The Lucky 39
Hall of Fame Picks:
Some Great Ones
And Some Questions
John B Holway
After waiting for up to half a century, some of North Americas greatest ballplayers at last stand on the doorstep of the Hall of Fame.
Jud Wilson, whose .367 lifetime average makes him the Ty Cobb of the Negro Leagues, tops an outstanding list of black stars, who have been nominated by a special committee to enter the hallowed Hall next July.
Mule Suttles, black baseballs third-ranking home run slugger, who might have broken Babe Ruths 60-mark if he'd been given the chance, will no longer have to stand outside knocking on the door. Mules longest drive, a measured 598 feet in Havana, was a full 100 feet longer than Barry Bonds longest.
William Bell and Ray Brown, who won almost as many games as Satchel Paige but lost a lot less, should get their plaques at long last.
Biz Mackey, called by many the best defensive catcher who ever lived, should join Johnny Bench and Mickey Cochrane looking down from the wall of champions.
Cubas Cristobal Torriente and the smooth shortstop, Dick Lundy, will surely join them.
Owners Cum Posey and July Wilkinson, who built two of the most powerful dynasties the game has ever seen, are also on the ballot and should be elected
The five-man committee did a splendid job recognizing these and many more giants of the game.
But it also made some curious choices, naming sentimental favorites that pushed more qualified men off the ballot. This was a sad waste of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
First, lets look at the good
news. The top eight position
players nominated filled in the last missing blanks in the list of black
stars before Jackie Robinson.
Over 2,000 at bats
Hall of Famers
Hall of Fame
Ab Ba psn combined* Study
Jud Wilson 4037 .367 if .350
John Beckwith 2257 .354 c, ss .349 .349 among HR leaders
Josh Gibson 2857 .353 c .358 .359
Turkey Stearnes 3795 .351 cf .346 .345 (tops in HR)
Oscar Charleston 4949 .349 cf,1b,p .349 .348
Bullet Rogan 2088 .347 p,of,2b .350 .338 (2nd in pitching wins)
Pop Lloyd 3144 .344 ss,1b .347 .343
Mule Suttles 3202 .343 of,1b .334 #3 in HR
Buck Leonard 2178 .343 1b .336 .320
Cristobal Torriente 2761 .341 of, p .343 22-11 as pitcher
Cool Papa Bell 4757 .326 cf,p .337 .317
George Scales 2804 .326 if .311 among top 10 in HR
Fats Jenkins 2555 .325 of .324 .325 speed
Biz Mackey 3998 .320 c,ss .327 great defense
Red Parnell 2307 .319 of .312
© 2006 John B Holway. May not be used without permission of the copyright holder.
Dick Lundy 3008 .306 ss .306 .306 great defense
Vic Harris 2583 .306 of, mgr speed, great manager
Dewey Creacy 3328 .302 3b top 10 in HR
Willie Wells 3910 .301 ss .311 .319
Oliver Marcelle 2494 .298 3b .306 great defense
Newt Allen 3914 .295 2b .292
Sam Bankhead 2212 .292 ss,cf,p .316 1st black mgr in minors
Judy Johnson 3721 .284 3b .292 .293
Red Parnells .319 average is not Hall of Fame calibre, yet he took a possible slot away from the fiery team leader, Vic Harris.
Under 2,000 at bat
When the committee named men with under ten years service, it opened the door to controversy. With a few exceptions, such as pitcher Addie Joss, the Hall sets a ten-year minimum.
In a shocking violation of the rule, the committee named the popular Minnie Minoso, who played only two seasons in the black leagues before moving to the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. It was an obvious ploy to put Minnie in the Hall when his .296 big league average had kept him out for years.
This may be the most egregiously poor choice in the 70-year history of Hall of Fame voting, which has been tainted by many other examples of favoritism. Even if the larger voting committee rejects him in (unlikely), Minnie has taken one of 39 valuable spaces away from some other candidate, who earned it more than he did.
The committee, which rewarded Minosos two-year .293 average,
turned its back on Chino Smiths six-year .420, Artie Wilsons .378, Pancho Coimbres .367 Heavy Johnsons .365, etc.
Ab BA psn years combined Study
Chino Smith 902 .420 of 6 .388
Larry Doby 581 .384 2b 4 .292 .307
Artie Wilson 859 .378 ss 5 .369
Dobey Moore 1759 .371 ss 7 .361 .344
Bob Boyd 226 .369 1b 3
Pancho Coimbre 496 .367 of 4 .356
Heavy Johnson 1728 .365 of 7 .364
Rap Dixon 1847 .361 of .341
Lazaro Salazar 691 .361 1b, p 6
Monte Irvin 1063 .356 ss 8 .296 .358
Jimmy Austin 718 .352 ss 4
Tetelo Vargas 537 .352 of 8 .297
Charlie Blackwell 1941 .348 of .332
Willard Brown 1488 .344 ss, of .351 top 10 in HRs
Sam Jethroe 1390 .341 of 7 .300
Ray Dandridge 1034 .338 3b,2b 8 .324 .315
Huck Rile 1336 .337 if, p .335 49-30 as pitcher
Alejandro Oms 1321 .329 of .338 .320
Bill Wright 1412 .326 of .342
Ed Wesley 1814 .320 1b .324 among top ten in HR
italics -- played in major leagues
Rev Cannady 1861 .315 ss,2b
John Donaldson 922 .313 p,of
TJ Young 1023 .307 c
Jim Taylor 1145 .298 3b .300
Buck O'Neil 1123 .297 1b 8 3 years in Navy
Sammy T Hughes 1620 .294 2b .297
Minnie Minoso 291 .293 of 2 .296
Bill Perkins 1533 .290 c .309
Pelayo Chacon 1388 .290 ss .276 father of Elio
Martin Dihigo 1901 .280 all psns .292 .307
Ed Wesley seems to be particularly victimized.
Donaldson spent several years with white semipro teams, where historian Phil Dixon reports he compiled an impressive strikeout record.
I suspect that Candy Jim Taylor was nominated in order to have three Taylor brothers in the Hall. Manager C.I. is legitimate and deserves to be elected. However, Bens lifetime .309 is low for a first baseman. And Candys credentials are even more suspect.
The committee was selected because it had just completed a major statistical study of the 1920-48 era. In fact, the nominations were held up until that was finished. But the Hall ignored its own rationale for waiting, when it instructed the group to nominate men from the pre-1920 era also.
Dick Clark and I had done the stats for the Macmillan Encyclopedia, but Clarks fellow committee members apparently didn't consult them.
My conclusion is that the newspaper record is too skimpy to be meaningful. And when adequate statistics do exist, they don't confirm the reputations. I concede that the dead-ball era depressed Negro League batting statistics more than whites, but I recommended that the choices be limited to owners and managers.
Doc Wiley 319 .320 c .320
Louis Santop 1120 .311 c .298 power unconfirmed
Ben Taylor 2974 .309 1b good defense
Spot Poles 577 .305 of .317 great speed
Grant Johnson 293 .294 2b .323
Pete Hill 1818 .276 of .289
Frank Grant minor league data only
Bud Fowler minor league data only
Sol White pioneer executive
C.I. Taylor mgr
Poles was the early Cool Papa Bell. He and Hill both hit well against white big leaguers. Poles was 21-for-42, Hill 27-for-73 (.370).
At first base the popular and well-loved Buck O'Neil, 94 years old, was nominated, though an unsentimental look at the numbers shows that Edgar Wesley and others were unfairly passed over.
Lazaro Salazar 691 .361 1b, p
Ed Wesley 1814 .331 1b among HR leaders
Tank Carr 2769 .319 1b
Jim West 2744 .297 1b great defense
Buck O'Neil 1123 .297 1b 3 years in Navy