Hall of Fame's Pre-Integration Era Committee honors and revives segregation
Jackie Robinson ended segregation in major league baseball, but not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame has a Pre-Integration Era Committee that considers only white "major league" players and contributors from before 1947 for honors in Cooperstown. But since 2006, the Hall has not had a Negro League Committee to consider the stars barred from the "major" leagues. Those two facts revive and perpetuate the exclusion of a bigoted era that is a shame to the sport and our nation.
I hope this result is unintentional (as many actions with racist results were and are), but that doesn't make it excusable.
The Hall of Fame announced its Pre-Integration Era Committee ballot Monday, including six players (Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, Marty Marion, Frank McCormick, Harry Stovey and Bucky Walters). One of the four nominated for off-field contributions was Doc Adams, who was a great 19th-Century shortstop, in addition to a baseball pioneer. The others on the ballot are executives Sam Breadon, Garry Herrmann and Chris von der Ahe. If the committee elects any of them, no one will be alive to enjoy the honor. The committee's choices, if any, will be announced Dec. 7 at the Major League Baseball winter meeting.
More than half of the 244 total players in the Hall of Fame, 126, are white players who played all or most of their careers before Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. That compares to 29 players elected from the Negro Leagues. Add 25 African Americans who played primarily or exclusively in the major leagues and eight Latino major-league Hall of Famers, and the players from the Segregation Era outnumber Hall of Fame players of color more than 2 to 1. (I'm not going to accept Pre-Integration as the name of this era; I'll try out some more blunt names here.)
To compound racism in the Hall of Fame, players since 1947 have found it much tougher to get into the Hall than those from the Bigotry Era. Lots of players from recent decades who probably will never make the Hall of Fame had better careers than white players who are already in Cooperstown (and any of those who will be considered this year.
Last year the Golden Era Committee, considering players whose prime years fell between 1947 to 1972, rejected all 10 players on the ballot, including former White Sox stars Dick Allen and Minnie Miñoso and three other African Americans and dark-skinned Cubans: Maury Wills, Tony Oliva and Luis Tiant.
Each of those players clearly measured up to or surpassed multiple counterparts from the Jim Crow Era who are in the Hall of Fame:
Allen played primarily at first and third base in a career in which his best seasons were played for the White Sox and Phillies. His offensive achievements surpassed those of eight Amos 'n Andy Era corner infielders in the Hall of Fame: Jake Bottomley, Frank Chance, George "High Pockets" Kelly, Bill Terry, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Jimmy Collins, Freddie Lindstrom and Pie Traynor.
Allen hit more homers and had a higher slugging percentage and OPS than any of those eight, and held his own against the group in runs, hits, RBI, stolen bases and on-base percentage. Allen led his league four times in OPS, three times in slugging, twice each in homers and on-base percentage and once each in runs, triples, RBI and walks: 15 times leading his league in an offensive stat. The most times any of the Jazz Player Era players we're comparing led his league in an offensive stat was seven.
Allen was an All-Star all three seasons he played for the White Sox, 1972-74, winning the American League's Most Valuable Player award in 1972.
Tony Oliva and Minne Miñoso
These Cuban outfielders, who couldn't have played in the majors before 1947, had notably better major league careers by nearly every statistical measure than six Hall of Fame outfielders from the Birth of a Nation Era: Kiki Cuyler, Chick Hafey, Harry Hooper, Heinie Manush, Zack Wheat and Ross Youngs.
Hafey, Manush and Wheat each won one batting championship, while Oliva won three for the Minnesota Twins. Manush was the only one of the white outfielders to lead his league in hits (he did it twice). Miñoso, a four-time All-Star in two stints with the White Sox, led his league in hits once and Oliva led the league five times.
Wills compares favorably to shortstops from the Separate But Unequal Era elected to Cooperstown by Veterans Committees and Old Timers Committees: Dave Bancroft, Travis Jackson, Joe Sewell, Joe Tinker, Arky Vaughan and Bobby Wallace.
None of those shortstops broke an important all-time record (Wills broke Ty Cobb's single-season stolen-base record of 96 in 1962), won an MVP award (Wills was the 1962 MVP) or led his league six straight seasons in stolen bases (Wills led 1960-65). None of these white shortstops changed the game the way Wills did, accelerating the increase of stolen bases throughout baseball.
These white shortstops would need remarkably better career achievements in other areas to justify their being in the Hall of Fame and Wills being excluded. Neither Wills nor these players from the Stepin Fetchit Era were power hitters, but he compares favorably with them in runs, hits, batting average and games played at shortstop.
Compare Tiant, a star of the Red Sox and Indians, to the six Hall of Fame pitchers from the No Coloreds Era who are the closest above and below his 229 career wins: Herb Pennock, Mordecai Brown, Waite Hoyt, Stan Coveleski, Chief Bender, Jesse Haines.
Tiant had more career strikeouts than any of the six and led most of them in career shutouts and 20-win seasons. His ERA was right in the middle of the pack and he led the league more often in important pitching stats (twice in ERA and three times in shutouts) than any of those Hall of Famers but Coveleski.
All five of the black players rejected by last year's Golden Era Committee -- three Cubans and two African Americans -- were clearly at least as good as and probably better than multiple Whites Only Era players at the same positions who are in the Hall of Fame.
So why in the world does the Hall of Fame continue to give any consideration to pre-1947 candidates at all? If you haven't made it into the Hall of Fame 70 years after the peak of your career, your exclusion pales against baseball's greater injustices of your time.
No need to give these men posthumous glory when their Shameful Era was so over-honored anyway.
• About the author: Steve Buttry is Director of Student Media at Louisiana State University and blogs about baseball at hatedyankees.wordpress.com. A longer version of this column/post, with more detail on statistical analysis of these players and a poll where you can vote on alternate names for the Pre-Integration Era, is on the blog. This post starts a series on the blog about racial discrimination in Hall of Fame selections. Statistics cited here come from Baseball-Reference.com.