Harry Stovey Leads BBRT Pre-Integration ERA Baseball HOF Choices

Baseball Hall of Fame should make room for Harry Stovey in 2016. .

Baseball Hall of Fame should make room for Harry Stovey – and early offensive leader –  in 2016.

In BBRT’s post of November 24, I reviewed the traditional Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, which will see the qualifying members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voting on HOF induction for 32 players (17 ballot holdovers and 15 first-timers). That post also included BBRT’s preferences and predictions for 2016 HOF induction. To view that post, click here.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the special Pre-Integration Hall of Fame ballot.  The 10 Pre-Integration Era nominees included on the ballot were selected by the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee. The candidates are drawn from managers, umpires, executives and players who had a significant impact on baseball from its earliest days through 1946. Eligible candidates included: players who played in at least 10 major league seasons, have been retired for at least 21 years and are not on MLB’s ineligible list; and managers, umpires and executives with 10 or more years in baseball. The final nominees included six former players, three executives and one of the game’s earliest organizers. A 16-member Committee will vote on the nominees on December 7, and any nominee receiving at least 75 percent support will be inducted into the HOF during this coming year’s (July 24, 2016) ceremonies. (Voting results  will be announced on January 6, 2016).

As with BBRT’s review of the regular Hall of Fame ballot, I’ll share my predictions and preferences.  We’ll start with predictions on whom the Committee will elect, move on to a detailed look at the players BBRT would vote for and close with a briefer review of the remainder of the ballot.

Who Will the Committee Send to Cooperstown?

BBRT projects the Pre-Integration Committee will provide the necessary 12 votes to:

  • Harry Stovey …  A stellar offensive performer, who – at various times – led his league in home runs, doubles, triples, runs scored, runs  batted in, slugging percentage, total bases and stolen bases.
  • Doc Adams … For his work in defining, refining and standardizing baseball rules, as well as the development of (and his play at) the shortstop position.

BBRT also sees a pair of dark horse candidates, who could join the above pair for 2016 induction:

  • Chris Van der Ahe … An early baseball “maverick” credited with bringing us – among other things – Sunday baseball and beer at the ballpark.
  • Bucky Walters – With six All Star selections, three years leading his league in wins and a 1939 MVP Award – plus, he was he was a two-time ERA champion, three-time leader in complete games, one-time leader in shutouts, three-time leader in innings pitched and one-time leader in strikeouts.   

 

Now, let’s take a look at the nominees that BBRT would support, in order of preference:

 

  1. HARRY STOVEY – Power and Speed in MLB’s Early Days
Harry Stovey - BBRT's number-one choice from the Pre-Integration Era Hall of Fame candidates.

Harry Stovey – BBRT’s number-one choice from the Pre-Integration Era Hall of Fame candidates.

Had they selected All Star teams in the 1880s and 1890s, Harry Stovey would have been on plenty of them.  Stovey’s 14-year career included stints in the National League (1880-82 and 1891-93) – as well as the American Association (1883-1889) and Players League (1890), considered major leagues at the time. The fleet outfielder-first baseman was a true offensive threat, leading his league in home runs five times, triples four times, runs scored four times, slugging percentage three times, total bases three times, stolen bases two times and doubles and RBI once each. Stovey was the first player to reach 100 career home runs and when he retired in 1893, he held the career home run record at 122. He remained among the top five in career round trippers until 1924. In 1889, playing for the Philadelphia Athletics  of the American Association, Stovey hit .308 – and led the league in runs scored (152), home runs (19), RBI (119), slugging percentage (.525) and total bases (292), tossing  in 63 steals. Stovey is also credited as the first player to wear sliding pads and the first to perfect the feet-first slide.  Stovey finished his career with a .289 average, 122 home runs, 906 RBI, 1,492 runs scored, 174 triples and 509 stolen bases.  He played for the Worcester Ruby Legs, Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Reds, Boston Beaneaters, Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Grooms.

All those finishes atop key offensive categories make Stovey a worthy Hall of Famer.

  1. DANIEL “DOC” ADAMS – We Still Play by His Rules

“Doc” Adams came by his nickname fairly – he graduated from Yale University in 1835 and acquired a medical degree from Harvard in 1938 (eventually practicing medicine in Mount Vernon, Boston and New York City).  In addition to his medical and educational pursuits, Adams was an exceptional athlete with a strong interest in baseball.  In 1840, he joined the New York Baseball Club and, five years later, became one of the earliest members of the influential New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club – joining in 1845 and being elected its president in 1846. In 1856, he headed a convention of representatives of a dozen baseball teams focused on defining, refining and standardizing the rules of the game.  Among the “firsts” attributed to Adams – the first to play (and establish) the shortstop position and the first umpire to call non-swinging strikes.  He is also considered one of the earliest advocates of (and driving forces behind) a game of nine innings, the 90-foot distance between bases and the establishment of nine players to a side.

For helping shape the game, Adams would get BBRT’s Vote

  1. SAM BREADON – Building Saint Louis’ Baseball Tradition

Sam Breadon – a successful businessman who owned a group of Pierce Arrow automobile dealerships – purchased a minority interest in the struggling St. Louis Cardinals in 1917.  By 1920, he was the club’s majority owner and president – a position he held until 1947. Breadon placed Branch Rickey in the position of General Manager and the pair created what turned out to be the model for MLB’s farm system – with minor league clubs feeding players to their parent organizations. That move turned the Saint Louis organization around.  In the five years prior to Breadon taking majority ownership, the team had a record of 346-405 – finishing seventh twice, eighth once, sixth once  and third once. Under Breadon (from 1920 to 1947), the team had only four sub-.500 seasons, produced nine pennant winners and six World Series championships, and put up a .574 overall winning percentage (2,470-1,830).

Helping turn Saint Louis into a long-term baseball hotbed should earn Breadon the Hall of Fame nod.

  1. CHRIS VON DER AHE – Nothing Like a Cold Beer and a Sunday Doubleheader

Chris Van der Ahe was the owner of the Saint Louis Browns from 1881-1988 – and brought home the American Association championship in four consecutive years (1985-1988). It was, however, Von der Ahe’s, reputation as an innovator and promoter that earned him a spot on the Pre-Integration ballot. (Imagine an earlier, and perhaps even more “maverick,” version of Hall of Fame owner Bill Veeck.)

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, “base ball” (it was two words back then) was facing significant challenges – impacted by the depression of the 1870s, the influence of gambling interests, elitist (read often stodgy) ownership and a reputation for less than gentlemanly (and sometimes even corrupt) players.  Despite all of this, Van der Ahe – who immigrated to the United States in 1867 and knew very little about baseball, but a lot about beer – saw potential in the sport. Van der Ahe, who had settled in St. Louis (then the nation’s sixth-largest city), started as a grocery clerk, but had acquired ownership in a grocery store, a saloon and boarding house.  At the same time as Van der Ahe’s fortunes were rising, Saint Louis baseball was on the decline.  In 1878, in fact, Saint Louis had lost its National League franchise – and fans’ had to make do with the semi-pro St. Louis Brown Stockings. Van der Ahe saw this situation as an opportunity.  He sank his life savings into the Brown Stockings in the hopes of returning the team to the National League (and making a solid return on his investment) – a move that the leaders of the NL rejected.  Turned away by the National League, Van der Ahe’s Brown Stockings initially played as an independent – offering a new kind of “base ball” – accessible to the average wage earner (admission prices only half of the NL’s 50-cents); played on Sunday (the NL banned Sunday ball); with alcoholic beverages (also banned by the NL) available at the ballpark; and offering a range of promotional activities and entertainment.  The Saint Louis team’s rising popularity and financial success is credited with the 1881 formation of the major league American Association (Saint Louis, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Louisville and Pittsburgh).  This success did lead to Van der Ahe’s achieving his goal of returning Saint Louis to the NL.  Prior to the 1893 season, the American Association merged with the National League, with St. Louis a prize catch for the new league.

Now, I happen to love spending a sunny, Sunday afternoon at the ballpark – cold beer and scorecard in hand.  That is enough for me to give a Hall of Fame thumbs up to Chris Van der Ahe. For more on Van der Ahe and the American Association, read The Summer of Beer and Whiskey, reviewed here.

______________________________________________________

Now, here are the remaining candidates on the Pre-Integration Ballot, in alphabetical order.

BILL DAHLEN

Bill Dahlen was primarily a shortstop during his 21-year National League career (1891-1911). Considered an excellent fielder and an accomplished hitter, Dahlen compiled a .272 batting average (2,461 hits) with 84 home runs, 1,234 RBI, 1,590 runs scored and 548 stolen bases. He scored 100 or more runs six times, stole 30+ bases nine times and exceeded 100 RBI once. Playing for the Cubs in 1894, Dahlen put up a .359 average, with 15 home runs, 108 RBI and 43 steals.

AUGUST “GARRY” HERRMANN

August Hermann was president of the Cincinnati Reds from 1902 to 1927 and chairman of MLB’s ruling body – the National Commission – from 1903 to 1920. His contributions to the game earned him the title “Father of the World Series” – as he played a key role in negotiating the “National Agreement” that brought peace between the bickering National and American Leagues in 1903 – an agreement which led to the establishment of the World Series.

MARTY MARION

Considered one of (if not the) top fielding shortstops of his era and a natural leader on the field, Marty Marion was a seven-time All Star and the 1944 NL MVP (despite hitting just .267 with just six home runs, 50 runs scored, 63 RBI and one stolen base) as he led the Cardinals to the NL pennant and World Series crown. In 13 MLB seasons, Marion hit .263 (1,448 hits) with 36 home runs and 624 RBI.  During his career, he helped lead the Cardinals to four pennants (1942-43-44-46) and three World Championships (1942-44-46).

FRANK MCCORMICK

First baseman Frank McCormick was an eight-time All-Star (in 13 MLB seasons), who earned a reputation for a solid bat and glove. He was named the 1940 NL MVP – after a season in which he led the Reds to a World Series title and led the NL in at bats (618), hits (191) and doubles (44), while hitting .309, with 19 home runs, 127 RBI and 91 runs scored. McCormick led the NL in hits three times, doubles once and RBI once. He hit .299 for his career, with 128 home runs and 954 BI.

BUCKY WALTERS

Bucky Walters started his career as a third baseman (1931-34) before switching to the  mound full-time in 1935 (and becoming a six-time All Star as a pitcher). In his 16 seasons on the hill, Walters won 198 games (160 losses) and put up a 3.30 ERA with 1,107 strikeouts in 3,104 innings. He won 20+ games in three seasons (1939, 1940, 1944), leading the league in victories each time.  He won the 1939 NL MVP Award, posting a 27-11 record, with a 2.29 ERA. That season, he led the NL in wins, ERA, strikeouts (137), games started (36), complete games (31) and innings pitched (319).  In his career, he was a three-time league leader in wins, two-time ERA champion, three-time leader in complete games, one-time leader in shutouts, three-time leader in innings pitched and one-time leader in strikeouts.  He was 2-2, with a 2.79 ERA for the Reds in four World Series appearances (1939-40), which included three complete games and one shutout. Walters played for the Phillies, Reds and Braves.

WES FERRELL

Wes Ferrell took the mound in 15 MLB seasons (1927-41) – for the Indians, Red Sox, Senators, Yankees, Dodgers and Braves.  He put up a 193-128 record, with a 4.04 career ERA and 985 strikeouts in 2,623 innings.  He was a six-time 20-game winner, with a league-leading high of 25 for the Red Sox in 1935. Ferrell also lead his league in complete games four times and innings pitched three times.  Ferrell is acknowledged as the best-hitting pitcher of all time, with a .280 career average and 38 home runs (the record for pitchers). He also holds the single season home run record for pitchers at nine.

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

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