Year Inducted: 1936 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 189/226)
The Washington Senators were renowned for being the worst team in the American League during most of their existence. As many people said, they were “First in war, first in peace and last in the American League.” That’s why there are so few of their players in the Hall of Fame, especially considering that they have existed since the beginning of the American League. If a team is poor, the players won’t get as much recognition. This was especially true during the newspaper era of sports reporting. However, the Senators had one thing going for them in the early years of the game. They had the greatest pitcher of all-time, Walter Johnson on their team.
Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
The Dead Ball Era has seen its fair share of great pitchers. Christy Mathewson, Pete Alexander, Walter Johnson are the most famous, but there are many other great pitchers of that time as well. Guys like Chief Bender, Eddie Plank and Mordecai Brown were also tremendous pitchers as well. Before that period, the game was dominated by pitchers like Cy Young and Tim Keefe. Still, none of them have the record for the lowest ERA of all-time. That record belongs to White Sox ace Ed Walsh.
Year Inducted: 1938 (BBWAA, ballot #3, 212/262)
There is no bigger stage in sports, with the exception of the Super Bowl, than Game 7 of the World Series. And, success on the biggest stage can pay off dividends for a player’s career as they get the permanent label of “clutch” applied to them. With his performance in the 1991 World Series, Jack Morris nearly gained entry into the Hall of Fame even though he was a merely very good pitcher. Likewise, Game 7 of the 1960 World Series catapulted Bill Mazeroski into the Hall of Fame, and years in the future Ben Zobrist’s performance in this past World Series could see him get some votes or even a push from the Veteran’s Committee. A big performance in a big game can cover up an entire career’s worth of work. For some players like Maz and Morris, that’s a good thing. For other’s like Pete Alexander, it overshadows what can be considered one of the greatest pitching careers of all-time.
Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
It’s tough to be a big league player, that’s why the Minors exist. Unlike football or basketball, where college is a good prep for a pro-career, the talent gap between MLB and College Baseball is way too wide for most players to make a complete transition. However, that never stopped people from trying. Connie Mack and the A’s signed a pitcher out of Gettysburg College who had yet to play in the Minor Leagues but had attended an academy with instructors like Ty Cobb to a contract and tryout in Spring Training, and the legend of Eddie Plank was born.
Year Inducted: 1949 (Veterans Committee)
It seems like, ever since the Cubs won the World Series this year, there’s no escaping them. And, to be honest that’s a good thing. The Cubs championship was historic, and it’s good for baseball to have the World Series title bounce around a little bit, instead of dynasties forming strong holds on it. But, and this may surprise a lot of people, they have won the World Series before. Twice, in fact. In the late 1900’s, the Cubs were poised to become a dynasty. They had a strong double play combination and one of the best pitchers of all-time anchoring their staff. That was, of course, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.
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: 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.