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Sports Then and Now



Cooperstown Will Have Many New Members in 2014 1

Posted on January 05, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Greg Maddux could become the first unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of fame.

Greg Maddux could become the first unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of fame.

After no modern candidates were selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013, Cooperstown should have a slew of new additions in 2014.

They are already guaranteed of three quality inductees as former major league managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre have already been announced as members of the Class of 2014.

Now on Wednesday we should see at least two, and likely more, modern era players earn baseball immortality.

If the baseball writers who vote for the Hall of Fame weren’t so self-righteous, the Class of 2014 might include the first unanimous selection in Hall of Fame history.

Any writer who believes he can legitimately justify leaving Greg Maddux off his Hall of Fame ballot should be immediately awarded a Pulitzer Prize, though it would be more a work of fiction than of fact.

During his 20 year career, Maddux won 355 games, including 17 straight seasons with at least 15 wins, four Cy Young Awards and posted a career ERA of 3.16 despite playing primarily during an era when many hitters were using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).

If that isn’t enough to justify Hall of Fame induction, consider that Maddux won 18 Gold Glove awards as the top fielding pitcher. His total eclipsed the previous record of 16 Gold Gloves set by third baseman Brooks Robinson and matched by pitcher Jim Kaat.

While Maddux is a Hall of Fame lock, his longtime teammate Tom Glavine might have a little tougher time getting in during his first year of eligibility.

Interestingly, Glavine had more 20+ win seasons (5) than Maddux (2), but finished with fewer wins (305) and a higher ERA (3.54). Glavine was a two-time Cy Young winner and teamed with Maddux and John Smoltz to form one of the greatest starting pitching trios in baseball history. Read the rest of this entry →

Former MLB Stars Who Deserve Their Day in Cooperstown 1

Posted on July 27, 2013 by Dean Hybl
With 398 home runs and two MVP Awards, would Dale Murphy had made the Hall of Fame if it hadn't been for the Steroid era?

With 398 home runs and two MVP Awards, would Dale Murphy had made the Hall of Fame if it hadn’t been for the Steroid era?

In a year in which baseball’s all-time leader in home runs, a member of the prestigious 3,000 hit club and the winner of 354 games on the mound are all eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time, not a single modern-era player will receive baseball’s greatest honor during the annual induction ceremony on Sunday.

To honor this auspicious occasion, Sports Then and Now is recognizing five baseball players that we believe have legitimate claims to being in the Hall of Fame and who very likely might have received the “call to the Hall” years ago had not a generation of players totally changed the perception of offensive production.

Dale Murphy
398 HR, 1,266 RBI, .265 Batting Average, 161 stolen bases, 1,197 runs, 350 doubles

When Dale Murphy retired from baseball in 1993 the PED era in baseball was just getting started. By the time he became eligible for the HOF ballot in 1999, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had made a mockery of the single season home run record and Murphy’s career total of 398 home runs and top season of 44 dingers were no longer particularly impressive.

As a result, Murphy was included on 19.3% of the ballots in his first year and 23.2% the next year, but as the home run totals of current players escalated, his vote totals steadily declined. He was included on only 8.5% of ballots by 2004 and never legitimately had a chance for induction. His run through the HOF gauntlet mercifully ended earlier this year as he received 18.1% of the votes (75% needed for induction) in his final year on the ballot. Read the rest of this entry →

Calls To The Hall: The Morals Of Cooperstown 1

Posted on November 29, 2012 by Rick Swanson

When it comes to electing the upcoming class into the baseball Hall of Fame, we are going to either change the record books or let in everybody that cheated.

The fact that Roger Clemens is up for nomination is going to cause us to see who really gets in and who is left outside looking in with Pete Rose.

Watching Clemens when he was in New Britain, CT in 1983, there was talent on the mound, that had Cooperstown in my mind instantaneously.

That day when he threw a shutout to win the Eastern League Championship, I said “someday I will see him win the World Series for Boston.” When I went to Game Six in 1986, my dream was close to coming true.

He won 192 games in a Red Sox uniform and nobody has worn his number 21 since he left for Toronto in 1997.

The greatest pitcher in Red Sox history, and he threw it all away for a syringe a decade later

How could using PED’s in the 1995-2007 era be any different than those that used greenies from the 50′s until 2011?

We let Gaylord Perry in the HOF and he admits he cheated from day one.

Craig Nettles even had super balls come out of his bat, and how many times has cork been found inside one?

Cap Anson might have been the biggest bigot of his era, and he kept color out of baseball for 64 years, but baseball let him into Cooperstown.

Tom Yawkey did not have a man with color on his team until Pumpsie Green a decade after Jackie Robinson, but he too is enshrined.

Read the rest of this entry →

Al Simmons: Original All-Star 0

Posted on July 04, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Al Simmons

The July Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month hit .462 while starting the first three All-Star Games during a stellar 20-year career that ended with his induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

One of the premier outfielders of his generation, Al Simmons was not as well known as Babe Ruth, but he was a steady run producer who helped the Philadelphia Athletics edge the New York Yankees for three straight American League titles from 1929-1931 while claiming two World Series titles. Read the rest of this entry →

70 Years Ago: Stan “The Man” Musial Begins His Remarkable Career 34

Posted on September 17, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Stan Musial was 20-years-old when he made his debut for the St. Louis Cardinals on September 17, 1941.

It was 70 years ago today that one of the magical careers in Major League baseball history had its genesis during the second game of a doubleheader between the Boston Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. A rail-thin 20-year-old left-handed hitter named Stan Musial gave a hint of what was to come by two hits, including a double, and driving home two runs in a 3-2 Cardinals victory.

In hindsight, it is fitting that one of the greatest players in baseball history made his debut during the magical 1941 season.

In the months before Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into World War II, the country was fixated on baseball and captivated by a pair of stars who were doing magical things with a bat.

Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees parlayed a record 56-game hitting streak into the MVP season. Ted Williams “The Splendid Splinter” ran away with baseball’s batting crown with a .406 average. No one could have predicted that 70 years later both records would remain unmatched across the annals of baseball.

Musial’s major league debut came barely a year after it was feared his career might be over before it started. Originally signed from his hometown of Denora, Pennsylvania as a pitcher and outfielder, Musial was playing for Daytona in the Florida State League when he jammed his left shoulder diving for a ball and was no longer able to pitch. However, little more than a year later he was thrust into a playoff race as a late-season call-up of the Cardinals.

When Musial made his debut, the Cardinals were on their way to an impressive 97-56 record, but were a game behind the first place Brooklyn Dodgers. They went 7-5 in the final 12 games, with Musial playing in all 12, and ended the season 2.5 games behind the Dodgers and their 100-54 record.

But it certainly wasn’t Musial’s fault that the Cardinals couldn’t catch the Dodgers. The young outfielder showed glimpses of what was to come over the next 20+ years by hitting .426 with four doubles, a home run and seven RBI in 12 games.

As a rookie in 1942, Musial proved that his audition in 1941 had not been a fluke as he hit .315 with 72 RBI and 32 doubles as the Cardinals won the pennant and the World Series. Read the rest of this entry →

Statistics Can Be Misleading When Selecting for the Baseball Hall of Fame 2

Posted on January 02, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Rafael Palmeiro hit 25 home runs in three seasons with the Chicago Cubs before going on to bigger and better things with the Rangers and Orioles.

If career statistics were the only judge, then picking the members of the 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame induction class would be pretty easy. However, the continuing shadow of the “Steroid Era” in baseball has ensured that for the next decade or so picking Hall of Famers will be anything but easy.

There are 19 newcomers to the Hall of Fame ballot for 2011 and it is difficult to predict if any will ever receive a plaque in Cooperstown.

Statistically speaking, there seems to be two “no brainers” and a third who would probably earn a spot. However, it is likely that only one of those three will be a serious contender for the Hall of Fame.

Based purely on the numbers, Rafael Palmeiro has the credentials to be an easy HOF pick. He is one of only four players in major league history with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. The other three players are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.

However, the number for Palmeiro that most Hall of Fame voters are likely to remember is one, as in failed steroid tests after emphatically claiming to Congress that he had never used steroids.

That alone seems enough to ensure that Palmeiro will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame and will probably have a hard time earning enough votes to stay on the ballot for his entire 15 years of eligibility.

In some ways, Palmeiro is as much a poster child of the steroid era as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, but in a different way.

While Bonds and Clemens were likely Hall of Famers before ever using steroids and McGwire and Sosa used the drugs to break single season records, Palmeiro pretty much flew under the radar and despite being accused of using by Jose Canseco would have probably earned a Hall of Fame plaque had it not been for his positive test.

Of course we have no idea when Palmeiro started using steroids, but the change in his statistics is pretty pronounced.

Palmeiro was a solid player during his first five major league seasons hitting .296 with 602 hits and 47 home runs between 1986 and 1990. He hit a then career-best 14 home runs in 1987 while with the Cubs and matched that total with the Rangers in 1990. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Hoyt Wilhem: Knuckleball Workhorse
      April 7, 2014 | 8:51 pm

      The April Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was 29-years-old when he made his major league debut, but still managed to pitch for 21 years and become the first pitcher in MLB history to appear in more than 1,000 games.

      Hoyt Wilhelm made his professional baseball debut as a 19-year-old in 1942, but after serving in World War II (earning a Purple Heart during the Battle of the Bulge) and then spending five years in the minor leagues it wasn’t until 10 years later that he would make his major league debut.

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