Year Inducted: 1972 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 344/396)
Most “experts”, when talking about baseball players, suggest that a player’s prime years start around age 26 and last until, at the latest, 33. Usually, a player has peaked about 30 and can maintain that level or close to it for another few seasons before they really start to decline. So then, what does that say about a player who threw his final pitch at the age of 30 and ended his career with fewer innings than Pedro Martinez? How can such a pitcher even be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Because Sandy Koufax was the best pitcher during his generation, and the greatest left handed pitcher ever.
Year Inducted: 1981 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 337/401)
Entrance into the 300 win club has been a gateway for induction for starting pitchers. That’s allowed for pitchers like Early Wynn and Tom Glavine to gain induction despite maybe not being the best pitchers of their time period. But, if 300 wins gets a player into the Hall of Fame, why is the average for Hall of Fame pitchers only about 271 not counting the relief pitchers? Maybe, at least in terms of the Hall of Fame, the BBWAA have been accepting the fact that a pitcher’s win total isn’t necessarily the be-all-end-all for judging a pitcher’s greatness. If it was, pitchers like Dizzy Dean and Bert Blyleven would never have been inducted, much less one of the most intimidating and dominating right handers of all-time, Bob Gibson.
Year Inducted: 1947 (BBWAA, ballot #4, 123/161)
Every year, after the World Series, the baseball world erupts in the same debate over and over again: What does the word “valuable” mean in the MVP award? For many old school adherents, the MVP must play for a playoff team as there isn’t value in being on a losing team. For many of the younger crowd, the MVP should go to the best player regardless of his team’s ranking. Occasionally, the thought of whether a pitcher should win the award comes up when there isn’t a stand out position player and that opens up another debate. Pitchers have been winning the MVP ever since it was first handed out, actually. Clayton Kershaw’s MVP in 2014 was the tenth won by a lefty pitcher. The first was by Hall of Famer Lefty Grove in 1931, the first year the MVP was handed out officially.
Year Inducted: 1947 (BBWAA, ballot #3, 140/161)
The All-Star Game can catapult a lot of great players to an even higher plane of fame. While the value has recently been diluted due to fan voting, there are still some excellent moments in All-Star history that have helped cement some players place in the Hall of Fame. Pedro Martinez’s mastery in the 1999 game in Fenway Park brought to the forefront an anecdote of an earlier game. In 1934, the AL team boasted a lineup that would make most pitchers cry. Ruth/Gehrig/Foxx/Simmons/Cronin were slated at 3-7 with Bill Dickey 8th and Lefty Gomez 9th. And, with the exception of Dickey, all of those batters whiffed against one of the toughest pitchers of all-time, Giants ace Carl Hubbell.
Year Inducted: 1984 (BBWAA, ballot #10, 316/403)
In the mid-1960’s, pitching was the name of the game, especially in the NL. The Giants had Juan Marichal leading their staff, the Cardinals had Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, but the toast of the NL rotations belonged to the Dodgers. For six seasons, Sandy Koufax became one of the most dominant pitchers in history, and he lead a formidable Dodger rotation to several NL Pennants and World Series wins. But, one pitcher alone cannot bring a team to glory. That required the help of his fellow Dodger ace, Don Drysdale.
Year Inducted: 1983 (BBWAA, ballot #3, 313/374)
There are some pitchers that, upon a look back people think “How did he not win a Cy Young Award/MVP?” Nolan Ryan never won a single Cy Young Award despite having one of the greatest resumes of all-time. Nor did Curt Schilling or some other great pitchers in their careers. Sometimes, like in the place of Schilling, it hurts their overall perception among Hall of Fame voters, while some like Ryan have enough credentials to overcome it. Some pitchers, like Juan Marichal, can be one of the greatest of their time and never win the Cy Young Award, and also not earn first ballot induction despite, once again, being one of the greatest pitchers ever.
Year Inducted: 1974 (BBWAA, ballot #2, 284/365)
The Yankees easily have the most Hall of Famers. Players like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth would have been Hall of Famers regardless of their teams, however. But, there have been a lot of players already covered here that wouldn’t have made the Hall of Fame had they not been on the Yankees during some of their glory years. Mostly, it’s been their pitchers. Pitchers like Red Ruffing, Herb Pennock and Waite Hoyt weren’t really among the greatest pitchers in history. In fact, only four pitchers for the Yanks can really be argued as to truly deserving of the induction. Jack Chesbro was a star of the early years, Goose Gossage was one of the greatest closers ever, and Lefty Gomez was a great pitcher in the 1930’s. But, who was the greatest pitcher to ever toe the rubber for the Yanks? Without a doubt, it must be Whitey Ford.