Year Inducted: 1985 (Veterans Committee)
When Honus Wagner retired in 1917, there was a giant hole on the left side of Pittsburgh’s infield. How does a team replace a legend, and the greatest ever? And once a player is put into that position, how can he possibly expect to exceed? With constant comparisons to his predecessor, that new player must have to possess nerves of steel and be able to tune out all of that talk. It took the Pirates more than 10 years to find a suitable replacement, but once Arky Vaughan came around, the team and fans were finally satisfied.
Vaughan played for only 14 years in the Majors and spent most of that time with the Pirates. In his career, Vaughan hit .318/.406/.453 with a 133 wRC+. Vaughan was one of the most well-rounded shortstops ever; he had a high OBP along with a high average; he hit for power (356 doubles, 128 triples and 98 homers); he did a good job of both driving in (926) and scoring runs (1173); he was an excellent base runner (+19.9 runs) and a great fielder (+108 runs).
Vaughan was probably remembered for more than just being the next shortstop after Wagner. After being traded to the Dodgers before the 1942 season, Vaughan switched to third base and remained productive. However, during the 1943 season Dodger’s manager Leo Durocher called out Bobo Newsom, one of the Dodgers pitchers, in the newspapers for insubordination. Vaughan, who was always a team-first player and very quiet, became irate at this incident and stripped off his uniform and threw it in Durocher’s face (along with a recommendation of where to shove the uniform). Vaughan was eventually cooled and brought back to the team by GM Branch Rickey and finished the year there. At the end of the season, Vaughan basically quit the team for three years until Rickey asked him to come back in 1947. Vaughan returned as a part-time player and had one great season (1947) and one poor season before retiring for good.
Vaughan was one of the top shortstops of all-time. Upon his retirement, he ranked 4th in fWAR (with 600 fewer games than all three above him), 2nd in wRC+ to only Wagner, 1st in OBP, 2nd in batting average, 3rd in slugging and 7th in base running runs. Why did he have to wait for so long? Well that incident between him and Durocher didn’t help things, and along with a short career (no milestone numbers like 3000 hits), it wasn’t a good combination. Vaughan’s decision in 1985 is tough to call a great decision by the Veterans Committee. On the one hand, he absolutely should have been inducted (and the BBWAA never gave him more than 30% of the vote) and it was a good move correcting that mistake. However, by the time Vaughan had fallen off the ballot and hit the Veterans Committee in the late 1960’s, the Veterans Committee began a long run of terrible choices for induction and overlooked Vaughan as much, if not more than, the BBWAA (at least they were inducting players like Ted Williams and Bob Feller while Vaughan was on the ballot). Well, in the end it doesn’t matter as Vaughan is right where he belongs.
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