Baseball’s Hall of Fame changes its election procedures (again)

Some observations on the revised election procedures for the Veterans Committee…

In case you were wondering why the procedures were revised, it’s fairly simple — the Hall wants more players elected.  It needs more people traveling to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame weekend.  Darren Rovell wrote about this, and that was prior to this weekend’s paltry attendance at the induction ceremony.

Since the BBWAA is struggling to elect more than one player per year (although I think both Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar will be elected this winter), the Hall needs the Veterans Committee to elect some players to excite fans of a certain age.  It hasn’t been easy.

The previous iteration of the VC (which Chris Jaffe refers to as the “Joe Morgan SuperFriends Committee” ) managed to elect no post-1960 players in three years of trying.  Now the VC has morphed into the following:

There will now be one composite ballot consisting of managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players divided into three eras, rather than four categories with separate electorates.

The “categories with separate electorates” voting resulted in the election by the VC of no “modern” players (courtesy of the SuperFriends, as noted above).  The only modern-day players elected were those few selected by the BBWAA.  The only player actually enshrined courtesy of any VC committee was Joe Gordon.  Gordon is one of two players elected by the VC in the last decade (Bill Mazeroski was elected in 2001).

The VC setup did produce several other Hall of Famers — two managers (Billy Southworth and Dick Williams), two owners (Barney Dreyfuss and Walter O’Malley) and former commissioner Bowie Kuhn.  Thus, the past three years of voting by the VC resulted in six new Hall of Famers, only one of whom (Williams) was still alive to accept the honor.

So what are the new divisions/categories?

The new divisions are as follows: Pre-Integration (1871-1946), Golden (1947-1972) and Expansion (1973-1989 for players; 1973-present for managers, umpires and executives)…

…One election will be held each year at the annual Winter Meetings, but the eras rotate, resulting in one era per year. The Expansion era will be first, followed by the Golden Era election in 2011 and the Pre-Integration Era election in 2012.

The new rules take effect immediately and will be put into practice at the first election at this year’s Winter Meetings, to be held on December 5, 2010, in Orlando, Fla., with the Expansion Era up first.


First, who thought it would be a good idea to call one of the divisions the “Golden” era?  What a way to sell your current on-field product, guys.  It’s a sop to some of the baby boomers, and certain syrupy writers, I guess.

Then there is the actual dividing line between the categories.  Why does the “Expansion” era start in 1973, rather than in real expansion years like 1961 or 1968?  What is so special about 1973?  It was the first year of the DH.  Maybe that’s what it is.  Or maybe…

Maybe it’s because George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees in 1973.

I have to say that I’m not completely sure I’m going to buy the Big Stein Line of Demarcation theory, if only because I’m not sure Steinbrenner’s election would automatically result in overflow crowds venturing to Cooperstown next July.  However, let’s take a look at a potential ballot.  Remember, the “Expansion” era is up first, so The Boss is up for election immediately.  There will be 12 names on the expansion era ballot, made up of players, managers, umpires, and executives.

I figure that around eight of them will be players.  If I were to pick the top eight eligibles among this group of players, the list might look like this:

Tommy John
Bobby Grich
Darrell Evans
Ted Simmons
Buddy Bell
Bobby Bonds
Sal Bando
Jose Cruz, Sr.

I think it will be hard for any of these players to get 75% of the vote from a committee of 16 people.  John would have the best shot, and Grich likely would get serious consideration (at least, he should).

Then we have the non-players who would be on the ballot.  Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella would not be eligible for consideration this year.  Who would?  Steinbrenner, of course.  Charlie Finley.  Ewing Kauffman.  Marvin Miller.  John Schuerholz.  Davey Johnson.  Allan H. Selig…

That’s right.  Bud is a potential candidate.  I don’t think he’ll be on the ballot this time, but just wait three years.  Just wait.

If I had to guess at four non-players on the ballot, the spots would be taken by Steinbrenner, Miller, Kauffman…and Billy Martin.  Imagine the press if Steinbrenner and Martin are enshrined at the same time.

So will the VC elect anyone this winter?  Probably.  There is one potential hitch, though.  As Tom Tango observes, past iterations of the VC mandated that each voter could only vote for up to four candidates, making it very hard, if not impossible, for an individual to get 75% of the vote.  That will be particularly true for a 12-man ballot (as opposed to the 10-man ballot for the Golden and Pre-Integration eras).

If instead each candidate gets an “up or down” vote, with no further restrictions for those on the committee, then I think there could be three or four candidates elected.  If not?

Then it’s Steinbrenner, and nobody else.  Somewhere, Frank Constanza weeps.

Expanding on Bud Selig’s global championship proposal

Bud Selig and his Japanese counterpart, Ryozo Kato, apparently met in Milwaukee recently to discuss a proposal for an annual global championship between the U.S. World Series winner and the Japan Series titlist (skimpy details in this column and the AP article linked within it).  Personally, I think Selig needs to expand on this idea.  Here is a suggestion for a format that would truly determine the “world champion” of baseball:

First, there needs to be a poll system of some kind.  There would be two main polls.  In one of them, writers, presumably from around the world, would vote on which champions of each world league were worthy of playing in the title series.  In the other “human” poll, managers from some of the elite clubs (and even a few from the less-elite ranks) would vote.  Computer polls could also be used, in case further obfuscation was required.

The champions that finished 1st and 2nd in the poll system would qualify to play in the global championship.  In addition, the weeks leading up to the global series would be filled with series between other continental champions.  I would call these various series the “Baseball Championship Series”, just so everyone could grasp their tremendous importance.  The 1 vs. 2 matchup would be known as the Baseball Championship Series Global Championship.

You could have automatic qualifiers from North America, the Caribbean, Asia, South America, Australia, and Europe.  Another couple of slots would be filled by at-large selections; for example, an extra European club would presumably get to play in the Baseball Championship Series almost every year, because of the political importance of that continent.

I suppose it is possible that every now and then a lesser continent would produce a team worthy of competing in the Baseball Championship Series.  It is unlikely such a club would really be at the same level as those continental champions already guaranteed berths, of course, and certainly a place in the title series would be completely out of the question.

However, to satisfy potential rabble-rousers (all great things attract critics), a set of conditions could be met by a prospective qualifier to allow a team from a smaller continent (like, for example, Africa) to compete in the Baseball Championship Series.  It must be emphasized that such a club would never be in a position to qualify for the Global Championship, because it would obviously not be deserving.  The system would be designed to ensure such an injustice never happened.

There is no doubt in my mind that the system described above would be a major success for all significant parties.  There would almost never be a situation where more than two clubs would be in line for play in the global championship, and the other qualifying clubs would get to bask in the glow of the championship event by playing in much-anticipated series leading up to the final.

It’s a wonder such a setup hasn’t been tried for other sporting events, particularly the NFL playoffs and the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, each of which desperately needs a substantial change in the way it determines its respective champions.

All in all, it’s a fantastic idea.

The decisive game in the World Series that was almost shortened by rain…no, not the one between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay

Bud Selig is getting praised or pilloried for his decision to suspend Game 5 of the World Series last night.  I think most rational observers agree that it was ultimately the right decision; it’s just a question of when the decision should have been made in the first place.  Selig isn’t the first commissioner to be in a position to make a decision about whether or not to end a World Series-clinching game due to weather conditions, though…

In 1925, the Washington Senators (officially the Nationals, but almost everyone called them the Senators) repeated as AL champs and played the NL champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.  Washington was looking to repeat its Series victory of the year before, when it beat the New York Giants in seven games, the seventh game being a dramatic 12-inning affair.  The Senators would take a three-games-to-one lead in the Series, but the Pirates rallied to take the next two contests and force a deciding game 7 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

Game 7 was scheduled for October 14, but it got rained out.  The commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, had no desire for Game 7 to be rained out two days in a row, and ordered the game to be played the following day (and without any pressure from Fox TV!), even though the field was already a mess from the rains of the day before.  On the 15th it continued to rain, but they played on anyway, following a pregame pep talk to both teams from Landis, telling the squads that he didn’t want to disappoint the capacity crowd already there and that the game would be finished if “humanly possible.”

It didn’t begin well for the Pirates.  Pittsburgh’s starting pitcher, Vic Aldridge, had a nightmarish performance in the top of the first.  Sam Rice led off with a single, and after a flyout, Aldridge threw a wild pitch advancing Rice to second.  Aldridge was struggling to gain footing on the muddy pitching mound, and proceeded to walk the next three batters, throwing another wild pitch in the process.  After another single, he was replaced by Johnny Morrison, but eventually four runs would score in the inning.

The great Walter Johnson started for Washington, but he was battling a leg problem and the same muddy conditions that had affected Aldridge.  The Pirates scored three runs in the bottom of the third to close within one run, but the Senators answered with two runs in the top of the fourth, the runs scoring on a two-out double by Joe “Moon” Harris.  The Pirates answered back with a run in the fifth on consecutive doubles by Max Carey and Kiki Cuyler.  (Carey had four hits in the game, but more impressively for Joe Buck, he also stole a base, despite the rain and muddy conditions.)

It had been drizzling when the game started, but began to rain harder in the third inning and by the fifth it was a torrential downpour.  By the end of the sixth inning, the outfield was enveloped in fog, and the field was such a disaster Ring Lardner would refer to it in his column the following day as resembling “nothing so much as chicken a La King.”

It was at this point that Landis almost made a disastrous decision.  He decided to call the game, with the victory (and world title) going to Washington.  However, he was talked out of calling the game by an old baseball man, someone who knew better than to have a game deciding the World Series ended in such a manner, someone who understood the game had to be completed in its entirety, someone who told the commissioner that “you can’t do it — once you’ve started in the rain, you’ve got to finish it.”

Landis was talked out of ending the game early by Clark Griffth.  Clark Griffith, the owner of…the Washington Senators.

The first batter in the bottom of the seventh, Eddie Moore, lifted a short pop fly to left field.  Washington shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh (who had been named the American League MVP before the start of the series) slipped on the wet grass while going after the ball, lost his bearings, and dropped it.  Carey then blooped a double down the left field line, scoring Moore.  At least, umpire Brick Owens ruled it a double.  Nobody in a Senators uniform agreed with him, but the conditions weren’t exactly favorable for the umpires either.  Pie Traynor then tripled in Carey (but was thrown out trying for an inside-the-park homer).  The score was tied at 6.

Peckinpaugh homered in the eighth to put Washington back in the lead, 7-6.  In the bottom of the inning, there were two outs and a man on second when pinch-hitter Carson Bigbee hit a fly ball to right field.  In the rain, gloom, and fog, though, Rice never saw it, and it dropped for another double, tying the score.  After a walk (Johnson, incredibly, was still pitching, bad leg, atrocious conditions and all), Peckinpaugh made yet another error (his eighth of the Series; the rest of his teammates combined made one).

With the bases now loaded, Cuyler and Johnson engaged in a tremendous battle.  With a 2-2 count, Cuyler took a pitch that Johnson and catcher Muddy Ruel both thought was strike three.  Home plate umpire Bill “Moon” McCormick thought differently, though.  (I believe this was the first World Series to feature both an umpire and a player nicknamed “Moon”.)   With a full count Cuyler hit an opposite-field liner over first base that landed near the line and disappeared into the fog (and possibly under a tarpaulin).  It was eventually ruled a ground-rule double, scoring two runs.  Washington outfielder Goose Goslin claimed that the ball had actually been foul by two feet, but that none of the umpires could actually see the flight of the ball.

The Pirates held on to win the game 9-7, becoming the first team to win a World Series after trailing three games to one.

Books that discuss this game (and that I used as references) include Baseball’s Big Train, a biography of Walter Johnson by Henry Thomas, and Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Blunders.