Year Inducted: 1992 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 425/430)
The Mets managed to beat the odds in 1969 and win the World Series. They were dubbed the Miracle Mets because merely 7 years prior, they had lost 120 games and were the joke of baseball. But their fortunes changed forever three years prior to that. In 1966 the Braves scouted, drafted and signed a young right-handed pitcher from USC. There was only one problem; due to a technicality, the young pitcher’s contract was voided. The Mets were one of three teams along with the Phillies and Indians to be placed into a lottery for the young man’s services. The Mets won the 2 to 1 shot, and rode Tom Seaver to glory.
Year Inducted: 1999 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 491/497)
Longevity, as stat inflating as it may be, is a very undervalued skill, both when it comes to the Hall of Fame and baseball in general. It’s impossible for a player to be able to do anything if he isn’t on the field. That’s the primary thing keeping players like Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker and Bobby Grich out of the Hall of Fame-injuries limited how often they could play for a good part of their careers. The baseball season is also a giant grind, and being able to answer the bell when it’s his turn adds value to a player. Longevity can come at a price, as the longer a player plays the more likely he is to be an average or below average player, but only the truly best can last out a season for 20 or more years. Having said all that, who showed more longevity than Nolan Ryan?
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: 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: 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.
Year Inducted: 1991 (BBWAA, ballot #3, 342/443)
The spitball has been an officially banned pitch in the Major Leagues since Burleigh Grimes’ retirement in 1934. However, players are always pushing their boundaries and trying to gain whatever edge they are able to-legal or otherwise. There was a point of time in the 1960’s that umpires, executives and even the Commissioner himself wanted to lift the ban on the spitball due to its difficulty to police. By some accounts 50 or even more pitchers were accused at one point or another of doctoring the baseball in the 1960’s. But, none of them were as good as Gaylord Perry.