I actually agree with Reggie Jackson about something.
Reggie and Ian O’Connor of ESPN-New York where having an otherwise nonsensical conversation about whether Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte would have a clear path to Cooperstown if he would beat Cliff Lee in the ALCS game that night, which, of course, he did not.
O’Connor’s a Jeter-obsessed Yankee hack of the highest order, and it’s laughable that Pettitte would be in the Hall of Fame with his 3.88 career ERA, steroid confession, a mere three All-Star Game appearances and complete lack of awards.
And this goofy discussion included this line:
“But Jackson also believes there should be a second Hall of Fame for the real Hall of Famers. In other words, he believes there are too many ballplayers enshrined in Cooperstown, men who were too mortal on the playing field to be sculpted into bronze baseball gods.”
The problem is, Yankee hacks think all of their players – at least those deemed “True Yankees” -- are fit to be enshrined, even Derek F. Jeter! And because some of these hacks actually hang around long enough to get BBWAA ballots, a number of unworthy players have found themselves with plaques.
Reggie’s right. There should be two parts to the Hall of Fame. One would be for the Seavers, Aarons, Robinsons and the rest of the greatest players. The other would be for Yankees who are otherwise undeserving, but were enshrined anyway.
Reggie, the career leader in strikeouts, his underwhelming .262 batting average, and his abuse of a fan’s glorious Hall of Fame autograph ball, would be in the latter.
Alas, he’s hardly alone. When the Hall curators decide that they are too busy planning the Mike Piazza exhibit and need me to help sort out this new wing, here’s who I’d start ripping off the wall:
Phil Rizzuto: Let’s get this one out of the way. Rizzutto has 38 career home runs, just 1,588 career hits and a weak .272 average. Plus he’s got just 149 career steals. So he wasn’t fast, couldn’t hit for power and couldn’t hit for average. That must be why it took 38 years after his career ended before the Yankee hype machine could convince enough people on the Veterans Committee that Rizzuto was something more than a just an average player on a stacked team.
Joe Gordon: Gordon’s stats are even more pedestrian than Rizzuto’s. He retired in 1950, but he must have done something to make the numbers more convincing over the next 59 years to get him elected in 2009. That’s impressive, considering he died in 1978. And his plaque is among the most confusing. Sometimes the Hall lists the player’s nickname after his formal name, like “The Franchise” following George Thomas Seaver. But this one reads Joseph Lowell Gordon, “Joe,” “Flash.” Did the Hall really need to add “Joe” after a guy named Joseph?
Tony Lazzeri: Lazzeri played between 1926 and 1939. He was added to the Hall in 1991. If you have to wait 60 years before you think someone is worthy, he’s probably not worthy.
Earle Combs: A centerfielder, Combs is another guy the Vets snuck in 30 years after he stopped playing. He played only 11 years – just one over the minimum to be considered – because he was injured crashing into a wall in 1934 and into a teammate in 1935. Guess that’s good news for Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran.
Red Ruffing: Ruffing’s an unusual Yankee enshrinement because it took only 20 years for him to be elected. About the best you can say about his 3.80 ERA is that it’s slightly better than Andy Pettitte’s.
Rich Gossage: If Gossage was so good, then why did he bounce around to eight other teams? Oh, and so you wouldn’t be confused, the Hall noted that this guy named Richard also went by “Rich.”
Bill Dickey: The Yankees retire everyone’s number. I’m sure Boone Logan’s already planning his number retirement ceremony. But it took so long for the team to retire Dickey’s No. 8 that they had already given it away to Yogi Berra, who went on to glory as a Met.
Waite Hoyt: Typical Yankee induction, meaning that it took 32 years for mystique and aura to convince enough Veterans Committee that his .359 ERA and lackluster .565 winning percentage were something worthy of keeping company with Walter Johnson and Cy Young.
Herb Pennock: Pennock has 241 wins, which at least is one more than Andy Pettitte. And his 3.59 ERA is the same as Waite Hoyt’s. Guess that makes him your typical undeserving Yankee.
Lefty Gomez: Amazingly, it took only until only recently for the Hall of Fame to take action against a Veterans Committee that seemingly never met a Yankee it didn’t like. Gomez doesn’t even have 200 wins, and was slipped into the Hall after 29 years.
Whitey Ford: Like Pettitte, Ford’s a confessed cheater. From his Wikipedia entry – and you know Wikipedia is never inaccurate: “After his career ended, Ford admitted to occasionally cheating by doctoring baseballs in various ways, such as the "mudball," which could only be used at home in Yankee Stadium: Yankee groundskeepers would wet down an area near the catcher's box where Yankee catcher Elston Howard was positioned; pretending to lose balance on a pitch while in his crouch and landing on his right hand (with the ball in it), Howard would coat one side of the ball with mud. Ford would sometimes use the diamond in his wedding ring to gouge the ball, but he was eventually caught by an umpire and warned to stop; Howard then sharpened a buckle on his shinguard and used it to scuff the ball. Ford admitted in several interviews to doctoring the ball in the 1962 All Star Game at Candlestick Park to strike out Willie Mays.”
Mickey Mantle: Look, Mantle and Ford were known to be inseparable. If Ford was a confessed cheater, Mantle was, at best, an aider and abettor. Perhaps, when sober, Mick was the mastermind behind all the cheating. Mantle took those dark, dark secrets to the grave, so we'll never know for sure. I'll just assume the worst.
I’ll concede that Lou Gehrig was a decent enough player, and Babe Ruth gets in, no doubt on the strength of his fine seasons with the Red Sox and Braves. Manages McCarthy and Huggins are in because, well, you have to let an occasional manager in or they all get a little cranky. DiMaggio had a nice little hit streak that he parlayed into a lot of positive pub.
Casey Stengel was probably furious that there’s a Yankee cap on his Hall plaque cap instead of his properly glorious Mets cap. You can’t see Yogi Berra’s cap logo, so I’m assuming it’s the properly interlocking orange NY.
So that leaves, what, five legitimate Yankees in the Hall? At least Reggie – and possibly Pettitte and Jeter – will have plenty of company in their new wing.