The Veteran's Committee (03/06/01)
Today, the Veteran's Committee will announce their selections for inductees into baseball's Hall of Fame. They have selected several players with questionable qualifications in the recent past, but I'm hoping that there are no such controversies with this year's selections. That said, I'd like to offer my list of people who deserve to be chosen for the Hall of Fame.
No one in the history of US sports, with the exception of Branch Rickey, has had a greater impact than Marvin Miller. He made the player's union a force to be reckoned with, equal in power to baseball's owners. With this power behind him, he was the primary motivational force in the introduction of salary arbitration and free agency. Whether you like what they've done to sports or not, there's no debate that these 2 practices have had a profound impact on the way sports, both as businesses and games, are run.
Ron Santo was a great third baseman. On defense, he led the league in chances 9 times, assists 7 times, and in double plays 6 times. He was rewarded for his efforts in the field with 5 Gold Gloves. Offensively, his 342 home runs rank 4th all time for third basemen and his 1331 RBI 6th best for the position. In Total Baseball, Pete Palmer assessed his total impact on the game as one of the 50 best in history for any hitter. He was an All-Star 9 times. However, the most amazing thing about Santo is that he accomplished all this while suffering from diabetes.
Dick Williams, despite his last foray into truly unusual behavior, deserves a place in the Hall. He's one of 2 managers to ever take 3 different franchises to the World Series, winning it twice with the Oakland A's. He compiled a career total of 1571 wins and 1451 losses while piloting teams with less than stellar pedigrees (5 years in Montreal, 4 in San Diego, 3 in Seattle).
Bill Mazeroski is probably the greatest defensive second baseman ever. Yes, he played behind ground ball pitchers for most of his career, increasing his total number of chances, but he converted those chances into outs more often than anyone, leading the league in put-outs 5 times, assists 9 times and double plays 8 consecutive years. Maz has 3 of the 6 highest double play totals for a season for a second baseman. Palmer's total player rating puts him in the top 100 players of all time almost entirely on the strength of his defense.
Bob Uecker might not belong in the Hall of Fame, but I'd like to see him in there. His playing career, to put it mildly, was modest. His greatest impact has come as a broadcaster, personality and ambassador of the game. With baseball, and sports in general for that matter, becoming increasingly stat-centric, there is less and less humanity in it than perhaps there once was. Broadcasts have become a mere recitations of voluminous stats accompanied by an occasional rap sheet, often absent of any personality or good-natured humor*. Uecker's self-deprecating delivery reminds us what baseball really is: a game. As Willie Stargell once said, "No one ever said 'Work ball'. They say 'play ball'". Uecker should be recognized for his insistent reminder of this most basic and important fact.
There are other guys who will be considered for induction - Tony Oliva and Gil Hodges to name a couple - but these five were the only ones in my book who should be slam-dunk, no doubt locks. I hope the guys on the Veterans Committee see it that way.
*Note: I'm not in any way saying that stats are bad. I'm a huge believer in the value of statistics. But there is a point of overload, like when some play-by-play guy starts going off on this batter's batting average against lefties in late inning pressure situations in night games on the road. Um, yeah.