Thursday, August 08, 2013

Personal Hall of Fame, Part 3: Live Ball Era

This is the third in a series of six posts where I'm revealing my personal Hall of Fame one era at a time.

I've determined era based on when each player's star shined the brightest—although in marginal cases, I've assigned some players based on where they fit best due to the all-era teams format—but their entire careers provide the basis for selection, rather than just time spent in a specific era.

My personal Hall consists exclusively of players (no managers, executives, pioneers or umpires) based on their careers in Major League Baseball only.

For a more complete explanation of this series, and for my 19th century inductees, please see Part 1. For my Deadball era inductees, please see Part 2.

An * denotes an actual Hall of Famer.

All-Live Ball Era Team/Personal Hall Inductees

C - Mickey Cochrane* (1925-1937)
1B - Lou Gehrig* (1923-1939)
2B - Rogers Hornsby* (1915-1937)
SS - Arky Vaughan* (1932-1948)
3B - Stan Hack (1932-1947)
LF - Al Simmons* (1924-1944)
CF - Joe DiMaggio* (1936-1951)
RF - Babe Ruth* (1914-1935)
P - Lefty Grove* (1925-1941)
P - Bob Feller* (1936-1956)
P - Carl Hubbell* (1928-1943)
P - Dazzy Vance* (1915-1935)
P - Hal Newhouser* (1939-1955)

C - Bill Dickey* (1928-1946)
C - Gabby Hartnett* (1922-1941)
C - Ernie Lombardi* (1931-1947)
1B - Jimmie Foxx* (1925-1945)
1B - Johnny Mize* (1936-1953)
1B - Hank Greenberg* (1930-1947)
1B - Bill Terry* (1923-1936)
2B - Charlie Gehringer* (1924-1942)
2B/3B - Frankie Frisch* (1919-1937)
2B - Joe Gordon* (1938-1950)
2B - Billy Herman* (1931-1943, 1946-1947)
SS -  Luke Appling* (1930-1943, 1945-1950)
SS - Lou Boudreau* (1938-1952)
SS - Joe Cronin* (1926-1945)
3B - Pie Traynor* (1920-1935, 1937)
LF - Goose Goslin* (1921-1938)
LF -
Joe Medwick* (1932-1948)

CF - Earl Averill* (1929-1941)
RF - Mel Ott* (1926-1947)
RF - Paul Waner* (1926-1945)
RF - Harry Heilmann* (1914, 1916-1930, 1932)
P - Stan Coveleski* (1912, 1916-1928)
P - Ted Lyons* (1923-1942, 1946)
P - Red Faber* (1914-1933)
P - Wes Ferrell (1927-1941)
P - Urban Shocker (1916-1928)
P - Dizzy Dean* (1930, 1932-1941, 1947)
P - Red Ruffing* (1924-1942, 1945-1947)

P - Eppa Rixey* (1912-1917, 1919-1933)

There are 42 players here representing a 27-year era. If we project that over the 137-year history of Major League Baseball I'm basing this exercise on (1871 through 2007, since the latter would be the cutoff for current Hall of Fame eligibility), we get 213 players, or five more than the current Hall. Of these 42 personal Hall inductees, surprisingly only three are not in the actual Hall. More on that in a moment. 

Despite the prevailing sentiment of the day that Pie Traynor was the greatest third baseman in baseball history through 1950, Stan Hack was really the best at the position in this era. Under-appreciated to some extent because of the glorification of batting average and the lack of perspective regarding OBP in his day, Hack nevertheless hit .301 for his career and got on base at a .394 clip, primarily as a leadoff hitter. He also led the league in stolen bases twice and finished second three times, albeit in an era when steals were way down, and ranks third (to Frank Baker and Jimmy Collins) among third basemen in pre-1950 WAR.

A quick note on Traynor, since he will likely be my most controversial selection among the advanced-metrics-minded crew I run with on the Internet. I just can't discount his lofty reputation as a brilliant defensive third baseman who was also a good, if slightly over-rated, hitter by the standards of his day. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame when his career was fresh on voters minds, and on an extremely competitive 1948 ballot. While I don't agree he was the best at his position on the other side of Eddie Mathews, I find it difficult to bump him out of the pre-1950 top six. That's the short version of why I still consider him a Hall of Famer, despite the fact most like-minded folks don't.

There are only seven pitchers in history who can boast six or more 20-win seasons before age 30: Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Pete Alexander, Jim Palmer, Fergie Jenkins, Robin Roberts and Wes Ferrell. Three of the seven are first-ballot Hall of Famers. Another three made it by their fourth year of eligibility. And then there's Ferrell, who didn't enjoy much success after his 30th birthday, but whose Hall of Fame case is lifted just above the borderline by his success as a hitter (38 HR and a career .280/.351/.446 triple slash, good for a 100 OPS+).

If not for a late start and an early end to his career, I'm convinced Urban Shocker would be in the Hall of Fame today. The early end came after an 18-6, 2.84 ERA (137 ERA+) season, due to a congenital heart condition that made it impossible for him to sleep lying down during the last few years of his life and undoubtedly affected his ability to perform on the field. During his prime, he strung together four consecutive 20-win seasons and a .641 winning percentage for the St. Louis Browns, a team that did manage to put together one contending season in that time frame. Despite these factors working against him during his career, Shocker performed to a level that exceeds my Hall of Fame borderline.

Ferrell's 111 and Shocker's 110 Hall Ratings place them right behind Don Sutton and ahead of 19 of the 57 Hall of Fame starting pitchers. But since I'm not talking about whether or not they should be in the current Hall, but rather are they worthy of a Hall re-populated from scratch, what's more important is I rank them ahead of Dizzy Dean, Red Ruffing and Eppa Rixey, the latter being right at my Hall of Fame floor for pitchers.

Hall of Famers from this era who didn't make my cut are Burleigh Grimes, Waite Hoyt, Dave Bancroft, Joe Sewell, Edd Roush, Tony Lazzeri, Travis Jackson, Kiki Cuyler, Chuck Klein, Sam Rice, Herb Pennock, Heinie Manush, Hack Wilson, Lefty Gomez, Earle Combs, Jim Bottomley, Ross Youngs, Jesse Haines, Chick Hafey, Rick Ferrell, Freddie Lindstrom, George Kelly and Lloyd Waner. Those at the beginning of the list were closer than those near the end, but none of them were truly painful decisions. The latter two I once named to a short list of the five most over-rated players in baseball history

That's 23 Hall of Famers from just one era who aren't in my personal Hall. Those are some tough standards, right? Well, if we add the 39 I chose to induct, we get 62 Hall of Famers representing a 27-year period. I'd say the answer is this era is way over-represented in Cooperstown.


  1. Just looking first at the players you don't include, there's Traynor, Averill, and Rixey. Averill and Rixey were close for me, but I just didn't see enough to put them over the edge.

    For Traynor, I totally see your point. That's why I'm more apt to exclude Traynor from my Personal Hall than to outwardly call his induction a mistake. Not enough for me to make the call, but still not a McCarthy-esque blunder.

    1. Re: Traynor, perhaps our biggest difference is my insistence on era balance, which is debatable and perhaps my way to be a little different, but which I'm still comfortable with.

      Re: Averill, he had a weird career in which he didn't make the majors until he was 27. There's no real reason I'm aware of to cut him slack for that, but I just love his 10-year prime (1929-1938): .323/.399/.542 (137 OPS+), 48 WAR. Being a CF doesn't hurt either, nor does being the original "Earl of Snohomish," admittedly: