As faithful baseball fans, we depend on the Hall of Fame to show us who the truly great players are. The players who dominated, not just for a season or two, but for years.
The Hall of Fame began in 1936, inducting Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson in its first year. Next came Cy Young. Pete Alexander followed.
From 1939 to 1947, while only Rogers Hornsby was elected, the veteran's committee was busy reconstructing 60+ years of baseball history to find those who belonged in the HOF.
Studying the list of inductions, one has to wonder about the order in which some pitchers received their recognition.
The committee found Charles Radbourn early on in their process in '39, but where were Tim Keefe ('63) and John Clarkson ('64)? They were equally as important and masterful as Radbourn, but overlooked for 25 more years.
Why were pitchers like Pennock, Chesbro, and McGinnity going in before greats like Mordecai Brown and Kid Nichols?
The HOF process seemed uneven, and somewhat political.
For the most part, the best pitchers are in the HOF. But there are pitchers whose careers have fallen through the cracks. Pitchers who, for one reason or another, never got the votes or attention needed to make it in.
The pitchers on this list are every bit as skilled as their contemporaries already voted in. The top few on the list have a body of work and cases for the HOF so compelling, one wonders how they got missed.
My last article studied The Worst Pitchers in the HOF: Searching for History’s Bottom Line . It looked at pitchers in the HOF with the weakest resumes. Many of them were from the initial live ball era—1921-1945. This research should give us a framework to look within for our best pitchers not in the HOF.
To come up with this list I researched the best pitchers of each era. In addition, I cross-referenced all non-HOF pitchers by length of career, beginning with 2,800 IP, and made lists from each range of IP: 2,800-3,000, 3,000-3,500, 3,500-4,500, and 4,500-plus.
I looked at some pitchers with shorter careers as well, and included some whose careers I thought made the greatest statements.
Length of career has been a subject of debate among those setting the standards for inclusion. Some historians have labeled the shorter career effect as the “Smokey Joe Wood” effect, referring to HOF pitchers whose career lengths were shorter than required for HOF inclusion, but whose careers made a significant impact and thus we're inducted.
Four pitchers in the HOF fall into this category—Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, Sandy Koufax, and Addie Joss.
Their careers ranged from 1,900+ IP to 2,500 IP. This gives us a cut off of 2500 innings to use on the short end, while looking for candidates to make our list of best pitchers not in the HOF.
However, Smokey Joe Wood is not among those pitchers given a bye for the length of their careers. He pitched for the Boston Red Sox in the early teens but injury caused him to establish less than 1,500 career innings.
His non-inclusion to the HOF is a point of contention for some historians to this day.
Many more names came up on my lists than the 15 I will cover here. Many of their careers and cases are compelling. The pitchers of note among them are—Charles Buffington, David Cone, Paul Derringer, Orel Hershiser, Larry Jackson, Jim Kaat, Carl Mays, Dave Stieb, Hippo Vaughn, and Doc White.
Among these, my favorites are Charles Buffington, a pitcher of significant quality and accomplishment from the 1880s, and Doc White, who pitched alongside Ed Walsh on the White Sox and won 189 games while tossing 45 shutouts.
In order to be considered for this honor, a pitcher must be eligible for the HOF. This excludes any pitcher still on the mound today, and those like Greg Maddux who are retired but not yet eligble. It also includes "Black" Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte who is banned from baseball, and not eligible for the HOF.
The Best Pitchers NOT in the HOF
15) Ed Reulbach (1905-1917) —(182-106; 2.28 ERA; ERA+ 123; 40 SHO; 2,632 IP/ 2,117 H/ 7.2 H/9; 1,137 K/ 892 BB/ 1.27 ratio; 1.143 WHIP)
“Big Ed” broke in with the Chicago Cubs during their heyday in 1905, going 18-14 with a 1.42 ERA. He continued to dominate major league hitters for the next five years.
He pitched a one hit shutout in the '06 series, and on Sept, 26, 1908 he pitched back to back shutouts on the same day. His H/9 rate of 5.3 in 1906 is one of the best in history. In fact, from 1905 through 1909 his H/9 never reached 7.0. This is a truly dominant statistic for this era.
Pitching for the Cubs, Reulbach teamed up with Mordecai Brown to make one of the great pitching tandems in baseball history. Reulbach’s 97-39 record combined with Brown’s 114-42 for a 211-81 record over those five years. It’s no wonder the Cubs won the NL pennant four times behind these two—in 1906-1908, and 1910.
Reulbach used a high leg kick, a la Juan Marichal, to hide the delivery of the best curve ball of his generation. He had winning streaks of 14 and 17 games, and at one point held the NL record consecutive scoreless inning streak with 44.
During his later years, he was instrumental in organizing fellow players to join a baseball player’s fraternity, done before the first player’s union.
Ed Reulbach’s career somehow fell between the cracks by the time the veteran’s committee was reconstructing who should be in the HOF. He never received a vote. The committee missed his team mate, Mordecai Brown, until after his death in 1948.
Jack Chesbro (198), Rube Marquard (201), and Lefty Gomez (189) were all pitchers with low career win totals who made the HOF. They all pitched in New York. Reulbach had arguably a more impressive career than any of them.
14) Bucky Walters (1934-1948,’50) —(198-160; 3.30 ERA; ERA+ 115; 42 SHO; 3,104 IP/ 2,990 H/ 8.7 H/9; 1,107 K/ 1,121 BB; 1.324 WHIP)
Bucky began his big league career as a third baseman in Boston for the Braves in '31. But by '35, after being sold to the Phillies and because of his great arm, the manager and coaches pushed him to pitch.
He featured a sinking fastball and a curve, later known as a slider. Walters spent his developing years struggling in Philadelphia’s bandbox of a stadium. The average run scoring in the period was some 20-25 percent more than the league average.
He led the league in shutouts in '36 and games started in '37. His career took off when he was traded to Cincinnati part way through the 1938 season.
By the next year in 1939 he was the best pitcher in the National League, going 27-11 with a 2.29 ERA and 31 complete games. He was voted the league MVP as the Reds won the pennant.
Bucky wasn’t done there. He won 22 games the next year, leading the Reds back to the World Series. Against Detroit, he pitched a five hitter to win Game Two, and a complete game shutout to win Game Five. The Reds finally won their second World Series.
He was the best pitcher in the NL during his era. From 1939-1946 Walter’s accumulated totals led the major leagues in wins, innings pitched; 2,030, complete games; 178, and ERA. He led the NL in fewest H/9 and was second in WHIP, shutouts, and winning percentage.
Despite being the top pitcher in the league at least three times, Walters has been overlooked for the HOF. Part of this is probably due to the distraction of the war years. He is among the top ten pitchers of the live ball era—1921-1945.
13)Wilbur Cooper (1912-1926) —(216-178; 2.89 ERA; ERA+ 116; 35 SHO; 3480 IP/ 3415 H/ H/9 8.8; 1252 K/ 853 BB; 1.47 ratio; 1.226 WHIP)
Cooper was born in West Virginia. He pitched the vast majority of his career for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Cooper teamed up with Babe Adams, another pitcher on this list, to make quite a pitching combination for the Pirates of this era.
Cooper was slender and had a remarkable smooth and graceful delivery. He featured a fastball, curve, and change-up with excellent control.
From 1918-1924 he won 19 or more games six times. After winning 20 games in '24, the Pirates traded him to the Cubs. The Pirates won the pennant the next year. Cooper struggled as a Cub and finished his career by '26.
Cooper may be the best pitcher in Pirates history. He was perhaps the best lefty in NL history to that date, however, not winning quite as many games as Eppa Rixey. He was as good as Rixey and Stan Coveleski, both in the HOF, and better than Marquard, Grimes, Pennock, and Hoyt—all from the same period.
The best reason I can come up with for Cooper being overlooked for the HOF is that he pitched in Pittsburgh, out of the spotlight of the sportswriters of the day.
12) Milt Pappas (1957-1973) —(209-164; 3.40 Era; ERA+ 110; 43 SHO; 3186 IP/ 3046 H/ H/9 8.6; 1728 K/ 858 BB/ 2.01 ratio; 1.225 WHIP)
Pappas, of Greek descent, was born in Detroit. He was scouted by Hal Newhowser, who encouraged him to sign with the Orioles.
By '59, Pappas was a mainstay of the Orioles staff. He was consistently excellent for the Orioles, winning 12 or more games and posting a winning record every year with the team.
Before the '66 season, Pappas was sent to Cincinnati for Frank Robinson in a very unpopular trade. He was never comfortable in Cincinnati, often being booed even though the trade was not his fault. Robinson went on to win the triple crown in '66 and the MVP award for the American League.
Although posting a fine season in '67, he was never accepted by the Reds faithful, and was sent to Atlanta during the '68 season. He found success again after arriving in Chicago with the Cubs during the '70 season, winning 17 games in both '71 and '72.
What if Pappas had never been traded to Cincinnati? He perhaps would have a few more wins, without his career being interrupted, and perhaps some postseason success, as the Orioles became one of the best teams of the era, going to the World Series in '66, '69, '70, and '71. He would have been part of the best pitching staffs in history—Pappas was still pitching great in '71 and '72.
As it is, Pappas has 209 wins, as many as Bob Lemon and Hal Newhowser, and a similar number to Don Drysdale and Catfish Hunter, all of whom are in the HOF and pitched between 1950 and 1975.
His K/BB ratio of 2.01 is historically strong. Perhaps his strongest career stat is his 43 shutouts, more than Hunter, Jim Bunning, Lemon, Newhowser, and Sandy Koufax.
Pappas deserves recognition for his accomplishments, even if it is just to clear his name from the fall out of a trade for which he was never responsible.
11) Lon Warneke (1930-1945) —(192-121; 3.18 ERA; ERA+ 119; 30 SHO; 2782 IP/ 2726 H/ H/9 8.8; 1140 K/ 739 BB/ 1.54 ratio; 1.245 WHIP)
The “Arkansas Hummingbird” pitched for the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals throughout his career.
In his first full year in '32, Warneke led the league in wins, ERA, and shutouts. He finished second in the MVP balloting.
Warneke continued his winning ways, winning 20 games three times and posting a winning record every year until '43, when he left to fight in the war. In '41 Lon pitched a no-hitter against the Reds. He pitched in both the Cubs’ World Series appearances in '32 and '35, going 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA.
Warneke’s career backed up into WWII. He easily lost enough time to give him credit for not having 200 wins. He sustained his excellence late into his career. He was a better pitcher than some of his contemporaries who made the HOF—Hoyt, Haines, and Ted Lyons.
Another contemporary who made the HOF is Lefty Gomez. They have similar winning records except Warneke won three more games. Warneke has more shutouts, a better K/BB ratio, and a better WHIP.
Gomez career was cut short because he blew out his arm, losing the zip on an exceptional fastball. Warneke’s career was cut short because he left to defend our country.
One pitched in New York, one pitched in the Midwest.
They have been treated very differently by baseball writers voting for the HOF.
10) Mickey Lolich (1963-1979) —(217-191; 3.44 ERA; ERA+ 105; 41 SHO; 3,638 IP/ 3,366 H/ 8.3 H/9; 2,832 K/ 1,099 BB/ 2.58 K/BB ratio; 1.227 WHIP)
Lolich had a splendid career with the Detroit Tigers from ’63—‘75. He was consistently good, winning 14 or more games 11 consecutive years, ’64—’74.
He featured a low three-quarters delivery that made it hard for left-handed batters to pick up the ball. His fastball had lots of movement and a darting action.
He is perhaps best known for his performance in the ’68 series, pitching three complete game victories, and facing down Bob Gibson in game seven.
He has the requisite 200 wins, over 40 shutouts, and his 2,832 Ks are still third among left-handed pitchers all-time.
His career records match up well with Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale.
9) Will White (1877-1886) —(229-166; 2.28 ERA; ERA+ 120; 36 SHO; 3,542 IP/ 3,440 H/ H/9 8.7; 1041 K/ 496 BB; 2.10 ratio; 1.111 WHIP)
Will White played the majority of his career in Cincinnati for the Reds of the National League and Red Stockings of the American Association.
He was the first player to wear glasses while he played. Will pitched a very respectable 3500 innings, but crammed most of it into eight years of pitching.
He holds the record for the most innings pitched in one season—680. and the most games started—75. This was accomplished in one season—1879. He pitched over 400 innings six times, and won over 30 games five times (three times he won 40 games or more).
Nothing in his pitching resume says he doesn’t belong in the HOF. His ERA is outstanding, his K/BB ratio is excellent, and he has enough wins and shutouts. Everything is in line, but he’s been overlooked by the veteran’s committee.
If Jack Chesbro can parlay winning 40 games into the HOF, then Will White should be an automatic selection.
8) Tommy John (1963-1989) —(288-231; 3.34 ERA; ERA+ 110; 46 SHO; 4710 IP/ 4783 H/ H/9 9.1; 2245 K/ 1259 BB/ 1.78 ratio; 1.283 WHIP)
After breaking in with the Cleveland Indians, Tommy John spent significant time with the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Yankees, as well as a shorter stint with the California Angels.
His name is best known for the elbow surgery named after him that, not only prolonged his career, but many after him. His initial surgery came after the 1974 season. By ’76 he was pitching again and all three of his 20-win seasons came post-surgery.
John's pitching exploits began in Chicago where he was part of the stingiest pitching staffs ever compiled. With the aid of Comiskey Park, Gary Peters, Tommy John, and Joe Horlen, they were backed up by the likes of Bob Locker, Eddie fisher, Don McMahon and none other than Hoyt Wilhelm at his peak.
This was a formula we have only recently seen again with the deep bullpens of many championship teams.
John then went to LA to join Don Sutton on another team with a pitching rich tradition.
His post season work began in ’77 with the Dodgers, after his return from surgery. Tommy was pitching in October for six consecutive seasons, posting a 6-3 mark with a 2.65 ERA over 88 innings. He had one shutout. This included work for the Dodgers, Yankees and the Angels.
His stamina and effectiveness began to wane in the early '80s. His last year of allowing fewer hits than innings pitched was ’81. Tommy John is perhaps guilty of hanging on longer than the normal impact of his career allowed.
2009 was his last on the HOF ballot. He failed to garner enough votes to make on the 15th try.
I think the voting has become somewhat skewed in recent years in regards to starting pitching; too many of the voters expect no less than 300 wins.
Tommy John’s 288 wins are his strongest calling card. It is a significant total. Historically, pitchers like Red Ruffing, Red Faber, Ted Lyons, Eppa Rixey, and Burleigh Grimes are in the HOF mostly because of their win totals.
Tommy John has more wins than any of these pitchers.
Supporting evidence also shows that John was an effective pitcher. His 46 shutouts are HOF worthy, and his postseason resume shows he was still good against the best competition of the era.
7) Tommy Bridges (1930-1946) —(194-138; 3.57 ERA; ERA+ 126; 33 SHO; 2,826 IP/ 2,675 H/ 8.5 H/9; 1,674 K/ 1,192 BB/ 1.40 ratio; 1.368 WHIP)
Tommy Bridges began and finished his career with the Detroit Tigers.
He pitched at the height of the live ball era on and against some of the greatest offensive teams ever gathered. In the '30s he pitched with Schoolboy Rowe, and later with Bobo Newsome. In the '40s he pitched with young pitchers Hal Newhowser, Virgil Trucks and Dizzy Trout.
Bridges had the most awesome drop off the table curve ball of his era. He struck out a healthy 1,674 batters. His devastating curve also made him one of hardest pitchers to hit of his generation.
He won 20 games three consecutive years right at the Tigers heyday in the mid-30s. He led the league in wins in ’36 with 23, but also led the league in strikeouts and games started twice.
Bridges was gutsy and tough in the postseason. He represented the Tigers in three World Series against the Cardinals, Cubs and Reds in ’34, ’35 and ’40. In ’34 he out-dueled Dizzy Dean to win 3-1. In ’35 he won two games against the Cubs, and in ’40 he won his only appearance against the Reds.
Although the Tigers walked away losing two of the three World Series, Bridges record stands at 4-1. While he walked his share of batters during the regular season, in postseason play, he walked only nine batters in 46 innings, while striking out 27 batters.
Bridges was still an effective pitcher after his peak. In ’43, his last year before joining the war effort, he went 12-7 with a 2.39 ERA (ERA+ 147), with three shutouts and only 159 hits allowed in 191 innings. This was not a pitcher on his last legs!
However, after a year and a half out of military service, the Tigers were impatient for him to regain his form. By 1946 they told him he was washed up-finished. The Tigers were focused on a youth movement after the war. They chose not to have time for their pitching hero from the last generation.
Bridges continued pitching in the Pacific Coast League—winning the ERA title in ’47. Guess there was still some gas in this Tiger’s tank!
(The Tiger’s ownership and coaching staff were not shy of making mistakes in evaluating personnel. In ’48 they discarded Billy Pierce to the White Sox!)
Bridges is only six wins shy of the requisite 200 to be considered for the HOF. Certainly he can be given credit for his time in the service, as he would have easily made 200 wins without giving up the season and a half to the war, plus the recovery time.
His ERA+, curve ball, postseason record and H/9 all speak of a pitcher who was one of the best of his era.
6) Babe Adams (1906-1926) —(194-140; 2.76 ERA; ERA+ 117; 2,995 IP/ 2,841 H/ 8.5 H/9; 1,036 K/ 4,30 BB/ 2.41 ratio; 1.092 WHIP)
Babe Adams had brief looks at the major leagues in ’06 with the St. Louis Cardinals and ’07 for the Pirates. But his rookie year really came in ’09 for Pirates at age 27. He broke in going 12—3 with an exceptional 1.11 ERA on a staff that included Vic Willis at the end of his career.
That year, facing Ty Cobb and the Tigers in the postseason, the Pirates manager went on a hunch and started Adams in game one of the series. He won three complete games including a shutout against the Tigers.
Babe went on to pitch the rest of his career for Pittsburgh. He was a 20 game winner in ’11 and ’13 but he didn’t get to pitch in the World Series again until ’25 at the age of 43.
After an off year in 1916 he was sent to the minor leagues to work out his problems. He went 35—17 in the minors. Incredibly, the Pirate management left him there until the end of the ‘18 season. (I can’t imagine that happening today—leaving the potential ace of your staff in the minors for 50-plus decisions after he had shown his form had returned?)
Adams was perhaps the most extreme control pitcher in the history of the game. His control record surpasses even Christy Mathewson, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez at their peaks. In 1920, Adams gave up only 18 BB in 263 innings. For his career he gave up only 430 BB in 2,995 innings.
His WHIP of 1.09 is remarkable, as are his 44 shutouts. His 2.41 K/BB ratio is exceptional as well. Babe Adams was a great pitcher who was overlooked by the veteran’s committee.
He isn’t the first Pittsburgh pitcher on this list.
5) Billy Pierce (1945-1964) —(3.27 ERA; ERA+ 119; 38 SHO; 3,306 IP/ 2,989 H/ 8.1 H/9; 1,999 K/ 1178 BB/ 1.70 ratio; 1.260 WHIP)
"Billy the Kid” was part of the Tigers post-war youth movement, getting a look with the club at age 18 in ’45.
But by ’48 the Tigers gave up on Pierce, shipping him off to the White Sox.
Billy Pierce was slight of build at 5’ 10” and a whopping 160 lbs. Despite his size, he had quite a delivery, with a high leg kick and dropping his back shoulder. He had ample zip on his fastball.
After improving his control in ’51, and developing a slider, he began a series of impressive years for the White Sox. He was the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in ’56 and ’57, and narrowly missed the award in ’53 and ’55, finishing second. His ERA of 1.97 in ’55 gave him an ERA less than half that of the league (ERA+ 201).
The “Go-Go White Sox” of the period scored few runs. Pierce was often the recipient of scant run support. In over 130 of his 390 starts for the team, they scored two or fewer runs.
Pierce was known for his battles against the White Sox nemesis, the New York Yankees, and in particular against Whitey Ford. Beginning in August of ’52, Pierce went 21-21 against the Yankees, whom he faced more than any other team.
By the late '50s Pierce had come out on top, beating Ford more often than losing, and in '59 winning the game against Ford that put the White Sox ahead for good in the pennant race.
Sportswriters and players wondered how Pierce could go toe-to-toe with the firepower of the Yankees, coming armed with slap hitters Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, and Minnie Minoso.
Al Lopez, the White Sox manager, refused to start Pierce in the ’59 World Series. It is a decision many believe cost the Sox the title. Pierce pitched four scoreless innings in relief.
Pierce got his chance to test his grit in postseason action in ’62 for the Giants. During the season he went 12-0 for the team at Candlestick Park.
After tying the Dodgers for the pennant, it was determined they would play a three game playoff to determine the pennant. Pierce threw a three-hit shutout to beat Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers in Game One. In Game Three he came in to save the game, retiring all three batters he faced in the ninth inning.
Against the Yankees in the series, he pitched well in game two, but took a 3-2 loss. He then came back in game six to beat his often faced foe, pitching a three hit gem against none other than Whitey Ford.
He faced Ford 15 times in his career and went 7-7.
When he finished his career, his 1,999 strikeouts were fifth most for a left-handed pitcher.
The problem with Pierce’ HOF candidacy is that his career backed up into the raised mound era. He was a product of the more relaxed "Golden Years". When Pierce retired, sportswriters were distracted with the manic accomplishments of Koufax, Marichal and Gibson.
The strikeout record was being broken. There were new lows for ERA in a season. Pitchers were regularly winning 24-27 games.
Pierce’ accomplishments, although very worthy, were overlooked because of the change of era. His career stands up nicely against contemporary HOF pitchers Bob Lemon and Hal Newhowser.
He was arguably as good a pitcher as Whitey Ford. He proved it often enough. He would have had more wins if he hadn’t been held back to face the Yankees, or had been given better run support .
Billy Pierce should be in the HOF.
4) Jim McCormick (1878-1887) —(265-214; 2.43 ERA; ERA+ 118; 33 SHO; 4,275 IP/4,092 H/ 8.6 H/9; 1704 K/ 749 BB/ 2.28 ratio; 1.132 WHIP)
Jim McCormick was the first Scottish born major league player.
He pitched with six different teams, but most significantly with the Cleveland Blues and Chicago White Stockings. In Cleveland he won 25 or more games four times, and 40 games twice. In Chicago he helped them to two championships, mostly as a second pitcher.
Al Spalding took a disliking to the off-field activities of several of the players during the '86 campaign. King Kelly, McCormick, and others were known to go out and celebrate after games.
With quick succession he sold or traded them to other teams. Mccormick ended up in Pittsburgh where he ended his career the next year.
McCormick was a pitcher of high quality who won 265 games. Every supporting evidence points to him being a HOF pitcher.
He has been overlooked by the veteran’s committee.
3) Tony Mullane (1881-1894) —(284-220; 3.05 ERA; ERA+ 118; 30 SHO; 4,531 IP/ 4,195 H/ 8.3 H/9; 1,803 K/ 1,408 BB/ 1.28 ratio; 1.237 WHIP)
Tony Mullane was an Irish born major league player known for pitching with both hands—sometimes in the same game. He would hold the ball with both hands and then surprise the hitter.
The reserve clause was so restrictive in his era that once you signed with a team, unless they traded or sold you, you belonged to them. After playing for the St. Louis Browns, he chose to try to sign with Cincinnati, but was blocked. He relented, signed with St. Louis, but they then shipped him off to the expansion Toledo Blue Stockings.
The Blue Stockings folded after one year, and he then signed with Cincinnati. But for some reason, he was not free of the reserve clause which stated he had to re-sign with St. Louis after Toledo folded. This time he refused and was forced to sit out a season in order to play for Cincinnati, which he did.
He had won 30 games three consecutive seasons before his exile, and won 30 games two more years after he played for the Red Stockings. It is not a stretch to believe he would have won thirty games the year he was forced to sit out in protest of the reserve clause.
The players had withstood enough abuse by 1890 and formed their own league. Mullane was ahead of his time.
His 1,804 Ks were a high number for the era. He was a significant figure from his era, and should not be punished for his stand against the reserve clause. Tony Mullane was just inducted into the Cincinnati Reds HOF earlier this year.
It’s time the veteran’s committee woke up and realized he should also be in baseball’s HOF, good looks aside.
2) Luis Tiant (1964-1982) —(229-172; 3.30 ERA; ERA+ 114; 49 SHO; 3,486 IP/ 3,075 H/ 7.9 H/9; 2416 K/ 1104 BB/ 2.19 ratio; 1.199 WHIP)
Luis Tiant was born in Cuba and his father was a famous pitcher for the Cuban national team.
He began his career with the Cleveland Indians in '64, and established himself as an effective pitcher with lots of stuff. In '68 his career took off. He won 21 games with an ERA of 1.60 and led the league in shutouts with nine.
After a down year and a couple of years dealing with injury, he ended up in Boston where he re-invented himself in '72. Seven successful years followed, including three more 20-win seasons, and some World Series heroics in '76.
Tiant was known for his unusual delivery, turning away from the batter during the wind up. He was a great situation pitcher, and knew how to get out of a jam with his guile and assortment of breaking pitches.
He was the second great Latin pitcher, following Juan Marichal.
His resume for the HOF is strong. He displayed consistent excellence throughout his career.
His 49 career shutouts are just about automatic HOF criteria. Drysdale, Ferguson Jenkins, and Early Wynn are the other pitchers with 49 shutouts, and all are in the HOF.
The voting body has become skewed in their view of starting pitching in recent decades. All of his indicators are strong, especially his strikeouts, shutouts, and big game performances.
Luis Tiant belongs in the HOF.
1) Bert Blyleven (1970-1992) —(287-250; 3.31 ERA; ERA+ 118; 60 SHO; 4970/ 4632 H/ 8.4 H/9; 3701 K/ 1322 BB/ 2.80 K/BB ratio; 1.198 WHIP)
Bert Blyleven was born in the Netherlands, but grew up in California.
As a teen he went to watch Sandy Koufax pitch and later learned how to throw a curve ball with a hold similar to Koufax. Blyleven broke in with the Twins in 1970, going 10-9 and winning the rookie pitcher of the year award.
Blyleven had tremendous stuff on the ball: fastball, curve and change-up. He had exceptionally large hands which helped with gripping and releasing the ball with greater spinning revolutions on its way to the plate.
Players said they could hear the ball spinning as it approached and went by.
Blyleven toiled long and hard for the Twins in the 70s. He was consistently excellent, winning between 15-20 games five consecutive years, and striking out between 219-258 batters for six consecutive years.
He led the league in ERA+ and shutouts (nine) in '73, but didn’t get the attention he deserved for the Cy Young award.
During the '76 season he was traded to Texas, where he joined a strong staff and put in some outstanding work. He pitched his no-hitter in '77, as well as leading the league that year in WHIP.
After being traded to the Pirates in the National League, he helped the team to a World Series title. He shut down the powerful Reds lineup in the playoffs. He pitched Game Two of the Series, but was taken out with the score tied 2-2 in the 7th inning. The Pirates went on to win the game.
Then with the Pirates down three games to one, he entered Game Five with the score tied in the 5th inning, and shut down the Orioles for the rest of the game, securing himself, and the Pirates, the win.
Blyleven continued his career in Cleveland, working through injury to re-invent his delivery and now legendary curve ball. He re-surfaced with incredible campaigns in '84 and '85. He led the league in innings pitched, complete games, and strikeouts in '85.
He ended up nostalgically back in Minnesota for the '86 season, and helped the team to the World Series title in '87.
His career postseason record shows a heightened excellence when the games really counted against the best competition. He is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA, 36 Ks against only 8 BB, and a WHIP of 1.077.
Blyleven had one more significant season in ’89 for the California Angels, winning 17 games and Comeback Player of the Year award.
His 3,701 Ks make Blyleven fifth all-time. I guess his curve ball fooled a few batters.
His 60 shutouts—ninth all time—are automatic HOF material. Since the advent of the live ball in 1921, only four pitchers have 60 shutouts: Warren Spahn, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and Bert Blyleven.
His 287 wins are certainly HOF material with any historical perspective.
His career K/BB ratio of 2.80 is also a mark of historical significance. Among the 65 pitchers with the longest careers, his 2.80 K/BB ranks fifth.
Blyleven is arguably among the top 20-25 pitchers in baseball history. He is one of our all-time greats.
He is the one pitcher on this list that is still on the HOF ballot. Voters have three years of his eligibility left to get it right.
The process of selection and voting for the HOF has been uneven at best. Several players careers have been overlooked instead of championed.
Not every pitcher on this list should necessarily be in the HOF, but all of them could have been selected and voted in with the proper attention and support without any change in the historical standards that have been set.
What did it take to be ignored by the HOF voters and veteran’s committee? One naturally asks this question when compiling a list like this.
I found some interesting threads that could be followed up.
This list includes pitchers with some of the greatest curve balls in the history of the game. Ed Reulbach, Tommy Bridges and Bert Blyleven all fall in this category.
Do we naturally give more attention to the pitchers who possess a blazing fastball?
The top four candidates were all foreign born. Is there any validity here? Perhaps the resistance against the Latin American players carried over into Tiant’s HOF candidacy?
There were numerous circumstances that held player’s careers back. "What if" and "would have” become prevalent bylines for the pitchers on this list.
What if Bucky Walters had started his career in Cincinnati rather than struggling in Philadelphia? What if Milt Pappas had not been traded to Cincinnati? Or what if the fans in Cincinnati had accepted his efforts for the team?
What if Lon Warneke’s and Tommy Bridges’ careers had not been interrupted by WWII? What if Babe Adams hadn’t been left to toil in the minor leagues for most of two seasons?
What if Tony Mullane had been allowed to pitch for Cincinnati in 1885?
What if Billy Pierce and Bert Blyleven had received league average run support though the peak of their careers?
The most significant threads arose as I looked at these pitchers one at a time and then together as a group.
The vast majority of these pitcher's careers were focused in places other than New York, Philadelphia, or Boston. Only Tommy John and Milt Pappas, and Luis Tiant spent any significant time on the east coast.
Until the late 50s over half the teams were based on the East Coast. The players on those teams were the players the sportswriters saw most.
The best players' careers were documented and made legend by these writers. The best players in New York just simply did not get missed by the HOF voters.
Particularly blighted were the pitchers in Pittsburgh. It took the veteran’s committee some 90 years to find and induct Vic Willis. Wilbur Cooper and Babe Adams have likewise been missed.
Cincinnati pitchers on this list include Will White, Mullane and Walters. Detroit lists Bridges and Lolich.
It isn’t hard to see the pattern.
There have been historical events that have influenced voting.
There have been historical influences in the game itself that have effected how voters view candidacy for the HOF.
I challenge the veteran’s committee to take a good look at the pitchers whose careers have been bypassed for the honor of induction to the HOF. Perhaps some oversights can be corrected.
Also, let’s take a good look at our current candidate on this list and give him his due before it is too late, before the HOF voting body truly looks out of touch with what it takes to be in the Hall of Fame.
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