With the announcement of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame inductees less than two weeks away, the discussion in the various media has switched from “Who should get inducted” to “Who will (probably) get inducted”. So we’re not seeing much more in the way of JAWS scores or career Wins Above Replacement anymore.
But there are entire groups of people who don’t have any of those numbers who still deserve to belong in any Baseball Hall of Fame you could create. Just because they never played the game shouldn’t disqualify them. There are plenty of non-players who are already enshrined.
So, as an exercise to my handful of readers, if you were starting with a clean slate, which people who never wore a uniform would you have in your Hall of Fame?
I can group them into a couple of basic classes.
The people who were there at the beginning, and essentially created Major League Baseball:
Alexander Cartwright: Laid down the basic rules of the game.
Henry Chadwick: Promoted the game through his writing and reporting, and created the box score and the basic statistics.
A.G. Spalding: Helped organize the first leagues.
Ban Johnson: Broke the monopoly of the National League, and demanded standards in player behavior on the field.
Owners and other executives who shaped the business:
Bill Veeck: Realized that baseball was entertainment, and through innovative and creative promotions made it more entertaining.
Branch Rickey: Created the “farm system” for player development.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis: Cleaned up the game when it needed it most.
Umpires? Yes, we have room for umpires:
Bill Klem: Demanded and got respect for umpires, and integrity among them.
Doug Harvey: Known as “God” by the players for his professionalism and integrity.
The Hall of Fame has the Ford C. Frick and J.G. Taylor Spink awards for sportscasting and writing, respectively. I’m not going to relegate them to a separate wing.
Roger Angell: The Vin Scully of the written word.
Vin Scully: The Roger Angell of the spoken word.
How about people from outside the “establishment”?
Bill James: Gave us new ways to appreciate the talents of players.
Marvin Miller: Got players to be treated as human beings and not pieces of property to be bought and sold irrespective of their wishes.
Sy Berger: Created the modern baseball card.
Frank Jobe, MD: Developed what became known as “Tommy John surgery”, which has extended the careers of innumerable players.
These are just the ones off the top of my head. I’m sure I could add more, but one must stop somewhere. Who would you select for your Hall of Fame?
Note: Some of these Hall-of-Famers have indeed played the game, but they are being recognized for their contributions off the field. I could easily add managers as they deserve inclusion as well. But one could, in theory, evaluate them according to some mathematical formula involving won-loss records. My list is specifically for those people where a mathematical analysis of their contributions is utterly impossible.