Ron Santo and 5 Others Voted into Cooperstown for Sentimental Reasons
A great moment in baseball history, a new approach to the game, a lifetime commitment as player and broadcaster, or the passing of a legend.
All have landed players in the Hall of Fame.
And whether their selection is warranted is up for debate.
But one thing these players share: A heavy dose of sentiment helped enshrine them in Cooperstown.
In 1948, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) elected two players to the Hall of Fame, despite receiving the fewest ballots of any BBWAA election.
Of the 121 ballots cast, a player's name needed to appear on 75 percent of them to be inducted.
Put another way, a player had to be in someone's top 10 list on 91 out of 121 ballots.
Sadly, Herb Pennock died of a cerebral hemorrhage a few weeks before the election.
But he received 94 votes (77 percent). Enough to qualify by three.
Would he have been elected anyway?
Maybe. He was a competitive candidate.
But the idea that a few people might add him to their list after hearing the tragic news isn't hard to believe. Especially if they were pondering his inclusion and needed a full list of 10 players.
Regardless, he had some decent numbers in the Pre-Integration Era (1876-1946).
In New York he was an MVP candidate for three straight seasons, 1924-1926, on a team loaded with talent.
Herb won 241 games, including 35 shutouts, was a 20-game winner just twice, but won 16 games or more eight times in 10 years (1919-1928).
Those numbers don't include five World Series wins while posting a 1.95 ERA and three saves in postseason play.
Candy "Curveball" Cummings
Plaque says it all.
Apparently he's the first guy to throw a curveball, claiming to do it in 1867.
But Cummings is in the Hall of Fame. Goldsmith is not (despite better numbers).
His career totals?
Officially, he went 21-22. And that miraculous curveball struck out just 37 batters over the course of 371 innings. (If you count his unofficial league totals, he's still bad.)
Hey, Candy was a curveball specialist: Some days you have it, some days you don't.
And he's in the Hall of Fame for (maybe) being the first soft-tossing junk artist to find a major league job.
All this time, you thought if you could skip rocks, you could throw a curveball.
You're right. Maybe you belong in Cooperstown, too.
But Candy Cummings gets the nod.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Why is Phil Rizzuto in the Hall of Fame?
Because the Veterans Committee wanted to honor the dual-career Yankee player and announcer for his total contribution to the game as both a shortstop and broadcaster.
He earned his MVP in 1950. But everything else about him on the field was stereotypical of a good fielding, no-hit shortstop.
He batted .273 for his career, with 38 homers, 562 runs batted in and 149 stolen bases in 1,661 games.
Sure, fans will say he sparked the Yankees to five consecutive World Series, 10 pennants and eight championships.
What's that spark worth, exactly?
Truth is, you can't elect Rizzuto to the Hall of Fame without thinking about his 40 years as a Yankee broadcaster.
Was he the best at that? Probably not.
But Yankee fans adored him. And so did the Veterans Committee, as he entered the Hall in 1994.
His election was controversial, but one thing everyone agreed on: His induction evoked strong passions and sentiment all around.
His career totals are among the worst for all position players in Cooperstown.
.253/.340/.313 (BA/OBP/SLG), just 12 home runs, and 594 runs batted in, but a surprising 177 stolen bases in 1,762 games.
His speed is notable for a catcher, especially in his era.
But it's the number of games played that's important, because when Schalk retired he'd logged more games than any catcher in history.
In the Deadball Era (1900-1919), his defensive skills and speed were highly valued. He led the league in fielding percentage eight times.
He was one of the earliest speedy, defensive catchers, but that's not the whole story.
Ray is in the Hall of Fame because during the Black Sox scandal of 1919, he tried to thwart the gamblers. He knew about the fix because pitchers were not throwing what he called.
He hit .304 for the series, was absolved of any wrongdoing and went on to play 10 more years.
His stats were good in the context of his time. But his character was clearly above his peers.
And in 1955, according to the Veterans Committee, it was enough to warrant a place in Cooperstown.
"Maz" is a great guy. And he hit one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history for the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates (see video).
ESPN called it "the greatest home run ever."
It did win a World Series, the quintessential backyard dream of every kid who plays baseball.
But Mazeroski didn't hit much else.
Playing for the Pirates from 1956-1972, he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2001 despite this evidence against him: .260 BA, 138 homers, 853 runs batted in and 27 stolen bases in 2,163 games.
His defense was good, however, and his lifetime fielding percentage of .983 is solid for a second baseman.
He also made the All-Star team 10 times.
But what if he doesn't hit that home run. Is he in the Hall of Fame?
Put another way, what if Placido Polanco hit that home run? Would you say Polanco belongs in the Hall of Fame?
Because Polanco's lifetime stats show him hitting .304, with 101 HRs, 681 RBI and 79 SBs in just 1,719 games. And he's one of the best defensive second basemen ever, with a career fielding percentage of .992. (You don't have to believe me. You could look it up.)
I know, I know.
It's not fair to compare Polanco and Mazeroski, players from different eras.
But you can't argue Mazeroski should get into Cooperstown without a ticket unless he hits that dream dinger.
And one homer does not make a career, even if it defines it.
This was a sentimental selection waiting for him after circling the bases that afternoon.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
It's human to forget what we have until it's gone. We do it all the time.
With players, it might take their passing to make BBWAA voters look more closely at what they took for granted.
That's sad. And there's no way around it.
But does sentiment over a person's death mean players like Ron Santo or Herb Pennock don't deserve election into the Hall of Fame?
If anything, it's a chance to take one more deep look. It helps to remember when they made us smile, how they astonished us and why they were great.
A few memories of Santo: nine-time All-Star; five straight Gold Gloves; and received MVP votes for seven straight years (1963-1969).
He was a .277 career hitter, with 342 homers, 1,331 runs batted in and a lifetime on-base percentage of .362.
And his career WAR of 66.7 is better than Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Jackie Robinson, "Home Run" Baker, Shoeless Joe Jackson and other notables.
Ok, he may have been elected to the Hall of Fame due to sentimental reasons.
That's a compliment.
Because when Santo passed away, the response to his character and career both in and out of baseball were clear. Fans showed support and paid tribute to his life by remembering his accomplishments as a player, broadcaster and person.
And in going through that story, we discovered his tale was inextricably woven into the fabric of baseball history.
It was sentiment that reminded us what we took for granted.
He was great. He changed the game. It wouldn't be the same without him.
He deserved to get in.