1976 – Bob and a forum for the Roger Maris Hall of Fame argument (with Skeptisys, Tigerlily, Shinsplint, and Terry)

I probably should explain why I have Roger Maris #1 on my ballot, but don’t have Bobby Allison listed at all, what with their stats being so similar. If the HOF or GOR are repositories for guys with great stats, then no, Maris is not a worthy candidate. But let me ask you this question: Who is the most famous person not in the HOF who has (so far) been overlooked by the BBWAA and VetCom? Has to be Maris, doesn’t it? Ask any casual fan if they have heard of Maris, and the answer is usually “yes”. One of the things I used to do at my job was ask people this question (and/or variations of it): Which of these players is not in the HOF: Luis Aparicio, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Roger Maris or Hoyt Wilhelm? Almost no one guesses Maris. There is an assumption by casual fans that he is in already. He is extremely famous.

Or try this: in your mind, write a 150-page book about the history of baseball. Can you write it WITHOUT mentioning Maris? There are probably 100 HOFers that might not be mentioned (I double-dog dare you to somehow get Bobby Wallace’s name in it).

So yeah, if the Hall or GOR are strictly about stats, then by all means Maris doesn’t deserve to be on anyone’s ballot. But if it’s also about fame (or renown)…..

One last thing about Maris that drives me up the wall. He’s often mentioned as a one-year-wonder. I always ask, “If he was a one-year-wonder, how did he win two MVPs and go to four All-Star games?”

Skeptisys

A tremendous amount of Maris’ fame is based on a number: 61. Without that, no tv movie or everlasting fame. Valuing fame without understanding the root cause is a mistake.
Joe Jackson is famous, but those who do not like the cause of his fame will not vote for him
Tim Tebow is famous only because large entities decided they could make lots of money off his image. His fame doesn’t make him a HOF.
I don’t value Maris’ fame with regard to GOR because I do not think election should be based on a magic number like 61, or 300, or 3000. The data is only as good as its use as objective evidence of a player’s value.

Bob

We all value different things and/or different things have value. But I will say for a lot of people of my generation, 61 in not A number, but THE number (60 and 714 being equally the standard).

Fame is a hard thing to measure, and knowing which stats to prioritize is a personal choice. If I asked who was the biggest record seller of the ’50s, most people would guess Elvis. It’s not. Both Bing Crosby and Perry Como sold more records. Many more. They both had better “stats” than Elvis, but I don’t advocate Crosby or Como for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. And there are players on this ballot who had better “stats”, but I ain’t voting for them either.

Someone might find another, but I think (with minimal research on my part) that Maris is the only player who was a significant part (playing in at least half of the games) of 7 pennant winners not to be in the Hall. Wally Schang was the only one I found with 6. I found a whole bunch of 19th century guys with 5, guys who played on the ’70s Red Stockings or played on the ’80s White Stockings or Browns. (I could be convinced that Red Rolfe was on 6 teams as well; he was a contributor to 5 pennants, plus one season of part-time play where he started most of the games in the World Series.)

I really don’t want to get into a Maris debate. I’m not likely to convince anybody to my side, nor will anybody convince me otherwise of his worthiness. It basically boils down to: if you’re stat oriented, you won’t vote for him; if you’re of a fame or “historical importance” bent, you likely will. He’s kind of the anti-Joe Jackson. Jackson was a “great player, but…” candidate; Maris is a “not great player, but…” candidate. Both Jackson and Maris had/have huge “buts”. Not that I really enjoy make references to a man’s but.

Terry

I can’t argue with your logic, Skeptisys, that’s how many (if not most) statistically minded people view it. It’s a slippery slope, though. All fame comes from somewhere, and they ain’t all Albert Schweitzer. How Maris was famous is important on a level, but he’s not infamous, he’s famous. Comparing him to Joe Jackson isn’t a reasonable thing, and comparing him to a Kardashian or Paris Hilton isn’t fair either. Maris earned his fame, it wasn’t just handed to him randomly.

Tebow’s fame is legitimate, in that it came from things he did, so he’s probably the best comp you listed. I’ll give you a better one: Joe Namath. Namath is considered a weak Hall of Famer by some camps, and they have a good case. If Maris gets in the Hall, he’ll be a weak member to some people. In both cases it would be hard to justify his case with numbers. In both cases, though, they created (or more accurately were part of) a legend that will live forever.

I don’t care what anyone else says, the Hall of Fame is a museum. The voting system for the Hall of Fame makes it obvious that the curators also think of the Hall of Fame as a museum. Sportswriters think they own the honor, and they think they have a say about who gets in or not, but honestly they don’t. If the Hall of Fame wants Joe Jackson in, or Pete Rose, or Pete Browning, or Ray Oyler, it’s going to happen. It’s what they do, what they have always done. Access to the Hall’s rolls has always been determined by the needs of the museum. In that context, Maris makes eminant sense. He would be, to baseball’s hall, what Namath is to football’s hall.

Tigerlily

Getting back to Maris… I think Terry’s comparison to Joe Namath is apt. That said, I think there is a better comparison among Maris’ fellow ballplayers. This player is a contemporary of Maris and is also famous for a number. The player is Maury Wills and the number is 104. Rightly or wrongly, Wills and his 1962 base-stealing exploits (104/13) received almost exclusive credit for reviving the running game. Like Maris, Wills was a vital player on several pennant and world series championship squads, and like Maris he played second fiddle to an even bigger star on those teams. I think I’d have about as hard a time writing that 150-page history of baseball book without mentioning Wills as I would in not mentioning Maris. As far as fame, I’m not sure who is or was more famous. I’m not advocating for Wills – I really don’t know if or where he’ll be on my ballot once he becomes eligible. Still, it seems to me that he and Maris have very similar Hall of Fame arguments.

Shinsplint

What do Jim Bruske, Jimmy Burke, John Cattanach, King Kelly, Jack Kramer, Sid Monge, Johnny Schmitz,
and Charlie Sweeney have in common? All played on two eventual pennant winners in one season.

1884 Charlie Sweeney Providence Grays (N.L.) St. Louis Maroons (Union Association)
1884 John Cattanach Providence Grays (N.L.) St. Louis Maroons (Union Association)
1891 King Kelly Boston Reds (American Association) Boston Beaneaters (N.L.)
1901 Jimmy Burke Chicago White Sox (A.L) Pittsburgh Pirates (N.L.)
1951 Jack Kramer New York Giants (N.L.) New York Yankees (A.L.) (did not play postseason)
1952 Johnny Schmitz Brooklyn Dodgers (N.L) New York Yankees (A.L) (also played for Cincinnati that year–
did not play postseason)
1984 Sid Monge San Diego Padres (N.L) Detroit Tigers (A.L) (did not play postseason)
1985 Lonnie Smith St. Louis Cards (N.L) Kansas City Royals (A.L) (Lonnie hit .333 as the Royals beat the Cards)
1998 Jim Bruske San Diego Padres (N.L) New York Yankees (A.L) (did not play postseason)

OK, now back to our regular programming…..Roger Maris, Maury Wills….discuss. Tigerlily has a good point. Maury Wills is at least as memorable as Maris to me. And how could we write a 150 page book without including the two consecutive no-hitters of Johnny Vander Meer or Harvey Haddix’ 12+ inning perfect game or Dock Ellis’ no-no while on LSD?

Terry

I agree, Wills is a terrific comp and a decent GOR candidate. I’d put Maris ahead of him in a couple of ways:

– Homeruns are more important than stolen bases, hence homerun records are more important than stolen base records
– Brock and later Henderson broke Wills’ record, while Maris’ record lasted 3 years longer than Ruth’s record did
– Both suffered from post-fame negative press, but it seems like Wills has suffered more with his cocaine issues and other stuff

Honestly, if I were choosing who was the better player between the two, the more valuable career, I might choose Wills. He had more good years, was more durable, though obviously he was never as valuable as Maris was in 1960-61. For a plaque, though…. I think it’s Maris, but Wills has a good case.

Shinsplint

Maris and Wills are similar in the sense that both had two standout years, while the rest of their careers were not that fame-worthy. Wills had the 104 and 94 SB seasons, while Maris had the two MVP years. I don’t see Maris’ record as particularly more impressive than Wills. Wills broke a 47-yr. old record and Maris broke a 42-yr. old record (assuming Ruth’s record started in 1919). Wills’ record has since been exceeded 6 times, the same number as Maris’ record. Wills’ record was broken 3 times by Vince Coleman, twice by Henderson, and once by Brock. Also, Wills’ 1962 season is still historically great if one looks at SB and CS together. If we were to say that a CS is about twice as bad that a SB is good then here are the
all-time single season leaders (through 2009):

Shown are: year, SB, CS, SB-(2*CS)

1986 107 14 79 Vince Coleman
1962 104 13 78 Maury Wills
1983 108 19 70 Rickey Henderson
1988 093 13 67 Rickey Henderson
1987 109 22 65 Vince Coleman
1983 090 14 62 Tim Raines
1985 080 10 60 Rickey Henderson
1985 110 25 60 Vince Coleman
1980 079 10 59 Willie Wilson
1979 083 12 59 Willie Wilson
1980 097 19 59 Ron LeFlore
1984 075 10 55 Tim Raines
2008 068 07 54 Willy Taveras
1983 077 12 53 Rudy Law
1975 077 12 53 Davey Lopes
1986 070 09 52 Tim Raines
1985 070 09 52 Tim Raines
1992 078 13 52 Marquis Grissom
1974 118 33 52 Lou Brock
1986 087 18 51 Rickey Henderson
1979 078 14 50 Ron LeFlore
1980 100 26 48 Rickey Henderson
1922 051 02 47 Max Carey
1975 067 10 47 Joe Morgan
1969 062 08 46 Bert Campaneris
2009 070 12 46 Jacoby Ellsbury
1982 130 42 46 Rickey Henderson

 

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