On Tuesday, the results of the BBWAA ballot for the Hall of Fame class of 2023 were released. The lone player who got the necessary 75-percent was Scott Rolen, who will join Veterans Committee pick Fred McGriff in this year’s class.
They were very nearly joined by a third person, with Todd Helton finishing agonizingly short with 72.2-percent of possible votes. A player needed 292 of 389 votes to reach the threshold, and Helton got 281, falling just 11 short. Considering that he’s that close on only his fifth year on the ballot, it seems likely that if typical trends hold, he’ll receive a bump in votes and eventually get in. It’s entirely possible that happens next year.
While coming up short doesn’t mean the end of Helton’s Hall hopes, it still must feel a bit bad to come that close but miss out. Thinking of that, let’s look at some Yankees who once feel agonizingly short on a Hall of Fame ballot.
(It should be noted that all of the people we’re going to talk about did end up getting in at some point. Anyone who gets as close as the guys we’re going to talk about pretty much always get in eventually.)
The poster boy for a Yankee who came just short is probably Red Ruffing. The first time Ruffing appeared on a Hall ballot was 1948, when he got just 3.3 percent of the vote. These days, that would be enough to knock him off, but it didn’t then, and his totals steadily increased until 1964, his 13th of a then-possible 15 times you could appear. Ruffing got 141 of 201 votes, leaving him ten shy of the necessary 151 for induction.
However, one of the other differences in voting from then to now is that if no one voted in via the initial ballot, they would then occasionally have a run-off vote among the top 30 vote getters. No one had reached 75 percent, so they went to the run-off. On that, Ruffing got 91.5 percent of the votes. Pretty good, right? The issue was that if the voting went to a run-off, the Hall then only took the leading vote getter. Ruffing finished second, 19 short of Luke Appling.
Two years later — again, things we’re different then, and there was no normal vote in 1965 — Ruffing appeared on the ballot for a 14th time. On the initial ballot, he got 68.9 percent, just 19 votes off the necessary 75 percent. This time there was no run-off vote, as Ted Williams was on the ballot that year, and he quite easily sailed into the Hall.
The 1967 ballot was set to be Ruffing’s final chance on the BBWAA ballot. If he missed out again, his only chance would be from the Veterans committee. On the initial voting, Ruffing got 72.6 percent of votes, just seven short. However, no one got the necessary 75 percent, meaning another run-off was to be held. Ruffing’s main competition for the run-off was Joe Medwick, who received the exact same number of votes on the initial ballot. Had Ruffing got just seven votes more, he would’ve been fine, but instead, he was then locked in a battle with a guy the voters seemingly saw in a similar light, with just one spot available via the run-off. That time, Ruffing finally got what he needed, beating Medwick by 18 votes and officially getting inducted on the 15th time of asking.
The last super notable Yankee involved in a multi-year chase for 75 percent was Mike Mussina. However, in his last year before getting voted in, he got 63.5 percent, which was still a little ways off. He then jumped to above the necessary number, without a year where he got distressingly close.
Prior to him, Goose Gossage is arguably the last Yankee to have a similar chase, and he had a year where he fell a miniscule amount of percentage points short. Gossage first appeared on the ballot on 2000, when he got 33.3 percent of the vote. He then worked his way up to 64.6 percent in 2006. In his eighth year, Gossage received 388 of 545 possible votes, leaving him at 71.2 percent and 21 votes off the needed total. He did get there the next year, clearing the threshold semi-easily at 85.8-percet.
To wrap up, let’s go over the guys who maybe didn’t get as close numbers wise, but ones whose missing out more make you say “what were you doing BBWAA voters?”
It took voters four (really three, though) ballots before the BBWAA finally put Joe DiMaggio in the hall. DiMaggio first got a vote in 1945, although that was likely someone being a bit hasty after the legend missed some years due to military service, as he returned to the field after that vote. After his actual retirement, DiMaggio first came under consideration in 1953. but it wasn’t for another two years that he got in. In 1954, he got 69.4 percent, 14 votes short of what he needed.
Yogi Berra required two ballots to get in, after missing out in 1971 — his first year of eligibility — by 28 votes. Two years after him, another obvious Yankee legend of that era fell eye-rollingly short. Whitey Ford missed out by 30 votes in his first year in 1973, garnering 67.1 percent of the vote. Both got in on their second chances, but Ford in particular only cleared the 75-percent threshold by just 10 votes.
For all the issues with BBWAA voters you may have now, please know that things could be dumber.