Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat were snubbed by the Hall of Fame during their first 15 years of eligibility. But thanks to the Veterans Committee, the two Twins legends have another shot at induction.
They are not alone, though. Joining them on the Veterans Committee ballot are eight other previously ignored stars whose careers mostly occurred during the “Golden Era” of the game (roughly from 1946-1972). If you look at the list, you’ll probably see that every single one is a deserving Hall of Famer. For one reason or another, the BBWAA voters passed them over during their regular Hall of Fame eligibility, though, so they have to compete with each other now.
The Veterans Committee vote will be announced at the Winter Meetings on December 5th. In order to be elected to the Hall, a player has to be named on 75% of the Veteran Committee ballots. Since there are 16 members of the committee, that means it takes 12 votes to get in. Next year the Veterans Committee will vote on modern players (after 1972), and the rules for the committee keep changing, so it’s not clear if any of these guys will ever get considered again. This may be their last chance.
If you’re interested in stats, it’s interesting to note that the two players with the highest HOF Monitor Score are the two former Twins (HOF Monitor is a metric developed by Bill James to assess whether a player is a likely Hall of Famer; a score over 100 means he is likely to get in, and a score over 130 means he’s almost guaranteed induction). Here’s a rundown of the 10 candidates, starting with those two Twins:
Jim Kaat, LHP, Twins.: 130.
Though Kaat’s tenure with the Twins ended nearly 40 years ago, he still holds a number of team pitching records. Kaat was a workhorse lefty who was good for 250 to 300 innings in any given year. He pitched for 25 seasons,a record at the time, and his career spanned an impressive seven U.S. Presidential administrations (I admit, I got that last stat from Wikipedia, but it’s true, and it’s pretty impressive). He never won a World Series with the Twins, but he did get a ring with the Cardinals in 1982.
I already wrote about Kaat’s Hall of Fame case, and you can read about it in detail here.
Tony Oliva, OF, Twins. HOF Monitor: 112.
Anyone who watched Oliva play in 1970 or 1971 would have concluded that he was a lock for the Hall of Fame. After the 1971 season, during which he won his third AL Batting Title, Oliva had a career line of .313/.361/.507, and he looked like a good bet to end up with 2,500 career hits, 300 homers, and maybe even 500 doubles. Oliva led the league in hits five times and doubles four times between 1964 and 1971. But he busted his knee in 1972, and after that he was never the same.
Still, if you look at his career production overall, it’s hard to argue that he didn’t do enough to merit induction. I think he should get in, and I argued his case more thoroughly here.
Buzzy Bavasi, GM.
Comparing a General Manager to this list of players is like comparing your dog to a refrigerator. It’s hard to judge the two on the same level. But Bavasi was probably one of the most successful and influential General Managers in the history of the game. As a young Dodgers exec, he worked closely with Branch Rickey to end the shameful era of segregation in baseball. In 1950, he took over as Dodger GM and guided the team through its first several World Series championships and its historic relocation to California. He later moved on to lengthy stints as the GM of the Padres and the Angels.
Ken Boyer, 3B, Cardinals. Hall of Fame Monitor: 86.
Boyer manned the hot corner for the Cardinals for 11 of his 15 MLB seasons. His crowning achievement was the 1964 seasons, in which he was named NL MVP and led the Redbirds to the World Series title. He was pretty much guaranteed to put up a .300 average, 20 homers, and near 100 RBI every year, even though he played during the pitching-heavy 1960s. For his career, Boyer had a respectable .287/.342/.462 line, with 282 home runs. He also won five Gold Gloves and earned seven trips to the All Star Game.
He later managed the Cards for parts of three seasons from 1978 through 1980. In 1979, he turned around a team that had gone 69-93 the season before to win an impressive 86 games, but the team backslid in 1980, and Boyer was replaced as manager a early in the season. He died soon afterward, in 1982, after a battle with lung cancer. Read more about Boyer at Call to the Pen.
Charlie O. Finley, Owner, A’s.
If it’s difficult to assess a GM’s candidacy, it’s even tougher to assess an owner. But Charlie O. Finley was one of the most colorful characters in the history of baseball ownership. He presided over the Athletics during their glory years in the 1970s. The teams he built were not always likeable, and they didn’t necessarily get along with each other or with Finely, but they won three consecutive World Series titles from 1972 through 1974. Finley is also notable his uniform changes. Remember the brightly colored unis that players always wore in the 70’s and 80’s? That was Finley’s gift to the game.
If there’s anyone opposed to Finley’s candidacy, I’m guessing that opposition is centered in the Kansas City area. Finley is the guy who moved the A’s from Kansas City to Oakland after the 1967 season. He continued to own the team until 1980, when he sold it to Walter Haas. Finley died in 1996.
Gil Hodges, 1B, Dodgers. HOF Monitor: 83.
Hodges was a focal point of the Dodger lineup in the 1950s. He could get on base (.359 career OBP), hit for power (370 career HR), and play his position in the field (two Gold Gloves). The best season for Hodges at the plate was 1954, when he hit .304/.373/.579 with 42 homers. But the sweetest moment of his career had to be 1955, when the Dodgers finally beat their rival Yankees in the World Series.
Like Boyer, the eight time All Star Hodges turned to managing after his playing career ended. After five losing seasons managing the Senators, Hodges returned to New York to manage the Mets. In his second year, he guided the 1969 Miracle Mets to the World Championship.
Minnie Minoso, OF, White Sox. HOF Monitor: 87.
Minnie Minoso is perhaps best remembered for his longevity. Minnesota baseball fans may remember his brief appearances with the St. Paul Saints in 1993 and 2003, which made him the only player to see pro action in seven different decades. But long before Minoso was a sideshow attraction, he was a pretty good hitter. His best years came in the 1950s, when he was a five tool player for the White Sox.
Minoso hit .298/.389/.459 in his MLB career, with seven All Star games and three gold gloves in the outfield. He led the AL in triples and stolen bases three times apiece in an era when the running game was often overlooked. Unfortunately, the White Sox were never quite good enough to win the pennant while Minoso was there, so he never got the opportunity to play in the postseason.
Allie Reynolds, RHP, Yankees. HOF Monitor: 110.
Though he came up with the Indians, Reynolds spent most of his career playing with Yankee greats Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford, and Moose Skowron. It’s pretty easy for a player to get overlooked when he has teammates like that! But the man could pitch. He won double digit games 12 consecutive seasons, and he finished his career with a 3.30 ERA. He also led the AL in strikeouts twice, back in the days when strikeouts were not a well-appreciated quality.
Reynolds shined in the World Series with a career 7-2 record, a 2.79 ERA, and 62 strikeouts in 77 WS innings. He died at age 77 in 1994. Read more about Reyolds at Call to the Pen.
Ron Santo, 3B, Cubs. HOF Monitor: 88.
Santo passed away last year, so you may remember how angry some fans were that he never made it into the Hall during his lifetime. Santo was a Moneyball player before it became trendy. He could walk with the best of them, leading the NL in that category four times. He led the league in OBP twice, and he was good for 30 homers per year in his prime. Santo also played third base well, garnering five consecutive Gold Gloves in the mid 60’s.
But he toiled away for some pretty awful Cubs teams, so he has never gotten widespread recognition. The lack of Cub success was probably a major factor in derailing his HOF chances. He has another shot this year.
Luis Tiant, RHP, Red Sox. HOF Monitor: 97.
Oliva and Kaat aren’t the only former Twins on the ballot. Pitcher Luis Tiant spent a season with Minnesota in 1970. He’s best known for his work with the Indians and Red Sox, though. Tiant had a career 229-172 record and a 3.30 ERA. He won 20 or more games three times and led the AL in ERA twice, including a 1.60 mark that topped all pitchers in “The Year of the Pitcher” (1968). Tiant’s 187 career complete games would be enough to make Bert Blyleven, his 1970 teammate, proud.
If there’s one theme to tie together all of the players on this ballot (except Reynolds and Hodges), it’s probably a lack of postseason opportunity. Most of these guys excelled for teams that rarely made it to the World Series. Tiant was the same story. His only trip to the Fall Classic came in 1975. Tiant went 2-0 in that Series, and he started a third game – the infamous 12 inning Game 6 that ended with Carton Fisk’s homer – but the Red Sox managed to lose despite his efforts.