joss was one of the top pitchers of the early era, and his life ending so suddenly makes his induction at least palatable. It probably should have happened sooner, but a great career was still recognized among the immortals at last.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 10/19/16: Another reliever, this one was known for his curly mustache.