Year Inducted: 1939 (BBWAA, ballot #4, 213/274)
The Dead Ball Era was not necessarily a point of terrible offense for Major League Baseball, just a point in time when there was relatively little power. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t some great hitters of that era, rather the great hitters of that time were some of the best ever. Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were the greatest hitters of that time, but both finished with more than 100 career homers. The one player that best epitomized that era, where slap hitting, line drives and excellent base running were the keys to winning, was Eddie Collins.
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: 2014 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 478/571)
Baseball loves its number clubs, doesn’t it? The 300 win club, 3000 strikeout club, 500 home run club, and others are used as benchmarks for greatness. However, there is one club that relatively few people talk about: the .300/.400/.500 club. In all of baseball history, roughly 20 players have maintained a .300 batting average, .400 OBP and .500 SLG for their entire careers. This is a feat that legendary hitters like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio haven’t accomplished. Not surprisingly, most of them are in the Hall of Fame that are eligible (Joe Jackson was part of the Black Sox Scandal and Lefty O’Doul only had 3000 plate appearances so he should be disqualified), or will be in the near future (with the possible exception of Manny Ramirez). One of the most overlooked players of this club is Frank Thomas.
Year Inducted: 1964 (BBWAA, ballot #7, 189/201, runoff)
In 1962, the Hall of Fame welcomed two of the greatest players of all-time into their wings: pitcher Bob Feller, and second baseman Jackie Robinson. Both players, in addition to being statistical greats, were instrumental in shaping the culture of the game as well as the Hall of Fame itself. Upon gaining induction, Feller wrote a piece in The Saturday Evening Post where he campaigned for three players to be inducted. One was Satchel Paige, who would become the first Negro League player inducted in the following decade. Another was Red Ruffing, inducted within the next two ballots. The third was inducted on the following ballot, Chicago White Sox shortstop Luke Appling. A fair question to ask is, why did the writers fail to induct Appling sooner?
Year Inducted: 1985 (BBWAA, ballot #8, 331/395)
The bullpen, historically, was a place to put pitchers that could still get hitters out, but not at a high enough rate to be a starter. Some would view it as an insult, others would view it as a demotion, but some would do whatever it took to make it in the Major Leagues. Most of the time, especially in more recent years, when a pitcher comes out of the bullpen he looks like he is throwing with more velocity than if he were to start. This makes some intuitive sense since the pitcher doesn’t need to worry about pacing himself and can just “let it fly” as the kids say. But, the first successful reliever was not a hard thrower at all. No the first successful reliever relied upon a knuckleball that he would perfect and throw until he was nearly 50. That man was Hoyt Wilhelm.
Year Inducted: 1984 (BBWAA, ballot #4, 341/403)
Shortstops need to be able to field their positions. Had Derek Jeter not been the offensive monster that he was, he’d have been playing another position long before he made the majors. A great defensive shortstop is always valuable, no matter if it is a time of high offense or low scoring. As such, it is shocking when some great defensive shortstops get overlooked, like Luis Aparicio.
Year Inducted: 1997 (Veterans Committee)
The city of Chicago certainly has had luck with double play tandems and the Hall of Fame, haven’t they? Not only was a poem written about them, but the Cubs’ Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers both received the call for the Hall of Fame in the same year (along with first baseman Frank Chance), despite all 3 possibly not being the best choices for induction. Likewise, on the other side of the city and 50 years later, the Chisox had their own double play tandem that would eventually be inducted. At the keystone position was today’s entry, Nellie Fox.