1935 – Bob on Carl Mays, George Burns and leadoff men, and the 1926 MVP awards

On Carl Mays and Hall of Fame voting:

I’m always leery of making charts on this site, but I’ll give it a go. Here are the HOF votes for the pitchers on this year’s ballot.

36 37 38 39 42 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 Year
00 08 11 11 11 07 06 22 04 05 06 12 09 17 13 24 — — — Babe Adams
02 17 33 40 55 40 39 72 05 02 06 35 70 104 — — — — — Chief Bender, elected by VetCom in ’53
00 00 01 01 00 00 00 00 02 04 00 01 02 09 07 11 — — — Wilbur Cooper
00 00 01 00 00 00 00 00 02 03 01 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 34 Stan Covelski, elected by VetCom in ’69
00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 01 Bill Doak
00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 06 Carl Mays
00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 02 Lee Meadows
00 03 05 01 00 00 00 00 00 01 02 04 03 04 07 07 00 00 13 Art Nehf
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — Ed Reulbach
00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 01 Jack Scott
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — Bob Shawkey
00 01 01 00 00 00 00 00 01 02 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 04 Urban Shocker
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — Hippo Vaughn
00 13 06 02 01 0005 29 05 00 01 05 — — — — — — — — Joe Wood

There are some obvious head scratchers here. How does Bender go from 72 votes to 5 to 2 to 6 to 35 and back to 70? Coveleski goes from a nonentity for over a decade and then suddenly gets 34. Art Nehf gets a few votes in the early elections, drops from sight for a few and then consistently reappears. Not that I always agree with HOF voters, but lots of them didn’t and wouldn’t vote for Carl Mays for two reasons: his pitch killed Ray Chapman, and Miller Huggins always thought (and told anybody that would listen) that Mays intentionally lost his World Series start in ’22. Some BBWAA voters listened, I guess.

Here are the Top Ten in 1947 and 1948 HOF voting:
1947: the top 4 were elected
1. Hubbell
2. Frisch
3. Cochrane
4. Grove
5. Traynor
6. Gehringer
7. Maranville
8. Dean
9. Pennock
10. Bender
1948: the top 2 were elected (1947 votes)
1. Pennock 86
2. Traynor 119
3. Simmons 6
4. Gehringer 105
5. Terry 46
6. Waner 0
7. Foxx 10
8. Dean 88
9. Heilmann 65
10. Dickey 0
Something screwy is going on. Dickey, who had no votes in ’47, had 32 in ’46; Waner, who had no votes in ’47, had 4 in ’46. There must have been voting rule changes, but not all voters were aware of it.

The 1950 and 1951 Top Tens were nearly identical, as no one was elected in ’50. There were 59 more voters in the later year, which might account for some of the huge change for Bender. I’m still guessing that the HOF board was constantly changing who and who was not eligible for selection.

As for Mays and the betting scandal, from SABR’s BioProject on Mays by Allen Wood:
“…In the 1921 World Series against the Giants, Mays pitched three complete games without allowing a walk, but he was charged with two losses as the Yankees lost the series. According to sportswriter Fred Lieb, there were suspicions Mays may have lost those two games on purpose. In The Pitch That Killed, Mike Sowell details the concern among several writers and Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis after Mays’s meltdown in Game Four. Sowell also quotes Yankees co-owner Cap Huston as saying many years later that Mays and others (possibly Joe Bush) had deliberately lost World Series games in both 1921 and 1922. Lieb believed the unanswered questions about those series were what really kept Mays out of the Hall of Fame.

“The rumors also were a likely reason that, despite Mays’s 65 wins in three years, the Yankees tried to dump him before the 1923 season. That didn’t work, so manager Miller Huggins simply refused to use him. Mays appeared in only 23 games for the Yankees in 1923, and at the end of the season was sold to Cincinnati…”

Me, again. Did Mays throw the games? I have no idea, but his team sure thought he did. Mays was likely the most hated man in baseball, even before the Chapman accident or the World Series questions. These two incidents just sort of sealed his HOF fate.

On George Burns and leadoff men

I’m not saying we’re wrong, I’m just saying I’m finding it odd.

In the sabermetric community, we talk a lot about the value of lead-off hitters. We poo-poo the HOF for “ignoring” them. And yet, here we are with an opportunity to “correct” this, and we are not. We have three really good lead-off hitters on the ’35 ballot, and yet they seem to be lagging behind.

George Burns batted .287, led the league in walks 5 times, runs 5 times, stolen bases 2 times, played on 3 NL champions and 1 World Series winner, 6 times his team came in second.That’s a pretty impressive record.

Harry Hooper doesn’t have the Black Ink, but his slash numbers are nearly identical to Burns’, Hooper going .281/.368/.387 to Burns going .287/.366/.384. Hooper played about 450 more games and in a different league than did Burns. Hooper also played for 4 World Series winners. This is also a pretty impressive record.

Max Carey also has similar slash numbers, .285/.361/.386, with about 150 more games than Hooper. And though he only played on one pennant winning team (at least they won the World Series), he did lead the league in runs once, triples and walks a couple of times, and stolen bases 10 times, the last time when he was 35. His record too is pretty impressive.

And yet somehow, we’re leaving them off our ballots, or placing them low. I’m guilty as well. Tho I had Carey in 4th and Burns in 5th on my ballot, I left Hooper completely off. Only three of us (out of 7 votes, so far) have Carey, only two have Burns and none of us have Hooper in our Top 5. Leaving Joe Jackson out of the mix since his numbers have nothing to do with his viability, Carey, Hooper and Burns rank first, second and third in Win Shares on this ballot. Carey ranks #2, Hooper ranks #4, and Burns lags behind in 13th in WAR.

Granted we have a couple of really viable black stars on the ballot, still….I’m surprised how little credit we’re giving these quality lead-off hitters. I’m wondering if Hooper’s poor showing is some sort of backlash from those really poor 1970s VetCom selections. Hooper (and Burns and Carey) ain’t Chick Hafey, George Kelly or Rube Marquard.

(in response to a poster)  As I said, I’m not saying we (or you) are wrong (well, I do about Jackson, but that’s a different issue entirely). I just find it odd that we often profess as a group to value “sabermetric principles”, such as OBA; but, at least in this election, we’re not valuing them as much as I expected.

Not that I think Win Shares is a be-all stat, but Carey has 85 more than the #1 pitcher (Cooper). That’s a lot. Cooper and Mays are the only two pitchers who are within 100 Win Shares of Carey. And they are the only two within 75 WS of Hooper as well. Coveleski is the only pitcher ahead of Carey in WAR. Coveleski and Shocker are the only two ahead of Hooper in WAR.

1926 MVP awards

If you thought that it was weird that Burns won the AL MVP in ’26, check out who won the NL award that same year. And who came in second. And third. And fourth. And who tied for 6th. And eighth. That has to be the all-time “Huh? Who?” Top Ten MVP vote. Seven nobodies and three marginal HOFers. The first “real” HOFer, Paul Waner, came in 12th. At least the ’26 AL MVP Top Ten, after Burns and John Mostil, was filled with future HOFers.

Ever since I first became aware of the 1920s’ League Awards, I’ve always been baffled by the near unanimous selection of The Lesser George Burns. If I were to go back to 1926 newspapers, it would probably be readily apparent why he won; but looking back 86 years without scanning microfiche, I have no idea. One can almost always figure out the sportswriters’ intent. A fascination with RBIs, playing an up-the-middle position, playing for a pennant winner or an unexpected pennant contender, having a career year, and coulda/shoulda won the Award in the past are a few of the reasons why unexpected MVP winners win. But none of them seem to apply to Burns. I’d agree with bear about the Babe Ruth thing, if Burns was the #2 choice, but there are, what, at least a dozen players who were more deserving than Burns? As a guess, I figure the Burns selection is akin to Andre Dawson’s. It was just one of those quirky mindsets that group-think committees sometimes get.

The League Award for the AL is suspect, it is not totally useless. It does pick the prohibitive favorite most years. Well, the favorite after Babe Ruth. But just as Musial, Mays and Mantle didn’t win every year they might have, so too it might have been for Ruth.

1922: George Sisler – he would have won no matter what scoring system was in place
1923: Babe Ruth – duh!
1924: Walter Johnson – Ruth might have deserved the award, but giving the award to a pennant winning pitcher who made a comeback seems like a legitimate choice
1925: Roger Peckinpaugh – at the very minimum, he had at least 4 or the 8 1st place votes, possibly 5.
1926: George Burns – Ruth woulda/shoulda/coulda won the award, but Burns, getting 7 1st and 1 2nd would have come in second anyway
1927: Lou Gehrig – With Ruth not eligible, it was a cake-walk for Lou. I’ve always wondered since I first learned about these awards, how this vote would have gone if the AL had used the NL scoring method
1928: Mickey Cochrane – This is where and why the AL dropped the award. Mickey obviously was behind both Ruth and Gehrig, but he likely would have come in third no matter what system was used. So considering that the two Yankee greats weren’t eligible, Cochrane was the frontrunner.

There really wasn’t a season where a player-manager was more deserving than the actual winner, and other than Ruth and Gehrig not being in contention for all the elections, the voters did form a reasonable consensus (if you believe that Batting Average and Hits or playing a key defensive position for a pennant winner are the be-all-end-all criteria for being MVP).

There were some lulu omissions because you could only vote for one per team. Ken Williams received no votes since he was likely the second best Brown that year. Who knows now? He might have come in second with NL-style voting rules.

And sometimes, a player might finish lower than he might have because a teammate siphoned off a few votes, Harry Heilmann likely would have come in second over Eddie Collins, but Johnny Bassler took a few votes away from Harry.

And sometimes there were some not very good players who received votes. The Red Sox, a really bad team in the ’20s, had lots of players with 8th place votes.

So the AL League Award, I don’t think, is useless. It picks the MVP pretty well, if you don’t want to give $1000 to Ruth every other year or so.

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