Two more players — Barry Larkin and Ron Santo — enter the Hall of Fame today. This week’s rankings return, with a Hall of Fame theme:
1. N.Y. Yankees: Jack Chesboro won 41 games and pitched 48 complete games and 454.2 innings for the Highlanders before they were the Yankees in 1904. But that wasn’t enough. His wild pitch in Game 1 of a final-day doubleheader gave the Boston Pilgrims the pennant. The Yankees have more than gotten even with Boston since.
2. Texas: Nolan Ryan won 324 games –51 after he joined the Rangers at age 42 — pitched for 27 seasons, threw seven no-hitters and struck out an all-time best 5,714 batters. But he never won a Cy Young Award. He finished in the top five six times and was second once, with the Angels in 1973 (21-16, 2.87, 383 strikeouts, .605 OPS against), losing by 26 votes to Jim Palmer (22-9, 2.40, 158 Ks, .595 OPS). But Ryan came closest to winning in 1977, in what was one of the closest Cy Young votes ever. Yankees stopper Sparky Lyle (13-5, 26 saves, 2.17 ERA, a .644 OPS in 137 innings) was first, Palmer eight points behind in second (20-11, 2.91, 319 innings, 193 Ks, .634 OPS), Ryan two points further back in third (19-16, 2.77, 299 innings, 341 Ks, .585 OPS) and the Royals’ Dennis Leonard a point behind Ryan (20-12, 3.04, 292.2 innings, 244 Ks, .611 OPS). Even Boston ace reliever Bill Campbell was only another 20 points further back.
3. L.A. Angels: Four Hall of Famers wound down their careers with the Angels (two playing briefly after they left), but only Rod Carew had anything resembling what they did previously. Carew hit .300 five straight years for the Angels, but even three of those were less than his career .328 average. Eddie Murray hit. 219 and was released; his career lasted just seven more at-bats. Reggie Jackson hit 39 homers in his first Angels season but averaged 19.8 and topped .250 just once in his next five. And Don Sutton was 26-22 with a 4.16 ERA and threw 69 home runs his final two seasons; he pitched just 16 more games for the Dodgers.
4. Washington: There have been Hall of Famers in Washington long before Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Stan Coveleski was the better half of a pitching brother combination that combined for eight 20-win seasons and 296 wins. Harry won 81 — 65 in back-to-back-to-back 20-win seasons for the Tigers (1914-16) — before his career was curtailed by injuries. Stan won 24 for the Indians’ 1920 world champions, and three more in the Series. His last 20-win season was for the Senators’ 1925 AL pennant winners — he was 20-5 with an AL-best 2.84 ERA, but lost twice in the Series. Coveleski was one of the game’s great spitballers, according to sabr.org. Though it was banned in 1920, Coveleski was one of the pichers allowed to use it until he retired, according to Daniel Okrent’s Baseball Anecdotes. He was 215-142 with a 2.89 ERA in his career, and was inducted into the Hall by the Veterans Committee in 1969.
5. Atlanta: Warren Spahn was told he had no guts as a young pitcher when he refused his manager’s order to knock down an opposing batter. That was before Spahn enlisted in the army, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, won the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and 363 games after he returned. The manager who told Spahn he had no guts? Hall of Famer Casey Stengel, who said: “You can’t say I don’t miss ’em when I miss ’em.” Spahn was reunited with Stengel on the Mets, and Spahn said he knew Stengel before and after he was a genuis, according to baseballhistorian.com.
6. Cincinnati: Eppa Rixey lost 20 games twice and 251 times in all, and one of his 266 wins came when he gave up nine runs but beat the Cardinals 11-9 in 1922 (for the record, fellow Hall of Famers Robin Roberts, Burleigh Grimes, Lefty Gomez, Don Sutton, Herb Pennock and Ted Lyons also gave up at least nine runs and won). But Rixey won 20 games four times (including 25 in 1922) and had a career ERA of 3.15. His record on wins by an NL left-handed pitcher stood for 28 years until Warren Spahn broke it in 1961. Said Rixey, according to howstuffworks.com: “I’m glad somebody finally did it. If Warren hadn’t broken my record, no one would have ever known who set it.” Put in the Hall by the Veterans Committee in 1963, Rixey died before the actual induction ceremony.
7. San Francisco: Rube Marquard played in five World Series for two teams but lost them all, despite winning both of his starts in 1912 (the Giants lost in 8 — Game 2 ended in a tie when fellow Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson gave up two runs in the bottom of the 10th to Boston). He was 2-5 in the Series for the Giants and Brookyln and 201-177 overall; inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1971, when Marquard was 84. Not to be confused with fellow Hall of Famer Rube Waddell, a Philadelphia Athletics great, for whom Marquard was nicknamed, according to sabr.org.
8. Pittsburgh: There’s only one set of brothers in the Hall, and they both got there as Pirates. Lloyd Waner (1927-45), “Little Poison,” had 2,317 of his 2,459 hits for the Pirates; he was inducted into the Hall by the Veterans Committee in 1967. Paul Waner (1926-45), “Big Poison,” middle name of Glee, had 2,868 of his 3,152 hits for the Pirates and was voted in in 1952. Like Stan Musial’s “The Man,” the Waners’ nicknames had their origins in Brooklyn, according to sabr.org. Referring to the Waners as “Big Person,” and “Little Person,” it came out “Big Poison,” and “Little Poison,” in the borough’s accent, according to sabr.org. It’s not clear why Paul would be “Big” when he stood only 5-8 and Lloyd 5-9, but maybe Giants manager John McGraw understood. According to sabr.org, a scout told McGraw about Paul: “That little punk don’t even know how to put on a uniform.” After watching Paul hit, McGraw told the scout: “I’m glad you did not scout Christy Mathewson.”
9. St. Louis: Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander was the star of the Cardinals’ 1926 World Series triumph over the Yankees, but it was fellow Hall of Famer Jesse Haines who won the deciding Game 7. Of course, it was Haines who turned over a bases-loaded, two-out situation to Alexander in the seventh. Haines won 210 games in all for the Cardinals, all the more impressive since he didn’t win No. 1 until he was 26 in 1920. He was inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1970, and his selection should give Jack Morris hope: Haines’ career ERA of 3.64 was high, and his strikeout-walk ratio (981-871) less than impressive.
10. Detroit: Twelve players have won consecutive MVP awards, but only one was a pitcher (who are the other 11? Answer below). Kudos if you knew the pitcher was Tiger Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser, who followed up a 29-9, 2.22 ERA in 1944 with a 25-9, 1.81 1945, and two wins in the World Series, including the decisive Game 7. He almost made it three MVPs in a row when he went 26-9 with a 1.94 ERA in 1946, but he finished second by 27 points to Ted Williams, whose Red Sox won the pennant. It was a rapid ascent and decline for Newhouser, who had only one other 20-win season and won just 207 in all.
11. Chicago White Sox: Lou Gehrig wasn’t the only Hall of Famer who went to Columbia. Infielder Eddie Collins put the school on the baseball map in the first decade of the 20th century, although not always in a good way. The school ruled Collins ineligible because he had accepted money to play semipro games, according to sabr.org. Collins was part of the Philadelphia A’s $100,00 infield, but was sold to the White Sox when Connie Mack couldn’t afford to pay them in the manner their nickname implied, according to sabr.org. Collins was captain of the 1919 Black Sox and one of the better-paid players — he hit .319. But the Black Sox were “torn by discord and hatred during much of the ’19 season,” Collins said, according to sabr.org. Collins retired with 3,315 hits — 2,007 for the Sox — and a .333 average and entered the Hall in 1939. By then he was general manager of the Red Sox, where he was best remembered — and not fondly — for the team’s being forced to give a tryout to three black players in 1945. Don’t call us, we’ll call you, Collins told the three, paraphrasing Howard Bryant’s Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston. Jackie Robinson, one of the three, signed with the Dodgers a year-and-a-half later. Sam Jethroe, another of the three, signed with the Boston Braves and was the 1950 Rookie of the Year. When they were seated together at an offseason banquet, Collins congratulated Jethroe, according to Bryant’s book. Replied Jethroe: “You had your chance Mr. Collins. You had your chance.”
12. Oakland: Frank Baker was nicknamed “Home Run,” which might puzzle the modern fan, who would call him “Triples” Baker, since the early 20th-century infielder hit more of the latter in his career (103 vs. 96). But Baker earned his nickname for hitting game-winning home runs off Hall of Fame pitchers (Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson) in consecutive games of the 1911 Series. Baker’s homers led the A’s over the Giants in six games. Baker did lead the AL in home runs for three straight seasons (1911-13), though he hit just 11, 10 and 12. Ironically, Baker finished his career with the Yankees as Babe Ruth was altering the perception of the longball, and Baker wasn’t impressed, according to sabr.org. “I don’t like to cast aspersions,” Baker said, according to the website, “but a Little Leaguer today can hit the modern ball as far as the grown men could hit the ball we played with.”
13. L.A. Dodgers: The Hall of Fame has a Dizzy (Dean) and a Dazzy (Vance), and the St. Louis Cardinals, fittingly, had both on their 1934 Gashouse Gang world champions. But if either’s career was dizzying, it was Charles Arthur Vance’s; he didn’t win his first major-league game until age 31, seven years after his debut. Vance had lost his first eight decisions and went back to the minors, where according to sabr.org, he won a poker hand and hit the jackpot. Vance, according to legend, hit his arm on the table while collecting his winnings. In pain, Vance saw a doctor who cured him of pitching injuries that seemed as hopeless as drawing to an inside straight. Vance returned to the majors in 1922, although Brooklyn of the 1920s wasn’t always considered as such. They were often called the Daffiness Boys, and Vance was one reason why. According to sabr.org, Vance was once one of three Dodgers to occupy third base at the same time. But a healthy Vance could pitch. He won 197 games — 186 in little more than a decade. He was the NL MVP in 1924, leading the league in wins (28), ERA (2.16), complete games (30) and strikeouts (262). His nickname came from his dazzling fastball,, according to sabr.org, and Vance led the league in strikeouts for the first seven seasons of his second act. He won 20 games three times and led the NL in ERA three times. Like his career, his Hall of Fame chances took patience. Vance received one vote in 1936 for 0.4 percent; in 1955, on his 16th attempt, he received 204 more for 81.7%. He was inducted into the Hall 20 years after he retired at age 44.
14. Boston: Left field is the place to be. Three Red Sox left fielders over 50 years from 1939-89 — Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice — are in the Hall. But that won’t help Mike Greenwell or, evidently, Carl Crawford.
15. Toronto: Paul Molitor was 36 when he joined the world champion Jays in 1993, for whom he hit .332 and then .341 in 1994. He had one more .341 season left, for the Twins in 1996 as he turned 40, when he led the AL with 225 hits (and stole 18 bases). As a postseason performer, Molitor’s average went up in every series he played, from .250 to .316 to .355 for the Brewers in 1981-82 to .391 and .500 for the Jays in 1993. Too bad he never returned to the postseason after the Jays went back-to-back.
16. Tampa Bay: Third baseman Wade Boggs played his final two seasons for the Rays, and had only 210 of his 3,010 hits for them, but they included No. 3,000. Thanks to Derek Jeter in 2011, everyone now remembers’ Boggs’ 3,000th hit was a home run, off Cleveland’s Chris Haney. Boggs retired in 1999 with a .328 career average — only Tony Gwynn (.338 in 2001) has since retired with a higher one, and Albert Pujols (.326) and Ichiro Suzuki (.323) are going the wrong way.
17. Baltimore: John McGraw made the Hall of Fame for what he did as the New York Giants’ manager — three world championships, 10 pennants, 2,583 of his 2,763 games won — but his accomplishments as a player for the Baltimore Orioles of the 19th century were worthy, too. McGraw scored 1,024 runs — on just 1,309 hits. He twice led the NL in runs scored with 143 (1898) and 140 (1899), but his career high of 156 (1894) didn’t. He twice led the NL in walks — 112 in 1898, when he fanned 13 times, and 124 in 1899, when he fanned 21 times. In all, McGraw walked 5.4 times for every strikeout. And he hit .300 or better nine straight seasons for the Orioles, including .391 in 1898 when his on-base percentage was a league-high .547. McGraw retired with a.334 average and .466 on-base percentage. How did he do it? “McGraw uses every low and contemptible method that his erratic brain can conceive to win a play by a dirty trick,” wrote a reporter, according to sabr.org. No wonder he was such a great manager (with qualities like that, he might have been an even better political campaign manager).
18. Cleveland: Lary Doby followed Jackie Robinson to the big leagues, breaking the color barrier in the American League three months after Robinson and getting to the World Series a year after Robinson (Doby won, Jackie lost). But Doby was a much different player than Robinson, more of a sabermetrician’s delight. Doby hit 20 home runs for eight straight years and walked 80 or more times in six straight, finishing with career totals of 253 home runs, a .386 on-base percentage and just 47 stolen bases. Doby was second in the MVP voting in the Indians’ pennant-winning 1954 season for his league-leading 32 homers and 126 RBIs. Inducted by the Veterans Committe in 1998, just five years before he died.
19. Arizona: The Diamondbacks were one of seven teams Roberto Alomar, one of 2011’s inductees, played for, but sparingly at that, hitting .309 in just 110 at-bats in 2004. Arizona was Alomar’s next-to-last stop; the D’backs traded him back to the White Sox, from where they signed him as a free agent, in August. Alomar almost completed the 1998 expansion circuit, signing with Tampa Bay in January of 2005, but retired before spring training was completed.
20. N.Y. Mets: Richie Ashburn played just one season for the Mets, but he was MVP of the 1962 team which lost 120 games. “MVP on the worst team ever? I wonder what exactly they meant by that,” Ashburn said years later, according to Hugginsandscott.com. Ashburn was given a boat as Mets MVP, according to centerfieldmaz.com, and docked it (after Ashburn pointed out he was from Nebraska); like the 1962 Mets, the boat sank. Ashburn batted .306 for the Mets and had a .424 on-base percentage; he retired, with a .308 average and 2,574 hits, rather than return to the ’63 Mets.
21. Miami: Andre Dawson, who played in college at Florida A&M, is one of two Hall of Famers from historically black colleges (Lou Brock, from Southern, is the other). A native of Miami, Dawson played his final two seasons with the Marlins, retiring the year before their 1997 world championship. Dawson hit the last 10 of his 438 career home runs for the Marlins; he hit 225 homers for the Expos, for whom he played the longest, and 174 for the Cubs, for whom he won the 1987 MVP. “Those of us in school at the same time, we knew he was destined for greatness,” FAMU President James H. Ammons told palmbeachpost.com. “The way the baseball field at Florida A&M University was situated, when he would hit home runs, it would go out into the streets, and so it was legend. If you were driving, you better watch.”
22. Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Brewers weren’t born when Jim Bouton’s Seattle Pilots moved there after the 1969 season. The original Brewers played in the American League in 1901; Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy, who hit .440 and in 1894 for the Boston Beaneaters, had his last .300 season for the Brewers, hitting .302. Alas, the Brewers weren’t very good (48-89) and like the Pilots, moved after only one season to St. Louis to be the Browns, where they never much improved. Two more Duffy footnotes: the outfielder he replaced on the 1888 Chicago White Stockings only had a .248 career average, but drew bigger crowds. That was Billy Sunday, according to baseballlibrary.com, who became a world-famous evangelist. Secondly, Duffy remained connected with Boston through the 1930s and worked with Ted Williams during his early days. Said Duffy, according to the baseballpage.com: “He’s the greatest hitter it has been my pleasure to look at, and don’t forget, I’ve been looking at Hugh Duffy in the shaving mirror for many a year.”
23. Philadelphia: George Anderson played one season for the Philadelphia Phillies and was remarkably consistent: he did nothing well. He batted .218, had just 12 extra-base hits in 477 at-bats and was caught stealing nine times in 15 attempts. As manager, Sparky Anderson would never have played a player who provided so little spark, no matter the nickname. The Phillies sent Anderson to the minors and he never returned to the majors — as a player. As a manager, he stayed 27 seasons and won 2,194 games and three World Series. “The name started simply as a joke,” Anderson said in his book Sparky, according to examiner.com. “. . . I didn’t have a lot of talent so I tried to make up for it with spit and vinegar. I spent more time arguing umpires than I spent on the bases.” Consider it preparation.
24. Seattle: Only 13 of Gaylord Perry’s 314 career wins came with the Mariners but one was No. 300, 30 years ago in May vs. the Yankees. How many were won with the help of a spitball Perry still won’t say, but his 1974 book was called Me and The Spitter, and he pitched for nearly a decade after the book was out. We’re guessing 0 is too low, 314 — his career total — was too high. Perry won Cy Youngs in each league, his second when he went 21-6 with a 2.73 ERA for the Padres at age 39 in 1978. Perry returned to Seattle this year to commemorate his 300th win. “It’s like a hitter getting 3,000 hits; it’s going to get you to the Hall of Fame. If you get 300 wins, you’ll eventually get there,” he said in an interview at king5.com. “I kind of knew that so I wanted to keep playing.” Tom Glavine, with 305 wins, seconds the first part of Perry’s comment.
25. Kansas City: Orlando Cepeda hit the last of his 379 career homers for the Royals, but it was the only one he hit for them in the final season of his career. For four other teams, Cepeda hit at least 20 home runs in a single season — the Giants, Cardinals, Braves and Red Sox, for whom he was the designated hitter in 1973, the year it was instituted. Cepeda is also one of three players from Puerto Rico in the Hall (Roberto Clemente and Roberto Alomar the others, though they’ll soon be joined by Ivan Rodriguez and maybe Edgar Martinez; we’re going to assume the line remains drawn at Sixto Lezcano). Cepeda was inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1999 a quarter century after his career ended for two primary reasons: bad knees curtailed his production and helped retire him at 37, and a drug-smuggling conviction sent him to jail for 10 months after he retired.
26. Minnesota: Harmon Killebrew had a career .256 batting average, but that’s not the lowest in the Hall of Fame. Killer can thank catcher Ray Schalk for that –Schalk hit just .253 in a 18-year career in which all but two of his 5,306 at-bats came with the White Sox. Unlike Schalk, Killebrew isn’t in the Hall for his defense — Killebrew topped 40 home runs eight times, led the AL six times and hit 573 in all. He also led the AL in RBIs three times and walks four times but strikeouts just once. He was top five in the AL MVP voting six times, winning in 1969 (.276, 49 homers, 140 RBIs, 145 walks, 1.011 OPS), but not in the Twins’ pennant-winning 1965 when he dislocated his elbow. At Target Field, where the Twins play today, there’s a giant glove 520 feet from home plate — a tribute to the longest home run Killebrew hit at the old Met in 1967.
27. San Diego: Rollie Fingers’ last start was on May 7, 1973, and it was shorter than many of his relief appearances. He didn’t get out of the second inning. The final 718 appearances of his career were all out of the bullpen, yet Fingers topped 100 innings pitched in six of those (seven if you count ’73), including 134.2 innings in his final season with the A’s in 1976. The Padres worked him just as hard in 1977, leading the NL in games (79) and saves (35) while pitching 132.1 innings. Fingers never saved more than 24 games for the A’s, and never led the league, but did so three times in his four years with the Padres, and once in his final four years with the Brewers. He saved 341 in his career with a 2.90 ERA, and never worked less than 80 innings until the final two years of his career.
28. Colorado: No Hall of Famers for the Rockies. What, you were expecting Dante Bichette, who was second in the 1995 NL MVP race by 30 votes to Barry Larkin, one of today’s inductees (a .340 average, .620 slugging percentage and 22 walks vs. 96 strikeouts for Bichette, who was a more ordinary .300/.329/.473 away from Coors in ’95)? The first Rockie in the Hall won’t be Todd Helton (lifetime .320 average with 354 home runs and 2,415 career hits and a career .864 OPS away from Coors, or 197 points less than his home OPS). It’s more likely to be Jim Leyland, who managed the Rockies for just one season, losing 90 games and finishing last in 1999.
29. Chicago Cubs: Mordecai “Three-Finger Brown,” actually had four-and-a-half fingers, according to sabr.org, but only three good ones. Thus his nickname. The website said he lost half of one in a farming accident and then broke his others “chasing a rabbit.” (No word on if he caught the rabbit). Brown’s index finger, said the web site, was half gone, the little finger useless and the middle finger “bent.” Brown’s nickname might be the only one in baseball passed on to a mobster: New York’s Tommy “Three Finger Brown” Lucchese, who lost a finger in a machine-shop accident, according to Thomas Hunt’s White-Collar Mafioso, was given his name when he was booked in 1920. Lucchese liked the nickname, Hunt suggests, no more than the Cubs like the Cardinals. Did Brown’s peculiarly shaped hand help his curve ball? Apparently. His ERA was less than 2 for five straight seasons and he won 148 of his career games in the six seasons from 1906-1911. When he wasn’t starting, Brown led the NL in saves four straight years from 1907-11; in 1909 he led the NL in wins (27), games pitched (50), complete games (32), saves (7), and innings pitched (342.2). Brown was so good the Cubs won the World Series twice in that time — it was hard for even the Cubs to lose when Brown threw 20 innings in the 1907 and 1908 Serieses without allowing an earned run. The Tigers were the losers both years, and Ty Cobb, who went 1-for-8 with three strikeouts in those Series against Brown, called his curveball “the most devastating pitch I ever faced,” according to the website 1907cubs.com.
30. Houston: In Joe Morgan’s rookie season in 1965 with the Houston Astros, Morgan did everything better than the Dodgers’ fellow rookie Jim Lefebvre: he outhit him by 21 points (.271-.250), outslugged him by 49 (.418-.369), outscored him by 43 runs (100-57), stole 17 more bases (20-3), drew 26 more walks (97-71), and even hit two more homers (14-12). If you’re still outraged by Andre Dawson’s MVP or LaMarr Hoyt’s Cy Young, think about this: Jim Lefebvre was the 1965 NL Rookie of the Year over Joe Morgan. And it wasn’t close. We’re surprised Morgan didn’t spend more of his Sunday evenings as an ESPN analyst rehashing that injustice. Lefebvre lasted eight years, and was three years retired when Morgan won the first of his two MVPs; Morgan played 12 more seasons after Lefebvre was gone, most of them good ones. We’re going to guess the ’65 Rookie of the Year voters wouldn’t mind a do-over.
The 12 men who have won consecutive MVP awards, going around the diamond: Newhouser pitching (1944-45), Yogi Berra (1954-55) catching, a logjam at first base with Jimmie Foxx (1932-33), Frank Thomas (1993-94) and Albert Pujols (2008-09), Joe Morgan at second (1975-76), Ernie Banks at shortstop (1958-59), Mike Schmidt at third base (1980-81), Barry Bonds — the only player to do it twice and for more than two years — in left field (1992-93, 2001-2004), Mickey Mantle (1956-57) and Dale Murphy (1982-83) in center and Roger Maris (1960-61) in right.
Sources: baseballreference.com, howitworks.com, baseballlibrary.com, thebaseballpage.com, sabr.org, hugginsandscott.com, centerfieldmaz.com, king5.com, onewal.com, 1907cubs.com, baseballhistorian.com, palmbeachpost.com