When Frank Thomas was first called up to the White Sox in 1990, I fired off an autograph request to him. A week or two later, I received my 1990 Score card back with his name scrawled across it. I had no idea how great he would become, but I was happy to add the Big Hurt to my autograph collection. He quite answering fan mail just a few weeks later, so I considered myself fortunate to have scored his signature. Thomas was an intimidating player, always a threat to go deep. He hit 521 home runs in his career for the White Sox, A’s, and Blue Jays, and won back-to-back MVP Awards in 1993 and 1994.
The left-handed Tom Glavine was part of one of the greatest pitching rotations in baseball history. Along with Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, the Braves were almost guaranteed to win three games in a row when these guys took the mound. In 22 seasons with the Braves and Mets, Glavine was selected to 10 All-Star teams and took home two Cy Young Awards. He flew into the Hall of Fame with 91.9% of the vote in 2014.
Am I the only person in the world that believes the Cy Young Award should be renamed the Greg Maddux Award? The Mad Dog was an artful pitcher, relying more on finesse than fastballs. It broke my heart when he left Chicago for Atlanta, but I was happy to see him return to the Cubs after his success with the Braves. Sixteen voters declined to put a check mark next to Maddux’s name in 2014.
Bobby Cox‘s managerial career began in 1978 with the Braves. In 1982 he began his tenure as the Blue Jays’ skipper, where he stayed until 1985. In 1990, he returned to Atlanta and the Braves began an unbelievable run of success. Fourteen first-place finishes, five National League Pennants, one World Championship. For years, America’s team was actually one of the best teams in America.
I considered trolling Braves fans by making this a Blue Jays card, but decided to stick with Atlanta.
I admit I had issues with Tony LaRussa‘s selection for the Hall of Fame. His alleged ignorance of what Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were doing in the bathroom stalls never sat right with me. When you look at his success, however, it is difficult to deny his place among the immortals (if you even agree that managers should be in the Hall, which I honestly don’t). LaRussa led Oakland to one World Championship and the Cardinals to two more.
Joe Torre spent fifteen years on the BBWAA ballot as a player, but only received more than 20% of the vote once in that entire time. His time as the Yankees manager, however, made him a no-brainer selection for the Hall of Fame. Under Torre’s leadership, the Yankees won four World Series in five years, and two additional AL Pennants.
Hank O’Day was a player, manager, and scout, but he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as an umpire. He played in the 1889 World Series, and later umpired ten other World Series matchups.
Jacob Ruppert bought the New York Yankees in 1915, acquired Babe Ruth at the end of 1919, and began a winning tradition in the Bronx by building the team that would win the first of 27 World Championships (so far).
The year 2013 was a weird one for the Hall of Fame. The BBWAA failed to elect a single person, and not one of the inductees from the Veterans Committee was living. Deacon White was the only player elected. He is currently the oldest player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame, born December 2, 1847.
Barry Larkin‘s initial showing on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2010 was disappointing, but not overly surprising. What surprised me was how quickly his support rose; he received 86.4% of the vote in 2012 to gain induction into the Hall of Fame. Larkin was on the 1990 World Championship Reds, won the 1995 NL MVP award, was named to 12 All-Star teams, and collected three Gold Gloves and nine Silver Sluggers.