HOF: The Maz controversy

Twenty-two years have handed, and the sense of shock has dissipated, however the Nationwide Baseball Corridor of Fame’s induction of Invoice Mazeroski was controversial in 2001. Controversial with a capital C.

The second baseman’s high quality rating (11 factors) was the worst for any American or Nationwide League honoree since Rick Ferrell in 1984, and his profession batting common of .260 was the fourth-lowest for any place participant to be enshrined in Cooperstown’s plaque gallery.

The Baseball Writers’ Affiliation of America had already deemed Mazeroski’s credentials to be unconvincing. Fewer than 1 / 4 of the writers had voted for him in any of his first 9 elections, and solely 42.3 % had supported him on his fifteenth and last strive in 1992.

All people agreed that Mazeroski was wondrous within the area — wide-ranging, sure-handed, fast on the double play — however these expertise by no means swayed a majority of the BBWAA’s members.

“What he has to promote is a lot and many protection, and the Corridor of Fame isn’t shopping for,” wrote statistical guru Invoice James in 1995.

What stored Mazeroski’s marketing campaign alive, paradoxically sufficient, was one stroke of his bat, an iconic (and uncharacteristic) dwelling run that clinched the 1960 World Collection for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The glory of that second was captured in a basic {photograph} — Mazeroski rounding third base along with his proper arm excessive in triumph — and that was how most followers (and most writers) remembered him 4 a long time later.

However one other issue would give Mazeroski’s candidacy a higher increase. The Veterans Committee was chaired in 2001 by Joe Brown, the very basic supervisor who had assembled Pittsburgh’s 1960 championship roster.

Brown had all the time been a convincing negotiator in commerce talks, and he proved to be equally persuasive within the committee room. One of many panel’s members, Ted Williams, was reportedly angered by Mazeroski’s choice. However open-heart surgical procedure compelled Williams to overlook the assembly, so he was unable to counter Brown’s advocacy.

Cooperstown on the Crossroads

Learn in regards to the Corridor of Fame’s checkered historical past (and unsure future)

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Mazeroski’s election in March 2001 triggered a pair of aftershocks within the 10 months that adopted. The primary was the Corridor of Fame’s resolution in August 2001 to restructure the Veterans Committee.

The panel had been making unusual selections ever since its creation 48 years earlier. A pair of umpires in 1953? Ray Schalk in 1955? Max Carey, Heinie Manush, and Lloyd Waner within the Sixties? Frankie Frisch’s flood of Giants and Cardinals within the Seventies? Travis Jackson, George Kell, Tony Lazzeri, and Phil Rizzuto in subsequent years? All of those picks by the Veterans Committee had stirred up doubts and questions — and justifiably so.

But Mazeroski’s induction in some way aroused extra criticism than any earlier choice. Critics accused Joe Brown of exerting extreme strain on behalf of his former participant. “Clearly, Joe spoke very vigorously for him,” admitted Leonard Koppett, a sportswriter who sat on the committee. However Brown’s advocacy was by no means uncommon. Cronyism had been a trait of the Veterans Committee from the very begin.

What appeared to matter extra, definitely to Ted Williams and different critics, was Mazeroski’s relative weak spot as a hitter. He merely didn’t match the stereotype of a Corridor of Famer.

Some critics made this level in gentle phrases, together with Invoice James: “I don’t see Invoice Mazeroski as a Corridor of Famer; clearly some voters did.” Others have been caustic. New York Submit columnist Joel Sherman fired this broadside the day after Mazeroski was chosen: “The Corridor of Fame Veterans Committee was created to rectify errors. Which implies its subsequent act ought to be self-abolishment.”

The corridor apparently agreed. It introduced in August 2001 a sixfold growth of the committee, which might henceforth encompass all dwelling Corridor of Famers, in addition to all sportswriters and announcers who had gained the corridor’s annual awards for these fields, a pool of 90 voters in all.

This enlarged panel would vote by mail — no extra conferences in tiny rooms — and solely in odd-numbered years. “We didn’t do that as a result of we’re sad with the individuals the Veterans Committee chosen,” insisted Joe Morgan, the star second baseman who had turn out to be the corridor’s vice chairman. No person was fooled.

The second aftershock rumbled 5 months later in January, when shortstop Ozzie Smith grew to become the one participant elected by the BBWAA — and therefore the one member of the corridor’s class of 2002.

Smith was very a lot in Mazeroski’s mildew, a participant honored primarily for his glovework. His nickname, “the Wizard of Oz,” referred to his lightning-fast reflexes and acrobatic skills, not any expertise he may need displayed on the plate. Smith’s profession batting common (.262) was the fifth-lowest for any place participant inducted to that time, simply two factors higher than Mazeroski’s. However his 44.2 defensive wins above alternative have been essentially the most in big-league historical past.

Smith was elected simply — crossing the edge with 79 votes to spare — and he puzzled if the furor over Mazeroski’s choice may need impressed the writers to assume extra deeply about fielding, easing his personal journey to Cooperstown.

“Invoice and myself,” Smith mentioned, “are the fellows main the way in which to remind individuals how vital that facet of the sport all the time has been and all the time shall be.”

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HOF field rating: Invoice Mazeroski

  • Profession: 1956-1972

  • Groups: Pittsburgh (Nationwide League)

  • Main place: 2B

  • Profession stats: G 2,163, HR 138, RBI 853, BA .260

  • League chief: IBB as soon as

  • High quality rating: 11 factors (poor)

  • Chosen to HOF: 2001

  • Chosen by: Veterans Committee