Results tagged ‘ baseball hall of fame ’
BY CONNOR O’GARA
SEPTEMBER 10, 2012
|Hall of Famer Al Lopez was a solid major league catcher whose record of 1,918 games caught stood for more than 40 years. (NBHOF Library)|
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The dimensions were quirky enough as it was at Ebbets Field.
The former home of the Brooklyn Robins and Dodgers was aligned with the home run fence 382.83 feet to left, 466 feet to center and 296 feet to right field. A true-pull hitter from the right side of the plate would need to muscle up to clear the Ebbets Field wall on a fly. That is, of course, unless a hitter got a friendly bounce.
On Sept. 12, 1930 – 82 years ago this week – the unconventionally shaped ballpark that was home to World Series and pennant races played host to a different kind of historical moment.
With two on in the fourth inning, Robins catcher Al Lopez – who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1977 – roped a pitch from Cincinnati Reds pitcher Ray Kolp deep into the Ebbets Field alley. The ball hit the outfield grass and bounded over the left field wall. But instead of being awarded two bases, Lopez’s modern day “ground-rule double” was correctly called a home run.
Lopez’s “bounce” home run was the last one ever recorded in Major League Baseball after the rule was changed in the National League following the 1930 season. The American League had already adopted the ground-rule double prior to the 1929 campaign.
All home runs now had to clear the outfield wall on a fly. The ground-rule double, as it came to be known, would be called on hits like Lopez’s where a ball bounces in fair territory and into the stands. Just like hitters, baserunners would automatically be awarded two bases on a ground-rule double.
Ironically enough, there has been some debate about the play’s terminology. While some unconditionally accepted the term, some announcers came up with what they believe is a more appropriate way to phrase the sequence.
The term “ground rule” is supposed to be associated with each individual ballpark, meaning different rules apply in different ballparks. The ground-rule double, however, is a league-wide rule that is enforced at every ballpark. Announcers have used the terms “bounce doubles,” “rulebook doubles” and “automatic doubles” to describe the play.
In the first year of MLB-wide bounce doubles, Boston Red Sox outfielder Earl Webb set a single-season record by slugging 67 two-base hits. That mark still ranks as the greatest of all time 81 years later.
When the Houston Astros made shortstop Carlos Correa the top pick in the 2012 draft, it was further proof that Puerto Rico remains a “rich port” for baseball stars. The tiny island, which operates as a territory of the United States, is the birthplace of 234 Major League players including three Hall of Famers — Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Alomar — as well as 40 players who have been named to All-Star teams.
In 1942 Hi Bithorn became the first player from Puerto Rico to break into the major leagues, and in 1962 a new stadium opened up that would be named after him. Hiram Bithorn Stadium hosted 44 games for the Montreal Expos in 2003-2004.
Players from Puerto Rico have accomplished many notable achievements in the majors, with the most noteworthy coming in 1973 when Clemente became the first Latin American to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
If you want to learn more about Clemente’s great accomplishments on and off the field, then pay a visit to the Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh. Duane Rider is a Clemente fan who decided to honor his idol by restoring an old fire house and opening a museum filled with pictures and artifacts from his life. Clemente, who dedicated his 3,000th (and tragically last) hit to the people of Puerto Rico, inspired a generation of Puerto Rican boys to take up the game with his combination of talent, humility and passion.
In 1959 Orlando Cepeda became the first Puerto Rican to start in an All-Star Game, while Ed Figueroa was the first Puerto Rican native to win 20 games in the majors, which he did while pitching for the Yankees in 1978. Carlos Baerga became the first in baseball history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same inning, which he accomplished on April 8, 1993, against the New York Yankees. In 1998, Juan Gonzalez, a two-time MVP, became just the second player to accumulate 100 RBI by the All-Star break.
Seven-time All-Star Carlos Beltran is the first player to have at least 50 RBI in each league in the same season, which he accomplished while playing with the Royals and Astros in 2004. When Ivan “Pudge” Rodriquez retired earlier this year, he left the game as the all-time leader in games caught (2,427) and putouts as a catcher (14,864).
Two Yankee greats from Puerto Rico managed to make their mark on the game. Catcher Jorge Posada ranks second all-time in number of playoff games played with 125, while Bernie Williams ranks number one all-time in postseason RBI with 80. What’s even more amazing about Williams’ achievements in the big leagues is the fact that he attended the Escuela Libre de Musica in San Juan, a high school that focused on performing arts and did not offer sports.
The catching Molina brothers—Yadier, Jose and Bengie—have already caught more than 3,000 games combined and Yadier and Jose are still active. Bengie caught for 13 years and earned two Gold Gloves, while Jose is in his 13th season. Yadier is definitely the best of the bunch, as he has been named to four All-Star teams and won four Gold Gloves.
Carlos Delgado, from Aguadilla, ranks first in home runs and RBI among his countrymen. He blasted 473 home runs and drove in 1,512 runs during a stellar 17-year career that ended in 2009. Delgado will gain eligibility for the Hall of Fame in 2015, while Pudge Rodriquez enters the ballot in 2017.
A total of 17 Puerto Rican natives are currently active in the majors including Beltran, Jonathan Sanchez, Geovany Soto, and Javier Lopez.
Willie Hernandez of Aguado turned in a magical 1984 season for the Tigers, appearing in a league-leading 80 games and recording 32 saves with a 1.92 ERA. He surrendered just 96 hits in 140-1/3 innings. It led to Hernandez becoming just the fifth player to win the MVP and Cy Young Awards in the same season. Hernandez’s 147 career saves rank second among Puerto Rican natives, trailing the 326 posted by Roberto Hernandez.
Following the format in my recently released book Baseball State by State, which features all-time teams of Major League and Negro League players by state of birth (plus Canada), I thought it would be fun to tackle a similar list for Puerto Rico. I list the top selection for each position in bold, followed by honorable mention players (ranked in order). Players’ city of birth is listed in parentheses. As I do in the book, I also included the best baseball places to see, best nicknames, most unusual name, stats leaders, future stars and all-time best player. All-time teams are a fun way to explore baseball history — what would your list look like?
All-Time Puerto Rico Team:
C-Ivan Rodriquez (Vega Baja)
Also: Jorge Posada (Santurce); Benito Santiago (Ponce); Javy Lopez (Ponce); Yadier Molina (Bayamon); Sandy Alomar Jr. (Velaquez); Bengie Molina (Rio Piedras); Ozzie Virgil (Mayaguez); Ellie Rodriquez (Fajardo); Jose Molina (Bayamon); Geovany Soto (San Juan)
1b-Orlando Cepeda (Ponce)
Also: Carlos Delgado (Aguadilla); Vic Power (Arecibo); Willie Montanez (Catano)
2b-Roberto Alomar (Velaquez)
Also: Carlos Baerga (San Juan); Felix Millan (Yabucoa); Jose Vidro (Mayaguez); Sandy Alomar Sr. (Salinas); Jose Oquendo (Rio Piedras); Joey Cora (Caguas); Luis Alicea (Santurce); Tony Bernazard (Caguas); Jose Lind (Toabaja)
3b-Mike Lowell (San Juan)
SS- Jose Valentin (Manati)
Also: Jose Hernandez (Rio Piedras); Ivan DeJesus (Santurce); Felipe Lopez (Bayamon); Rey Sanchez (Rio Piedras)
OF-Roberto Clemente (Carolina)
OF-Bernie Williams (San Juan)
OF-Carlos Beltran (Manati)
Also: Juan Gonzalez (Vega Baja) ; Jose Cruz (Arroyo); Danny Tartabull (San Juan); Jose Cruz Jr. (Arroyo); Sixto Lezcano (Arecibo); Ivan Calderon (Fajardo); Juan Beniquez (San Sebastian); Will Cordero (Mayaguez); Jerry Morales (Yabucoa); Orlando Merced (Hato Rey); Candy Maldonado (Humacao)
DH-Ruben Sierra (Rio Piedras)
RHP-Javier Vasquez (Ponce)
Also: Ed Figueroa (Ciales); Jose Guzman (Santa Isabel); Joel Pineiro (Rio Piedras); Jaime Navarro (Bayamon); Ruben Gomez (Arroyo); Ricky Bones (Salinas)
LHP- Juan Pizarro (Santurce)
Also: Jonathan Sanchez (Mayaguez)
Relief Pitcher-Roberto Hernandez (Santurce)
Also: Willie Hernandez (Aquada); Luis Arroyo (Penuelas); Juan Agosto (Rio Piedras); Ramon Hernandez (Carolina); Edwin Nunez (Humacao); Luis DeLeon (Ponce); Eduardo Rodriquez (Barceloneta)
Manager-Edwin Rodriquez (Ponce)
Best Baseball Place to See: Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan
Best Nickname: Ivan “Pudge” Rodriquez
Other Nicknames: Carlos “Sea Bass” Beltran; Enrique “Kiko” Calero; Orlando “Baby Bull” and “Cha Cha” Cepeda; Roberto “Sweetness” Clemente; Juan “Igor” or “Juan Gone” Gonzalez; Jose “Coco” Laboy; Felix “The Cat” Mantilla; Jorge “Sado” Posada; Jesus “Bombo” Rivera; Ruben “El Caballo” Sierra; Osvaldo “Ozzie” Virgil
Most Unusual Name: Sixto Lezcano
All-Time Leader in Games: Ivan Rodriquez, 2543
All-Time Leader in Average: Roberto Clemente, .317
All-Time Leader in Hits: Roberto Clemente, 3000
All-Time Leader in Home Runs: Carlos Delgado, 473
All-Time Leader in Stolen Bases: Roberto Alomar, 474
All-Time Leader in RBI: Carlos Delgado, 1512
All-Time Leader in Wins: Javier Vazquez, 165
All-Time Leader in Saves: Roberto Hernandez, 326
All-Time Leader in Strikeouts: Javier Vazquez, 2536
Future Stars: Carlos Correa (Santa Isabel); Irving Falu (Hato Rey)
All-Time Best Player: Roberto Clemente
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Any career that lasts 27 seasons is bound to have a few milestones along the way.
For Nolan Ryan, milestones came around more frequently.
On July 11, 1985 – 27 years ago this week – the 38-year-old hurler struck out New York Mets outfielder Danny Heep to become the first pitcher to record 4,000 strikeouts.
As he was then, Ryan is still baseball’s all-time strikeout leader with 5,714 career punch outs. His 383 strikeouts in 1973 remains a single season record and his seven no-hitters also tops the all-time list.
“I don’t want to sound like the Nolan Ryan Fan Club,” said all-time hits leader Pete Rose. “I could go on all night about him. Nobody will ever break his strikeout record. No way. It just won’t be done.”
But the train that was the Ryan Express was in jeopardy of not leaving the station early in his career. Ryan tied Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax’s record four no-hitters by the time he was 28 years old. But like Koufax, whose career ended because of arm problems at age 31, Ryan’s future was in doubt.
Ryan needed surgery to repair bone chips in his throwing arm following the 1975 season. While some questioned if he would follow Koufax’s footsteps, Ryan put those worries to bed.
“I won’t quit unless my arm falls off next spring,” Ryan said after his surgery. “The only way I can make this kind of money is to hold up a bank.”
Luckily for Ryan, his arm had plenty of strikeouts remaining.
Ryan’s arm did more than hold up for those next 18 seasons. He finished his career with 324 wins, a World Series ring and a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Even some of baseball’s best power hitters of all time said they couldn’t keep up with Ryan.
“There’s no pitcher like Nolan Ryan,” said Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt. “No one has his combination of fastball and curve. That curve gets in your mind. His release point is right in your ear. I listen for his grunt, then I know it’s a fastball. But by the time I hear the grunt, it’s too late to swing.”
Ryan’s ability to command control of the plate stemmed from a fastball that hovered around triple digits.
“He was the only guy that could put fear in me,” said Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson. “Not because he could get me out, but because he could kill me. You just hoped to mix in a walk so you could have a good night and go 0-for-3.”
Ryan’s longevity allowed him to bring the heat to batters spanning four decades. Despite the wear and tear of 20 years in the majors, Ryan still struck out 200-plus batters in five different seasons after the age of 40.
Ryan once said his goal when he got to the big leagues was to play four years so that he could qualify for the pension. His 27 seasons of Major League service are the most of all time, his 5,714 strikeouts have not been approached and his record seven no-hitters are untouched.
When Ryan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, he was recognized for loftier accomplishments than earning his pension.
“If they had a higher league, he could be in it,” Hal McRae said. “As a matter of fact, he could be it.”
With a blazing fastball that approached 100 mph and a work ethic like none other, Nolan Ryan dominated hitters for an unparalleled 27 seasons on his way to 5,714 strikeouts, an all-time record.
BY CONNOR O’GARA
JULY 9, 2012
Brooks Calbert Robinson, Jr. (born May 18, 1937) is a former American professional baseball player. He played his entire 23-year major league career for the Baltimore Orioles (1955–1977). Nicknamed “The Human Vacuum Cleaner”, he is generally acclaimed as the greatest defensive third-basemen in major league history. He won 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards during his career, tied with pitcher Jim Kaat for the second most all-time for any player at any position. Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas to Brooks Calbert and Ethel Mae (née Denker) Robinson. His father worked for a large bakery in Little Rock, Colonial Bakery, and then went to work for the Little Rock Fire Department (rising to the rank of captain ), while his mother at first worked for Sears Roebuck & Company, and then in the controller’s office at the state capitol. His father played second base for a semi-pro team. Young Brooks Robinson, Jr., delivered the Arkansas Gazette on his bike, and also operated the scoreboard and sold soft drinks at Lamar Porter Field.
After he graduated from Little Rock High School on May 27, 1955, where he was scouted for the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball program in Fayetteville, he played in South America in 1955 and in Cuba in 1957. In the off season of 1956-1957, and then again in 1958, he attended two winter semesters at Little Rock University, majoring in business. He went into the army in 1959, joining the Arkansas National Guard right before he was to be drafted into the United States Army.
He’ll never get into the Baseball Hall of Fame without a ticket, but in the wake of his recent retirement, Tim Wakefield deserves an endless amount of kudos for what he did for the Boston Red Sox and their fans over the past 17 seasons. In many ways his retirement is surprising because it seemed that the knuckleballer was ageless and would always have a place on the Red Sox pitching staff. But Wakefield, now 45 and having pitched in the major leagues since four months before Bryce Harper was born, has hung up his emery board for good. He will be sorely missed.
Wakefield first came to prominence as a rookie in 1992, winning two complete games in the NLCS for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His achievement was even more sensational because of his back story of having come from a failed stint as a minor league infielder; switching to pitching with a knuckleball in a last ditch effort to save his professional career.
Despite the postseason heroics, he never established himself as a full time starter with the Pirates and they released him in April, 1995. He was quickly signed by the Red Sox, who had a potent offense that year but little in their starting rotation after Erik Hanson and an increasingly aloof Roger Clemens. It began the career of one of the longest tenured and respected players in Red Sox history.
Boston and their fans began their love affair with Wakefield from his first game, which was a start against the California Angels in Anaheim on May 27, 1995. He threw 7 innings of 5-hit ball, while striking out 4 in a 12-1 win. Even with Mo Vaughn on his way to the American League MVP award, Wakefield became the story in Boston that year. In his first 17 starts, he went 14-1 with a 1.65 ERA, helping lead the Red Sox into the playoffs. Fans were intrigued by the pitcher who had a difficult time cracking 70 mph when throwing his fastball as a “change of pace,” but could make the ball look possessed when unleashing his next knuckler.
Wakefield remained a productive starter for Boston for several more years before evolving into the Swiss army knife of their pitching staff. He was selfless to a fault, starting, long relieving, and even closing at times during the remainder of his Red Sox career. He famously filled in at closer for an injured Tom Gordon in 1999, racking up 15 saves while also contributing 17 starts and helping the Red Sox into the playoffs.
During his career with Boston, Wakefield was never the best player on the team, but he was as consistent as they came. He was constantly surrounded by more talented and well known pitchers like Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling, but he always held his own and outlasted them all. Lacking their pedigree and national renown, it is Wakefield who retires holding the Red Sox team record for games started, innings pitched, and with 186 wins, trailing only Clemens and Cy Young in that category.
Wakefield was a baseball rarity not only because of his knuckleball, but for the 17 years he spent in a Boston uniform. In the age of free agency it is rare for players to spend even half that time with the same team. The relationship between Wakefield and Boston was a perfect one because they knew each other so well and what they did for each other. As long as he could still get the ball to dance, he could count on a job with the Red Sox.
A player’s legacy is not only comprised of their feats on the field. Wakefield established a reputation as one of the most philanthropic players in the game. He was nominated for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, annually given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Wakefield was nominated for the award an inspiring eight times, winning it in 2010. He was best known for his involvement with Pitching in for Kids, a charity providing grants to children across New England to help improve their lives and teach important life skills.
The end of Wakefield’s career came not because he got old or became dramatically less productive. It came because the departures of Theo Epstein and Terry Francona this past off-season pushed the team into an entirely different direction, stripping off many vestiges from the past. For nearly two decades, Wakefield gave the Red Sox security, akin to the small child dragging a blanky around everywhere. Boston decided that it wanted to move forward without that security, thus ending one of the most successful careers in Boston sports’ history. Wakefield leaves behind a legacy and memories as unique as the pitch that made him such a successful major league pitcher.
Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew.
NEW YORK, NY – Barry Larkin, a 12-time All-Star, nine-time Silver Slugger and three-time Gold Glove winning shortstop, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in balloting verified by Ernst & Young.
Larkin, 47, will be inducted into the Hall July 22 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with the late third baseman Ron Santo, who was elected last month by the Golden Era Committee. Also to be honored over Induction Weekend will be Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for baseball writing and television analyst Tim McCarver, the former major league catcher, with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting.
A total of 573 ballots, including nine blanks, were cast by BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years’ service. Players must be named on 75 percent of ballots submitted to be elected. This year, 430 votes were required.
Larkin, who was in his third year of eligibility, received 495 votes, for an 86.4-percent plurality. His vote total reflected a 24.3-percent gain from the 2011 ballot, the largest jump in one year to gain election since 1948 when pitcher Herb Pennock received 77.7 percent of the vote after having tallied 53.4 percent in 1947. Larkin’s jump is the largest for any Hall of Fame election in which at least 400 ballots were cast. The previous highest was the 16.4-percent jump by first baseman Tony Perez from 1999 (60.8) to 2000 (77.2).
Larkin’s election brings to 297 the number of elected Hall members. Of that total, 207 are former major-league players, of which 112 have been through the BBWAA ballot. Larkin is the 24th shortstop elected to the Hall and the 11th by the BBWAA. He is also the 48th Hall of Famer who played his entire career with one club and the third to do so for the Cincinnati Reds, joining catcher Johnny Bench and 19th-century second baseman Bid McPhee.
A Cincinnati native, Larkin played 19 seasons for the Reds and batted .295 with 2,340 hits, including 441 doubles, 76 triples and 198 home runs. He drove in 960 runs, scored 1,329, stole 379 bases and had more walks (939) than strikeouts (817). Larkin became the first shortstop to join the 30-30 club when he had 33 home runs and 36 steals in 1996. He was voted the National League Most Valuable Player in 1995 by the BBWAA and hit .353 in the Reds’ World Series sweep of the Oakland Athletics in 1990.
The only players other than Larkin to gain more than 50 percent of the vote were pitcher Jack Morris with 382 votes (66.7%), first baseman Jeff Bagwell with 321 (56.0%) and reliever Lee Smith with 290 (50.6%).
Players may remain on the ballot for up to 15 years provided they receive five percent of the vote in any year. There were 13 candidates who failed to make the cut this year (30 votes), including 12 of the 13 players who were on the ballot for the first time. The only first-year candidate who received sufficient support to remain was outfielder Bernie Williams with 55 votes (9.6%). Two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez got 23 votes (4.0%) and fell off the ballot in his second year of eligibility.
Other holdovers that will remain on the ballot in addition to Morris, Bagwell, Smith and Williams are first basemen Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly and Rafael Palmeiro; outfielders Tim Raines, Dale Murphy and Larry Walker; designated hitter-third baseman Edgar Martinez and shortstop Alan Trammell.
Barry Larkin 495 (86.4%), Jack Morris 382 (66.7%), Jeff Bagwell 321 (56.0%), Lee Smith 290 (50.6%), Tim Raines 279 (48.7%), Edgar Martinez 209 (36.5%), Alan Trammell 211 (36.8%), Fred McGriff 137 (23.9%), Larry Walker 131 (22.9%), Mark McGwire 112 (19.5%), Don Mattingly 102 (17.8%), Dale Murphy 83 (14.5%), Rafael Palmeiro 72 (12.6%), Bernie Williams 55 (9.6%), Juan Gonzalez 23 (4.0%), Vinny Castilla 6 (1.0%), Tim Salmon 5 (0.9%), Bill Mueller 4 (0.7%), Brad Radke 2 (0.3%), Javy Lopez 1 (0.2%), Eric Young 1 (0.2%), Jeromy Burnitz 0, Brian Jordan 0, Terry Mulholland 0, Phil Nevin 0, Ruben Sierra 0, Tony Womack 0.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open seven days a week year round, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Museum observes regular hours of 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. from Labor Day until Memorial Day Weekend. From Memorial Day Weekend through the day before Labor Day, the Museum observes summer hours of 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Ticket prices are $19.50 for adults (13 and over), $12 for seniors (65 and over) and for those holding current memberships in the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and AMVets organizations, and $7 for juniors (ages 7-12). Members are always admitted free of charge and there is no charge for children 6 years of age or younger. For more information, visit our Web site at baseballhall.org or call 888-HALL-OF-FAME (888-425-5633) or 607-547-7200.
Initially, I was going to write a piece breaking down my non-existent Baseball Hall of Fame vote, with the announcement of the 2012 inductees just days away. Instead, I have been flabbergasted by the lack of support for the one player on the ballot that I believe should be the biggest slam dunk, and instead will take to my keyboard in his defense. The player in question is Jeff Bagwell, and anyone who doesn’t think he is a worthy Hall of Fame candidate are clearly out of their collective minds.
The best and simplest argument in favor of Bagwell, are like most Hall of Famers, found in his numbers. In 15 major league seasons, he played in 2,150 games, hitting .297 with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI. Other notable Bagwell stats include his 2,314 base hits, 488 doubles, 202 stolen bases, 1,401 walks, and .948 OPS.
Bagwell’s numbers are even more impressive when placed into historical context. His 79.9 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is good for 37th all time amongst position players and 57th among all players. He also places high all time in OPB (22nd), home runs (35th), RBI (46th), walks (28th), runs created (37th with 1,788), and extra base hits (41st with 969).
Offensive numbers are not the only highlights on Bagwell’s Hall of Fame resume, as he was also an excellent fielder. His 2,111 games at first base represent the 10th highest total of all time. Additionally, he ranks highly in other defensive categories like putouts (25th) and assists (2nd), while only committing 129 total errors, good for a .993 career fielding percentage.
I have seen a variety of arguments stating why Bagwell doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, but they are all easily debunked.
He was probably one of the “steroid guys”: It is true that Bagwell played during the height of PEDs in baseball. Is it possible that he did use performance enhancers that positively impacted his career? Sure. However, there has never been a shred of evidence connecting him to such substances, and any allegations to the contrary are rumor and innuendo until proven otherwise.
When Bagwell first came up to the majors, he was a slender hitter without much power, but he eventually developed into a muscular slugger. Suggestions that this was achieved by weight lifting and hard work are typically met with raised eyebrows, sarcasm, or both. However in the absence of contrary evidence, that explanation is as plausible as any.
Not only is there an absence of proof linking Bagwell to PEDS; there is no scientific evidence quantifying the impact they have on users. Additionally, voters and fans concerned with unfair advantages never mention major leaguers who prior to 1947, were prevented from competing against black players.
He “only” made four All-Star games: Shockingly, Bagwell was an All Star in just four seasons- 1994, 1996-97, and 1999. However, this reflects more the deep first base position in the National League, and how lesser candidates were sometimes chosen because of popularity, or the need to represent every team on each squad. Bagwell played during the primes of star first basemen like Mark McGwire, Todd Helton, Andres Galarraga, and Fred McGriff; making competition stiff for All Star berths.
Bagwell was also outright stiffed at times when it came to All Star selections. In 2000, Bagwell hit .310 with 47 home runs, 132 RBI, 107 walks, and a league leading 152 runs scored. In 2001, he hit .288 with 39 home runs, 130 RBI, 106 walks, 43 doubles, and 126 runs scored. He failed to make the All Star squad in either season; while first baseman like Sean Casey and Ryan Klesko made it. While they had fine seasons, they were nowhere near Bagwell’s production- and tellingly were their team’s lone representative.
His production came from playing half his games in a hitter’s stadium: Bagwell did play his home games in hitters’ parks and his numbers were better there- but not by much. In 1,083 home games he hit .303 with 234 home runs, 779 RBI, and a .978 OPB. Conversely, his 1,067 road games resulted in a .291 batting average with 215 home runs, 750 RBI, and .919 OPB; a more than respectable split, and proof he was a dangerous hitter no matter where he played.
He didn’t win enough awards or big games: I agree that Bagwell didn’t get all the recognition he deserved awards-wise during his career, but he still did okay for himself. He won the 1994 MVP Award and was a top-10 finisher in five additional seasons. He was also the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year, a three time Silver Slugger recipient, and while I don’t put much stock in them, also won a Gold Glove.
Bagwell never won a championship, but was part of six playoff teams. In 33 career playoff games he struggled, hitting .226 with 2 home runs and 13 RBI, but was not the primary reason his teams didn’t advance further. As long as Houston had an offense led by the Killer B’s of Bagwell and Craig Biggio, their lineup was always sufficient. However, their teams were often limited by their lack of pitching depth.
2004 and 2005 were Houston’s best chances of winning championships during Bagwell’s era, as they had Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, and Andy Pettitte in their rotation. Unfortunately these seasons were the last two of Bagwell’s outstanding career, and 2005, the year the team finally went to a World Series, was his last; an injury plagued campaign that saw him play in only 39 regular season games.
There have been 229 former major league players inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame; 159 being position players. With statistics making such a strong case that Bagwell is among the 50 most productive players of all time, how can there be any argument that he does not deserve his own enshrinement?
Increasingly, campaigns have surfaced against some players as they become Hall of Fame eligible. Unfortunately, Bagwell has fallen into this grouping. He inexplicably received only 41.7% of votes cast last year, his first year of eligibility, and he faces an uphill battle going forward to improve upon that number, which flies in the face of his qualifications.
I have shown through just facts that Bagwell is a Hall of Fame player. In fact, I defy anyone to present a logical counter argument. Instead of reaching for shaky reasons to exclude him, people should review the information that demands his inclusion.
Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can also reach him on Twitter at@historianandrew.