No baseball topic generates more thought and emotion than the subject of its pantheon, the Hall of Fame. This guy should be in. This guy should be out. There is no ultimate right or wrong. The best you can ask for is some logic.
Rod Carew, Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Tony Lazzeri and Bill Veeck went in last weekend. Let them rest. Let their relatives and friends bask in the glory. We shall leave them alone for the time being and instead turn our attention to a dozen men worthy of someone's consideration.
Did I say a dozen? Yup, 12. My original intention was to campaign for five. A bit of research demonstrated clearly that there are a good many more deserving candidates than just five. My opinion is that most of these men are not just equally deserving, but in some cases far more deserving than some already enshrined (Eppa Rixey, Jess Haines, Elmer Flick, Fred Lindstrom, Rick Ferrell, for example).
Let us proceed.
12. Carl Mays (1915-29) -- With a basically unassailable record (208-126, 2.92) that easily eclipses the contemporary logs of enshrinees Herb (Lucky To Be A Yankee) Pennock, Dazzy Vance, Rixey and Haines, why, you ask, is he still out? Two reasons. 1. A bad reputation, because he was a known inside tosser, and it was his pitch that killed popular Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman in 1920. 2. He wasn't a likable guy. The Jack Palance of baseball, the flinty Mays forgot to be palsy-walsy with what turned out to be the future Hall of Fame electorate.
11. Phil Rizzuto (1941-56) -- The perennial discussion: If Pee Wee is in, they say, why isn't The Scooter? In "Summer of '49" David Halberstam quotes Johnny Pesky: "the best shortstop I'd ever seen . . . extraordinarily quick feet . . . always made the plays . . . held the Yankees together the way Reese held the Dodgers together." Like Reese (and countless others), lost three prime years to World War II . . . Bunter supreme . . . King of the Rundown . . . Sometimes you ask yourself, what exactly do they want out of middle infielders?
10. Orlando Cepeda (1958-73) -- No guesswork here. Doing time for a drug bust tends to tarnish the image. This man could hit. Bashed 379 homers and 417 doubles, with 1,365 RBIs . . . Five times surpassed 100 RBIs, for three different teams . . . Hit over .300 nine times . . . Could run as a kid (75 stolen bases first five years in a non-running era).
9. Luis Tiant (1964-82) -- Don Drysdale won 209 with two 20-game seasons, and he's in. Looie won 229 with four 20-game seasons, and he's out . . . Won 20 for Cleveland and Minnesota before arm trouble, then had great second career, mostly in Boston . . . Quintessential big-game pitcher of the '70s . . . Majestic personality, which counts in my book.
8. Minnie Minoso (1949-64) -- Being a dark-skinned Cuban (there were plenty of lighter ones playing decades earlier) kept him out of bigs until age 28. Never forget this. . . . Hit .300 eight times with .298 career mark . . . Had 100 RBIs four times . . . Three-time stolen base leader and three-time triples leader . . . Drove in 1,023 runs . . . Dashing style exemplified "Go-Go Sox" of '50s . . . Ten-time leader in hit-by-pitch sums up playing style and attitude . . . An average Minoso season, 1951-60: .307, 15 homers, 29 doubles, six triples, 99 runs, 18 stolen bases (project that to 50, minimum, today) and just 47 strikeouts. Sounds like a $2 million man to me.
7. Bill Mazeroski (1956-72) -- People pay lip service to defense, but unless the name is Brooks, they won't dignify it with a vote. Ready? Maz led NL second basemen in total chances per game 10 times, in assists nine times, in double plays eight times and putouts six times. Five times led league in putouts, assists, total chances per game and double plays in same season! . . . In '65, missed 32 games and still had 12 more DPs turned than anyone else, which is why they called him "No-Touch" . . . No All-American Out, he hit a pesky .260, and his home run decided classic '60 Series . . . Absolutely a ridiculous exclusion.
6. Stuffy McInnis (1909-27) -- Career .308 hitter who K'd scant 189 times in 7,822 at-bats . . . Knocked in 1,060 runs . . . Member of famed A's "$100,000 Infield" (worth $10 million today) . . . Brilliant -- no, make that transcendent -- fielder, who led in fielding percentage six times, double plays five times, putouts four times and chances per game three times . . . Amazing but true: Made one (1) error in 1921 (ever seen one of those gloves?).
5. Leo Durocher (1925-73, player, manager and coach) -- Why don't they just say it? He's not in because people think he's a dirtbag. They can't say he wasn't one of the magnetic baseball figures of the century, because he was . . . Managed 2,008 wins for Dodgers, Giants, Cubs and Astros . . . Loved Hollywood (married Laraine Day, you'll recall) and was buddy-buddy with alleged underworld types, so Leo couldn't stay out of the headlines, but he was a baseball giant, through and through.
4. Vic Willis (1898-1910) -- Clark Booth put me onto this 10 years ago . . . Lifetime 244-game winner, eight-time 20-game man . . . Many contemporaries are in, but none of them lost 25 with '04 Braves finishing 51 out or 29 with '05 Braves finishing 54 1/2 out. Each of those clubs were last in runs scored . . . A workhorse, even by standards of the day. Completed 45 of 46 in '02. (What? No set-up man?)
3. Ron Santo (1960-74) -- The ideal third baseman hits for power, makes every routine play plus a whole bunch of great ones and shows up every day. Meet Ron Santo, who did all that . . . His hitting credentials are certainly in order: .277, 342 homers, 1,331 RBIs . . . Not to mention six Gold Gloves, seven times leading league in putouts, seven times in assists and six times in double plays . . . Eight-time All-Star . . . One 11-year stretch averaged 159 games a season . . . Retired with all kinds of fielding records, some of which have been broken by Mike Schmidt, merely the best of all time.
2. Nellie Fox (1947-65) -- Missed election by two votes a few years back . . . 2,663 hits, six times over .300, four times led AL in hits . . . Fanned microscopic 216 times in 9,232 at-bats (once every 43 ABs). Eleven times led league in fewest K's . . . MVP in 1959 . . . The glove? Led league in putouts 10 consecutive years and in assists six times . . . Oh, and batted .368 in 11 All-Star Games . . . Gimme a break.
1. Richie Ashburn (1948-62) -- Right, I know. Just three All-Star games. He was up against Mays and Snider, OK? . . . Two-time batting champ (.350 in '58), nine-time .300 hitter, 1,198 walks, 234 stolen bases in slugfest era . . . Without question, the consummate leadoff man of the '50s . . . Durable guy who averaged 152 games a year, '49-60 . . . Glove-wise, how about nine times leading league in centerfield putouts? Only man with nine 400-putout years and four 500-putout years . . . Even hit .306 in final year for laughable '62 Mets.
Al Oliver? Jim Bunning? Gil Hodges? Smoky Joe Wood? Save it. I need a rest.