Year Inducted: 1992 (Veterans Committee)
Players who blossomed in the WWII years of the game used to be looked at with a certain stigma. With the country at war, and many great players drafted into service, those that stayed behind were either classified 4F or were too old. This led a lot of people to assume the talent pool was diminished, and therefore those players weren’t as good as they appeared to be. How else could the Browns win a World Series if teams weren’t at full strength? As time progressed, writers and historians started to overlook that stigma and realized that players from that time that were great deserve their proper recognition in the Hall of Fame. That’s why a player who dominated the game like Hal Newhouser did had to wait for many years to get inducted.
Newhouser was declared 4F by the military due to a heart defect, so instead of serving overseas he was allowed to continue to pitch back home. Newhouser spent most of his 17-year career with his hometown Detroit Tigers. According to Newhouser’s Hall of Fame page, minutes after signing with the Tigers the Cleveland Indians (whom he would play the final two years of his career with) showed up with a new car and bigger bonus but were just a little too late. And, instead of an epic rotation of Bob Feller, Newhouser and Bob Lemon, they had to settle for several great duels between Feller and Newhouser instead.
Newhouser was a strong pitcher, tossing nearly 3000 innings while earning 207 wins against 150 losses. Newhouser had an ERA of 3.06, struck out almost 1800 batters and had an FIP of 3.19. He finished his career with an ERA- of 76, lower than players like Carl Hubbell, Dizzy Dean and Bob Gibson.
Newhouser made plenty of enemies on the ball field when he first arrived. He came up as a 19-year old and his emotions would constantly get the better of him. Whenever he was pulled early or had a bad game, he would throw tantrums in the clubhouse, once even destroying an entire case of Coke by throwing each bottle against the wall. Eventually, he learned to harness his emotions and became a great pitcher.
The only real knock against Newhouser is his control, especially in his early years. Newhouser walked nearly 4 batters every 9 innings, accounting for his average WHIP of 1.31 despite opponents mustering an average of only .235 against him. His record suffers from some inconsistent Tigers teams, especially during the war when Hank Greenberg was deployed. Shoulder pain plagued a lot of his later years as well, giving him a fairly long decline period and limited how often he could pitch.
Newhouser was a top pitcher of the WWII years, dominating the league with a strong fastball and slider. His attitude and playing environment caused him to be overlooked by the BBWAA, but the Veterans Committee thankfully rectified that mistake in 1992.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 10/23/16: The Bosox have had 3 left fielders play their entire careers in the Hall of Fame. This was the one that hit right handed.