Five Players Who Have Fallen One Vote Shy of Election to the Baseball HOF

There have been five candidates who have fallen a single vote shy of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame who were not later elected to Cooperstown via a subsequent vote.  Most of these close calls drew little attention as they did not occur on the BBWAA ballot but instead took place on elections held by the Era Committee or its predecessor, the Veterans Committee.  For several decades the Era Committee–or the Veterans Committee as it was known prior to 2010–has represented the alternate path to the Hall of Fame for player candidates who are no longer eligible for the BBWAA ballot as well as the only avenue to Cooperstown for non-player candidates such as managers, executives, and umpires.  Unlike the BBWAA, whose voting body is currently made up of over 400 members, the Era and Veterans Committees have generally been composed of smaller 12 to 16 member electorates.  The Hall of Fame only started publically releasing voting percentages for the Era and Veterans Committees elections in 2003, yet in that short period of time the tiny electorate has had five candidates miss being voted into Cooperstown by a single tally.  Each of those five candidates have appeared on both the Veterans Committee and Era Committee ballots where their Hall of Fame candidacies have been affected by the frequent changes in the format used by this voting body.  (A detailed listing of those changes appears at the bottom of this article.)

–Dick Allen and Tony Oliva–Golden Era Committee ballot, December 2014–
The most recent instance of a candidate falling a single vote shy of Cooperstown immortality was on the Era Committee’s Golden Era election in December 2014 when both Dick Allen and Tony Oliva just missed the mark.  Allen and Oliva each drew 11 votes from the 16-member Golden Era Committee, giving them 68.8% of vote but leaving both one tally shy of the 12 necessary to reach the 75% required for election.

Allen’s and Oliva’s career timelines were almost mirror images of each other.  Allen took the NL by storm in 1964 and was voted the NL Rookie of the Year while Oliva snagged top rookie honors in the AL that same year.  Allen was one of the premier power-hitters of his day, reaching the 30 home run mark six times while leading the league in longballs twice and slugging percentage on three occasions.  Oliva was a perennial threat to lead the league in batting average, winning the batting crown three times while also pacing the circuit in hits on five occasions and doubles in four.  Allen made seven All-Star teams and was voted AL MVP in 1972.  Oliva made eight All-Star teams and, while he never won an MVP, he was runner up to the award in both 1965 and 1970.  Allen played his final major league game in 1977, while Oliva wrapped up his career in 1976.

G PA R H HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Allen 1749 7315 1099 1848 351 1119 0.292 0.378 0.534
Oliva 1676 6880 870 1917 220 947 0.304 0.353 0.476
OPS+ WAR WAA Rfield MVP share
Allen 156 58.7 32.9 -110 1.62
Oliva 131 43.0 20.1 56 1.90

Allen’s career looks stronger through the lens of sabermetrics as his career 58.7 WAR outpaces Oliva’s 43.0 mark.  In addition, Allen’s 156 OPS+ trails only Barry Bonds, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Mark McGwire, and Pete Browning for retired hitters with at least 5,000 plate appearances who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.  However, Allen’s dominance at the plate was tempered by his difficulties on the otherside of the diamond as he bounced around between first base, third base, and left field–playing each position at below average defensive level.  Oliva, on the other hand, played most of his career as a plus defender in right field, taking Gold Glove honors in 1966.

By virtue of retiring one year earlier, Oliva was eligible for the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot before Allen and drew 15.2% of the vote in his first appearance in 1982.  Oliva lasted the maximum 15 years on the BBWAA ballot but never came close to reaching the 75% required for election.  Oliva generally collected around 35%–peaking at 47.3% in 1988 and garnering 36.2% in his final year on the ballot.  By contrast, Allen only picked up 3.7% of the vote in his initial appearance on the 1983 BBWAA ballot and was not included on the following year’s ballot.  However, Allen was restored to the BBWAA ballot in 1985 and like Oliva managed to stay on the ballot for the maximum number of years.  Allen’s support regularly hovered in the teens with a high of 18.9% in his next to the last year on the ballot.  Both Allen and Oliva had excellent career peaks but their failure to be voted into the Hall of Fame on the BBWAA ballot was not surprising since the writers rarely elect position players with less than 2,000 career hits.  In fact, the last position player the BBWAA voted into Cooperstown who retired shy of the 2,000 hit-milestone was Ralph Kiner in 1975 and his election came in his fifteenth and final year of eligibility on the writer’s ballot.

Injuries played a key role in shortening both Allen’s and Oliva’s careers.  A variety of injuries kept Allen off the field–particularly late in his career as the slugger never played in more than 128 games in any of his final five seasons following his 1972 MVP campaign.  Oliva was primarily affected by knee injuries which cost him nearly all of 1972 and relegated him to designated hitter duty over his last four seasons.  In addition to his career being shortened by injuries, Allen’s Hall of Fame case is also hindered by the poor reputation he developed through a series of controversies during his playing career.  However, in more recent times, many of Allen’s former managers and teammates have defended his character.  Nevertheless, it is likely the controversies played a role in the disparity in vote totals between Allen and Oliva on the BBWAA ballot.  Oliva may have also benefited from playing his entire career with one franchise, the Minnesota Twins, whereas Allen suited up for five different clubs.

After each appearing on the BBWAA ballot the maximum fifteen times, Allen and Oliva became eligible for the Veterans Committee ballot in 2003.  Oliva, once again, proved to be the stronger Hall of Fame candidate with this electorate as he saw an increase in support while Allen’s vote percentage stayed in the teens.  Among a pool of around 25 candidates, Oliva respectively finished second, third, and fourth in the 2003, 2005, and 2007 elections with vote percentages of 59.3, 56.3, and 57.3.  Allen finished tied for thirteenth in the first two votes and tied for seventeenth in the last, with vote percentages of 16.0, 15.0, and 13.4.  For their December 2008 election, the Veterans Committee changed the process to reduce the number of candidates to ten and moved players whose careers started before 1943 to their own ballot.  Oliva placed third highest in the 2008 election with 51.6% of the vote while Allen drew just 10.9%–the lowest total of the ten candidates.

In 2010, the Veterans Committee was overhauled and replaced by a new voting body known as the Era Committee, which gave Oliva’s and Allen’s Hall of Fame cases the first chance to be judged by a 16-member committee that more closely resembled the smaller Veterans Committees electorates of the past.  Allen’s and Oliva’s career timelines fit best into the Golden Era, which evaluated candidates who made their biggest contributions between 1947 and 1972. Oliva drew 50% of the vote in the initial Golden Era election, which was held in December 2011.  Allen, on the other hand, was not even nominated for the ballot.  Oliva’s vote percentage was in line with what he had drawn on the Veterans Committee ballots, but finishing fifth among ten candidates–behind Ron Santo (93.8%), Jim Kaat (62.5%), Gil Hodges (56.3%), and Minnie Miñoso (56.3%)–was a step back for the slugger’s Hall of Fame candidacy.  Santo, who had passed away just one year before the Golden Era vote, was the sole candidate elected from the ballot.  Three years later, the Golden Era Committee held its second vote, this time with both Allen and Oliva nominated for the ballot.  Only a quarter of the voting body from the 2011 election was retained to vote on the 2014 ballot.  In addition, the 2014 voting body skewed younger than its 2011 predecessor, with many of the older members of the electorate not retained.  The younger electorate likely played a role in Allen and Oliva–whose career peaks came in the latter part of the Golden Era–leap frogging over the other holdovers to draw the highest vote percentages at 68.8, each just a single tally from election.

After falling one vote shy of election on the 2014 ballot, Allen and Oliva stood a decent change of being voted into Cooperstown when the Golden Era Committee was slated to meet again in 2017.  However in July 2016, the Hall of Fame announced changes to the Era Committee process.  Under the new format, the Golden Era Committee has been replaced by the Golden Days Committee.  Unfortunately for Allen and Oliva, the Golden Days Committee only votes once every five years–instead of every three years as the Golden Era Committee did–and will not hold an election until 2020 when Oliva and Allen will be 82 and 78-years old, respectively.  In addition, members of the voting body change so much between elections, the momentum Allen and Oliva gained by coming one checkmark away from Cooperstown in 2014 will not necessarily follow them to the Golden Days vote.

–Marvin Miller–Expansion Era Committee ballot, December 2010–
Marvin Miller served as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and left an indelible imprint on the game, forever changing the relationship between players and management.  As leader of the MLBPA, Miller was instrumental in building the players union into arguably the strongest of its kind in all of professional sports.  Miller took office in 1966 and, by 1968, had negotiated baseball’s first collective bargaining agreement.  Miller organized the first strike in Major League Baseball history in April 1972 which resulted in the owners agreeing to add salary arbitration as well as a $500,000 increase in pension fund payments.  During his tenure, Miller played a key role in the toppling of the reserve clause and the advent of free agency.  Miller also led the players on a brief strike during 1980 spring training and a more lengthy stoppage in the midst of the 1981 season.  The 1981 strike lasted nearly two months and led to the cancellation of roughly a third of the regular season.  However, the strike prevented the owners from implementing a system by which clubs losing a star player to free agency would be compensated with a player of comparable value.  Blocking the owners from enacting this change was crucial as a similar compensation system used by the National Football League and National Hockey League had largely stunted the growth of free agency in those sports.  Miller retired from the executive director position just prior to the 1983 season but stayed active as a consultant to the MLBPA for many more years.  Under Miller’s leadership, the MLBPA swung the balance of power from the owners to the players.  Moreover, in just over a decade and a half with Miller as executive director, the average salary of a MLB player grew by more than tenfold–from less than $20,000 when he took office to nearly a quarter of a million dollars at the time of his retirement.

Miller’s first appearance on a public Hall of Fame ballot came in February 2003 on the Veterans Committee vote for non-player candidates.  Miller drew 44.3% of the vote and finished third among a pool 15 candidates.  At the time, the Veterans Committee included all living Hall of Famers in its electorate and some disappointment was expressed that a voting body largely made up of players which Miller had represented fell well short of electing their former labor leader to whom they owed so much.  Four years later the Veterans Committee held its second election for non-player candidates.  This time around Miller collected 63% of the vote, second to only Doug Harvey who picked up 64.2%.

Following the February 2007 vote, the Hall of Fame revamped the Veterans Committee process and split the non-player candidates into two separate ballots–one for executives and the other for managers and umpires.  The Hall of Fame included Miller on the ten-candidate Executives ballot alongside former team owners, general managers, and most notably, Bowie Kuhn–the MLB Commissioner for most of Miller’s tenure as MLBPA executive director.  In addition, the Hall of Fame overhauled the Veterans Committee voting body, replacing the previous electorate–which had been largely made up of Hall of Fame players–with a 12-member panel which was comprised of seven current or retired executives, three sportswriters, and just two Hall of Fame players.  The Hall of Fame held the first election for the Veterans Committee Executives ballot in December 2007.  Miller’s support plummeted on the Executives ballot, down from 63% on the previous Veteran Committee vote just ten months earlier to a meager 25%.  Miller’s paltry vote total was tied for the sixth highest among ten candidates–a particularly frustrating outcome after respectively finishing third and second on the previous two Veterans Committee ballots.  The new electorate had little trouble voting in candidates, adding three new members to Cooperstown–former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, former Pittsburgh Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, and Miller’s former adversary Kuhn.  The election of Kuhn was the subject of much criticism as Miller had not only regularly outdueled the former commissioner during their many labor battles but also outdrew him on the previous two Veterans Committee ballots–garnering 44.3% to Kuhn’s 25.3% in 2003 and 63% to Kuhn’s 17.3 in February 2007.

Following the controversial result, Miller wrote a letter to the Hall of Fame, requesting his name be removed from future elections.  Miller directed his criticism towards the composition of the executive-filled 12-member electorate, “I find myself unwilling to contemplate one more rigged Veterans Committee whose members are handpicked to reach a particular outcome while offering a pretense of a democratic vote.  It is an insult to baseball fans, historians, sportswriters, and especially to those baseball players who sacrificed and brought the game into the 21st century.  At the age of 91, I can do without the farce.”

Despite Miller’s request, the Hall of Fame included him on the next Veterans Committee Executives ballot in December 2009.  Once again, the electorate consisted of seven executives, three sportswriters, and just two Hall of Fame players with eight of twelve members from the 2007 voting body returning, including six of the seven executives.  With such an executive-heavy voting body and so many members of the 2007 electorate returning, Miller stood little chance of being voted into Cooperstown.  However, public outcry likely played a role in the vote as Miller drew much more support than he had on the 2007 ballot, garnering 58.3%–just two votes shy of the nine checkmarks required to meet the 75% required for election.  Miller’s seven votes tied him with former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert for the second highest vote total, just one tally behind former Detroit Tigers owner John Fetzer who fell a single mark shy of Cooperstown as the Veterans Committee failed to elect any candidates from 2009 Executives ballot.

Shortly after the 2009 election, the Hall of Fame overhauled the Veterans Committee and replaced it with a new voting body known as the Era Committee.  Under the new format, players and non-players were put back on a composite ballot to be voted on by one of three 16-member sub-committees based on the era under which the candidate made their greatest contributions to the game.  Miller’s Hall of Fame case fell under the Expansion Era Committee’s jurisdiction which covered candidates from 1973-onward.  The Expansion Era Committee’s voting body was comprised of seven Hall of Fame players, four sportswriters, four executives, and one Hall of Fame manager.  While having a higher number of Hall of Fame players as part of the electorate undoubtedly gave Miller a better chance at election, executives still made up a quarter of the voting body–meaning that the former union leader would need to carry all of the remaining twelve votes, assuming that none of the quartet of executives voted for him.  The Expansion Era Committee held its first vote in December 2010, electing former general manager Pat Gillick with 81.3% of the vote while Miller drew 68.8%–missing Cooperstown immortality by just a single tally, a cruel result after years of ups and downs on the Veterans Committee ballot.

The Expansion Era election drew sharp criticism, most notably from Miller himself who took the Hall of Fame to task, “The Baseball Hall of Fame’s vote (or non-vote) of December 5, hardly qualifies as a new story.  It is repetitively negative, easy to forecast, and therefore boring.”  The 93-year old Miller added, “A long time ago, it became apparent that the Hall sought to bury me long before my time, as a metaphor for burying the union and eradicating its real influence.  Its failure is exemplified by the fact that I and the union of players have received far more support, publicity, and appreciation from countless fans, former players, writers, scholars, experts in labor management relations, than if the Hall had not embarked on its futile and fraudulent attempt to rewrite history.  It is an amusing anomaly that the Hall of Fame has made me famous by keeping me out.”

Due to the Era sub-committees meeting on a triennial basis, Miller would not be eligible for another Hall of Fame vote until the Expansion Era Committee convened again in three years.  Miller passed away on November 27, 2012 at age 95 and posthumously appeared on the second Expansion Era ballot in December 2013 from which Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre were unanimously elected.  The presence of LaRussa, Cox, and Torre–respectively the third, fourth, and fifth winningest managers in baseball history–made the rest of the 2013 ballot an afterthought to the degree that all the other candidates’ vote totals, including Miller’s were listed as “six or fewer votes.”

Following two cycles of Era Committee voting, the Hall of Fame tinkered with the format again and changed around the name and time frames of the sub-committees.  Miller’s Hall of Fame case will now rest in the hands of the Modern Baseball Committee which will evaluate candidates from the 1970-1987 time frame.  The Modern Baseball Committee will hold their first election in December 2017, at which time Miller should once again draw strong support as he is the only standout non-player candidate from that era eligible for the ballot.

–John Fetzer–Veterans Committee Executives ballot, December 2009–
An early pioneer of radio and television, John Fetzer initially became involved in baseball through his station’s broadcasting of Detroit Tigers games.  Fetzer was a key part of an 11-member syndicate that purchased the Tigers from the Briggs family in October 1956.  Fetzer initially became involved in the Tigers ownership to protect his broadcasting rights.  However, by November 1961, Fetzer had bought out the other parties and assumed full ownership of the franchise.  Fetzer’s Tigers won the 1968 World Series and came one win shy of returning to the Fall Classic in 1972.  Fetzer ran a stable front office with Jim Campbell and Bill Lajoie serving as key figures throughout most of his ownership.  Following the 1983 season, Fetzer sold the franchise to Tom Monaghan but stayed on as chairman of the board through 1988.  Although the Tigers only won one championship under Fetzer’s ownership, the club was a regular winner–suffering just six losing seasons during his twenty-two years as sole owner of the franchise.  Moreover, the Tigers won the 1984 World Series with a strong core group of players assembled during Fetzer’s final years as owner.  In addition to his role as Tigers owner, Fetzer was also a central figure in broadcasting the game.  Fetzer negotiated Major League Baseball’s first national broadcasting contract and was active in both the creation of a national World Series broadcast as well as a national game of the week.  Fetzer passed away just shy of his 90th birthday on February 20, 1991.

Fetzer was looked up to by many in the game, including Milwaukee Brewers owner and future MLB Commissioner Bud Selig who viewed the Tigers’ owner as a role model.  “I think about my mentor, John Fetzer,” Selig told The New York Times a few years ago.  “I was a new owner, and I believed in keeping your mouth shut for a few years.  Around 1971, while the Tigers were still a good team, Mr. Fetzer voted in favor of a motion that was not in the best interests of his team.

“I remember we were on a flight together from New York to Detroit, and I asked, “Mr. Fetzer, let me ask you a question.  Why did you vote for that motion?”  I will never forget his answer.  He said, “Buddy, you have to learn not to be myopic.  If it’s in the best interests of baseball, it is also in the best interests of the Detroit baseball team.”

Fetzer was eligible for the 2003 and 2007 Veterans Committee non-player ballots and was included among the 60 nominees both times but was subsequently passed over by the Historical Overview Committee, which screened and selected the final 15-candidate ballot. Fetzer then appeared on the December 2007 Veterans Committee Executives ballot in which Barney Dreyfuss, Walter O’Malley, and Bowie Kuhn were elected.  Fetzer finished with the fifth highest total among the ten candidates–picking up four of twelve tallies for 33.3% of the vote.

With three candidates ushered into Cooperstown on the 2007 Executives election, a lot of potential votes were freed up for the holdovers, such as Fetzer, when the Veterans Committee convened for their next Executives election two years later.  Of the ten candidates selected for the 2009 Executives ballot, only former Kansas City Royals owner Ewing Kauffman’s five votes represented a higher holdover total from 2007 election than Fetzer’s four tallies.  Moreover, with eight of twelve members from the 2007 electorate returning for the 2009 vote, it seemed likely Fetzer would draw more support.  However, in a stark contrast to the 2007 Executives ballot, none of the candidates were voted into Cooperstown.  Nevertheless, Fetzer collected the highest vote total of the ten candidates, picking up eight votes but leaving the former Tigers owner one checkmark shy of a bronze Hall of Fame plaque.

Despite missing Cooperstown immortality by a single vote, Fetzer has yet to appear on another Hall of Fame ballot since the 2009 Executives election.  Fetzer appeared poised to enter Cooperstown the next time the Veterans Committee voted on executive candidates in 2011.  However, the Hall of Fame replaced the Veterans Committee with the Era Committee and returned to the practice of having players and non-players on one composite ballot.  Of the three Era sub-committees under the new process, Fetzer’s career timeline fit best into the Golden Era Committee, which judged the 1947-1972 time period.  Although he had fallen just shy of election on the 2009 Executives vote, Fetzer was passed over for the Golden Era’s initial ballot in 2011 by the Historical Overview Committee which nominated two executives, Buzzie Bavasi and Charlie Finley, for the ten-candidate ballot.  Bavasi was a reasonable selection by the screening committee, having garnered strong support on the 2003 and 2007 Veterans Committee non-player ballots–finishing fourth among fifteen candidates each time, earning 43.0 and 37.0% of the vote, respectively.  Nevertheless, Bavasi’s nomination over Fetzer was surprising given that Bavasi had drawn poorly on the 2007 Veterans Committee Executives ballot with his total ambiguously listed as “fewer than three votes” and had not been included on the 2009 ballot on which Fetzer narrowly missed election.  On the other hand, the Historical Overview Committee’s selection of Finley over Fetzer was inexplicable as Finley had not appeared on either Executives ballot and he had been an afterthought on the 2003 and 2007 Veterans Committee non-player ballots–finishing towards the bottom of the 15-candidate pool both times while collecting barely 10% of the vote.  Bavasi and Finley fared poorly in the ensuing Golden Era election with their support classified as “fewer than three votes.”

The Golden Era Committee held their second election in December 2014 but Fetzer was absent from the ballot as he had, once again, been passed over by the Historical Overview Committee.  This time around, Bob Howsam was the only executive to make it onto the ten-candidate ballot.  The screening committee’s favoring of Howsam over Fetzer was puzzling.  Howsam, like Fetzer, had been among 60 candidates nominated for the 2003 and 2007 Veterans Committee non-player ballots but failed to make either final 15-candidate ballot.  Howsam was also included on both Veterans Committee Executive ballots but struggled to draw support.  Howsam garnered just 25% of the vote on the 2007 Executives ballot with his three checkmarks one tally behind Fetzer.  Two years later, Howsam’s support dipped into the “fewer than three votes” category on the same ballot in which Fetzer came within a checkmark of Cooperstown.  Fetzer’s exclusion from the Golden Era ballots by the Historical Overview Committee following his near election on the Executives ballot is hard to explain since the screening panel rarely undergoes changes and had essential the same members since Veterans Committee elections results became public in 2003.

With recent changes to the Era Committee process, Fetzer will be eligible to appear on either the Golden Days (1950-1969) or Modern Baseball (1970-1987) ballot depending on how the sum of his career achievements are weighed within those time periods.  Nevertheless, with the same Historical Overview Committee screening the Era Committee ballots, Fetzer’s appearance on one of those ballots is not a given.

–Allie Reynolds–Veterans Committee Pre-1943 ballot, December 2008–
Allie Reynolds was a standout right-handed pitcher on six World Series winning-New York Yankees teams.  Reynolds got a late start to his career, making his major league debut, at age 25 with two appearances at the end of the 1942 season for the Cleveland Indians.  The following year, Reynolds put together a strong rookie campaign, leading the AL with 151 strikeouts.  During Reynolds’ time with Cleveland, the team struggled to play .500 ball.  After four seasons with the Tribe, Reynolds was traded to the Yankees for second baseman Joe Gordon.  At that point in his career, Reynolds sported a 51-47 record with 3.31 ERA.  However, once Reynolds donned Yankee pinstripes, the righty won with regularity and rarely found himself in the loss column.  In his first season with New York, Reynolds went 19-8 and helped the Bronx Bombers overcome the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games to win the 1947 World Series.  Following a third place finish in 1948, the Yankees embarked on a record five consecutive World Series titles from 1949 to 1953.  Reynolds anchored a pitching staff that included Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, and a young Whitey Ford.  In 1951, Reynolds joined Johnny Vander Meer as only the second pitcher to hurl two no-hitters in one season.  At season’s end, Reynolds finished third behind teammate Yogi Berra and St. Louis Browns pitcher Ned Garver in a close race for the AL MVP in which each of the three candidates drew six first place votes.  Reynolds became a twenty-game winner in 1952, leading the AL with a miniscule 2.06 ERA while sitting atop the league in strikeouts for a second time with 160.  Reynolds once again drew well in the AL MVP vote, garnering four first place checkmarks and finishing runner up to Philadelphia Athletics hurler Bobby Shantz.  Midway through the 1953 season, Reynolds injured his back when the team bus crashed into a bridge overpass in Philadelphia.  The back injury played a major role in Reynolds retiring from the game at age 37, following the 1954 campaign.

Reynolds finished his career with a 182-107 record at a stellar .630 win/loss percentage.  Only twenty-two pitchers have won as many games as Reynolds with a higher win/loss percentage.  On top of that, Reynolds had 48 career saves as the right-hander contributed out of the bullpen in addition to excelling as one of the game’s finest starting pitchers.  Saves did not became an official stat until 1969, nevertheless, Reynolds was recognized for his ability to flourish in the starter/reliever hybrid role and ranked in the top five among AL pitchers in saves during the 1951 and 1952 seasons while finishing fifth or higher in wins, ERA, win/loss percentage, innings pitch, strikeouts, complete games, and shutouts.  Reynolds also put together a solid 3.30 career ERA.  However, due to his late start and the premature ending of his career, Reynolds only pitched 2492.1 innings.  In addition, strikeout totals were much lower during Reynolds’ era, so his career mark of 1,423 looks less impressive in comparison to other time periods.  Nevertheless, Reynolds possessed one of the most feared fastballs and was one of the premier strikeout artists of his day, regularly finishing among the league leaders in punch outs–leading the AL in 1943 and 1952.  Be that as it may, Reynolds also struggled with control, surrendering 100 or more walks eight times during his career.

Aside from his excellent win/loss percentage, Reynolds’ career numbers lack the dominance or volume that would make him an obvious Hall of Fame selection.  Reynolds’ 182 victories and 2,492.1 innings pitched would be some of the lowest totals among starting pitchers in Cooperstown.  Additionally, Reynolds had the fortune of playing alongside legendary Yankee greats such as Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle, which undoubtedly helped him put together his fantastic win/loss record.  Another knock against Reynolds’ Hall of Fame case are his poor sabermetric statistics:  Reynolds’ career ERA+ is a solid but unspectacular 109 while his career WAR of 25.9 is less than half of the average Hall of Fame pitcher and all but eliminates the former Yankee fireballer from Cooperstown consideration with the more analytically-inclined voter.  Yet, WAR and other sabermetric statistics have been a slow sell for many Hall of Fame voters–particularly those who have served on the Veterans and Era Committee’s electorate.  Nevertheless, Reynolds’ career statistics are a near carbon copy of another Yankee pitcher, Lefty Gomez.  Like Reynolds, Gomez was the ace of a Yankee dynasty, pitching on five World Series winners–including four in a row from 1936 to 1939.  Reynolds’ 182-107 record is almost identical to Gomez’s 189-102, as are his ERA (3.30 to 3.34), innings pitched (2,492.1 to 2,503), and strikeouts (1,423 to 1,468).  In addition, Reynolds and Gomez are each other’s number one most similar pitcher on Baseball Reference’s Similarity Scores.  However, Gomez’s career was wrapping up just as Reynolds’ was beginning and by pitching the bulk of his career in the hitter-friendly 1930s, Gomez holds the edge in WAR (38.4 to 25.9) and ERA+ (125 to 109).  Gomez was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee but his selection is largely view as a weak one.

Nevertheless, Reynolds’ Hall of Fame case is enhanced by his superb performance in the World Series.  Reynolds won all six Fall Classics he played in, picking up at least one victory in each Series.  Reynolds was a key figure in the Yankees dynasty, starting Game 1 of the 1949, 1951, 1952, and 1953 Fall Classics while taking the hill for Game 2 of the 1947 and 1950 World Series.  Reynolds played his starter/reliever hybrid role to perfection in October, sporting an impressive 2.79 ERA, going 5-2 in 9 starts with a 2-0 record and 4 saves in 6 relief appearances.  At the conclusion of his career, Reynolds’ 7 wins and 4 saves had tied the records respectively held by former Yankees Red Ruffing and Johnny Murphy.  Since that time, only Whitey Ford has passed Reynolds’ win total while his save mark has been eclipsed by just Mariano Rivera and Rollie Fingers.

Reynolds appeared on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.  He regularly drew 25% to 30% of the vote with his support peaking at 33.6% in 1968, ahead of several peers who would eventually earn Hall of Fame election through the Veterans Committee including Pee Wee Reese, Joe Gordon, Phil Rizzuto, Hal Newhouser, and Bobby Doerr.  Reynolds collected 27.7% of the vote in his final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot in 1974.  He then became eligible for Veterans Committee elections, which at the time kept vote totals secret.  Reynolds passed away on December 26, 1994 at age 77.

Reynolds was one of twenty-six candidates selected among 200 nominees for the 2003 Veterans Committee player ballot, the first election in which the voting body publically released its results.  He garnered 19.8% of the vote, tying for tenth highest among candidates.  Reynolds was part of the 200 nominee pools for the 2005 and 2007 Veterans Committee player elections but, despite a decent showing in 2003, was not selected for the final ballot either time.  Following changes to the Veterans Committee, Reynolds was included on the ten-candidate Pre-1943 ballot.  The ballot, which was specifically for players who made their major league debut before 1943, was voted on in December 2008.  Reynolds drew eight checkmarks from the twelve-member electorate–leaving him just one tally shy of a bronze Hall of Fame plaque with 66.7% of the vote.  Coincidentally, Joe Gordon–the player Reynolds was traded from Cleveland to New York for–was the sole candidate elected to Cooperstown on the Pre-1943 ballot with eleven tallies and 83.3% of the vote.

After missing Hall of Fame election by a single checkmark, Reynolds appeared to be in a good position when the Veterans Committee was scheduled to hold their next Pre-1943 vote in December 2013.  However, in 2010, the Hall of Fame overhauled the Veterans Committee and replaced it with the Era Committee.  Under the new process, Reynolds was eligible for election through the Golden Era Committee which covered the 1947 to 1972 time period.  The Historical Overview Committee included Reynolds as one of ten candidates on their initial Golden Era ballot in December 2011.  Despite coming a single vote shy of Cooperstown on the Pre-1943 ballot just three years before, Reynolds’ Hall of Fame case did not inspire the Golden Era Committee electorate as he drew “fewer than three votes.”

The overhauling of the Veterans Committee and elimination of the Pre-1943 ballot significantly decreased Reynolds’ Hall of Fame chances since moving into the Golden Era time period put him back on the same ballot with candidates from more recent eras such as Ron Santo, Jim Kaat, and Tony Oliva, who had regularly outdrawn Reynolds and other players from earlier eras on the three Veterans Committee player votes from 2003 to 2007.  In fact, Joe Gordon–the only candidate to garner more votes than Reynolds and gain election on the Pre-1943 ballot–had placed no higher than seventh and accumulated no more than 23.5% of the vote on the three Veterans Committee player ballots.  On the Pre-1943 election, Reynolds shared the ballot with three pitchers, only one of whom–Carl Mays with 207–had more career wins than the former Yankee fireballer.  By contrast, on the Golden Era election, Reynolds shared the ballot with Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant, whose respective win totals of 283 and 229, were well above the Yankee hurler’s 182 career victories.

Following his poor showing on the initial Golden Era election, Reynolds was not selected to appear on the Committee’s second ballot in 2014.  With the most recent changes to the Era Committee, Reynolds will now be eligible for either the Early Baseball ballot which covers the origins of baseball through 1949 or the Golden Days ballot which judges 1950 to 1969.  The Early Baseball Committee will meet only once per decade with its first election scheduled for 2020 while the Golden Days Committee will convene twice per decade with its initial vote also taking place in 2020.  Based on his playing career and achievements, an argument could be made to include Reynolds in either era.  However, the former Yankee pitcher’s best chance at Hall of Fame election would be on the Early Baseball ballot where he would be judged against candidates from essentially the same time period as the Pre-1943 ballot on which he came one vote away from Cooperstown.

—-by John Tuberty

Changes in the format used for the Veterans Committee and Era Committee:

2003-07:  The Veterans Committee abandoned the decades old practice of having a 15-member voting panel meet privately in favor of having a larger electorate vote by mail.  This larger electorate consisted of all living Hall of Famers, Ford Frick Award winning broadcasters, and J.G. Taylor Spink Award winning writers.  The Veterans Committee also moved away from using a composite ballot by putting players and non-players on separate ballots.  After years of annual elections, the Veterans Committee held elections for player candidates on a biennial basis while non-player candidates were voted on once every four years.
–Process proved unwieldy and no player or non-player candidates were elected, leading to public outcry for changes to the format

2007-09:  The Veterans Committee started holding non-player elections on a biennial basis and also split non-player elections into two separate ballots–one for executives and the other for managers and umpires.  In addition, player candidates whose careers began before 1943 were moved onto a separate ballot with elections for these candidates to be held once every five years.  The Veterans Committee also went back to using smaller voting panels of 12 to 16 members and reduced the ballot size to ten candidates.  Oddly, the Veterans Committee continued to use a larger electorate for player candidates who made their debut in 1943 or after, with the 64 living Hall of Fame members making up the voting body.
–Non-player candidates Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O’Malley, Billy Southworth, Dick Williams, Doug Harvey, and Whitey Herzog were elected.  Player candidate Joe Gordon was elected on the special pre-1943 ballot while no players were voted in by the larger electorate made up of former Hall of Famers

2010-2015:  The Veterans Committee was overhauled and replaced by a new voting body known as the Era Committee.  Under the Era Committee process, players and non-players were put on a composite ballot to be voted on by one of three 16-member sub-committees based on the playing era under which the candidate made their greatest contributions to the game.  Each sub-committee voted once every three years in a rotational cycle with the Expansion Era judging the time period from 1973-on, the Golden Era covering 1947 to 1972, and the Pre-Integration Era in charge of the origins of the game through 1946.
–Non-player candidates Pat Gillick, Hank O’Day, Jacob Ruppert, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre were elected while player candidates Ron Santo and Deacon White were voted in

2016-on:  The Era Committee expanded to four sub-committees and revamped the eras:  Today’s Game (1988-on) and Modern Baseball (1970-1987) will vote twice every five years while Golden Days (1950-1969) and Early Baseball (before 1950) will vote once every five and ten years, respectively.

Sources:  Baseball Reference, Baseball Reference Play Index, Baseball Reference Bullpen, Baseball Almanac, SABR, Wikipedia, MLBPA, MLB, The New York Times, Baseball Hall of Fame, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, The Boston Globe, White Sox Interactive, Fetzer Institute, PSA Cards, Dan Ewald-John Fetzer:  On a Handshake (Wayne State University Press)