Big week ahead for Hall of Fame hopefuls
Golden Era, Spink, Frick electees to be announced at Meetings
DALLAS -- Three big days for the National Baseball Hall of Fame will commence on Monday morning at the Winter Meetings with the announcement of any selections from the Golden Era Committee for the Class of 2012.Ron Santo and Gil Hodges, long a pair of Major League Baseball's most disputable candidates, are once again up for induction from a 10-person Veterans' Committee ballot, representing players and executives who participated in the sport from 1947-72. Also to be announced during the Winter Meetings are the winners of the 2012 J.G. Taylor Spink Award on Tuesday and the Ford C. Frick Award on Wednesday. The Spink is awarded by the Baseball Writers' Association of America to a baseball writer for long and meritorious service from that group. The Frick Award annually honors a baseball broadcaster for his excellence. The annual BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot was sent out this past week and includes Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays pitcher Jack Morris and a host of players whose names are appearing on it for the first time. Larkin is on the ballot for the third time and has the best shot at being elected. Last year, he garnered 62.1 percent of the vote. The BBWAA ballot winners will be announced on Jan. 9 by Hall president Jeff Idelson and can be seen live at 2 p.m. ET on an MLB Network simulcast on MLB.com.
The induction ceremony for the entire Class of 2012 is scheduled this coming July 22 in Cooperstown, N.Y., on the meadow behind the Clark Sports Center. The BBWAA has elected a candidate every year since 1995, and there hasn't been a year without a single inductee since 1960.Santo, a third baseman for the Cubs, and Hodges, the first baseman for the "Boys of Summer" Brooklyn Dodgers, are by no means the only players of distinction on the Golden Era ballot. They are joined by Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer, White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, Twins outfielder Tony Oliva, and pitchers Jim Kaat, Allie Reynolds and Luis Tiant, who all played for multiple teams. Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley and Buzzie Bavasi -- a general manager and architect of those Dodgers teams -- are this year's executives.
The 16-member committee will gather on Sunday to discuss the candidates and then vote early Monday morning prior to the announcement. If anyone living is elected, he will be introduced at a media conference on Tuesday. As in any election to the Hall, a 75 percent vote is needed, which in this case is 12 votes.The 10 finalists for the Frick Award are Skip Caray, Rene Cardenas, Tom Cheek, Ken Coleman, Jacques Doucet, Bill King, Tim McCarver, Graham McNamee, Eric Nadel and Mike Shannon. The three nominees for the Spink Award are Paul Hagen, Bob Elliott and Russell Schneider. Santo and Hodges failed to make the Hall during their 15 years of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot and by numerous forms of the Veterans Committee since then. The results always have produced huge cries of foul from their legions of fans and supporters.
Santo, a beloved television announcer for the Cubs in this era, passed away from the complications of diabetes and cancer in 2010. Santo was a National League All-Star nine times, who had 342 home runs, 1,331 RBIs, a .277 lifetime batting average and five Gold Gloves, during a playing career that lasted 15 seasons and ended in 1974. Like fellow teammates Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins and Ernie Banks -- all enshrined in the Hall of Fame -- he never played in a single postseason game for the Cubs.Santo's highest vote total on the BBWAA ballot was 43.1 percent in 1998, his last year on the ballot. Hodges played 18 seasons, 16 of them for the Dodgers in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles, and was an NL All-Star eight times. His career ended in 1963 with the Mets, the unlikely team he managed to its first World Series title in 1969. He died of a massive heart attack during Spring Training only three years later. Hodges finished with 370 homers, 1,274 RBIs and a .273 batting average. He played in the World Series seven times, winning in 1955 and '59 with the Dodgers. "If he gets in, we'll be absolutely elated," said Joan Hodges, his long surviving widow prior to the 2008 election. "If he doesn't, he's in mine and my children's Hall of Fame forever." Like Santo, Hodges is still waiting. Adding to the frustration of his friends, family and supporters is this stark fact: Hodges is the only player no longer eligible for the BBWAA ballot to garner at least 60 percent of the vote and subsequently not be elected. Hodges did that three times: In 1976, '81 and '83, the latter when he earned 63.4 percent of the vote in his last year on that ballot. "It's beyond us why he hasn't been elected," Marty Adler, founder and president of the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame, told the New York Times in '08. "Some people say I'm so prejudiced toward the Brooklyn Dodgers that I can't accept the fact that he's just not good enough. But you're supposed to look at a player during his playing tenure, and in my honest opinion he was clearly the best first baseman of an entire decade." The Hall has received sharp criticism because Joe Gordon, a second baseman for the Yankees and Indians, is the only MLB player to be elected by a Veterans Committee since Bill Mazeroski. Another second baseman, whose walk-off homer won the 1960 World Series for the Pirates, Mazeroski was inducted in 2001. Gordon was elected by a pre-1943 committee in 2008. "When I saw nobody got in again, I go, 'Whoa, this is wrong,'" Santo said at that time when his committee failed to elect a player. "They can't keep going the way they're going. They've got to put a [different] committee out there.'' And so they did. There are now three distinct Veterans' Committees, but in its first iteration last year, a committee voting on players, executives and umpires from the expansion era -- circa 1973 to the present -- did not elect a player, going only with general manager Pat Gillick, who was inducted last summer when second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven were the BBWAA electees. The Golden Era Committee is taking its first crack at it this year with a pre-integration, pre-1946 committee to hold its first election next year. The trio of smaller committees cycle every three years. Finalists each year are selected by a BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee. To be eligible this year, candidates must have played at least 10 Major League seasons, not appear on MLB's ineligible list and have been retired for 21 or more seasons. Managers, umpires and executives must have spent at least 10 years in baseball and be retired for consideration. Members of the Golden Era Committee are Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Don Sutton and Williams; Major League executives Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael, and Al Rosen; and veteran media members Dick Kaegel, Jack O'Connell and Dave Van Dyck. Here are thumbnails on the remaining candidates: Buzzie Bavasi served as Dodgers general manager for 17 seasons from 1951-67, winning four World Series championships and eight National League pennants. He also was president of the Padres (1968-77) and Angels (1978-84). Ken Boyer played 15 Major League seasons as a third baseman with the Cardinals, Mets, White Sox and Dodgers. He was named to seven All-Star teams and won the 1964 NL MVP Award while leading the Cardinals to a World Series victory. Charlie Finley owned the Kansas City/Oakland A's from 1960-80, helping build a team that won five American League West titles, three AL pennants and three World Series titles. Finley was noted for his creativity and penurious ways with his players. He inspired night baseball in the World Series and supported the designated hitter. Jim Kaat pitched 25 seasons with the Senators, Twins, White Sox, Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals, winning 283 games, the third-highest total for those eligible but not enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He was a three-time All-Star and part of the Cardinals' 1982 World Series championship team. Minnie Minoso played 17 seasons with the Indians, White Sox, Cardinals and Senators, winning three Gold Glove Awards and being named an All-Star seven times. A native of Cuba, he was one of the first great Latin American players in the 1950s. Tony Oliva played 15 seasons for the Twins, winning three batting titles and leading the AL in hits five times. The 1964 AL Rookie of the Year also was an eight-time All-Star. Allie Reynolds pitched 13 seasons with the Indians and Yankees, winning 182 games while pitching in five All-Star Games. He also pitched in six World Series, leading the Yankees to six titles in seven years while posting a 7-2 record with four saves and a 2.79 ERA in 15 World Series games. Luis Tiant won at least 20 games in four of his 19 Major League seasons with the Indians, Twins, Red Sox, Yankees, Pirates and Angels, finishing his career with 229 wins and a 3.30 ERA. He also was named to three All-Star teams and led the league in shutouts three times.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.