The Hall of Fame Percentage

Tango comes up with a great point — he notes that every player but one who received at least 50% of the Baseball Hall of Fame vote was eventually elected into the Hall of Fame. The one player who has not made it yet is Gil Hodges … more on him in a couple of minutes.

I’ve written before about Bengals owner Mike Brown negotiating with a first round quarterback. The quarterback’s agent, Leigh Steinberg, made an offer. Brown made a significantly lower counteroffer. The two sides fought and threatened and wrangled for a long time. In the end, they came to an agreement — EXACTLY in the middle of the two original numbers.

When we mentioned to Mike Brown that this seemed kind of ridiculous — to go through that whole process only to meet exactly in the middle anyway — he nodded and said: “It’s unfortunate. But it’s the fact.”

That’s how the Hall of Fame voting seems now. Unfortunate. But the fact. If every player who achieves 50% gets into the Hall of Fame anyway, why are we making them wait three, four, five, sometimes 10 years or more before getting elected? What’s the point of that? Couldn’t we make the Hall of Fame voting so much cleaner and neater (without sacrificing the high standards) by lowering the percentage?

I thought it might be interesting to go year by year, look at the players when they first reached 50% and see how quickly they made it into the Hall of Fame. Well, I don’t know if it is interesting, but I did it:

1936
– Nap Lajoie, 64.6%, elected by BBWAA next year.
– Tris Speaker, 58,8%, elected by BBWAA next year.

1937
– Grover Cleveland (Pete) Alexander, 62.2%, elected by BBWAA next year
– Wee Willie Keeler, 57.2%, 57.2%, elected two years later by BBWAA.
– Eddie Collins, 57.2%, elected two years later by BBWAA.
– George Sisler, 52.7%, elected two years later by BBWAA.

1938
– Rube Waddell, 56.5%, elected eight years later by Old Timers Committee.
– Frank Chance, 50.8%, elected eight years later by Old Timers Committee.
– Ed Delahanty, 50.4%, elected seven years later by Old Timers Committee.

1939
– Rogers Hornsby, 64.2%, elected by BBWAA in 1942.

1945
– Ed Walsh, 55.5%, elected next year by Old Timers Committee.
– Johnny Evers, 54.3%, elected next year by Old Timers Committee.
– Miller Huggins, 53.8%, elected by Veterans in 1964.
– Roger Bresnahan, 53.8%, elected that year by Old Timers Committee.
– Mickey Cochrane, 50.6%, elected by BBWAA in 1947.

Nobody seemed to know what to do with Huggins, whose real claim to the Hall of Fame was as a manager. The Baseball Writers have never voted for managers, per se, and so a group tried to vote in Huggins as a player (he was a good player) in an effort to get him into the Hall of Fame, where he obviously belonged.

1946
– Frankie Frisch, 51.5%, elected by BBWAA next year.
– Carl Hubbell, 50%, elected by BBWAA next year.

1947
– Pie Traynor, 73.9%, elected by BBWAA next year.
– Charlie Gehringer, 65.2%, elected by BBWAA in 1949.
– Rabbit Maranville, 56.5%, elected by BBWAA in 1954.
– Dizzy Dean, 54.7%, elected by BBWAA in 1953.
– Herb Pennock, 53.4%, elected by BBWAA next year.

This was kind of a crazy year. The war was over, and there was this sense that it was time to start filling up that Hall of Fame. Pie Traynor had never received even moderate support but he jumped all the way up to 74 percent and was elected the next year. My suspicion has been that the voters really wanted to elect a modern third baseman into the Hall (the only third baseman elected had been Jimmy Collins, who started his career in 1895). Traynor was a likable fellow and he was often called the best third baseman ever. He went from 20% to 74% to election in two years.

Herb Pennock skyrocketed at about the same pace, but his story was more emotional. Pennock was well-liked by writers but he received just 20% of the vote in 1946. Then in January, 1948, he collapsed from a hemorrhage and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. He sailed into the Hall of Fame that year.

1949
– Al Simmons, 58.2%, elected by BBWAA in 1953.
– Jimmie Foxx, 55.6%, elected by BBWAA in 1951
– Bill Terry, 52.9%, elected by BBWAA in 1954

The Hall of Fame voting got noticeably tougher after 1948. If there was a desire to fill up the Hall of Fame after the war, there was a pretty powerful backlash that followed as people worried the Hall was getting watered down. When you consider how baseball players were judged in the 1940s, it’s hard to understand how Simmons, Foxx and Terry all had to wait to get elected. And Hank Greenberg did not even crack 50%.

1950
– Mel Ott, 68.5%, elected by BBWAA next year.
– Paul Waner, 56.5%, elected by BBWAA in 1952.
– Harry Heilmann, 51.8%, elected by BBWAA in 1952

1951
– Bill Dickey, 52.2%, elected by BBWAA in 1954

1953
– Dazzy Vance, 53.8%, elected by BBWAA in 1955
– Ted Lyons, 52.7%, elected by BBWAA in 1955

1954
– Joe DiMaggio, 69.4%, elected by BBWAA next year
– Gabby Hartnett, 59.9%, elected by BBWAA next year.

The Joe DiMaggio Hall of Fame vote is one of the stranger BBWAA voting situations. DiMaggio retired after the 1951 season, and while everyone obviously saw him as a Hall of Famer, there apparently were voters who thought he (and everyone else) should wait five years before being elected. That rule was not added until 1955, so DiMaggio began appearing on the ballot just two years after he retired. His voting percentages:

1953: 44.3%
1954: 69.4%
1955: 88.8%

DiMaggio was technically not eligible to be on the ballot in 1955 with the new five-year rule, but he was grandfathered in. Even so, he got less than 90% of the vote. I can only guess that was a protest vote against him going in early.

1955
– Hank Greenberg, 62.5%, elected by BBWAA next year.
– Joe Cronin, 53.8%, elected by BBWAA next year.

1956
– Red Ruffing, 50.3%, elected by BBWAA in 1967

Ruffing had a crazy Hall of Fame history. He went from 4.3% to 9.1% to 11.5% to 23.9% to 50.3% in five years. I’m not entirely sure why Ruffing skyrocketed like that but then he stalled (when everyone stalled — the BBWAA did not elect anyone between 1957 and 1962). Then in 1964, there was a runoff, and he appeared on 91.5% of the runoff ballots. But that was not good enough (Luke Appling appeared on 94%) and he had to wait two more years after that.

1958
– Max Carey, 51.1%, elected by Veteran’s Committee in 1961

Best I can tell, Carey is the first player who got 50% of the vote from the BBWAA but was elected by the Veteran’s Committee. Miller Huggins got 50% but was elected as a manager. Needless to say, Carey would not be the last (see 1960)

1960
– Edd Roush, 54.3%, elected by Veteran’s Committee in 1962
– Sam Rice, 53.2%, elected by Veteran’s Committee in 1963
– Eppa Rixey, 52.8%, elected by Veteran’s Committee in 1963

Another weird year. Nobody was elected and for some reason, the voters suddenly and inexplicably fell in love with the cases of Roush, Rice and Rixey. They were all good players and certainly deserved Hall of Fame consideration — but the BBWAA had never thrown much love at any of them. Roush had been on the ballot since 1936 wand only in recent years had managed even a quarter of the vote. Rice had been on since 1938 and in 1953 got just three votes. Rixey had been on the ballot since 1937 and he got less than 5% of the vote TWELVE STRAIGHT YEARS. Suddenly, there was some love thrown their way and it led to them getting elected by the Veteran’s. They are certainly not three of the worst players in the Hall, but all are somewhat marginal Hall of Famers.

1964
– Luke Appling, 70.6%, elected in a runoff vote that year.
– Roy Campanella, 57.2%, elected by BBWAA in 1969
– Joe Medwick, 53.7%, elected by BBWAA in 1968

Appling was another player who really flew up the charts. He was a truly sensational player — two-time batting champ, great defense at shortstop, a .399 career OBP — but he got just 30% of the vote in 1962 and then more than doubled his vote just two years later. You will recall from the Ruffing note that 1964 was the year of the runoff vote. Appling won that.

1968
– Lou Boudreau, 51.6%, elected by BBWAA in 1970

1970
– Ralph Kiner, 55.7%, elected by BBWAA in 1975

1971
– Yogi Berra, 67.2%, elected by BBWAA next year
– Early Wynn, 66.7%, elected by BBWAA next year
– Gil Hodges, 50%, never elected into the Hall of Fame

There’s Hodges, the only person to achieve 50% and not get elected. He would actually get more than 50% of the vote TEN times, topping out at 63.4% his final year.

1973
– Whitey Ford, 67.1%, elected by BBWAA next season
– Robin Roberts, 56.1%, elected by BBWAA in 1976

1974
– Bob Lemon, 52.1%, elected by BBWAA in 1976.

1976
– Enos Slaughter, 50.8%, elected by Veteran’s Committee in 1985

1977
– Eddie Mathews, 62.4%, elected by BBWAA next year
– Duke Snider, 55.4%, elected by BBWAA in 1980
– Don Drysdale, 51.4%, elected by BBWAA in 1984

1980
– Hoyt Wilhelm, 54.3%, elected by BBWAA in 1985

1981
– Harmon Killebrew, 59.6%, elected by BBWAA in 1984
– Juan Marichal, 58.1%, elected by BBWAA in 1983

1983
– Luis Aparicio, 67.4%, elected by BBWAA next year.

1984
– Nellie Fox, 61%, elected by Veteran’s Committee in 1997
– Billy Williams, 50.1%, elected by BBWAA in 1987

1985
– Jim Bunning, 54.2%, elected by Veteran’s Committee in 1996
– Catfish Hunter, 53.2%, elected by BBWAA in 1987.

1989
– Gaylord Perry, 68%, elected by BBWAA in 1991
– Fergie Jenkins, 52.3%, elected by BBWAA in 1991

1991
– Rollie Fingers, 65.7%, elected by BBWAA next year

1992
– Orlando Cepeda, 57.2%, elected by Veteran’s Committee in 1999
– Tony Perez, 50%, elected by BBWAA in 2000

1993
– Phil Niekro, 65.7%, elected by BBWAA in 1997

1994
– Don Sutton, 56.8%, elected by BBWAA in 1998

1999
– Carlton Fisk, 66.4%, elected by BBWAA next year.

2000
– Jim Rice, 51.5%, elected by BBWAA in 2009

2001
– Gary Carter, 64.9%, elected by BBWAA in 2003

2002
– Bruce Sutter, 50.4%, elected by BBWAA in 2006

2003
– Andre Dawson, 50%, elected by BBWAA in 2010

2004
– Ryne Sandberg, 61.1%, elected by BBWAA next year

Sandberg actually got fewer votes in 2003 than Andre Dawson but then leapfrogged him the next year.

2005
– Goose Gossage, 55.2%, elected by BBWAA in 2008

2006
– Bert Blyleven, 53.3%, elected by BBWAA in 2011

2010
– Jack Morris, 52.3%, this is his last year on the BBWAA ballot.
– Barry Larkin, 51.7%, elected by BBWAA in 2012

2012
– Jeff Bagwell, 56%, he is on the ballot for fourth time.
– Lee Smith, 50.6%, he is on the ballot for 12th time.

2013
– Craig Biggio, 68.2%, he is on the ballot for the second time.
– Mike Piazza, 57.8%, he is on the ballot for the second time.
– Tim Raines, 52.2%, he is on the ballot for the seventh time.

Whew, there it is. OK, so let’s try to make a little sense of all this. Let’s leave off the people still on the ballot — they will sort themselves out. Not counting them, there were 79 players (not including those elected first ballot) who received 50% of the BBWAA vote. Here’s what happened to those 79:

– 63 were eventually elected by the Baseball Writers (80%).
– 9 were elected by the Veteran’s Committee (11%).
– 6 were elected by The Old Timer’s Committee (8%)
– 1 was not elected (1%)

So, as you can see the vast majority of players who hit 50% were eventually elected by the BBWAA. all but one of the others were elected in other ways. And this leads to the Tango question: If this is the case why does it need to be 75% of the vote for election? Why isn’t it just a simple majority? Aren’t we just wasting precious time by waiting until the player reaches 75%?

Nobody really knows why the Hall of Famers decided on 75% in the first place. It seems pretty arbitrary. The reasoning seemed to be that the founders wanted an extremely high standard for the Hall of Fame. And that’s fine except there have been countless rule changes and attitude shifts. They have adjusted ruled to elect Negro Leaguers, they have constantly reviewed the 1800s to add more players, they invented an Old Timer’s Committee, several different kinds of Veteran’s Committees, a Negro Leagues Committee … all of these in an obvious attempt to make the Hall of Fame more inclusive.

And now we’re at a place where if you get 50% of the vote you will end up in the Hall of Fame. It might take years, decades, it might not happen until long after you’re gone. But you will get in. So, why go through all that angst? Why delay this thing and make players and fans and everyone else go through this excruciating process when the end is already written?

The one exception here is Hodges, who was an unusual case. He first appeared on the ballot in 1969, and he got 24.1% of the vote — somewhere between what Roger Maris and Maury Wills received in that general time period. Hodges was a beloved figure from the Boys of Summer Dodgers who hit 30 home runs six times, drove in 100 RBIs in seven consecutive seasons and was viewed as an excellent defender at first base. But there was a sense that his career was not quite substantial enough — he did not reach 2,000 hits or 400 home runs. His support seemed likely to stall out.

Then, in 1969, he managed the Miracle Mets. The voters have never come to any consensus on how to treat people who were successful in more than one way — as player and manager and scout and so on. Still, the extraordinary season by the Mets doubled Hodges support. The next year, he got to exactly 50% and then, somewhat predictably, as the excitement of the 1969 season began to fade Hodges support waned. In 1972, he dropped to 40.7% of the vote.

Then, in April of that year, Hodges died of a sudden heart attack. There was shock and sadness throughout baseball — everyone loved Gil Hodges — and the next year his Hall of Fame vote total skyrocketed to 57.4%. There was a powerful lobby of people intent on getting Hodges into the Hall of Fame, and his total climbed above 60 percent in 1976. But then, again, emotion faded and Hodges’ Hall of Fame case stalled. In his last year, after one final push, he got 63.4% of the vote. The various Veteran’s Committees have never really embraced his case.

If the 50% rule had been in place, Hodges would have been elected into the Hall of Fame. Would this have been a terrible thing? Since 1970, the Veteran’s Committees have been put in probably a dozen players who were not as good as Hodges (to name but a few: Earle Combs, Chick Hafey, Ross Youngs, Jim Bottomley, Freddie Lindstrom, Hack Wilson, George Kell, Rick Ferrell), not to mention bizarre choices like Bowie Kuhn and Tom Yawkey, 17 Negro Leaguers in one year, a bunch of 19th century players, several umpires …

… point is, you can’t tell me that Gil Hodges would in any way lower the standard of the Hall of Fame.

Bill James makes the point that, in some ways, those of us trying to fix the Hall of Fame system are like those shade tree mechanics who work day and night trying to keep a ’57 Chevy running. We can get it to run better, maybe, but it’s still a 1957 Chevy. The Baseball Hall of Fame would do itself well to build a new election process from the ground up. But, since they probably won’t do that, we must keep on tinkering and hoping to make it just a little bit better.

So I personally would like to see them make lower the Hall of Fame election percentage to, say, 60%. I’d be good with making it a simple majority vote, but I suspect that might be too big a leap for many. Make it 60%. There are many, many advantages to doing this, but the main point is that it would not CHANGE who goes into the Hall of Fame. The players would just get in there quicker and without all the unnecessary squabbling and minority filibustering.

68 thoughts on “The Hall of Fame Percentage

  1. Blake

    I used to favor a more strict Hall of Fame. Then I tried explaining the Hall of Fame to my Japanese girlfriend, specifically, how I had seen a Roger Maris exhibition there, but he wasn’t actually in the Hall of Fame. Try this sometime with somebody from another country. I haven’t fretted as much about “lowering its standards” ever since.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      You changed your mind on the HOF voting based on a discussion with your Japanese girlfriend? Can I assume you were consuming adult beverages at the time while becoming acquainted with some new and pleasurable Japanese girlfriend techniques?

      Reply
  2. Nathan Roser

    I’m not a stat geek like Joe is, but the other side of the coin is that Keith Olbermann tells a story about a certain player being a “locker room guy.” I want to say the player’s name was Rick Snyder, but I very well might be wrong about that. He had a very undistinguished career, but it became fashionable to throw a Hall of Fame vote his way. He kept being put on the ballot, until everyone decided to throw a vote his way, and suddenly, he’s elected. I am not prissy about the standards for which we apply Hall of Fame consideration, because I realize that the standards one BBWAA voter applies to who gets their vote are just as arbitrary as someone else’s (the PED debate last year being a good example of this), but I think Olbermann makes a good case for the Hall being screwed up top to bottom–and since we can’t do things like (1) create a “High” Hall of Fame for the people we think are baseball immortals, and a Hall of Fame for everyone else, or, (2) as another option, start over from scratch, the remaining option is to say, “If you can make a good case for this player, he’s in.”

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      Who’s opinion decides whether the case is compelling? That’s the process today, btw…. Not a change…. Unless Olbermann was volunteering to be the sole arbiter…. Which would be a very Olbermann thing for him to say….. And probably somewhat tongue in cheek…. Though he does have enough ego for me to add the “probably somewhat” to qualify my comment.

      Reply
  3. John

    Hey Joe, I see a lot of these posts where you say someone is “not the worst player in the hall of fame,” or something along those lines. So then who is the worst player in the hall? Or maybe the top (or I guess bottom) five worst?
    Who should be the first for the pitchforks and torches?

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      Excluding pre-1900 guys (since it’s almost impossible to judge them against modern players), the worst position players are probably Lloyd Waner and George “High Pockets” Kelly. The worst starting pitchers are probably Rube Marquard and Jesse Haines.

      Reply
      1. PhilM

        I’d swap your Jesse Haines for Catfish Hunter: easily the worst starter the BBWAA elected, and below what Jack Morris would bring to the Hall. Yeah, yeah, I know: “But look at those wins from 1971-1975!” Sometimes the narrative trumps the reality.

        Reply
        1. Ian R.

          Catfish Hunter may, in fact, be the worst player the BBWAA has ever inducted, irrespective of position.I suppose I rank him slightly above Haines (who was a VC selection) mainly because Hunter at least had that fairly dominant run from 1971-75 – he just doesn’t come anywhere close to the Hall of Fame’s career standard. Outside his excellent 1927 season, Haines was pretty much an OK to above-average pitcher.

          I think it’s pretty clear that those three – Haines, Hunter and Marquard – are the worst starters in the Hall of Fame.

          Reply
          1. Which hunt?

            “High Pockets”, “Catfish”, “Rabbit” Maranville…. Clearly a good nickname can get you pretty far with HOF voters. Too bad for “Oil Can” Boyd that he wasn’t a little better, because that, my friends, is a Hall of Fame nickname!

      2. Brian

        Since I disagree with the notion that judging 19th century players against modern ones is somehow impossible but players from 1910 vs modern ones is completely peachy, I’m going with Tommy McCarthy. Unlike most of the usual suspects for worst player in the HoF, who (while undeserving) were very good, if not great players, McCarthy was a thoroughly average player, with nothing in the statistical record to recommend himself.

        Reply
        1. Rick R

          If you’re including 19th century players, then Candy Cummings is the worst player in the Hall hands down. A 120lb pitcher whose 2 year Major League career record is 21-22 (145-94 if you count the additional 4 years he spent in the unheralded National Association), Cummings is in the Hall because it was claimed he invented the curveball, which is highly debatable.

          Reply
          1. Brian

            I thought about Cummings, but a) his WAR is much higher than McCarthy’s (38.5 vs 16.2, though the WAR for pre-1893 pitchers is kinda weird) and while I do consider 19th century players fairgame, b) half of Cummings career (1866 to 1871) came in the under-documented pre-professional era (well, 1871 was the pro era, the first year of the NA, but not all the best players went to the NA right away). Since I do count the NA (and think it’s stupid that MLB’s official stats do not) and I even consider the pre-professional era, to the extent that it can be, I give Cummings the edge over McCarthy.

            And Cummings isn’t soley in the hall because of the curveball. It helped his case, but he was inducted mostly because he was (probably mistakenly) thought to have been a star pitcher of that era, same as Al Spaulding (though Spaulding really was a star). Attributing it to the curveball is somewhat of a later justification after people realized Cummings really didn’t have any case without it. But yes, he’d probably be the 2nd worst player for me, but he’s still better than McCarthy. At least Cummings has a case for being the best player in baseball one year (1875); McCarthy never really came close to that.

          2. Ian R.

            Cummings isn’t in the Hall as a player; he was explicitly inducted as a pioneer because he supposedly invented the curveball. It’s possible that his pitching career (he was very good for a short time) helped his case, but even so.

            And yeah, I totally missed McCarthy because he’s not even in the top 1000 in career WAR. My intent in excluding 19th-century players was more to not pick on, say, George Wright, who played pretty much his entire career before 1880 – his career WAR is low, but that’s largely because the season was much shorter back then. Someone who played in the late 1880s and 1890s, as McCarthy did, is much fairer game, and he’s absurdly under-qualified.

        2. NevadaMark

          Tommy McCarthy is in the Hall of Fame for being one of the “Heavenly Twins” on the great Boston teams of the 19th century, not on his career records. I would be shocked if the committee that put him in even reviewed those records.

          Reply
    2. Jim B

      Tom Yawkey, hands down. A racist drunk with a penchant for cronyism won exactly zero World Series titles during his 43 year reign.

      Reply
      1. Ian R.

        Yawkey is easily the least deserving PERSON in the Hall of Fame, but the question was “who is the worst player?” Hence he doesn’t qualify.

        Reply
  4. Pat

    Joe, I think there are two steps the Hall should take to address the ballot and voting. First, they should recognize expansion, there are twice as many teams as when the Hall was founded, and increase the ballot limit to 20. Second, and more importantly, they need to clean house. Trim the deadwood in the electorate. If a writer isn’t actively covering baseball or is retired, they should not be voting.

    Reply
  5. Ian

    I think lowering it is a good idea – maybe 66% is better? That way, Hodges is still not in so the change wouldn’t put his election into question.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      66% wouldn’t change the results for anyone, save for Morris perhaps. So what would this change accomplish?…. Similar to Joes argument on 50%. If it just shortens the induction time frame, save for Hodges, it really doesn’t change anything significant. You end up with the same results. In my line of business, that’s called re-arranging deck chairs in the Titanic. If you want to change the process, then you have to actually change the process, not just tinker with the percentages.

      Reply
      1. Patrick Bohn

        By shortening the induction time frame, we’re not re-arranging the deck chairs, we’re clearing them from an increasingly crowded deck. Keith Law, for one, has said he sees 15 worthy candidates for induction on this ballot, and there’s only 10 spots.

        If the 50% is applied, Bagwell, Smith, Biggio, Piazza, and Raines are in already, and off the ballot. This becomes a bigger problem every year where you have a deserving candidate added to the ballot without one being removed via election.

        In upcoming years, for example, you’re adding the following players to the ballot:

        2015: Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson
        2016: Ken Griffey Jr.,
        2017: Vlad Gurerro, Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez
        2018: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome

        That’s enough for an entire ballot in and of itself.

        The more really good candidates you have on a list, the harder it is for any of them to get elected. Though some of these guys will have no issues, they’ll wind up taking votes from other guys

        Reply
  6. Jeff Russell

    Joe, the problem is that the voting patterns you describe were all products of a 75%-threshold system. Many of the voters who declined to vote for a given player in a given year undoubtedly chose to do so because they were conscious of how the system works and how voting patterns tend to progress. They view themselves as “gatekeepers,” and they know they can vote “no” one year and switch their vote down the line, and some probably view shorter HOF waits as badges of honor bestowed on better players.

    My point is, if the threshold became 50% rather than 75%, you’d still have the same hold-outs and wrangling and delays — the only difference would be that the actual number values would be lower than they are now (for example, you would be able to write a 40%+ column rather than this 50%+ column).

    Your analogy to the Bengals QB’s contract negotiations is apt, and it works much the same way in other types of negotiations — unfortunately, even if both parties can predict roughly where things are likely headed, both parties have to hold their position and play things out to make sure the “fair” result is reached. In the HOF context, lowering the percentage threshold would only make the voters who view themselves as “gatekeepers” harden their position in response, because to them, the length of the wait is part of the equation, not just whether the player eventually ends up in or out.

    Reply
  7. Triston

    Re: Appling and Ruffing’s huge vote gains-
    In 1962, Ruffing and Appling received 45 and 30% of the votes, respectively, jumping to 70.6 and 70.1 in 1964, with Appling elected in a run-off.
    That’s a huge jump, but there were two rather significant events that occurred in the interim;
    first, the BBWAA reduced eligibility from those retired between five and “thirty” seasons, to those retired between five and “twenty” seasons, like today.
    So between 1962 and 1964 (they only had BBWAA elections in even-numbered years), Sam Rice, Eppa Rixey, Burleigh Grimes, Hack Wilson, Kiki Cuyler, Red Faber, Jim Bottomley, Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt, Heinie Manush, Goose Goslin, Lefty O’Doul and Tony Lazzeri (among others, but those are just players who received at least 5% in 1962) suddenly became ineligible.
    So the only players who had received at least 10% of the vote in 1962 to be on the ballot again in 1964 were Appling, Ruffing, Joe Medwick [his totals jumped from 21.3 to 53.7%], Chuck Klein [11.3 to 27.9%] and Marty Marion [10 to 24.9%].
    Suddenly, the ballot went from stacked to… typical.
    The second event is that, right after Bob Feller was elected in 1962, he said that if he had a vote, Appling and Ruffing would be on the top of the list.

    Imagine after this election, for some reason only Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina were returning, and Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz weren’t eligible yet; “and” Greg Maddux’ induction speech mentions how he’d vote for Tim Raines and Mike Mussina. We’d probably see huge jumps in vote totals.

    Reply
    1. Robert

      We can’t know that for sure. In fact, Ted Williams was constantly arguing for Joe Jackson to be reinstated and inducted to the HoF, and it never gained any real traction. I don’t think you can assume “huge jumps” just because of Maddux’ (or any other prominent player’s) support.

      Reply
      1. Triston

        But Joe Jackson “threw a World Series and was banned for life.” That’s a huge black mark that can’t be undone just because Ted Williams is fine with it.
        However, I think the loss of numerous popular candidates had much more impact than Feller’s support; but I think it likely had “some”.

        Reply
        1. bellweather22

          I think we prefer “permanently ineligible”. Obviously Williams was trying to influence the commissioner, OT HOF voters…. Which, as we’ve seen with Pete Rose had no chance of success. There has been a zero tolerance policy for gambling on baseball for almost 100 years.

          Reply
        1. Robert

          Excellent points by Tristan and Robert Magee. I was just trying to point out that a singular player’s opinion, on any subject or in that particular context, can not be counted on to add huge support to whatever it is they’re backing.

          Reply
          1. Triston

            The main difference between Feller’s recommendations and Ted Williams’ is that Feller’s candidates “could actually be voted on by the BBWAA.” Jackson, Paige, etc weren’t on the ballot.
            But after looking at the 1962 vs. 1964 results of other players, it’s looking like the shrunken ballot was at least “almost” entirely responsible for the huge jumps:
            Joe Medwick [21.3 to 53.7]
            Lou Boudreau [7.5 to 33.8]
            Al Lopez [6.9 to 28.4]
            Chuck Klein [11.3 to 27.9]
            Johnny Mize [8.8 to 26.9]
            Mel Harder [4.4 to 25.4]
            Johnny Vander Meer [3.1 to 25.4]
            Marty Marion [10 to 24.9]
            Lloyd Waner [3.1 to 23.4]
            Allie Reynolds [9.4 to 17.4]
            Bucky Walters [3.1 to 17.4]
            Ernie Lombardi [3.1 to 16.4]
            It just keeps going!

            Oddly enough, Phil Rizzuto was eligible for the first time in 1962, received 27.5%, then went “down” to 22.4% in 1964.

            And I’d really like to find out why “this” is: In 1962, the writers averaged 6.78 players per ballot. Then a ton of guys dropped out, and yet in 1964, they averaged “8.12″ per ballot!

            Hall of Fame voting is “fascinating.”

  8. hack

    i would agree that a simple majority should be enough to get a player elected. i would also like to see one vote, yes or no, 5 years after retirement. no year after year baloney. One-time vote, simple majority. my hall of fame criterion is: you know one when you see one.

    Reply
  9. Robert

    Re: DiMaggio: “I can only guess that was a protest vote against him going in early.”

    Or maybe it’s because the voters realized Joe D was one of the most overrated players of all time.

    Reply
    1. PhilM

      I wonder: can you be overrated and still be an all-time great! And if so, does “overrated” really matter at that point? Joe D is 41st in bWAR, and he has the streak, the 3 MVPs/3 WAR titles (albeit not the same three seasons), key cog in all those championships, and missed prime time during WWII. I’m not sure what your comment is meant to mean.

      Reply
      1. DB

        Agreed, not really his fault that Ted Williams was better (and that the writers did not realize that) as I think you could easily add in 20 WAR for the (i) war years (6.0 for 3 years which is in line) and (ii) then add in some at the end when he was still a viable player (2.6 in his last year). So top 20 player is pretty good. I know some put him in the pantheon up with May, Ruth, etc. which is wrong but top 20 with Marilyn and Mr. Coffee is still awesome.

        Reply
      2. Ian R.

        Sure, you can. I think DiMaggio was in many ways his generation’s Derek Jeter – a fantastic player who was somehow thought to be even better than he was.

        Reply
        1. PhilM

          Excellent point, and perfect analogy. The attributes the media/fans/court of public opinion ascribe often elevate the perception of a player beyond dispassionate “value” — and that’s why there’s “fan” in “fanatic”! :-)

          Reply
          1. bellweather22

            Well then, make your case that DiMaggio was overrated. His career counting stats were lower owing to a 13 yr career with three war years lost in his prime. Still, he hit .325/.398/.579, led the league in WAR 3 times… And was in the top 5 ten of his 13 years…. And Top 4 in slugging ten times. Led the league in HRs twice and Top 5 in HRs 10 times. What is missing for you? He dominated for 10-11 of his 13 seasons. I’m not sure how that’s qualifies as overrated.

          2. Robert

            In response to bellweather, I said he was overrated, not that he wasn’t great. His legacy was one that was constantly being promoted, by himself AND the Yankees, as the greatest living ballplayer (he insisted on being introduced as such for any public event).

            He only played 13 season – even if you give him the 3 he lost due to war (not to be confused with WAR) it’s only 16 – good, but not great.

            OPS+ isn’t perfect but while it has him at #22 all-time for career OPS+ (very impressive), it does put him behind Dick Allen (who is criminally UNDER-rated IMO).

            It is interesting that his number one Similarity Score match is Larry Walker – again, Walker was a great player, and in many ways similar to Joe D (yes, duh, obviously, thus the Sim Score), but no one outside of the Walker family would place that type of greatness on him.

            In fact, of the remaining 9 in his top ten Sim Scores, only one (Miguel Cabrera @ 2) would be thought as an all-time all-timer.

            Again, my claim wasn’t that Joe D was great – he obviously was – it’s that the hyberbole surrounding him far exceeds the accomplishments of the player.

          3. Ian R.

            Sure. DiMaggio won three MVP awards, and at minimum he shouldn’t have won the last one. Ted Williams’ OBP was .499 that year – he reached base half the time he went up to bat. Oh, and he won the Triple Crown, too.

            Joe D probably didn’t deserve his second MVP, either – Williams batted over .400 that year. Yes, DiMaggio was a brilliant defensive center fielder while Ted was a mediocre left fielder, but the offensive gap was so huge that Williams still had the better year.

            But surely he deserved his first MVP in 1939, right? Well… maybe not. Bob Feller was really, really flippin’ good that year, and the Cy Young didn’t exist yet.

            So, he’s a three-time MVP who probably shouldn’t have been. He was a high-average, low-walk hitter, which is a package that tends to be overrated in comparison to lower-average, higher-walk hitters (see Tony Gwynn vs. Tim Raines).

            As far as I can tell, DiMaggio was basically viewed as Ted Williams’ equal at the plate and his superior in the field – mostly because nobody at the time cared about walks. Looking back, we see that DiMaggio was probably overrated as a hitter, and his career was relatively short. He’s still an all-time great, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t belong in the top 10 or probably even the top 20.

          4. bellweather22

            Robert, btw, I totally concur on Dick Allen. He is, by far, the least appreciated great player ever…. And currently the best player not in the hall and not currently up for consideration. Beyond his offensive numbers, what kid didn’t imitate his buggy whip batting style at the ball field? Obviously his defense was flawed, but that generally doesn’t present a problem for HOF voters. It was most likely his surly attitude towards sports writers that’s most responsible for his low vote totals. Some thought he was a clubhouse cancer, but that mostly appears to be a myth.

          5. Mark Daniel

            DiMaggio played at Yankee Stadium, which in his day was 402 feet to left, 457 to left-center, and 461 to center. This would affect a player’s home/road splits, particularly in the power department:
            Home: .315/.391/.546, 148 HR
            Road: .333/.405/.610, 213 HR

            In this respect, he is far, far different from Larry Walker.

            Also, he was NOT a high average, low walk hitter. His career isolated discipline was .073, which is around league average for that time period, and translates to 74 walks per 162 games for him. That’s not low. It’s not astounding, but it’s not bad.

            As for Dick Allen, his OPS+ is the same as Willie Mays (156) and one better than Hank Aaron (155). I wouldn’t call those two players underrated.

            And as for similarity scores, those are heavily dependent on counting stats, which are relatively low for DiMaggio partially because of 3 lost years in his prime.

        2. Bill Caffrey

          The “DiMaggio is overrated” case is really pretty simple. He was a very great player. An all-timer. But he was often talked about (less so nowadays) as though he were Ruth/Mays-level great and he clearly was not. I was only a kid, but every time I heard him introduced as “the greatest living ballplayer” I used to make the same joke: “Oh my god! Willie Mays is dead!?”

          Reply
    2. the_slasher14

      I HATE the Yankees but calling DiMaggio overrated is ridiculous. He was a dominant player in the late 30s and early 40s, great again after the war. He retired early and lost a lot of time to WWII, but his numbers stand up. Now that we know about park effects, they’re even more remarkable.

      He was a miserable human being but definitely a HOFer.

      Reply
  10. John Brinegar

    As bad as the baseball system is, it cannot compare to the mess the NFL has with their Hall of Fame. Self important guys like liberal, east coast blowhard Peter King and about 35 other guys mostly like him control the NFL HOF…. It makes things like Harry Carson in, Lee Roy Jordan out happen.

    Reply
  11. Matt Adams

    Might another solution be to add two tiers to the ballot?

    So if a player surpasses the 50% threshold they move up to a middle level. Not sure how it would work, but maybe it would be as simple as voters being able to vote for up to 10 players on each list.

    So this year’s ballot would have two tiers. The list of those who had crossed the 50% threshold at some point in the past: Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith,Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines. Voters could vote for up to 10 of those guys (I know, there aren’t 10, but still). These players would still need 75% to get in, but they have made it past the first round. The second list would be everyone else. 75% gets in, 50% gets you to the middle level.

    This would help ease the logjam by helping guys escape the crunch of too many guys splitting votes. You get past 50%, you move past the qualifying round, and onto the second round, where you’re competing against fewer guys for ballot space.

    Reply
    1. Triston

      That sounds similar, though distinctly different than, the run-offs they had in various forms between 1946 and 1949, and between 1962 and 1967… each time installed because the BBWAA hadn’t elected anyone for two consecutive elections.

      Reply
    2. Dan Shea

      Here’s who hit that 50%-75% level, by year of voting:

      2013: Biggio, Bagwell, Morris, Piazza, Raines.
      2012: Morris, Bagwell, Smith
      2011: Larkin, Morris
      2010: Blyleven, Morris, Larkin, Alomar
      2009: Dawson, Blyleven
      2008: Rice, Dawson, Blyleven
      2007: Gossage, Rice, Dawson
      2006: Blyleven, Dawson, Gossage, Rice
      2005: Sutter, Rice, Gossage, Dawson
      2004: Sandberg, Sutter, Rice, Dawson
      2003: Sutter, Rice, Dawson
      2002: Carter, Rice, Sutter
      2001: Carter, Rice
      2000: Rice
      1999: Fisk, Perez
      1998: Perez
      1997: Sutton, Perez
      1996: Niekro, Perez, Sutton
      1995: NIekro, Sutton, Perez
      1994: Cepeda, Niekro, Perez, Sutton (Cepeda’s last year, not elected by the BBWAA, the only guy on this list like that)
      1993: Niekro, Cepeda, Perez
      1992: Cepeda, Perez

      It’s an interesting list. The guys you see at this level pretty much all eventually make it in to the Hall on the basis of BBWAA election (with the exception of Cepeda). The only question is how long it will take? For some, it’s the obligatory “you’re not a first balloter, but still no doubt a HOF’er” like Alomar, Sandberg, Larkin; for others it’s an arduous wait like Perez, Rice, Dawson.

      Reply
  12. jennifer dudley arbaugh

    Yo. Joe. I have done my damn best investigative work. NBC. Simon & Schuster. Finding an email for you is akin to needle in Mt Rumpke. Serendipity. Mike Brown’s name in your blog today. My beloved friend, The Invincible Mary Brown, Paul’s widow, died this past Sat early morn. Peacefully. After a few months battle with bone Cancer. A vicious way to exit for a gracious, brave lady. She attended 2013 Hall of Fame 50th. I have a story to tell you about your article in REAL CLEAR SPORTS Aug 2 and its effect …. Your portrait of Coach Brown was perfection. If and when you read your blog responses. Shout one out to me.
    I promise. It will be worth the effort!

    Reply
      1. jennifer dudley arbaugh

        Ian. I know there is a link for his and asst Jennifer. My computer is playing difficult. Window’s 8 is crazy. If you could send me the email of both I would appreciate.

        Reply
  13. tombando

    20 vote limit not 10, 60 some odd percent % to get in, widen voter pool. Also put in Omar Vizquel just so we get to see Joe Poz and Keith Law’s brains race to which will short circuit first.

    Reply
  14. bellweather22

    I think before we panic and start changing the process, let’s see how the voters process this season. If they end up voting in nobody…. Or even just Maddux, it’s time to worry. As it is, some of these newer entries to the ballot are not slam dunk HOFers and a few years should be allowed to hear their candidacy…. And that includes suspected and convicted PED users. I don’t think anything is inherently wrong with allowing time to assess those with blemishes on their record. It’s fun to argue about what the voters should do and later what they should have done. But if the voters seem incapable of breaking the ballot log jam, and just end up irritating everyone then it’s time to revisit….and reinvent the process. There is no reason that the HOF process should become a Congress-like black hole. There is no Constitution to deal with, so rethinking the process would be the right way to go.

    Reply
  15. southernfjord

    Hi folks,
    Just curious…how many (if any) non-first ballot HOFers are there that by-passed the 50% mark altogether? In other words, how many got less than 50% on every ballot except for the one that finally put them in? Has a leap like that even happened?

    Reply
    1. Triston

      Just three, and each with circumstances that aren’t “normal”:
      In 1936, Cy Young received 49.1% of the inaugural HOF voting, finishing 8th. In 1937, he went to 76.1%.
      There are two things to mention: First, there were separate elections in 1936 for 19th and 20th-century players; Cy Young’s career was pretty split between the two (he appeared on ~83% of the ballots of 19th-century players, but for some stupid reasons they afterwards made each vote a “half” vote and no one was elected). The 19th-century ballot was scrapped for 1937, so Young was “fully” eligible, I guess you could put it.
      More importantly, the 1936 ballot was obviously stacked; with the top 5 vote-getters having been elected, the writers could now focus on the next set: Lajoie, Speaker and Young finished 6th, 7th and 8th in 1936 and finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 1937.

      In 1947, Lefty Grove was elected with 76.4%; his highest previous total had been 35.1% the previous year. But after the 1946 election, the BBWAA limited voting to ten-year members (there were 202 voters in 1946, 161 in 1947), candidate eligibility went from “active at some point since 1900″ to “retired for 25 years at most”; and 11 of the top vote-getters from 1946 had been inducted by the Old-Timers’ Committee (though they wouldn’t have been eligible in 1947 due to the 25-year rule).
      In 1946, Grove finished 10th; five of the players above him were elected by the OTC, another [Miller Huggins] became ineligible. The four players elected in 1947 were the four players who’d received the most votes in 1946 and were still on the ballot, just like 1936/1937.
      Mickey Cochrane also jumped past 50% (39.6% in 1946 to 79.5% in 1947), but he’d received 50.6% in 1945.

      Last is Luke Appling. His highest total was 30% in 1962. Then, as I’ve explored in another comment, eligibility went from “retired 30 years” to “retired 20 years,” and a ton of popular candidates suddenly became ineligible. EVERYBODY’S vote totals jumped, and Appling (and Ruffing) were the top 2 returning players, so writers focused on them. Both reached 70%, and Appling was elected in a run-off which had been put in place to make sure “someone” was elected.

      Since then, no returning candidate has been elected without having received at least 60% the previous ballot. (I think Tony Perez had the lowest total, with 60.1% in 1999, but that was a stacked ballot; he’d received over 65% in 1996, 1997 and 1998.)

      Reply
  16. invitro

    I vigorously oppose making any changes to the BBWAA voting for these reasons:
    - It is, I think, highly improbable that the 50% trend will continue. If that long bets site were still around, I would bet you $20 that a player with 50% now will not be in in 20 years. My reason: VC voting has changed.
    - A lot of the players on the 50% list are *bad* HoF selections. We should be making it less likely, not more likely, that such selections are made.
    - This is a unique moment in the HoF voting process, because of PEDs. Making a long-term fix for a short-term problem is generally seen as a dumb thing to do. I do not understand why more of you do not see this. The clog of PED players will go away when they fall off the ballot, and voting will return to normal then.
    - I personally am A-OK with how the BBWAA voting is done now, and think it needs zero changes. I don’t agree with the votes completely, but I agree enough that I think any change would be much more likely to be bad than good. Feel free to tinker with the VC voting, though.
    - I am not up in arms about making players wait. These men are very rich, and have lived a life of dreams. There are billions of people in the world that need sympathy more than baseball superstars. A twenty-year wait for a borderline player to get in seems about right to me, and certainly not a tragedy. I believe Joe is personally somewhat close to some of these players, and so weighs their feelings more than strangers’ feelings, but I do not.
    - As some have said, if you set the bar at 50%, then everyone over 40% will eventually get in, and you’ll have the same situation, plus a very watered-down HoF.

    Tango’s post is just silly and misguided, which I suppose is rare for him, but anyway I recommend reading other responses to his post here:
    http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/newsstand/discussion/tangotiger_jack_morris_will_make_the_hall_of_fame

    Reply
  17. nscadu9

    It seems there are other simpler flaws in the voting. I remember a SportsonEarth writer penning a column a year or two ago on why he/she didn’t submit a HoF ballot or submitted a blank ballot. I wonder if there are others because this only hurts deserving players of getting the mandated percentages. It doesn’t seem like the blanks or non-submitted ballots get erased from the total, I may be wrong on that one. Don’t know if there were any who would’ve made the 75% earlier, but more concerning is guys like David Cone, Kevin Brown and Lou Whitaker not getting the 5% and falling off the ballot while equal or inferior players continue to get consideration. Anyone crunched the numbers on that?

    Reply
    1. Triston

      Cone, Brown and Whitaker would still have fallen off the ballot if those blank votes hadn’t been counted. By my calculation, the only real changes would be that Harold Baines wouldn’t have fallen off in 2011, and in 2010, Bert Blyleven would have finished ONE VOTE SHY of election; his 400 votes would have been 74.9% of the 534 non-blank votes cast (75% would be 400.5 votes), and the HOF doesn’t round up.

      Reply
  18. bellweather22

    One more comment. One of the goals of the voting process should be to keep it simple. Therefore ideas like Multiple Tiers and such, which complicate and confused the approach, should not be considered. The more complicated it is made, the worse the results will be. It is human nature to try to fix things by adding complexity. That is the wrong way to fix things.

    I do think the current process is pretty simple. Vote for up to 10 and you should factor in things such as performance and integrity.

    The complications seem to come when the ballot gets too full and voters split their votes and elect nobody. That’s the current concern. So, the simplest thing to do, is to temporarily (or permanently) increase the number of votes that each voter can make. Lowering the percentage, based on the analysis in this article, would likely not change the results much & might taint the selections as “less worthy”.

    Reply
  19. Kris

    So in reality, of those 79 players mentioned earlier, the BBWAA elected near 80% of them – using the 75% rule which is currently (and has been) in place. The review process (vets, old-timers, whatever we call them today) elected another 19% of them. And of course, one is not in. So for all intensive purposes 98%-99% were elected under the current (at the time) processes.

    Are really arguing then … about the waiting? Or adding more players?

    Reply
  20. Dave Johnson

    One year, Hodges came within 1 vote of being elected by the veterans committee. Committee member Roy Campanella was ill and couldn’t attend the meeting. He asked if he could file an absentee vote for Hodges via the telephone and was told that he could not. Hodges’ biggest problem was he died (just before his 48th birthday) … and people, including the voters, eventually forgot about him. It was just the opposite for Don Drysdale, whom Hodges had perennially topped in the annual BBWAA Hall of Fame voting. Drysdale stayed around the game (and the voters) as an announcer and ultimately, and deservedly, got in. … Hodges deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. If memory serves, there are more than 20 players in the Hall who annually fell short of Hodges’ vote totals when Gil was alive.

    Reply
  21. the_slasher14

    Gil Hodges was my favorite player when I was growing up, and I have since tried mightily to make a case for his being in the HOF on his record as a player. And I can’t. He was clearly a hall-of-very-good player, but his numbers just don’t cut it. His main talent was power and he played in a friendly ballpark. If he’d hit another 50 HRs, maybe. But he didn’t.

    BUT…I have never seen a manager do what he did in 1969. He won 100 games and the World Series with a team that had only TWO players with over 401 ABs (Wayne Garrett had 401 ..and hit .210 with no power.) How in hell did he do it? He had Seaver and Koosman, fine. Who else? Gary Gentry is his rookie year, Nolan Ryan when he was still learning, and a lot of never-got-theres like Jim McAndrew and were-on-their-way-outs like Don Cardwell. He did NOT have a dominating pitching staff. Actually, until late September, he often didn’t have a regular rotation. Seaver, Koosman and Gentry pitched more or less in rhythm but the fourth or fifth starters were very unpredictable.

    He platooned at four, sometimes five positions. His shortstop lost time to injuries and military service. He got contributions from guys like Bobby Pfeil and Jack DiLauro, who sank without trace after 1969. I haven’t played computerized baseball using actual player records but I have to believe that the team Hodges won with that year wouldn’t win 90 games if you played 1,000 seasons. The Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals were WAY better on paper. I’ve seen teams win it all with low levels of talent — the 1959 and 1988 Dodgers come to mind — but nothing like what Hodges had to work with. And one of the only two regulars he had was Tommie Agee, who was a disaster only one year before but Hodges stuck with him, encouraged him, and got a near MVP year out of him in 1969.

    And as the next two years showed pretty clearly, the Mets really weren’t that good. They won 83 games in 1970, they were in the pennant race until a collapse in mid-September, and 83 in 1971. And in 1972, in the last week of spring training, Hodges died of a heart attack.

    Does one miraculous year on top of a hall-of-very-good-career rate the HOF? You tell me.

    Reply

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