By In Baseball, History


Fair to say, I’m not a fan of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration efforts.

From NBC SportsWorld:

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems — SEEMS — like the Hall of Fame is going out of its way to once again celebrate that time when baseball refused to let African-Americans and dark-skinned players play. Maybe it seems that way because I look at the above press release and it has “PRE-INTEGRATION” on top of the page in all capital letters and repeats the phrase “pre-integration” 21 times in total on the page.


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54 Responses to Pre-Integration

  1. Doug says:

    Joe, what put the bee in your bonnet? Of course, you are certainly right on this call. But I see this as a lost cause. All fans have their cherished old timers. Mine is George Van Haltren. (Don’t worry, I don’t intend start up a campaign for him.) I think the origin of this obsession with enshrining the “missing greats” of Harold Seymour’s Golden Age is easily found: The standards for the Hall of Fame were fatally lowered in the first decade of its existence. I mean who voted for Tommy McCarthy, for Pete’s sake? There were more bad choices to come. Joe TInker? Frank Chance? Elmer Flick? Eppa Rixey? Fred Lindstrom? And poor ol’ George Kelly continues to be batted about by everyone who care about the Hall. And I favor a “big Hall” rather than a small one. There are plenty of players from the Sixties and Seventies who are worthier than Bill Dahlen and Deacon White. I hope you and other sabermetrically-savvy writers will be able to make the case for reconsidering the merits of Bill Freehan, Tony Oliva, Bobby Grich, Dwight Evans, Dale Murphy and Dave Parker.

    • Michibob says:

      Can’t agree with you Doug – I feel that the Hall of Fame should be reserved for Great players. I think a case can be made for every one of the players that you list there, particularly Oliva and Parker. But I think there should be a line between Hall of Fame level and Hall of Very Good. To me that means consistently great over time. I’m a Tigers fan that saw Freehan play, and I would say we have had some Great players over the years, maybe a couple right now. Kaline is a perfect definition of that, and I would put Morris there too, although that’s been argued enough here. Trammell, Whitaker, Parrish, Gibson, Freehan – every team has a list of players like this that were very good, some for a long time. But not great – and Great is what I want to see in the HOF. If there were only 100 players that could truly be considered great, that’s how many should be there – not just keep adding players because we have another vote this year.

      • Doug says:

        See my comment? That train has sailed. The Hall has NEVER been reserved for the greatest players. That is why McCarthy, Tinker, Chance, Lindstrom, Rixey, Kell, Kelly, Sutter, Gossage, Hunter, Perez, and Biggio share space with Ruth, Gehrig, Aaron, Mays, Cobb, Walter Johnson and Maddux. Unless the leadership in Cooperstown has plans to expel players already elected, we are stuck with a big Hall.

        • The “Very Good” and “Great” monikers are very subjective. Really all you are doing is moving the line. Then, right below the line, you’ll have another list of “Very Good” players. It’s just opinion as to where to draw the line. There are no “standards”, per se. It used to be that counting number stats drew a de-facto line. Now it’s advanced metrics, but again, there are no real standards, especially when metrics like WAR are highly influenced by length of career…. no different than any other counting number stats.

          • MCD says:

            Yes, it bothers me more than it should, but I hear the “Its not the Hall of Very Good” line so much, it makes me want to puke.

            When people trot that out, do they think people are going to say, “Oh its not? I thought it was called the ‘Hall of Very good’ . Well in that case, no Andre Dawson. I’m glad you pointed that out to me, I really thought very good players should be honored, but it is just the great ones, right? That really clears it up for me.”

        • professorbohn says:

          Except we don’t need to *continue* to let in non-worthy players just because we always have.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Well, just because there are guys already in that should not be doesn’t mean you have to add more undeserving players. You don’t have to expel guys already in, just not add more that shouldn’t be there. Obviously, as in any political process, there are going to be inequities. But you don’t have to add to them.

          To be honest, though, I don’t care that much one way or the other. It’s just a museum after all. The players had the careers they had and got to be paid for playing a game they loved. It is amusing to me that people act as if Joe Schmoe not making the Hall of Fame is some sort of tragedy. There is nothing wrong with being a very good player that had a very good career, but not good enough to make the Hall. On the scale of injustice, that doesn’t loom very large to me.

      • NevadaMark says:

        I don’t necessarily disagree with you M, but where do you draw that line? It is impossible. How do you separate the best of the Very Good from the worst of the great? Each fan will have a difference of opinion on the matter. And as Doug said, it is too late now.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          I agree; I don’t think you can draw the line. I was just making the point that, simply because there are guys in there now that got in because they were cronies doesn’t mean you have to let in someone else that doesn’t really deserve it. But, there is no real dividing line and I find it amusing that people get so upset when so-and-so makes it and so-and-so doesn’t. Truly great players will make it-the Mantles, Mayes, Madduxes, Griffeys, etc. (although, I guess, not Bonds or Clemens).. Some lesser players will make it too and some will be left out. But it’s not as if leaving Alan Trammell out of the Hall of Fame will cause the Hall to come crashing down.

    • MCD says:

      So help me, I thought George Van Haltren *was* in the Hall-of-Fame. Not sure why I thought that. Perhaps I assumed any player that played the bulk of his career before 1900 and I had still heard of him, *had* to be in the HOF. At least he satisfies the “Fame” designation.

  2. Rob V says:

    Thanks for this, Joe. You are absolutely correct on substance, and on seeing through the abuse of language that is “pre-integration.”

  3. nfieldr says:


  4. invitro says:

    At least one person, me, will argue that Dahlen was better than Frank White. Actually, it’s kind of hard to take someone seriously that is claiming White was better than Dahlen. Maybe Bill James was playing a joke on you…

  5. shagster says:

    Why? A make work project. For the Hall. For the procrastinator … er, writer (so he doesn’t have to finish his Top 100).

    I’m beginning to think its bc of his employer. Que pasa Joe? They holding u hostage? They want the content rights?

    • DB says:

      Well it appears Sportsworld now has 2 writers only (including Joe). At one point, Joe was the only one with any articles on the main page at all. Way to give support NBC. I hope Joe does not get burned out at some point.

  6. David Eberly says:

    Oh. My. God.

    Joe, I obviously agree that this entire process is absurd, and I’m a “Big Hall” guy.

    It is so absurd that I saw on twitter you were railing against this, and I was confused. I was confused because when I saw that they were gong to have a Pre-Integration Committee I assumed that they were re-examining Negro League players for induction. I realize that this is a wrong and stupid assumption, but it highlights how stupid the ACTUAL decision is — so stupid that it did not occur to me that they might possibly be looking at inducting even more major league players from this era.

  7. Himself says:

    Two words: Minnie. Minoso.

  8. Himself says:

    Or if you want to get technical about it, five words: Saturnino. Orestes. Armas. Arrieta. Miñoso.

    • wordyduke says:

      Technically, he was a great player who would have 350+ win shares if he had been welcomed in “organized” ball as a teenager. Second, he pioneered for his color and his language in Chicago. Third, he was a fine gentleman and ambassador for the game, for Cubanos.

  9. KCJoe says:

    It’s rare that I read a Joe Posnanski article and find that I was already in tune with what he has to say.

    Just this year, I was lucky enough to go to Cooperstown for my son’s baseball tournament. While there, my family became paid members of the Hall of Fame. With this, I get a weekly E-newsletter in my inbox.

    So on Monday, I had exactly the same reaction, albeit a little more naive then Joe’s. I read the lead story in the e-newsletter and thought,”What the hell do they mean by ‘pre-integration'” and why are they so proud of this fact. I was hoping it meant another group of worthy but banned players who were not allowed in the Majors during this so-called era…but much to my shock it was a list of white players and non-players who were apparently slighted in some other way for the last 70 or so years.

    When I was there, I said the Hall itself is like a church to a baseball fan. Sadly I have realised that It is more like the vatican than I had thought, in that it represents both the wonderful and the horrible parts of its own past.

    By the way, I’m Catholic so don’t think I’m just an outsider bashing Catholics. All great and historical institutions have a bright and dark past. We who are a part of them must work to move them to the bright future without denying the past.


  10. Marc Schneider says:

    When I see stuff like this, it’s like very bad TV shows or movies-who the hell thought this was a good idea and why didn’t someone stop this person?

    And the thing is, baseball has been on a roll in terms of public relations-at least compared to the NFL. For the first time probably ever, people were thinking that baseball was being run better than football. Why ruin it with something so stupid? (Yes, I know the HOF is not affiliated with MLB.)

  11. Tom K says:

    Have they said that this committee will not look at Negro League candidates? They played in the “Pre-Integration Era”, so it’s hard to see how they could justify opening this door to “whites only”.

    • invitro says:

      This is the key question, and I can’t believe Joe didn’t focus on this instead of his wrath about the name (though I think it should be “Pre-1947”). I assumed that the committee was free to consider Negro Leaguers as well as MLB’ers. Looks like I was wrong.

      I did a study a year or two ago and concluded that pre-1947 white and black players are equally represented, if a white man and a black man were equally likely to be great baseball players before 1947.

      Surely the HoF has a separate committee lined up to reconsider Negro Leaguers. I’d rather the pre-1947 committee be allowed to consider all people, but maybe they have a reason for having separate committees.

      If the HoF doesn’t change something about this, or announce a new Negro League committee soon, I’ll eat my Houston Astros hat.

  12. Tom K says:

    I see the 10 major league season requirement addresses this. Gotta believe that will change. Good on ‘ya calling it out.

  13. Gesge says:

    This is probably the worst column Joe has written in a long time. Joe obviously holds 19th century baseball in contempt. But not everyone does, and people like me are interested in learning more about 19th century baseball.

    • otistaylor89 says:

      You are right, we need to move the mound up to 50 feet ASAP!!

    • NevadaMark says:

      But the 19th century players HAVE been considered by Hall, since the day they started electing people. My goodness, they just elected one a couple of years ago. And they will elect more. I don’t think Joe holds those guys in contempt. But if you are going to put those guys in the Hall now, can you be absolutely sure that they are great players? It was a completely different game back then. And it’s not like that era is not fairly represented in the Hall now.

      • MCD says:

        I don’t think Joe has contempt, but there is at least *some* bit of content there that suggests that he holds them in less regard merely based on the era they played in: “Now, no disrespect to the good Deacon but maybe when you are electing flat-earthers who played baseball in a time before catchers wore gloves, maybe you’re scraping bottom.”

        Funny? Yes. Should any of that have any bearing whatsoever on Deacon White’s merit? No

    • verdephoto says:

      Actually, Gesge, what Joe holds in contempt is a mindset that the earth is still flat – or that racism could ever be acceptable. 19th Century baseball, indeed all baseball is fascinating. But racial prejudice is morally bankrupt – and should be held in the highest contempt.

  14. Euan says:

    It is disheartening to see some asking why you are angry. Why wouldn’t any decent person be angry?

    We should continue to look at the negro leagues but what can we find about the old white guys that we didn’t already know?

    Sometimes people say LeBron or messI or whoever is legendary, but this is the opposite of a real legend. We know everything these players did. Everything. But Josh gibson? We literally have no idea how good he was.

    I think the negros leagues are the only place that historical information can change.

    And yeah, anger is the only appropriate response.

    • invitro says:

      If you’re going to make such an outrageous claim as that anyone not angry about this is indecent, you really need to say just why you demand that everyone be angry. Otherwise you look like an immature, selfish pig.

  15. Michael Green says:

    Of course there will be people in the Hall of Fame–any hall of fame–who shouldn’t be, at least in my opinion or somebody else’s here. A lot of the old New York Giants got in supposedly because Frankie Frisch, their old teammate, was a power on the veterans committee. There are other stories of log-rolling. There was a big move to change the committee after Bill Mazeroski went in because, after all, he had a low lifetime BA compared with other members–except that he may have been the greatest defensive second baseman ever, which really ought to count for something.

    I am with Joe for the most part. It’s hard to think of any players who should have gone in from that period in the major leagues; perhaps, yes, from the Negro Leagues. I wonder about executives, umpires, et al. The last time, Hank O’Day went in–he spent the better part of 40 years as a major league umpire and was well regarded. Jacob Ruppert went in, and near as I can tell his great achievement was in buying the Yankees and giving Ed Barrow the bankroll to buy a lot of players and build a great organization; that means Barrow belongs, but I’m not so sure about Ruppert.

    But Joe missed an irony. Sam Breadon sold the Cardinals after the 1947 season. During that season, the Cardinals players planned to go on strike rather than play against Jackie Robinson. So it really was the Jim Crow, segregation era.

    • NevadaMark says:

      Would Maz had gone in if he had not hit that homer? Or would his defensive stats had been enough on their own?

      • Obviously the HR had a big impact, especially since it was captured on a very early highlight reel). But, when looking at defensive metrics, I was stunned at how high Mark Belanger was on the DWAR list (2nd all time behind Ozzie). Obviously he was not a good hitter & not even as good as Mazeroski. But shouldn’t Belanger get a shot at induction, even though he never hit a signature homerun?

        • NevadaMark says:

          My opinion is that without that homer Maz stays out. If Belanger had been your run of the mill lousy hitter he probably would have won 15 gold gloves, but he could never stay in the lineup later in his career.

      • BobDD says:

        Maz’ homer was to his HOF case what Morris’ 10 inning shutout was to his case. Should not have changed the case, but did.

  16. KHAZAD says:

    I also initially thought “pre-integration” might have something to do with the Negro Leagues. I don’t know why they consider it necessary to revisit the players before 1947. Besides the lesser competition, this era is already represented about 2.5 times more than the post 1947 era. That is, when taking into account the number of baseball players actually playing, a given player from the early era is two and a half times more likely (percentage wise) to be in the hall of fame than one from the later era already. (There have been more major league players in the last 40 years than there were pre 1947, and more in the 2000s than the 1800s)

    As far as actually using the term “pre integration era”? That is a PR nightmare and you think someone would have said “Hey guys, do you really think we should be doing this?” The fact that it not only continued, but is advertised that way is a testament to the how clueless those that run the hall of fame are.

  17. Chris says:

    Outstanding rant. Just perfect.

  18. Richard says:

    Let’s call it the “Pre-Television Era”, since the dates work out the same. The 1947 World Series was the first one televised, and it can be argued that it helped spread the use of television. It’s a good watershed for baseball, too. While there were sporadic telecasts and newsreel footage prior to 1947, after that year it became possible for many people to actually *see* a player without having to go to a game in person.

    As far as running out candidates, let’s put in a rule that if two consecutive elections go by without a candidate being chosen, they can close out the era. Clearly at that point, they’ve found everyone worthy.

  19. Marc Schneider says:

    Do we actually know that’s what the HOF intended? Obviously, the title is unfortunate but it’s hard for me to believe that the HOF is intending to honor only white players.

  20. Tom K says:

    I had the same thought but, incredibly, that is what they intend: the release says that, to be eligible, a candidate must have 10 years in the majors. Obviously, no one in the process would have considered a policy that said “whites only”, but by doing it without saying it, they may, somehow, have overlooked the issue. I suppose one could argue that this is an analog to the process by which Negro League players were considered some years back, so it’s OK. But that requires, at minimum, that you believe the, Negro League process was perfect, or at least demonstrably superior to the process under which all these “pre-integration” guys were previously considered. They really oughta, and probably will, change this. The best way would seem to be by having this single committee consider all “pre-integration” players, including Negro Leaguers with 10 seasons, while expanding the committee to include people with relevant expertise. (That seems better than separate committee’s, because it would likely apply a more consistent standard).

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Wow! Why do they even need to open up this can of worms? It’s not as if there are not enough players in the Hall of Fame. The obvious exception should be the Negro Leaguers, who were not allowed in the majors. Otherwise, does anyone really care if a deserving player from the 1880s is not in the HOF? There are plenty of deserving players from more recent times that are not in. I just don’t see the point of this, even ignoring the idiocy of making this a whites’-only process. The whole process of trying to go back in time and decide who should have been selected just seems pointless, especially for the 19th century.

      • Jaack says:

        Why are you making an exception for Negro Leaguers? There are already 26 people inducted primarily due to their association with the Negro Leagues. It’s not as if any of them are alive to be honored, does anyone really care about the 27th best Negro Leaguer?

        Well, I guess I care. I would like to see more Negro Leaguers honored. I would also like to see more early players honored, if they are deserving (and Bill Dahlen clearly is, and I think that Wes Farrell and Sherry Magee have pretty good cases too). Are there many pre-WWII (hey look, another better name for this committee!) players that are egregious exclusions. Not really. Does that mean we should stop evaluating players from that era? Not at all.

        Basically there seem to be two issues with the Pre-Integration committee. There is the name/whites-only thing, which is clearly a really bad screw-up by the Hall, but is really easily fixed. Call it the Pre-1947 committee or the Pre-WWII committee. Include Negro League players and executives and the like as candidates and ensure that there are some committee members who specialize in these candidates.

        Secondly, there is the issue that there already are a ton of players from this era, and more recent players are underrepresented. This is fair, but its not a reason to just stop considering players from this era. Instead of having the committee meet every three years, make it like a 7 or 10 year cycle. There isn’t really any urgency to get these guys in the hall (they’re all dead, so its mainly for historic record), so the longer cycle shouldn’t be an issue. That gives us more time to find forgotten gems of players in between, and gives the other eras a chance to catch up. While there already are an abundance of early players, just because old Veteran’s Committees thought that George Kelly and Chick Hafey were credible Hall of Famers doesn’t mean we can’t add in guys that are actually deserving.

        • NevadaMark says:

          I see your point J, but how about a little equity for the players from the 60’s and 70’s, you know, guys we actually saw play? To even consider Bucky Walters when all these other guys who were better than him are dismissed seems an injustice to me. Of course, the Negro Leagues are different; I have no problem if they want to add more Negro leaguers. But Frank McCormack? No, no, no, not until some more modern players get a break.

  21. rucksack says:

    I wish Joe would ease up on his challenges to Tom Yawkey’s HOF credentials. Sure, his record on race was spotty, but look at all the World Championships he brought to Boston during his tenure.

  22. […] Posnanski is a national treasure and he lays waste to the Hall of Fame’s “Segregation Era” Committee in a post for NBC […]

  23. sansho1 says:

    I’m late on this, but I saw the post via Keith Law’s Saturday five. Cross-posting:

    I suppose the HOF was asking for it by calling it the Pre-Integration Era in the first place — in referring to the earlier days of professional baseball by the most shameful aspect of it, they’re practically begging people to view it primarily, if not solely, through that lens. Which is a shame, because similarly to how MLB serves to educate new generations of fans through the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson, the occasional HOF induction of an old-time player can help to focus for a moment on how the game developed by showing how it affected, and was affected by, the technology and culture of the times, for better and worse. Posnanski’s dismissal of the flat-earthers and train-riders of a century ago implies that we require protection from our own history. I disagree. Poz’s point seems to be that the HOF has closed the book on one aspect of the game (the Negro Leagues) while re-opening another (the whites-only major leagues). The proper perspective of a historian (which Poz surely is) would be to leave all books open.

    He’s particularly dismissive of Deacon White. I was pleased to be able to use White’s induction to dig in to the earliest days of the organized game, which I wrote about here, using Bill James’ Keltner List:

  24. wogggs says:

    “Now, no disrespect to the good Deacon but maybe when you are electing flat-earthers who played baseball in a time before catchers wore gloves, maybe you’re scraping bottom.” Awesome. One thought, maybe Barry Bonds, et al., should proclaim themselves flat earthers to get more consideration.

  25. […] My piece posted Oct. 5, the day the Hall announced the people on the Pre-Integration Era ballot. Posnanski plugged his NBC column Oct. 7 on his personal blog. He probably would have posted on the personal blog shortly after posting on NBC. (I’ll […]

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