Year Inducted: 1982 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 406/415)
Bobby Thompson is forever known as the player that hit the “Shot Heard Round the World”, a home run to win the 1951 NL Pennant for the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers on the last game of the season. Three years later, Thompson found himself on the Milwaukee Braves. In Spring Training of 1954, Thompson broke his leg. While he was sidelined, the Braves decided to give one of their young players a chance in the outfield. Twenty years later, that player stood taller than anyone ever thought possible as he passed Babe Ruth for career home runs.
Year Inducted: 1978 (BBWAA, ballot #5, 301/379)
To borrow a phrase from the Bible, it might be easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than the BBWAA elect a third baseman to the Hall of Fame. At least, that was true until the 1970’s. From the opening of the Hall of Fame until 1977, the BBWAA had elected a total of one third baseman into the Hall of Fame, Pie Traynor in 1948. During that timespan, even the Veterans Committee didn’t elect many third baseman. The only ones to make it were Jimmy Collins (1945), Frank Baker (1955) and Freddie Lindstrom (1976). That all changed with the emergence of one man-Eddie Mathews.
Year Inducted: 2014 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 555/571)
How great does a player have to be to have a stat named for him? Nolan Ryan threw seven no-hitters, but a no-hitter isn’t called a “Ryan”. Roger Clemens had two 20-strikeout games, but that occurrence isn’t called a “Clemens” either. And yet, rather colloquially, when a pitcher throws a complete game shutout with fewer than 100 pitches, he is credited with a “Maddux”. It’s named for when Atlanta Braves ace Greg Maddux threw such a gem against the Orioles in 1998, and one that he did 13 times in his illustrious career.
Year Inducted: 2015 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 455/549)
Pitching is one of the most unnatural motions ever devised by man. And, in this era when pitchers throw with max effort, it is even more unnatural. This is why it seems like Tommy John Surgery is on the rise across baseball. Tommy John usually requires at least one full year to physically recover from, and then time for the pitcher to regain consistency in his delivery and stamina in order to become an effective pitcher. Even as routine as it seems to have become, many pitchers still fail to return to full strength and the loss of at least one season makes it difficult for them to gain the career numbers needed for induction. He won’t be the only one, but the first pitcher to have Tommy John Surgery and gain induction was Atlanta’s ace John Smoltz.
Year Inducted: 1973 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 316/380)
Baseball is, by tradition and almost seemingly by definition, a game passed down from father to son. That’s how most kids learn to play the game, including several Hall of Famers. The story of Mickey Mantle’s father and grandfather teaching him how to switch hit is legendary. Sometimes, all a father has to do is build a mound in the backyard and teach a tall lanky lefthander how to pitch and use a windup to add deception. That is where the great Warren Spahn started his career.
Year Inducted: 1949 (Veterans Committee)
Does it really come down to luck? Is it possible the only thing that gets players into the Hall of Fame and makes them immortal is simply the winding of fate? Is that the only thing that prevents some of the older players from being recognized, while lesser players have been inducted? Baseball experienced a boom in popularity in the early 1900’s thanks to the newspaper industry. Now, more than ever, people were not just going to games, but also reading about them and the players. This happened right around 1905, and most players from before then were very quickly shoved further and further back in the collective conscience. One of the ones who suffered the most from this was Kid Nichols.
Year Inducted: 1945 (Veterans Committee)
In the 1800s, the Boston Braves employed a pair of outfielders who were dubbed the Heavenly Twins. Both of these players were of Irish-Catholic decent from New England families who employed speed as a primary weapon. The two became good friends over the years and help popularize certain styles of play, such as the hit-and-run. Interestingly enough, both made it to the Hall of Fame. Having already covered Tommy McCarthy in many previous posts, it’s time to look at the other half of that dynamic duo-Hugh Duffy.