The Hall of Fame announced their next veteran’s committee ballot today, and they have one Yankees great on it, and two others greats who passed through up for election. These are, respectively, pitchers Allie Reynolds, Luis Tiant, and Jim Kaat.
Reynolds , of Native American ancestry, was nicknamed "Superchief" in those less politically correct times. He starred, uncomfortably or appropriately enough (depending on your point of view) for the Indians from 1942 to 1946. At that point he was the subject of one of baseball’s greatest "everybody wins" trades. The Indians wanted second baseman Joe Gordon from the Yankees and offered the choice of Reynolds or another player. Yankees owner Larry MacPhail consulted Joe DiMaggio, who said he would be crazy not to take Reynolds. Gordon helped the Indians win the 1948 World Series, while Reynolds won 131 games for the Yankees over the next eight years and saved 41 more; he was one of the few players on all five of the Yankees’ consecutive championships from 1949 to 1953.
Reynolds’ career seems a little short by traditional Hall standards. He didn’t get more than 21 starts in a season until he was 28, the Yankees under Casey Stengel made him both starter and closer, suppressing his overall win totals, and he was done at 37 due to injuries suffered when the Yankees’ team bus had an accident. As such, he only has 182 wins, but he spikes that with a .630 winning percentage, a fine career 3.30 ERA, two no-hitters, six rings, and a 7-2, 2.79 ERA record in postseason play.
Given the overall level of pitchers in the Hall, Reynolds doesn’t have the kind of numbers that typically lead to enshrinement, and as important as he was to the Yankees in his day, in a career sense he doesn’t have the same shine as such non-Hall guys as Andy Pettitte (at least not yet), David Cone, and Ron Guidry.
After a long and glorious stint with the Red Sox that climaxed with the 1975 Series, a contest in which he was in many ways the central figure, Luis Tiant joined the Yankees for two seasons beginning in 1979. At 38, Tiant was pretty much done. His 1979 was average, his ’80 poor. Tiant was a four-time 20-game winner with two ERA titles, and some of his seasons are so good you would guess that he won a couple of Cy Young awards, but somehow there was always someone better. Overall, he had 229 wins and a 3.30 ERA. He was a spectacularly colorful character with an outsized personality and a unique delivery, just a terrifically fun guy to watch. His induction would by no means demean the Hall.
Jim Kaat was twice a teammate of Tiant’s, once with the Twins and with the Yankees on those oddly-assembled 1979 and 1980 teams. The southpaw was in his 40s by the time he got to New York, having done his best work for the Twins and White Sox in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He was a three-time 20-game winner, won 283 games overall, and was given the Gold Glove anytime he asked for it, taking home 16 of the little buggers. His ERA was 3.45, in the same ballpark as
In his Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James makes a good point about Kaat, that if you rearrange his career a bit and group his best years together, he would look more like the excellent pitcher he was than a guy who hung around for a quarter of a century. Kaat was a workhorse, a durable southpaw who pitched on some excellent Twins and Phillies teams. Despite the high win total, he’s not quite the candidate that Tiant is, but as a very good pitcher and a highly intelligent broadcaster, he could certainly be inducted under the "general contributions to the game rubric."
All of this is prelude, though, to the fact that Ron Santo is on the ballot. Santo should be in, period, and as good as these three pitchers were, until he gets called up to Cooperstown, the induction of any lesser candidate is not only unjustified, but criminal. So get to it, guys. The Pinstriped Bible has spoken.