This past weekend, the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown welcomed it’s newest members; Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman. Some fans, especially those from New York may have been a little surprised by the voting results of this year’s Hall of Fame Ballot.
The biggest surprises to me did not come from the top of the list as I fully support the 4 players who were inducted as deserving and the middle guys had the expected amount of votes. The players who have deserving numbers are understandably held back due to their involvement with PEDs, which is a decision meant for another article altogether. However, the bottom of the list was a bit surprising. Each of the 422 voters have a maximum of 10 players that they can name. While none of these players ultimately deserve to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, four players were surprisingly only named on 4-10 of the 422 ballots. Those 4 men were; 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, 2x World Series Champion Johnny Damon, and most surprising was Johan Santana.
Though many Mets fans feel that he failed to meet expectations when he arrived in New York, Santana still had an incredible 6 year stretch from 2003 to 2008. In that span, Santana won 98 games to 42 losses while striking out 1358 batters in 1305 innings compared to just 308 walks. He placed top 7 in the Cy Young vote all 6 seasons, winning the award twice. He led the league in ERA 3 times, strikeouts 3 times, WHIP 4 times and won the Triple Crown in 2006. Santana’s average numbers during that season of Yet only 10 voters thought he was worthy of consideration. By comparison his average of 226 strikeouts, 2.85 ERA and 1.031 WHIP was never matched by either Schilling (216 votes) or Mussina (268 votes) in a single season. In fact, Schilling and Mussina both only had 1 season with an ERA lower than 2.85 while Schilling had 2 seasons with a WHIP under 1.031 and 4 seasons with over 226 strikeouts. Yet only 10 voters felt that Santana was worthy of consideration.
While Johan not earning at least 5% of the vote was a surprise in 2018, it is nothing compared to some others throughout the history of baseball. Though some of the rules were a bit different during the earlier ballots (current players could receive votes), the voters were still able to include a maximum of 10 players on their ballot. The 5% rule also did not apply until 1979, but if it was in effect during the first 4 years then 41 future Hall of Famers would have been dropped from the ballot between 1936 and 1939 alone. So, let’s take a look at some of the best players who had failed to reach the 5% mark in Hall of Fame history in order of when they were eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame.
We will only be looking at players who failed to receive the 5% vote after retiring. For a while current players were eligible for Hall of Fame votes. Some players who received votes while playing, but was less than 5% include Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio and Warren Spahn. This also does not include ineligible players like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose who both appeared on the ballots despite their bans and received less than 5% of the vote.
Gehringer is one of the greatest second basemen to play the game and retired in 1942. He first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1945. Gehringer had a great career of consistency with 12 seasons of 100+ runs scored, 7 seasons with 100+ RBI, a career .320 average and .404 OBP. He also hit the 6th most doubles in a single season with 60 in 1936 and won the MVP in 1937. Despite this he was only named on 4% of the ballots in 1945. Based on the standards of the Hall of Fame today, Gehringer would have been dropped from the ballot after that year. He would however remain on the ballot and get elected 4 years later in 1949 after earning 85% of the votes.
A Dead Ball Era all star, Duffy still holds the single season record with his .440 batting average in 1894. Duffy would end his career with a .326 average, 1554 runs scored and 106 home runs (5th all time at his retirement). Duffy would be inducted by the Old Timers Committee in 1945 after earning just 4.5% and 3.5% in his first two seasons on the ballot in 1936 and 1937 respectively.
A Dead Ball Era all star, Burkett retired in 1905. Throughout his career Burkett compiled 2850 hits which ranked second all time behind Cap Anson at the time of his retirement. His 240 hits in 1896 was also a single season record until it was broken in 1911 by none other than Ty Cobb. Burkett also batted over .400 twice and scored 160 runs in 1896, good for 14th all time. He also had a career .338 average. Burkett was eventually inducted by the Old Timers Committee in 1946 after spending 6 years on the ballot and only earning at most 1.7% of the votes.
Tinker, Evers & Chance
The famed double play trio of the early Chicago Cubs dynasty, all 3 men retired between 1914 and 1917. While neither of these 3 players had great careers at the plate they are well known across the baseball world. Johnny Evers is the only one of the bunch to win an MVP which he picked up in 1914. Joe Tinker would place 4th in MVP vote of 1912. However, Frank Chance was the only one of the 3 to lead the league in any offensive category. Chance led the league in steals twice, OBP once and runs scored once. Evers and Chance first appeared on the ballot in 1936 while Tinker first appeared in 1937. In 1936 Evers and Chance could only muster a total of 4.9% between the two of them (2.7 for Evers, 2.2 for Chance). Tinker did better in his first year with 7.5% before dropping down below 5% with only 4.4% in his 3rd year on the ballot. All 3 men would be inducted together by the Old Timers Committee in 1946.
Better known as Three Finger Brown, he was one of the most well known pitchers of the Dead Ball Era. Though he rarely led the league in pitching categories, he ended his career with 239 wins, 55 shutouts, a 1.066 WHIP and a 2.06 ERA. He was also the Ace of the early Cubs dynasty pitching perfectly during both of the Cubs World Series wins in 1907 and 1908. He pitched 20 innings over 3 games winning all 3 while allowing no runs to score. When Brown first appeared on the ballot in 1936 he only earned 2.7% of the vote. He would eventually be inducted by the Old Timers Committee in 1949.
Nichols retired in 1906 with 361 career wins and a 2.96 ERA. 300 wins is somewhat of a magic number now for automatic Hall of Famer (unless PED speculation is involved). With the exception of Clemens, the last 4 300 game winners to be eligible for the Hall of Fame were inducted on their first ballot. However, Nichols was on the ballot for 6 years before being inducted by the Old Timers Committee in 1949 with his highest percentage being just 3.8% in 1936 followed by 2.6% in 1939.
Retiring in 1932 and first appearing on the ballot in 1937 with 5% of the votes, Heilmann would receive 5.3% in 1938, his highest until 1946. In 1939, he only received 2.9% of the vote, which would drop him off the ballot today. Heilmann led the league in batting average 4 times in his career, batting over .390 in each of those 4 seasons. For his career, he held a .342 average with 1543 RBI and a .410 OBP. He also compiled 542 doubles and 151 triples in his career. He was eventually elected in 1952, earning 86.8% of the votes that year.
Bucketfood Al was a staple for Connie Mack’s Athletics of the 1920s and early 30s. Simmons had 12 seasons with 100+ RBI in his career and a .334 average. He also compiled 2927 hits and had a career slugging percentage of .535. Yet his first two years on the ballot he received just 0.5% and 3.7% respectively. It would take Simmons 8 years to get the 75.4% that earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1953.
Bill Terry retired in 1936 and first appeared on the ballot that same year. Terry had a career .341 average and batted .401 in 1930. Though he didn’t lead the league, he did have 100+ RBI and 100+ runs scored in 6 consecutive seasons from 1927 to 1932. Terry was eventually voted into the Hall of Fame in 1954, but only earned 4% and 2.7% of the votes during his first 2 years on the ballot.
Vance retired in 1935 and first appeared on the ballot in 1936. During his career Vance led the league in strikeouts 7 times, ERA 3 times, WHIP 3 times and wins twice. He won the MVP in 1924 with a Triple Crown season. Yet he only earned 0.4% of the vote in 1936. 1937 he increased to the 5% mark before dropping back under in 1938 with just 3.8%. Vance would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955 after 16 years on the ballot. His 16 years on the ballot is another way that Vance would have failed to make the Hall of Fame today.
The all time leader in Triples retired in 1917 and first appeared on the ballot in . During his career, Crawford led the league in triples 6 times, RBI twice, home runs twice and had a career batting average of .309. Yet he was on the ballot for 7 years without garnering more than 4.5% of the vote. Crawford was eventually inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1957.
One of the premiere sluggers of the early Live Ball Era, Hack Wilson retired in 1934 and first appeared on the ballot in 1937. In 1930, Wilson launched 56 home runs to become just the second player in MLB history to surpass the 50 home run mark (Babe Ruth being first). Wilson led the league in home runs an additional 3 seasons while also leading in RBI twice and holding a career .307 average. His mark of 191 RBI in 1930 remains as the single season record for RBI. However, Wilson could only muster at most 0.5% of the vote in his first 3 years on the ballot. It wasn’t until 1949 when Wilson earned over 5% of the vote, 13 years after first appearing on the ballot. Like many others on this list, Wilson was inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1979.
Kiner was a slugger from the day he entered the MLB in 1946. That season was the first of 7 consecutive seasons in which Kiner would lead the league in home runs. He also led the league in slugging percentage and walks 3 times each as well as RBI, OBP and runs scored once each. During that streak Kiner slugged 50+ homers twice and had a 5 year streak of 40+ homers, 100+ runs scored and 100+ RBI while maintaining a .294 average. However, when Kiner first appeared on the ballot in 1960 he could only muster 1.1% of the vote followed by 3.1% the following year. After that he would gain support and earn 75.4% and induction to the Hall of Fame in 1975.
One of the greatest shortstops of all time, Vaughan had a great career in Pittsburgh. Playing for 10 years in Pittsburgh, Vaughan was an 8 time all star while batting .324 with a .415 OBP. He averaged 12 triples and 94 runs scored a year during that time. Throughout his career he led the league in triples, runs scored, walks and OBP 3 times each. He also led the league in batting average in 1935 when he batted .385. Vaughan would first appear on the ballot in 1953 with just 0.4% of the vote. Vaughan wouldn’t break the 5% mark for 7 years. Eventually he was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1985.
One of the most dominant pitchers of the 40s, Newhouser had a 3 year stretch from 1944 to 1946 in which he won 80 games, struck out 674 batters and had a 1.99 ERA. He led the league in wins all 3 seasons, ERA twice, strikeouts twice and WHIP once. He also won back to back MVPs and placed 2nd in the vote in the 3rd year. Yet in 1962 when he first appeared on the ballot, he could only get 2.5% of the vote. Newhouser would spend 12 years on the ballot and eventually get inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1992.
“The best player in history to get booted… after his first year,” ESPN’s Jayson Stark stated after Delgado failed to reach 5% of the vote in 2015. Delgado is the only player on this list to not be in the Hall of Fame, though he may get the nod from the Veterans Committee down the road. Delgado earned just 3.8% of the vote despite an illustrious career. While Delgado only led the league in doubles once and RBI once in his career, his numbers speak volumes to the player he was throughout his career. He hit 473 career home runs putting him right between Hall of Famers Chipper Jones and Stan Musial. He had 9 seasons with 100+ RBI and smashed 30+ home runs 11 times in his career. He had a career slugging percentage of .546 which ranks higher than other Hall of Fame sluggers such as Ken Griffey Jr, Mike Piazza, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson and Mel Ott. He also compiled 1512 career RBI, putting him just ahead of Mickey Mantle and Vladimir Guerrero. While his .280 batting average may be a pit of a blackeye for Delgado, it ranks higher than other Hall of Famers such as Ernie Banks, Cal Ripken and Jim Thome while his .383 OBP places him above Albert Pujols, Nap Lajoie, Derek Jeter, Carl Yastrzemski and Vladimir Guerrero. How he only earned 3.8% of the vote in a year when Alan Trammell earned 25.1% is simply a disgrace to the Hall of Fame.