An excerpt from Jay Jaffe's upcoming book on the Hall of Fame.
From his "Futility Infielder" days as one of the original baseball bloggers to his time at Baseball Prospectus and now Sports Illustrated, Jay Jaffe has been one of the best baseball writers in the business for two decades. We're pleased to share the following excerpt from his new book, The Cooperstown Casebook.
Remembering the late Don Mincher with a look back at the second part of his BP interview from last year.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
First baseman Don Mincher died on Sunday at age 73. In his memory, we're re-running David Laurila's two-part interview with him, which originally ran as a two-part "Prospectus Q&A" column on January and 11th and 12th, 2011.
The Southern League president discusses the toughest pitcher he ever faced, his career highlights, and reflects on his accomplishments.
In Part II, Don Mincher talks about the toughest pitcher he ever faced, getting hit in the face by a Sam McDowell fastball, how the 1965 Twins compare to the 1972 Oakland A’s, and more. You can view Part I here.
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The slugging first baseman never turned a blind eye to controversy but knew how to punish pitchers.
He was not an American hero, and that was the way he wanted it.
The man who wished to be called Dick Allen, not Richie, had a career that bordered on Hall of Fame greatness—Rookie of the Year, MVP, two-time home run champion, RBI leader, four-time OPS leader, seven All-Star teams in 15 seasons, 351 homers, 1,119 RBI—but he never allowed anyone to paint him with the face of greatness.
The first half of an extended conversation with an OBP fiend about coming up with the Senators, playing for Billy and Yogi, and more.
Toby Harrah has been in the game of baseball for over 40 years, and the long-time infielder for the Rangers and Indians has loved every minute of it. Currently the minor league hitting coordinator for the Tigers, Harrah debuted with the Washington Senators in 1969 before going on to earn All-Star honors four times while spending all but one of his 17 seasons with the Senators/Rangers franchise and the Cleveland Indians. A shortstop and third baseman known for his patient hitting approach, Harrah finished among the league leaders in walks nine times, and in OBP six times. A right-handed hitter who broke into the big leagues under the tutelage of Ted Williams, Harrah had five seasons of 20 home runs or more and 238 career stolen bases to go with an OBP of .365. Harrah talked about his love for the game, including what it was like to play for managers like Williams, Yogi Berra, and Billy Martin, and with teammates like Joe Charboneau, Curt Flood, and Denny McLain.
Evaluating the recent candidates for addition to the Hall of Fame by experimentally employing a new standard.
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 2008 Veterans Committee voting results, and for the first time since 2001, the VC-which has changed constitutions several times since then-elected a new member to the Hall. Alas, that player was not longtime Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, who has long been stumped for in this space and elsewhere. Instead, it was Joe Gordon getting the call, the second baseman for the Yankees (1938-1943, 1946) and Indians (1947-1950).
Sitting down with the former big-league workhorse and current Low-A pitching coach in the Padres organization.
Tom Bradley played in an era where the workload of a starting pitcher is far different than it is today. Now 61 years old, Bradley pitched from 1969-1975, a time where four-man rotations were the norm, pitchers like Mickey Lolich and Wilbur Wood were throwing upwards of 350 innings a season, and pitch counts had yet to be invented. The right-hander went 55-61 over seven big-league seasons with the Angels, White Sox, and Giants, his best years coming in Chicago where he won 15 games in both 1971 and '72. A hard thrower, Bradley finished in the top 10 in strikeouts in the American League each year. Formerly the head baseball coach at Jacksonville University (1979-1990) and the University of Maryland (1991-2000), Bradley currently serves as the pitching coach for the Fort Wayne Wizards, the Padres' affiliate in the Midwest League.
Returning to a subject from this past winter, Dan digs in to discuss the all-time greats.
"It is the best game because the players look like us. They are not seven feet tall, they don’t weigh 350 pounds, and they don’t bench-press 650. We can relate to them. We can see them—they’re not obscured by some hideous face mask, and they don’t play behind a wall of Plexiglas—we can touch them and we can feel them. I see Greg Maddux with his shirt off, with his concave chest and no discernible muscles, and I marvel: This is one of the six greatest pitchers in the history of the game? I see Tony Gwynn with his shirt off and I see a short, fat guy with the smallest hands I've ever seen on an athlete, and I wonder: 'This is the best hitter since Ted Williams?'...They are regular guys, at least most of them, who just happen to be really, really good at something that everyone else is not."
--Tim Kurkjian, from chapter one of Is This a Great Game, or What?: From A-Rod's Heart to Zim's Head--My 25 Years in Baseball
The newly-constituted Veteran's Committee takes its third look at the Hall-of-Fame ballot, and if they don't elect Santo and Co. this time, says Jay, it should be "three strikes and you're out."
In 2002, the Hall of Fame revamped its Veterans Committee. Formerly, it was the freight-elevator entrance to the institution for those unable to enter via the red-carpeted front door of the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot. Out went the old 15-member voting body, a group which included baseball executives, writers, and former players. That group annually conducted its dirty work behind closed doors, outside of which nobody knew who was up for election, and unless someone received 75 percent of the vote, nobody knew any results. With the process completely opaque and with accountability nil, cronyism and senility abounded, and errors that diluted the honor of election to the Hall were made. Legend has it that the Veterans Committee (or VC) elected the vastly inferior Waner brother, Lloyd, in a case of mistaken identity. For that among other reasons, I say good riddance to a flawed system.
In its place is the new VC, a body of 84 eligible voters: 61 living Hall of Famers, 14 Frick Award recipients (broadcasters), eight Spink Award recipients (writers), and one "old VC" member whose term hadn't expired. The new VC uses a voting process analogous to the BBWAA's: a pre-screened ballot made public before a decentralized vote conducted by mail, with the results made public afterwards, and 75 percent of the vote required for election. The vote is held in odd-numbered years for players, and in every other odd-numbered year for nonplayers (managers, umpires, executives). The pool of potential honorees is determined by a panel of 60 BBWAA writers (two for each major league city/team) plus a board of six Hall of Famers; my colleague Steven Goldman turned a jaundiced eye on the new process last fall.
The recent passing of Gene Mauch got Steve thinking about the 1964 Phillies, and the great work done by their scion GM.
Long-time manager Gene Mauch passed on recently, causing many a eulogizer to pick the bones of the collapse of Mauch's 1964 Phillies--the Quakermen were up by 6 1/2 games with two weeks to play, but dropped 10 straight decisions to yield the pennant to the Cardinals by one game. Mauch's panic didn't help the cause; he went to a two-man rotation of Jim Bunning and Chris Short, abandoning the rest of his staff. Almost simultaneously, the Kansas City Royals' 19 consecutive losses brought to mind the modern record-holders, Mauch's 1961 Phillies, who dropped 23 straight contests from July 29 to August 20, 1961. Dying, losing...no doubt Mauch would have preferred to stay out of the papers.