Year Inducted: 1969 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 317/340)
Player salaries today are huge, which is what a free agent market tends to do. No one should really begrudge a player for seeking out the highest bidder, as most people would do the same if that option was open. Still, baseball wasn’t always like that. In 1958, a player on the Cardinals hit .337/.423/.528, an impressive line made even moreso by the fact that he was 37 years old. The next season, he slumped badly to a line of .255/.364/.428. Most players would take it as a down year and try again the next season. Only one man would go to the team’s front office and ask for a pay cut, because he didn’t earn his pay. That was Stan Musial in a nutshell.
Year Inducted: 1942 (BBWAA, ballot #5, 182/233)
In 1921, the hit movie The Sheik debuted. It became such a hit that certain segments of the country became enthusiastic about things that sounded “Arabian”. The enthusiasm soon permeated baseball, where the top two hitters soon gained nicknames based on what was perceived as Arabian culture. One was, fairly obviously, Babe Ruth’s monicker the “Sultan of Swat”. However, over in the National League, the top slugger was nicknamed the “Rajah of Swat” was about to win the Triple Crown in 1922 with what was probably the best season ever experienced by a second baseman. That player was Rogers Hornsby.
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 #6, 136/161)
After winning the World Series in 1926, the Cardinals and Rogers Hornsby (their player-manager and best player) were in contract disputes. Hornsby wanted a new three year deal, while Sam Breedon and Branch Rickey wanted a one year deal to prove himself after an injury plagued season (and off field issues). At the same time, manager John McGraw of the Giants had a bitter falling out with his second baseman, so the teams agreed to a swap. That’s how the disgruntled Hornsby left St Louis. The player the Cardinals got for the best right handed hitter of all-time? Well, he just happened to do pretty well, too.
Year Inducted: 2002 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 433/472)
There are just some players that, on the surface, look like one-trick ponies. Players that are great at one aspect of the game, but tend to be mediocre at best with the rest of the game. For instance, a guy like Willie McCovey or Harmon Killebrew or Ralph Kiner or any big slugger will get a reputation as a guy that hits home runs but has a low batting average and poor base running abilities and is bad in the field. However, all of the named players also sport very high OBP’s, meaning that they were good at drawing walks and working counts. Similarly, players can get known only for their gloves like Luis Aparicio, despite also adding value as a great baserunner. Similarly, Ozzie Smith while being known for his glove, also added a lot of value as a hitter and baserunner.
Year Inducted: 1953 (BBWAA, ballot #9, 209/264)
Short careers can sometimes be tough to judge, particularly for pitchers. How does one compare a very brief career like Sandy Koufax to a very long career like Early Wynn? Wynn would beat Koufax in nearly any counting stat just due to the fact that he pitched longer, not necessarily because he was the better pitcher. With pitchers, a lot of counting stats, like losses, walks and homers, are negative so the longer pitcher picks up more positive value from stats like wins and strikeouts, but loses quite a bit due to nothing more than playing time. And yet, universally, Koufax is considered the better pitcher between the two, mostly because his name is associated more with dominance than Wynn’s name. Pitchers that have short careers, but are incredibly dominant, tend to be looked at higher than pitchers who pitch a long time and, to borrow a term from some of the BBWAA, are “compilers”. A classic case of this dominance would be Dizzy Dean.
Year Inducted: 2006 (BBWAA, ballot #13, 400/520)
The usage of bullpens have changed over the years. For many years, the bullpen was only there for mop up work if the starter just couldn’t go any further. Now, it’s not starters throwing the most high leverage innings but relievers. Initially, pitchers like Roy Face were dubbed “firemen” as they came out of the pen in stressful situations no matter the inning and pitched till the end of the game. One of the best firemen of all-time was Bruce Sutter.