The Era Committee Ballots Bring a Double Dose of Hall of Fame Candidates

The champagne from the Braves’ World Series win is barely dry and the offseason business of baseball is underway. Meanwhile, it’s going to be a bountiful season in terms of Hall of Fame debate if not results. On Friday afternoon, the Hall released the long-awaited 10-person ballots for both the Early Baseball and Golden Days Era Committees. Not only were both slates and their respective elections delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is the first time that either group has been considered under the staggered four-Era Committee format announced in the summer of 2016 — and the first time that Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues Black baseball candidates have been considered since 2006. Both ballots will be voted upon by separate 16-member committees on December 5, with the results announced at 6 pm ET on MLB Network’s MLB Tonight.

This is also the first time that two Era Committee groups have been considered within the same election cycle, a dizzying proposition for those of us trying to sort it all out. And all of this is separate from the BBWAA slate of recently-retired candidates, which will be announced on November 22. If you’re wondering where we are in the staggered Era Committee schedule, this should clear things up (note that the year designated is for induction, and that the voting generally occurs in December of the previous year):

Revised HOF Era Committee Schedule
Year Committee(s)
2017 Today’s Game (1988-present)
2018 Modern Baseball (1970-1987)
2019 Today’s Game (1988-present)
2020 Modern Baseball (1970-1987)
2021 None
2022 Golden Days (1950-1969) and Early Baseball (to 1949)
2023 Today’s Game (1988-present)
2024 Modern Baseball (1970-1987)
2025 Today’s Game (1988-present)
2026 Modern Baseball (1970-1987)
2027 Golden Days (1950-1969)

The Early Baseball Era Committee ballot covers candidates who made their greatest impacts in baseball prior to 1950. The 10 candidates, all deceased, are Bill Dahlen, John Donaldson, Bud Fowler, Vic Harris, Grant “Home Run” Johnson, Lefty O’Doul, Buck O’Neil, Dick “Cannonball” Redding, Allie Reynolds and George “Tubby” Scales.

The Golden Days Era Committee ballot covers candidates who made their greatest impacts during the 1950-69 period. The 10 candidates are Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Roger Maris, Minnie Miñoso, Danny Murtaugh, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce and Maury Wills. Of that group, only Kaat, Oliva, and Wills are alive.

The most familiar name from the first bunch besides that of O’Neil is probably Dahlen, a turn-of-the-century shortstop who ranks 11th at the position in JAWS and who happens to be the only candidate repeating from the 2016 Pre-Integration Era Committee ballot — but not even the recipient of the most votes on a slate where nobody got the necessary 75% (more on that topic below). Indeed, one of the bigger surprises of the announcement is the comparative lack of 19th- and early 20th-century candidates from the National, American, and bygone whites-only leagues; they take up just three of the 10 spots, with Dahlen joined by Reynolds, a five-time All-Star pitcher who was a key component on six World Series-winning Yankees teams, and O’Doul, a pitcher-turned-outfielder who won two NL batting titles during an abbreviated major league career but made an even bigger contribution in spreading the game to Japan both before and after World War II.

That trio is joined by seven candidates who span the range of the Black baseball experience prior to integration. In a break from the standard ballot assembly process involving an Historical Overview Committee consisting solely of elder statespeople from the BBWAA, this ballot was assembled with the input of five historians, namely Gary Ashwill, Adrian Burgos Jr., Phil Dixon, Leslie Heaphy, and Claire Smith, all of whom have considerable credentials and expertise on the subject.

Fowler, who actually grew up in Cooperstown, is widely considered to be the first Black professional baseball player, a pitcher and second baseman who played on integrated teams as early as 1878. Johnson, a shortstop and second baseman, was an elite two-way player whose career spanned from 1893 to 1914. Redding was a fireballing pitcher whose career ran from 1911 (Johnson was his first manager, on the Philadelphia Giants) to ’38; he starred for some of the top independent teams of the pre-Negro Leagues era. Donaldson, known primarily as a pitcher but also as an outfielder and manager, starred in Black baseball as far back as 1912, and while he did pitch and play center field for the Kansas City Monarchs when the Negro National League was founded in ’20 — indeed, he’s said to have named the team — he’s more recognized for his decades as a barnstormer, helping to establish a business model that was profitable for Black teams.

Scales, a second and third baseman, starred for several Negro Leagues and independent teams from 1920 to ’46. Harris starred in the Negro Leagues as a left fielder and managed the Homestead Grays to seven Negro National League pennants. O’Neil played first base for some powerhouse Monarchs teams, then later managed the Monarchs, became a scout for major league teams starting in 1955, and then the first Black coach for an AL or NL team (the Cubs, in 1962) and finally “probably the greatest ambassador the Negro Leagues ever had,” to use the words of Hall of Famer Joe Morgan.

After the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues elected 17 candidates in 2006, the Hall “indicated that the books were closed on the Negro Leagues pending more information that came forth from the research community,” as president Jeff Idelson said in 2016. That research has since come forward as part of a massive, ongoing effort to flesh out the statistical record for Black baseball. The fruits of that effort are now available at Baseball Reference. Meanwhile, last December Major League Baseball announced its decision to officially recognize seven Negro Leagues that operated between 1920 and ’48 as major leagues, making the statistics and accomplishments of some 3,400 players part of the major league record. As noted above, however, not all of the Black candidates fit neatly within that 1920-48 window.

Here’s a quick rundown of when each of the candidates were last considered for election in any context:

2022 Early Baseball Era Committee Candidates
Candidate Last Considered
Bill Dahlen 2016 Pre-Integration ballot (50%)
Allie Reynolds 2012 Golden Era ballot (< 18.8%)
Lefty O’Doul 2007 Veterans Committee ballot (18%)
John Donaldson 2006 Special Committee final ballot
Bud Fowler 2006 Special Committee final ballot
Buck O’Neil 2006 Special Committee final ballot
Dick “Cannonball” Redding 2006 Special Committee final ballot
George Scales 2006 Special Committee final ballot
Vic Harris 2006 Special Committee preliminary ballot
Grant “Home Run” Johnson 2006 Special Committee preliminary ballot

Dahlen actually fared better (10 votes out of 16, 62.5%) on the 2013 Pre-Integration ballot, while Reynolds did better on the 2009 Veterans Committee ballot, where Dahlen finished with “three or fewer votes” (25% or less). Those two and O’Doul were additionally voted upon several times during the 1953-2001 period by the old Veterans Committee, which considered far larger ballots and did not report actual vote totals beyond those elected.

Of the Black baseball group, all seven were on the preliminary 94-candidate ballot for the 2006 Special Committee on the Negro Leagues, with all but Harris and Johnson making the cut for the 39-candidate final ballot; from that group, 17 were elected but, famously, not O’Neil or Miñoso. Via the research of Graham Womack, it appears that Harris and Redding are the only two known to have been previously voted upon by the Veterans Committee between 1978 and ’94, when that body took over consideration of Negro Leagues candidates after the original Committee on Negro League Baseball Leagues — the body that elected Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and seven other players from 1971-77 — disbanded.

As with any Era Committee ballot, a few omissions inevitably stand out. First and foremost for the Early Baseball group is that of Doc Adams, a pioneer who on the 2016 ballot led all candidates with 10 out of 16 votes. No less an authority than MLB official historian John Thorn called Adams “first among the Fathers of Baseball” in a 1993 essay for Total Baseball and “the most significant figure in the early history of baseball” in his 2011 book Baseball in the Garden of Eden. Danile Lucious Adams — who lived from 1814 to 1899, graduated Yale and Harvard Medical School and practiced medicine (hence the nickname) — is the man who bears the true responsibility for setting the bases 90 feet apart and for creating the shortstop position. Additionally, his “Laws of Base Ball,” drafted in 1857 for presentation to the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club and then a convention of New York clubs, proposed the standardization of nine-man lineups, 90 feet between bases, and nine-inning games — innovations all inaccurately credited to Alexander Cartwright on his Hall of Fame plaque — as well as the “fly rule,” which eliminated balls caught on one bounce from being automatic outs. Adams also worked to standardize and refine the construction of balls and bats, innovations that helped to make baseball a national game. Why he was left off this ballot is both a mystery and a disappointment; my heart sank on Thorn’s behalf upon reading the contents of the ballot and noting that particular omission. Looking at the matter from a glass-half-full standpoint, Adams’ absence might at least make it easier for the newcomers to get elected, but yeesh, another 10 years is a long time to wait for an all-too-overlooked foundational figure to get his due.

Also notably absent after having fared well on previous ballots are slugging 19th-century outfielder Harry Stovey (50% in 2016) and pitcher (and slugger) Wes Ferrell, who received 50% in 2009 but slipped into “fewer than” territory on the 2013 and ’16 ballots. Nineteenth century pitcher Jim McCormick, the subject of a grassroots advocacy by the @McCormick_HOF account, is nowhere to be found, either. From among the Black baseball candidates, names such as John Beckwith, Rap Dixon, Dick Lundy, and Spotswood Poles — all Special Committee finalists in 2006 — draw mention from experts as similarly worthy of enshrinement.

Debating the merits of those who aren’t here isn’t a particularly productive enterprise, however, not when we have 20 candidates who deserve (and will receive) a closer examination here at FanGraphs in the coming weeks. Speaking of the other 10, the more familiar ones from the Golden Days period, eight were considered as part of the 2015 Golden Era Committee slate, which covered the 1947-72 years and produced a shutout:

2022 Golden Days Era Committee Candidates
Candidate Last Considered
Dick Allen 2015 Golden Era ballot (68.8%)
Tony Oliva 2015 Golden Era ballot (68.8%)
Jim Kaat 2015 Golden Era ballot (62.5%)
Maury Wills 2015 Golden Era ballot (56.3%)
Minnie Miñoso 2015 Golden Era ballot (50%)
Ken Boyer 2015 Golden Era ballot (<18.8%)
Gil Hodges 2015 Golden Era ballot (<18.8%)
Billy Pierce 2015 Golden Era ballot (<18.8%)
Danny Murtaugh 2010 Veterans Committee Managers/Umpires ballot (50%)
Roger Maris 2007 Veterans Committee ballot (18%)

Kaat (62.5%), Hodges (56.3%), and Miñoso (56.3%) all fared as well or better on the 2012 Golden Era ballot, from which Ron Santo was finally elected. Prior to 2015, Allen was previously considered on the 2009 Veterans Committee ballot, which was voted upon only by living Hall of Famers; he received just 10.9% in that context, where Kaat (59.4%), Oliva (51.6%), Hodges (43.8%), and Wills (23.4%) all fared better. All of those candidates and Maris were also considered by the expanded Veterans Committee in 2007, when Frick and Spink Award winners were part of the voting body.

These men don’t need much in the way of introductions, but here goes, lightning-round style. Allen was an elite hitter who won Rookie of the Year and MVP honors while playing primarily for the Phillies and White Sox. After falling one vote short in 2015, he appeared to have momentum in his favor thanks to some publicity via Phillies, who retired his number 15 last September; sadly, he died of cancer last December 7, one day after the slate would have been voted upon at the Winter Meetings. Boyer, a standout two-way third baseman, was the NL MVP in 1964, when he helped the Cardinals beat out Allen’s Phillies for the NL pennant and then win the World Series. Hodges, a popular and productive first baseman, helped the Dodgers to seven pennants and later managed the 1969 Mets to a championship. Kaat was a long-lasting lefty who won 283 games. Maris, a right fielder, was a two-time MVP who helped his teams win three championships and seven pennants; in 1961 he broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record by hitting 61.

Miñoso, whose career began in the Negro Leagues, was the majors’ first Black Latino star, “our Jackie Robinson,” as Orlando Cepeda famously said. Murtaugh, the lone manager of the group, piloted the Pirates to titles in 1960 and ’71 as well as three additional playoff appearances. Oliva, an outfielder who was a longtime teammate of Kaat’s with the Twins, won three batting titles in a career curtailed by knee injuries. Pierce, another venerable lefty, was a seven-time All-Star who won 211 games. Wills, a speedy shortstop, helped to bring the stolen base back into vogue, leading the NL in the category annually from 1960-65 and setting a single-season record in ’62, when he stole 104 bases and won NL MVP honors.

Again, there are notable absences. In the wake of the 2020 Modern Baseball Era Committee election of former Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Marvin Miller, there was a movement to elect Curt Flood, who sacrificed his career to challenge the reserve clause. Flood’s name hasn’t appeared on a ballot since 2007, and like Miller, he was thoroughly neglected by the living Hall of Famers, receiving just 17% of the vote that year, which was up from about 12% in each of the previous two cycles. In February 2020, 102 members of Congress signed a letter to the Hall of Fame in support of Flood’s election.

Also absent from the ballot is one player whose recent passing I had hoped would prompt a closer look, Bill Freehan. The longtime Tigers catcher (1961, ’63-76) went one and done on the 1982 ballot and hasn’t appeared on an Era Committee ballot since; with a career that straddled the Golden Days and Modern Baseball periods, it’s not even clear that this is his proper classification, but about 55% of his plate appearances, his 11 All-Star appearances and his 44.9 WAR all took place in the earlier period, during which he helped the Tigers win the 1968 World Series. Another raw deal, not that he’d be the best candidate here.

Indeed, this is a strong ballot full of players who have generated significant support and come close to election before. In my view Miñoso is the single most deserving player under the purview of the Era Committees, and even the addition of his limited statistics from the 1946-48 Negro Leagues makes clear that he should have been playing in the majors earlier than he did. Allen, whose career was significantly affected by his early mishandling by the Phillies (they sent him to integrate the Arkansas League in 1963, where he was subject to death threats) is second on my wish list; both he and Miñoso were profiled at length in The Cooperstown Casebook and will receive similar treatment here. Boyer is 14th among third basemen in JAWS, with the ninth-best peak score. Kaat, Hodges, Oliva, and Wills have accomplishments that hold more appeal for those guided by traditional statistics (they fare much less well in JAWS) which still carry a lot of weight when half of the voters are Hall of Fame players.

I’m again reminded of something Joe Posnanski wrote in relation to the 2015 ballot about the difficulty of getting anybody to 75% when voters are limited to four votes per ballot, and can’t fit all of the strong candidates on there:

Let’s say that you ask all 16 voters a question: Should Dick Allen be in the Hall of Fame? And let’s say that 14 of them say, “Yes.” That’s good right? Fourteen of 16 is 88%, way above the Hall of Fame threshold. OK, Allen is in!

Wrong. Even then he would probably NOT get in. Remember: There were at least FIVE strong candidates, and each voter was limited to four. If Allen had a 80% chance to appear on each of those 14 ballots, there would STILL be less than a 50% chance (44.8% to be exact) of him getting the 12 votes he needs for the Hall of Fame.

Gulp. On the positive side, the recent Era Committee ballots have at least come back with two Hall of Famers per year; I may not agree with the election of Jack Morris (2018 Modern Baseball) but it was accompanied by that of the long-overdue Alan Trammell and helped clear space for Miller and Ted Simmons two years later; we’ll see what happens with the Today’s Game ballot next year in the wake of Harold Baines‘ questionable 2019 election. And while I’m far less keen on Kaat, Oliva, and Wills than most, electing a living ex-player has its positives as well, though I remain heartbroken for the Miñoso and Allen families and friends that those two did not live to see their own enshrinements.

It promises to be quite an eventful pair of elections, and I’ll do my best to dig into the merits of each candidate here in a timely fashion, though not all of them will get space on par with the BBWAA candidates.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky

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2 years ago

Might be a hot take, but I don’t think Maris belongs anywhere near the hall. I’d even go so far as to say I don’t like that his number is retired by the Yankees.

Hall of Fame peak, for sure, but the overall body of work just isn’t that good.

2 years ago
Reply to  jankees1991

I see you are a proponent of a Small Hall Of Overall Body Of Work

2 years ago
Reply to  troybruno

I am all for big hall, but let’s be real- he had two Hall of Fame (otherworldly) seasons, but the rest is just… average. And he doesn’t have any of the counting stats. Hall of Fame peak? Maybe, but again, a series of four years where he only got MVP votes in the years he actually won it.

Jason Bmember
2 years ago
Reply to  jankees1991

Agree – you don’t have to be a small-hall proponent at all to think Maris shouldn’t be enshrined.

2 years ago
Reply to  troybruno

If Maris had hit 59 homers in 1961, he wouldn’t even be under discussion. Two home runs shouldn’t make that much difference. Great guy, elite player for a couple of years; not a Hall of Famer.

2 years ago
Reply to  Morland

That said, thoughts on Lou Brock? Maris had 36.9 fWAR in his 12 season career. Brock was better 1964-1975, but not by a lot (41.3 fWAR).

Sure, we shouldn’t throw away those 4.4 wins or anything or the 1.9 extra wins he accrued over the rest of his career, but:

1) those 1.9 extra wins were over 2895 PA — averaging 0.4 wins per 600 PA isn’t like some super valuable asset.
2) those extra 4.4 wins during the peak years came in 8340 PA (to Maris’ 5846). I’m not going to argue that “being in the lineup” isn’t important, but again back to rates, we’re talking 3.8 vs 3.0 fWAR/600 PA

Overall Brock was worth 6.3 more wins in 5389 extra PA (0.70 fWAR/600)

2 years ago
Reply to  rosen380

Maybe Hack Wilson is a better comp? Also played in 12 seasons and had a similar outlier in a single year HR total.

Wilson was elected by the Vet Committee decades after his death with 5.2 more fWAR (in similar PA), but without the two MVPs that Maris has.

Or maybe the answer is that Maris isn’t a HoFer and Hack Wilson shouldn’t have been either and maybe Brock is debatable (as essentially similar value plus being a bit of a compiler)

2 years ago
Reply to  jankees1991

You’re probably right about the Hall of Fame, but I will argue that his previous home run record does have significance for the decision for the Yankees to retire his number.