Year Inducted: 1936 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 215/226)
In 1896, future Hall of Famer Ed Barrow was the owner of several Minor League teams, including one in Pattersonville, PA. It was there that he had a young shortstop who he thought belonged in the Major Leagues. So he called Fred Clarke (whom Barrow discovered) and Barney Dreyfuss (the owner of the Louisville Colonels) to come and scout this player. What the two men saw was a stocky, awkward looking player that they didn’t think would stick. However, the scout they brought with them said that he should be offered a contract, and soon Honus Wagner embarked on the greatest career of any shortstop in history.
Year Inducted: 1973 (BBWAA, ballot #1, special)
When a player gets induction into the Hall of Fame, it should be a time of great joy for his team, the sport and all of baseball. When that player is from a foreign country, it should be even greater as he has become an ambassador for two nations. And when that player so perfectly embodies the character clause in the induction guidelines, it should be a great celebration. And yet, it can sometimes be a source of great mourning for everyone if that player isn’t here to see it. It’s even harder when he dies due, not to an illness or act of violence, to giving his life in service to help other people. That was Roberto Clemente.
Year Inducted: 1952 (BBWAA, ballot #6, 195/234)
Baseball has a lot of milestone clubs. Pitchers have the 300-win club and 3000-strikeout club, while hitters have the 500-homer and 3000-hit clubs. These cherished milestones are ones that all players strive to achieve in some way, shape or form, but they have recently lost a bit of luster (especially for the 500-homer club). And, every player in each of those groups can be put into one of a few categories: the absolute legends (Ruth, Young, Johnson, Cobb, Mantle, etc.), the so-called compilers (Glavine, Wynn, Galvin, Brock, etc.), and the infamous ones that baseball may or may not want to remember (Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Rose, etc.). However, a fourth group comes to light, a group of forgotten legends that seem to have slipped the public’s mind because they weren’t “absolute legends” like Ruth, nor were they infamous like Rose. And, probably the headliner of that group would be Pirates right fielder Paul Waner.
Year Inducted: 1985 (Veterans Committee)
When Honus Wagner retired in 1917, there was a giant hole on the left side of Pittsburgh’s infield. How does a team replace a legend, and the greatest ever? And once a player is put into that position, how can he possibly expect to exceed? With constant comparisons to his predecessor, that new player must have to possess nerves of steel and be able to tune out all of that talk. It took the Pirates more than 10 years to find a suitable replacement, but once Arky Vaughan came around, the team and fans were finally satisfied.
Year Inducted: 1945 (Veterans Committee)
In the last five years, teams have somewhat shifted away from hiring older, more experienced managerial candidates in favor of younger minds. The Cardinals hired Mike Matheny without any managerial experience, Detroit hired Brad Ausmus, and the recently resigned Walt Weiss and Robin Ventura in Colorado and Chicago, respectively, were all picked over older, possibly more qualified people. While all of these choices were younger, they each came with a wealth of baseball experience and were recently retired from the game. They weren’t 24 years old and playing Left Field in the few years before the Dead Ball Era like Fred Clarke was. Clarke was one of the first, and reportedly most successful, “boy managers” in baseball, managing for 19 seasons while patrolling left field for 21 years. Clarke has a good record as a manager (4 Pennants, 1 championship, 1600+ wins), but had credentials as a hitter, too.
Year Inducted: 1971 (Veterans Committee)
There are some players that always stand the best of time. If the names of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb or Tris Speaker were dropped in most baseball circles, everyone involved would know who they are and why they are important. Some players don’t have that staying power, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are themselves great players. Some, like today’s player Jake Beckley, get inducted into the Hall of Fame long after their deaths, and the common thought when they get inducted is “Who was this guy?” Thankfully that gets lessened some in this age of information, but back when Beckley finally gained induction, many people didn’t have that luxury and his selection was initially met with confusion. However, when people actually looked at the information, they saw someone that was truly worthy of induction.
Year Inducted: 1975 (BBWAA, 15th ballot, 273/362)
This is a picture of Forbes Field, where the Pirates played baseball from 1909-1970:
To give some perspective, it was over 400 feet to the left-center field power alley, and originally 365 feet to straight away left field, and a 12 foot high wall circled the outfield. Its center field became known as Death Valley, more than 450 feet from the plate. With such a cavernous park, it’s no wonder that Willie Stargell was excited to move to the much less spacious Three Rivers Stadium in 1971. It’s also a miracle that a guy like Ralph Kiner could become as successful as he was by hitting a ton of home runs at this park.