“Sweet Music” Frank Viola was 14-2 at the All-Star break in 1988, making him the easy choice to start the game for the American League. He pitched two innings and earned the victory.
“The Rocket” Roger Clemens was next up for the AL, and retired all three batters he faced.
Mark Gubicza was the first American League pitcher to enter the game that didn’t have a cool nickname. He was also the first (and only) to let the National League score; Vince Coleman came home on a wild pitch in the 4th.
Should Dave Stieb be in the Hall of Fame? I think not, but there are a lot of Stieb stumpers out there. He appeared in seven ASGs in his career, but only tallied 176 victories over 16 seasons.
Doug Jones had a breakout season in 1988; it was the first of five seasons in which he saved at least 30 games, and his first of five All-Star Games.
When I started collecting baseball cards, Dan Plesac seemed to be in every discount store box set. He had a solid 18-year career, but nothing that would have warranted his inclusion in so many “Young Superstar” and “Hottest Players”-type sets.
Dennis Eckersley was the only Hall of Fame pitcher on the American League roster. Of course, Clemens would have been enshrined long ago if he hadn’t derailed his chances by getting caught using performance enhancers.
Two pitchers were on the American League roster but didn’t get into the game. The first is the manager’s own closer, Jeff Reardon. I wonder if players get mad when they don’t get to play, or if the experience of being there is enough.
Doyle Alexander started his big league career in 1971 and was named an All-Star for the first time in 1988. He did not get an opportunity to take the mound.
Kurt Stillwell returned to Riverfront Stadium for the first time since the Reds traded him to the Royals for Danny Jackson over the off-season. By all appearances, he enjoyed seeing Barry Larkin again. Stillwell was added to the All-Star roster as an injury replacement for Chicago’s Ozzie Guillen.
Here are the results of the USA Today players poll:
Who is the first player you think of when you think of the Braves? Hank Aaron, right? Of course. Maybe Warren Spahn. If you’re a child of the 80s, perhaps Dale Murphy. A 90s kid? Greg Maddux, right? Why is Eddie Mathews never mentioned?
Mathews is one of the greatest third basemen of all-time. JAWS actually puts him at #2 behind Mike Schmidt, and ahead of Wade Boggs, Adrian Beltre, George Brett, and Chipper Jones. He hit 512 home runs…the magic number for Hall of Fame entry in the pre-steroid era. Except it took five ballots to get Mathews in the door. Can you believe that on his first ballot, Mathews only received 32.3%? How on earth does 67.7% of the electorate not see him as an all-time great? His first three years, actually, he came in with less than 50% of the vote! In his fifth year, 1978, finally 79.4% of the voters decided he was worthy of immortal status.
Joining his Tigers teammate on the stage in Cooperstown this year will be pitcher Jack Morris, one of the best pitchers of the 1980s. While some believe his election lowers the bar for pitchers, I believe you have to judge them among their contemporaries. There were few starters sharper than Morris in the 1980s, and he was always considered to be a future Hall of Famer by those who saw him play. The Veterans Committee agreed, and Morris and Trammell are the first living inductees by the Veterans Committee since Bill Mazeroski in 2001.
Alan Trammell was the slick-fielding shortstop for the World Champion Detroit Tigers in 1984, and almost won the AL MVP in 1987. Overshadowed throughout much of his career by Baltimore’s Cal Ripken, Trammell still managed to win four Gold Glove Awards and was selected to six All-Star Games. He is one of two Veterans Committee selections for the Hall of Fame class of 2018.
Generally, I am against non-players in the Hall of Fame. Managers, general managers, commissioners…let them have a special wing dedicated to them, but keep the Hall of Fame portion for players only. But I have a soft spot for Sparky Anderson. He was the man that led the Reds to four World Series appearances and two Championships in the 1970s…the skipper of the Big Red Machine! But he didn’t stop there…
In 1984, Sparky led the Detroit Tigers to the World Championship, becoming the first manager to win the World Series in both the National and American Leagues. I guess if you have to include managers in the Hall of Fame, Sparky is a pretty solid choice.
For the first time since 1971, the BBWAA failed to induct anyone in 1996. On the writers’ ballot were future BBWAA inductees Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Don Sutton, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter, and future Veterans Committee selections Ron Santo and Joe Torre (who was inducted as a manager, not a player). Thankfully, the Veterans Committee saw fit to honor a handful of previously overlooked individuals in 1996.
Jim Bunning pitched in the big leagues for 17 years, winning 224 games with a 3.27 ERA and 2855 strikeouts. JAWS ranks him as the 57th best starting pitcher in history. Bunning was on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years, and almost reached the 75% threshold in 1988, his twelfth year on the ballot, falling just four votes short. His support dipped dramatically the next three years, never reaching even 65% again. The Veterans Committee deemed him worthy of baseball immortality in 1996, five years after his final appearance on the writers’ ballot.
Bunning was also known for his political career, which started as a city councilman in my hometown, Fort Thomas, in 1977. From there, he moved up to the Kentucky State Senate in 1980, then to the US House of Representatives in 1987, and finally the United States Senate in 1999. He also had an unsuccessful run at the Kentucky Governor’s office in 1983, losing to Martha Layne Collins.