Thursday, July 18, 2024

Baseball Hall of Fame: Gil Hodges, Minnie Miñoso, Buck O’Neil among six voted in by eras committees

The National Baseball Hall of Fame will induct at least six new members in 2022. Sunday evening the Hall of Fame’s Early Baseball Era Committee announced Negro League legends Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil have been voted into Cooperstown. Also voted in were Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, and Tony Oliva by the Golden Days Era Committee.

Simply put, O’Neil is a Negro Leagues icon and one of the most important figures in baseball history. A fine player who went to three All-Star Games in 10 Negro League seasons, O’Neil founded the Negro League Baseball Hall of Fame in Kansas City following his playing days, and he was also the first Black coach in baseball history. O’Neil died at age 94 in 2006, and the Buck O’Neil Award is given annually to the “individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil.”  

Hodges, an eight-time All-Star and manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets, was long considered one of the most worthy candidates not yet voted into the Hall of Fame. He played 18 seasons with the Dodgers and Mets, including 17 after returning from World War II, and retired as a career .273/.359/.487 hitter with 1,921 hits and 370 home runs. He was also considered one of the best defensive infielders of his era. Hodges died at age 47 in 1972.

“When you mention all-time greats in Dodger history, Gil Hodges is among the finest to ever don Dodger blue,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said in a statement. “We are thrilled that he will finally take his place in Cooperstown alongside the game’s greats and look forward to honoring him next year.”

As with Hodges and O’Neil, Miñoso’s induction is long overdue. The Cuban Comet was one of the league’s first Latino players and All-Stars, and he is also considered the first Black Cuban player in the big leagues. He hit .299/.387/.461 with 2,110 hits, 195 home runs, and 216 steals in parts of 20 seasons, most with the White Sox. Miñoso, a 13-time All-Star, died at age 89 in 2015.

“This tremendous honor would have meant a great deal to my dad, and it means a great deal to us,” Miñoso’s son, Charlie Rice-Miñoso, said in a statement. “My dad lived the American Dream. He was able to open doors and break barriers all while doing what he loved, fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a major league baseball player. He devoted his life to baseball, to all the fans, to the community and to Chicago, which he loved. He was so proud to be Black, to be a Cuban, to be an American and to be a professional baseball player for the Chicago White Sox. He also would have been so very proud to be a Hall of Famer.”  

Kaat, now 83, pitched a remarkable 25 seasons in the big leagues, winning 283 games and 16 Gold Gloves. He played for five teams but spent most of his time with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins franchise, and his 190 wins are second on the franchise leaderboard behind Hall of Famer Walter Johnson’s 417. Kaat has also had a very long broadcasting career, and he continues to call games to this day for MLB Network.

The 1964 AL Rookie of the Year and an eight-time All-Star, the 83-year-old Oliva retired as a career .304/.353/.476 hitter who five times led the league in hits, four times led in doubles, and three times led in batting average. He was twice the AL MVP runner-up as well. Oliva spent his entire career with the Twins and ranks among the franchise’s all-time leaders in every meaningful offensive category. He and Miñoso are the fifth and sixth Cuban players elected to the Hall of Fame.

“The Pohlad family and entire Minnesota Twins organization would like to congratulate Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat on their long-awaited and well-deserved election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” Twins president and CEO Dave St. Peter said in a statement. “From his prodigious on-field career to the broadcast booth, and in the hearts of fans everywhere in our region, ‘Tony O’ embodies what it truly means to be a Minnesota Twin and has been the greatest ambassador for this organization since his arrival in the Upper Midwest. In the same vein, ‘Kitty’ has made an indelible impact on our organization and our fans, from the 15 years he spent with the Twins/Senators franchise to his time in the broadcast booth.”

Fowler is widely considered the first Black professional baseball player. He pitched and played the infield in the 1800s and later helped found the Page Fence Giants, one of the all-time great Black barnstorming teams. Fowler died at age 54 in 1913.  

The Early Baseball Era Committee covers candidates whose contributions to game came prior to 1950. Joining Fowler and O’Neil on this year’s ballot were Negro League stars John Donaldson, Vic Harris, Grant “Home Run” Johnson, Dick “Cannonball” Redding, and George “Tubby” Scales. American and National Leaguers Bill Dahlen, Lefty O’Doul, and Allie Reynolds were on the ballot as well. All 10 are deceased.

The Golden Days Era Committee covers candidates whose contributions to game came between 1951-69. This year’s ballot included Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Roger Maris, Danny Murtaugh, Billy Pierce, and Maury Wills in addition to Hodges, Kat, Miñoso, and Oliva. All except Kaat, Oliva, and Wills are deceased.   

The eras committees consist of 16 members who vote on each candidate, with 12 votes required for induction. The voting bodies include Hall of Fame members, baseball executives, and veteran media members. Here are the voting results:

1. Minnie Miñoso: 14 votes

1. Buck O’Neil: 13 votes

2. Gil Hodges: 12 votes

2. Bud Fowler: 12 votes

3. Jim Kaat: 12 votes

3. Vic Harris: 10 votes

4. Tony Oliva: 12 votes

4. John Donaldson: 8 votes

5. Dick Allen: 11 votes

5. Allie Reynolds: 6 votes

All others received three or fewer votes

All others received five or fewer votes

Allen fell one vote short of induction for the second time. He was also one vote short in the 2015 Golden Days Era Committee vote. Allen passed away at age 78 last December and was one of the greatest hitters of his era, authoring a .292/.378/.534 batting line with 351 homers in part of 15 seasons. He’ll be eligible for a vote again when the Golden Days Era Committee meets next in 2026.

Several years ago the Hall of Fame replaced the Veterans Committee with four eras committees that meet every few years. In addition to the Early Baseball Era and Golden Days Era, there’s also the Modern Baseball Era (1970-87) and Today’s Game Era (1988 to present) Committees. Today’s Game will vote in December 2022, then Modern Baseball in December 2023.

Hall of Fame voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America is ongoing. Here is the ballot. Those results will be revealed on Jan. 25. Next year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, July 24.

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