The 100% Group

One of my foremost pet peeves regarding Hall of Fame voting (and like anyone else who’s been paying attention, I have many) is the refusal of some writers to vote for any player appearing on the ballot for the fist time. “Babe Ruth didn’t get 100% of the vote,” they say, “so why should this guy?”. Or “Lou Gehrig didn’t get in on the first ballot, so this guy should have to wait?”

What if early Hall of Fame voters hadn’t made these mistakes? What if no one ever missed the deadline to turn in a ballot or made some self-righteous stand or voted based on personal relations, rather than on-field results? What if, from the day the museum opened, voters had a reasonably consistent idea of what the Hall of Fame was and who should be in it?

Most players have somewhat ambiguous Hall of Fame cases. Did Don Drysdale win enough games? Was Harmon Killebrew’s game rounded enough? Did Barry Larkin stand out enough over his positional peers? Some, though, like Ruth and Gehrig, are slam-dunk Hall of Famers, sure to be named on the ballot of every objective voter as soon as their names appear. Let’s look back at Hall voting history and see just how many no-doubters there have been. The goal is not necessarily to create a list of the greatest players ever (that’s been done again and again), but to revisit, based on the standards established at the time, the candidacies of baseball’s great players and view them through a more thoughtful lens.

The first step in this process is to establish a baseline. If some voters think the Hall should only include the best player ever at his position, no one (except maybe Honus Wagner) would get 100% because voters would be split as to who belongs. If everyone thinks the Hall should be stocked with everyone who was above average for ten years, Rusty Staub and Frank Viola would be in the 100% club. If you need a primer on Hall of Fame voting history, check out Joe Posnanski’s predictably brilliant piece. Let’s let early balloting determine our baseline. Please note that years to which I refer are the years in which balloting took place, not induction years.

The Hall elected its first five players in 1936. Each of these legends received 83% or more of the vote, with the pitcher still commonly considered the best ever barely clearing that bar, and leading vote getter Ty Cobb missing from two ballots. I’ve read again and again this week that when vote counters came across their first of 11 ballots without Babe Ruth selected, the committee stopped counting to discuss what justification a voter might have for leaving him off. While several others could have been elected, and may have been worthy of joining the 100% club, let’s start with these five guys, probably the five best ever as of 1936:

Ty Cobb
Babe Ruth
Honus Wagner
Christy Mathewson
Walter Johnson

Keep in mind that the five-year waiting period had yet to be established at this point. Ruth had just hung up his spikes in ’35 and players like Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx, who received some support on this initial ballot, we’re still active at the time of the vote. Going forward, we’ll only look at players who had been retired for five years at the time of our hypothetical vote. Some decisions, though, will be made based on whether another player was in the actual Hall when a 100% club candidate comes up.

The Rest of the 1930s
Rather than simply finding the best players who retired between 1932 and ’34 (making them first eligible in ’37 through ’39), let’s establish a Hall size here by considering the guys who just missed in ’36 and had been retired for five years.

Cy Young probably wasn’t as dominant as Johnson, and maybe falls short of Mathewson, if only because Mathewson got to show off in a bunch of World Series. Still, if we want to name the three best pitchers retired by 1932, don’t we have to include Young?

Unless we go with Johnson, Mathewson, and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Pete’s in too.

Tris Speaker may suffer from comparison to Cobb, the best center fielder of his era, but no other outfielder at this point can match Speaker’s accomplishments (3,514 hits, 132.9 rWAR). Even if one prefers a small Hall, there’s no reason not to vote for the Grey Eagle. He’s in the club.

Two more second basemen got more than a quarter of the vote in 1936. One was elected with Speaker and Young in ’37; the other might still be the best keystone sacker ever. Eddie Collins earned 126.7 career WAR (per baseball-reference, as all WAR totals in this piece will be), more than Gehrig, Ted Williams, or Mickey Mantle. Collins would wait two more years for actual induction, but had a standard beyond “the five best players ever” been established, I see no reason a voter would have omitted him.

I considered drawing the line between Collins and Nap Lajoie, primarily since Nap’s career started before 1900 and we know less about the competition level from that era. However, Lajoie’s career ran mostly parallel to Young’s, and the man had a 150 OPS+ over 21 seasons as a second baseman.

The best position player of Cy Young’s era was either Lajoie or Cap Anson. Lajoie played against scores of eventual Hall of Famers, well into the World Series era. Anson hung up his stockings in 1897. He played for teams called the Colts and the Forest Citys. Despite his 3,435 hits, I think it’s reasonable to question whether he was among the best players of all time through 1932. Let’s draw the line between Lajoie and Anson.

We’ve got ten players in the 100% club so far, and they happen to be the nine players in the actual Hall of Fame as of 1938, when Alexander finally got in, plus Collins. If we assume all players worth considering retired in or after 1911, when Cy Young’s career ended (sorry, Old Hoss Radbourn), we’re looking at 22 years’ worth of players, so just under one player every two years is worthy of the 100% club. Keep in mind that this is not a baseline for a Hall of Famer, but for a no-doubt Hall of Famer. This leaves plenty of room for the Three Finger Browns and Ed Delahantys of the world in the Hall, but assumes that reasonable people may disagree as to whether they were worthy.

Among the obvious Hall of Famers from this era about whom we can find reasons a voter might use to leave them off is the best catcher in major league history to this point, Mickey Cochrane. I think he’s a surefire Hall of Famer, but he accumulated just 51 WAR, the same total as Lance Berkman, in a 13-season career. WAR probably understates his value, but a voter who values longevity may eschew him for a Carlton Fisk type. George Sisler got more votes in 1936 than the still-active Gehrig and Foxx, but his career numbers fall well short of the standard set by those two at first base. Home Run Baker (or possibly Jimmy Collins) was the best third baseman to that point, but neither dominated the hot corner like Wagner dominated short. Wahoo Sam Crawford seems like an easy choice too, but he didn’t offer much on defense and retired before the home run became fashionable, so no counting stat besides his record 309 triples makes him leap off the page.


Now that we’ve instituted the five-year waiting period, players who drew limited support on the initial ballots because they were still building credentials will start to appear on our ballot as finished products. The first two to merit consideration are Rogers Hornsby and Frankie Frisch. You can probably tell from my use of bold font where I fall on this one.

Hornsby retired as probably the second best hitter in baseball history, and he did so as a second baseman. He hit .358/.434/.577 over a 20-year career. The last player to match that slash line for a single season was AL MVP Joe Mauer in 2009. He’s never reached any of those numbers before or since. I’ve heard questions about Hornsby’s defense and leadership, and these questions apparently led 51 voters to leave him off their ballots in ’42, but his offense alone was worth more WAR (123.3) than Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg and Harmon Killebrew were worth combined on both sides of the ball. There’s no reason not to vote for Hornsby.

Frisch was one of the ten best second baseman ever, but the club already has three and his accomplishments pale in comparison to Hornsby’s. He’s not a 100% guy.

Lou Gehrig was elected to the Hall in a special election in 1939, after Gary Cooper gave a speech about a disease he hoped Curt Schilling would shut up about. Or something like that. Five years would have brought us to 1944, at which point there would be no reason not to vote for a guy whose OPS was 78% better than the league throughout his career.

The four pitchers we’ve already named (Johnson, Mathewson, Young, and Alexander) earned gaudy ERAs primarily in the dead ball era, which will help keep them in the Best Pitcher Ever conversation for decades to come. An equally compelling case can be made for Lefty Grove, who retired in 1941 with a 3.06 ERA he earned in the highest scoring era baseball would see until Coors Field and androstenedione. Grove led his league in ERA nine times, in WHIP five times, and in strikeouts in each of the first seven seasons of his career. 73% of voters found a reason not to vote for him in 1946, but I certainly can’t think of one.

At least one player in each of the last three years of the decade has an obvious Hall case that at least borders on a 100% case. Charlie Gehringer was better thank you think he was, but we’re still loaded with second basemen, and if Collins and Hornsby are the standard, it’s reasonable to see Gehringer coming up just short.

Carl Hubbell was as dominant as Lefty Grove in his peak (a 1.66 ERA in 309 innings in 1933), but his peak was shorter and he struck out almost 600 fewer batters than Lefty did, so a longevity voter might leave him out.

Al Simmons’s .344/.380/.535 line screams Hall of Fame, but if Ruth and Cobb are the standard for outfielders and Mel Ott’s career is fresh on the brain, I can see a voter skipping him.

Two more legends who retired in 1945 hit our ballot in 1950. The first, Jimmie Foxx, is an absolute 100% case. In reality, Foxx got just 61.3% of the vote in 1950, but I’m not sure what voters wanted beyond his 534 home runs and 1.038 career OPS. At this point, there was no question Babe Ruth was the best hitter of all time, but Foxx joined the argument with Cobb, Gehrig, and Hornsby as to who was second best. To leave him off a Hall ballot is to completely misread what the Hall of Fame means.

Paul Waner has an interesting case. He has the stats voters love, particularly 3,152 hits and a .333 career batting average. He also walked almost three times as often as he struck out and recorded a .404 on base percentage in his career. As a corner outfielder, his 73.8 WAR rank him behind Sam Crawford and Ed Delahanty, whom we’ve already denied a place in the 100% club, but ahead of Harry Heilmann and Al Simmons, who would both be safely in the Hall by now by the criteria we’ve established. On a modern ballot, I think he gets 100%, but since neither Crawford nor Heilmann nor Simmons was actually in Cooperstown by 1952, let’s assume somebody had a legitimate reason to leave Waner off a ballot. He’s awfully close though.

We could look at Bill Dickey’s case here but since we didn’t give Mickey Cochrane 100% of the vote and Gabby Hartnett hadn’t been inducted yet, some voters may have waited on him.

In 1952, we add three strong candidates. Mel Ott, whose name has surely graced more crossword puzzles than any other baseball player, was actually inducted in 1951, but he batted four times in 1947, delaying his eligibility for this exercise until ’52. With 511 home runs, an OPS+ of 155 (meaning he hit 55% better than the league average throughout his career), and more WAR than any full-time corner outfielder to this point, he’s an easy call for the 100% club.

Depending on what a voter wants from a pitcher, two more candidates may have good cases. Dizzy Dean was a short career guy, but for five years, he was far and away the best pitcher in the National League. In the early ’30s, Dean led the league in strikeouts four straight years and finished first or second in MVP voting three straight times. That said, Dean never led the league in ERA and won just 150 games in a very short career. I think he’s a slam dunk Hall of Famer, but I suppose it’s possible to disagree.

Red Ruffing, on the other hand, pitched for 22 years and won 273 games. He led his league once each in strikeouts and complete games, and won his first six World Series starts. His 3.80 ERA, though, is the worst in the Hall, so again, I can see someone not voting for him. Between these two guys, I think one or the other would show up on nearly every ballot, but let’s leave them both out of our exclusive club.

Next to Honus Wagner, Arky Vaughan was the best shortstop of all time when he retired in 1948, and he’s still in the top five to this day. On the actual ballot in 1953, Vaugan got one vote. He kept showing up on the ballot and kept getting minimal support until the Veterans Committee inducted him in 1985. I see no reason why Vaughan and his 75.6 WAR would be kept out of the Hall of Fame, but mine is apparently a minority opinion.

Luke Appling, another all-time great shortstop, hits our ballot in 1955, but he wasn’t as good as Vaughan, so we can’t put him in the club.

After equivocating over all these candidates, we get our next easy pick in ’56. I have no idea what the 26 voters who didn’t vote for Joe DiMaggio when he hit the real ballot in ’55 were thinking, but he’s the easiest 100% guy in 12 years.

In 1958, Johnny Mize hits our ballot. He wasn’t quite Gehrig or Foxx, but at this point, lesser first basemen like Bill Terry and Dan Brouthers are in, so I don’t see any reason not to vote for a guy who hit .312/.397/.562 over 15 seasons.

This seems like the right time to vote on Negro League players, since the leagues disbanded in the early ’50s, so anyone whose career was entirely or primarily in the Negro Leagues was retired by the end of this decade. We’ve got 16 Major League players in the 100% club so far, so it may follow that we should have four to six Negro League players, but I’m not sure that’s true. Anecdotally, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson (finally, a catcher) are the easy choices. Bill James has suggested that Oscar Charleston was the best player in Negro League history, Buck O’Neil agrees, and that’s enough for me. We could add Smokey Joe Williams or Buck Leonard or Martin Dihigo, but since Negro League results are not as well documented as even 19th century baseball, it’s reasonable to think that, after the top three, voters would have a hard time agreeing on other candidates.

Despite integration, the sixties as a whole are relatively thin on top-flight Hall of Famers entering the ballot for the first time, largely because many players who retired between 1955 and 1964 missed time earlier in their careers due to war, but 1961 saw two prime candidates. I won’t speculate as to why Jackie Robinson was left off of 36 ballots that year, but I might argue that if the Hall of Fame could only have one player in it, it should be Jackie. If you want historical import, he’s your man. If you want a world class athlete, look no further. His may come up short in longevity, for obvious reasons, but he played long enough to accumulate 63.2 WAR (more than Mark McGwire or Shoeless Joe Jackson did in more time), had a .409 career OBP, and won an MVP award. The Hall of Fame is worthless without Jackie Robinson.

The pitcher with the best Hall case since Lefty Grove, if not Walter Johnson, joins Jackie on our ’61 ballot. Bob Feller won 266 games despite missing three prime years to World War II. He led his league seven times in strikeouts, six times in wins, five times in innings pitched, four times in shutouts, three times in complete games, twice in WHIP, and once in ERA. I would not even listen to an argument against his Hall case.

Roy Campanella could ride Robinson’s coattails into the 100% group in ’62. He may have been the best major league catcher of all time when he retired (or at least the best retired one, as Yogi Berra was still active in ’57), and we don’t have a Major League catcher in the group yet. His career was cut short on both ends, though, and to give him bonus points for historical significance is to sell short the sacrifices Robinson made. Campy’s a Hall of Famer, but one voter may disagree.

A third member of those iconic Boys of Summer Dodgers teams, Pee Wee Reese, makes the ballot in ’63. Pee Wee had fame and championships on his side, but he wasn’t better than Arky Vaughan, so he’s out.

The last great candidate of the ’60s may have a better case than Jackie Robinson. Ted Williams can make a case as the greatest hitter who ever lived. In the 17 seasons he spent off the battlefield and at the ballpark, Williams hit a ridiculous .344/.482/.634. If not for two wars, he might have hit 700 home runs. As it is, he hit 521 and walked 2,021 times. Twenty voters left him off their ballots. All of them should have had their voting privileges revoked.

Three years later, Stan Musial hits our ballot, and he’s as easy a choice as Teddy Ballgame. .331/.417/.559, 100%, end of discussion.

We close the chapter on the Boys of Summer with Duke Snider’s candidacy, starting in 1969. While clearly above the minimum standard for a Hall of Famer, Snider was the third best center fielder in New York throughout the fifties, so I can see a few reasonable voters holding him out until the other two guys are in.

At the end of the ’60s, we’ve got 24 men in the 100% group, still just under one player every two years. Sounds good to me.

We get our first Major League catcher in 1970, as Yogi Berra retired in ’65 with 358 homers and about the same number of World Series titles. That same year gives us our eighth pitcher, Warren Spahn, whose 363 wins and 93.4 pitcher WAR both set post-WWII standards, the former of which hasn’t been topped since.

Sandy Koufax retired in 1966, still building a case as the greatest pitcher who ever lived. He led the league in ERA (along with just about every other meaningful category) in each of his last five seasons. He’s a 100% guy.

1972 gives us Whitey Ford, who won 236 regular season games and six more in the World Series, but whose career accomplishments pale in comparison to Koufax and Spahn. Robin Roberts retired in ’66 and compiled some huge numbers, but doesn’t have much on Ford, so we’ll leave him out too.

In 1973, we get a chance to vote on another Yankee who won way too many championships. This time, there is no debate, as Mickey Mantle was the best player in the American League for most of a decade. He’s in. The same year gives us our first third baseman, as Eddie Mathews hit 512 home runs and earned 98.3 WAR to cement his legacy as the best third baseman ever to that point.

In 1976, Ernie Banks glides into the Hall. Banks was a bigger personality and hit far more home runs than Arky Vaughan, but he didn’t have Vaughan’s all-around game. If Vaughan were at least in the Hall by ’76, we could make a case for Banks as a 100% guy, but with Vaughan out, we’re stuck with one shortstop for a few more years.

The next year, we take a look at our first relief pitcher, Hoyt Wilhelm, whose 2.52 ERA was 47% better than his peers, but whose 2,254 career innings leave his candidacy open to debate.

Roberto Clemente was killed in a plane crash in 1972 and was elected to the Hall in a special election the next year. With 83.8 career WAR as a right fielder, Clemente would be among the weaker players in our elite club. However, the Hall itself acknowledged that there was no denying Clemente as a Hall of Famer by holding a special election. Can you imagine if Hall voters had mutinied and refused to vote for Clemente that first year, citing Ruth not getting 100% or Gehrig not getting in on the first ballot? Clemente has to be in the club, which shines light on an evolution in the methodology we’ve used so far.

No matter how well standards for induction were established and communicated early on, most players’ candidacies will be subject to some reasonable debate, typically revolving around comparisons to earlier players. However, as years elapse, more players are voted in, and more players are denied entry, it should become ever clearer what a Hall of Famer looks like. Sam Crawford and Ken Griffey, Jr., may have similar credentials, but when Crawford’s candidacy was debated in the late 1930s, voters could only compare him to Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Tris Speaker and players on the outside like Paul Waner and Harry Hooper. Decades later, with Waner, Hooper, and many lesser outfielders in the Hall, there will be very little debate about Griffey going in. In theory, the 100% club should welcome more new players in each decade than it added the decade before. By 1977, we recognize Roberto Clemente not just as a Hall of Famer, but as an upper crust guy whose contributions far exceeded those of Hall of Famers Elmer Flick and Chick Hafey.

We needn’t ponder this conundrum with the next year’s top candidate. Willie Mays still has a case as the best all-around player ever to play the game of baseball. No stats necessary. ’78’s other superstar, Luis Aparicio, will have to suffer with the other sub-Arky shortstops.

In 1979, we add a Clemente clone in Al Kaline, an extraordinary defensive outfielder who hit 399 home runs and accumulated seven more hits than Clemente’s even 3,000. To let Clemente in the club and leave Kaline out would be to give Clemente a bonus for his heritage or the circumstances surrounding his death. Kaline’s in.

I’d love to add Ron Santo, who will finally join the Hall in 2012, but his unflashy counting stats somewhat reasonably gave several voters pause.

We added eight new players to the club, whose ranks now total 32 going into the ’80s. I think it makes sense that the club is growing faster now for many reasons, including the Clemente conundrum detailed above, racial integration putting a better overall product on the field, and better access to statistics and anecdotal information that helps us compare present players to their past counterparts.

The first three ballots of the ’80s give us three obvious choices and a few reasonable debates. Bob Gibson, perhaps the most intimidating pitcher of all time, a combination of Koufax’s devastating peak and Spahn’s longevity, retired in 1975. Juan Marichal is certainly Hall-worthy as well, but he doesn’t quite measure up to Gibson and the other pitchers in our club.

The following year, 1,141 home runs retired when Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson walked away. Aaron is as easy a pick as we’ve had yet, and Robinson hit .294/.389/.537 for 21 years in a pitcher’s era and is one of just 11 outfielders with more than 100 career WAR.

Perhaps because of the greatness of Aaron and Robinson, Harmon Killebrew may fall just short of the 100% club when he hits our ballot in 1982. Killebrew famously hit 573 home runs, but batted just .256 for his career and accrued fewer WAR than Dwight Evans or Reggie Smith. I can see a level-headed voter leaving him off a ballot. The same goes for Brooks Robinson, perhaps 1982’s best candidate, who was probably the best defensive third baseman of all time, but whose .322 careeer OBP and .401 slugging percentage inspire little awe.

Unless you’re a fan of Lou Brock or Catfish Hunter, you’ll have to wait until 1985 for the next serious candidate, Willie McCovey. Like Killebrew, McCovey cruised past .500 home runs, but with a .270 batting average and fewer career WAR than Kenny Lofton. That leaves him just short. Willie Stargell hits the ballot in ’87 with a better nickname, but even fewer WAR.

1988’s ballot is absolutely loaded, with four candidates worthy of discussion. We’ll start with the easiest one, Johnny Bench, who probably overtakes Berra as the best catcher in baseball history. He’s in, as is Carl Yastrzemski, the last triple crown winner and a guy who walked more than he struck out and hit into double plays combined. Yaz falls just short of Kaline and just ahead of Clemente in career value.

The two best pitchers who retired in 1983 probably fall just short of the 100% group. Gaylord Perry earned more WAR than Spahn, but did so with longevity and spitballs, never leading his league in ERA or strikeouts. Ferguson Jenkins had a similar career, winning 284 games without ever winning an ERA title.

In 1989, we welcome Joe Morgan to the club, celebrating his excellent defense at a key position, 1,865 walks, 81% stolen base success rate, and all the other things he would go on to deny helped teams win in his later career as a broadcaster. 1989’s next best candidate is Jim Palmer, whose three Cy Young Awards and 2.86 career ERA give him a solid case, but whose lower career WAR than Kevin Brown (though we didn’t know that then) leave a sliver of room for doubt.

Rod Carew batted .328 with a .393 on-base percentage over 19 seasons, most of which he spent at second base. That’s enough for me to annoint him the first member of the 100% club to hit the ballot in the 1990s.

In ’91, we welcome the player who’s gotten the highest percentage of voting on the writers’ ballots, Tom Seaver, who convinced all but five voters he was worthy with 311 wins and three ERA titles. Pete Rose also retired in 1986, and was pretty clearly a Hall of Fame player, but since he was never actually on a ballot, I’ll leave him out of this exercise.

Reggie Jackson hits the ballot the next year, and while the actual electorate was mostly convinced, his .262 batting average and career strikeout record might give a sane voter a reason to hesitate.

1993’s top candidate, Steve Carlton, is a no-brainer. More strikeouts than Walter Johnson, more wins than Tom Seaver, more WAR than Joe DiMaggio.

In ’94, we welcome the best third baseman of all-time, Mike Schmidt, just the second third baseman in our group so far. Then the ballot is uninspiring for a few years, until we get four guys worth discussing in 1998.

George Brett is among Schmidt’s top competitors for the top third baseman title, a career .305 hitter who walked more than he struck out and led the league in triples three times. With Schmidt and Eddie Mathews in our club, and lesser third basemen like Fred Lindstrom in the Hall, there’s no reason to keep Brett out. Robin Yount is the first great shortstop to hit the ballot since Arky Vaughan finally got inducted in 1985. I think we’re ready to add a second shortstop to the club, especially if it’s one who compiled 3,142 hits and 76.9 WAR, 1.3 more than Vaughan. There’s no reasonable explanation for leaving Yount off one’s Hall ballot.

The two catchers, after Johnny Bench, with the most career WAR, both hit the ballot the same year. Carlton Fisk authored one of the postseason’s most iconic moments with his Game Six homer in 1975 and stuck around long enough to reach base over 3,000 times, but he never had a 7-WAR season or led the league in any important offensive category. With the exception of an RBI title in 1984, the same can be said about Gary Carter, who enjoyed a stellar nineteen-year career, but may miss a ballot or ten.

In 1999, we review the case of Nolan Ryan, perhaps the most unique pitcher ever to play the game. Ryan’s seven no-hitters and 5,714 strikeouts are records that may never be broken. Of course, so are his 2,795 walks. I considered claiming that those walks might keep a reasonable voter from endorsing his candidacy, but since Ryan, like Seaver, pulled down 98.8% of the actual vote, I should probably reconsider. A Hall of Fame without Nolan Ryan is just a building.

That’s seven new members in the ’90s and 45 total in our club.

The best candidate in the first two years of the 21st century is Ozzie Smith. Almost unquestionably the best defensive shortstop ever, the Wizard sailed into the Hall on his first try, but more discerning voters might want a little more than his 499 career extra base hits.

Eddie Murray may be the ultimate compiler, with over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, but his lack of a 7-WAR season and relative dearth of black ink might rub some voters the wrong way. Paul Molitor, Dennis Eckersley, and Ryne Sandberg were all big stars who may have felt more like Hall of Famers than Murray, but like Murray, none was without peer at his position.

In 2004, Wade Boggs hits the ballot with more WAR than George Brett, more hits than Roberto Clemente, and a higher on-base percentage than Jackie Robinson. I can’t see a baseball reason not to vote for Boggs.

Two years later, we add two more all-time greats, as Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn reach the ballot. Ripken won two MVP awards and didn’t miss a game for 16 years, while Gwynn won eight batting titles, hitting .338 for his career. They’re both in.

In 2008, the greatest leadoff hitter of all time hits the ballot. Rickey Henderson retired with the career records for walks, runs, and stolen bases and compiled more WAR than any position player between Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. If you didn’t vote for Rickey, you weren’t paying attention.

The last 100% guy is a guy who only received 41.7% of the actual ballot in 2010 and may fall short of induction again this year. Jeff Bagwell batted .297/.408/.540 despite playing his home games in the spacious Astrodome, earning more WAR than Carew, Yount, or Gwynn. I won’t say it’s unreasonable for a writer to withhold a vote from a proven steroid user, but to speculate that someone used drugs simply because he hit the ball a long way in the 1990s is beyond irresponsible. If Tony Perez and Eddie Murray are in the Hall, Bagwell is a no-brainer.

If we stop here, we don’t have to make a ruling on Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens or any of the other tainted superstars of the Selig era. We’ve got 50 members in the 100% club, listed here alphabetically:

Hank Aaron
Pete Alexander
Jeff Bagwell
Johnny Bench
Yogi Berra
Wade Boggs
George Brett
Rod Carew
Steve Carlton
Oscar Charleston
Roberto Clemente
Ty Cobb
Eddie Collins
Joe DiMaggio
Bob Feller
Jimmie Foxx
Lou Gehrig
Bob Gibson
Josh Gibson
Lefty Grove
Tony Gwynn
Rickey Henderson
Rogers Hornsby
Walter Johnson
Al Kaline
Sandy Koufax
Nap Lajoie
Mickey Mantle
Eddie Mathews
Christy Mathewson
Willie Mays
Johnny Mize
Joe Morgan
Stan Musial
Mel Ott
Satchel Paige
Cal Ripken
Frank Robinson
Jackie Robinson
Babe Ruth
Nolan Ryan
Mike Schmidt
Tom Seaver
Warren Spahn
Tris Speaker
Honus Wagner
Ted Williams
Carl Yastremski
Cy Young
Robin Yount

Did I miss anybody? Is there anyone here you wouldn’t have voted for?

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7 Responses to The 100% Group

  1. My goodness …. what a thorough review ….. kudos!

  2. JJ says:

    Jim Ed Rice … just ’cause

  3. Pingback: What Jack Morris Would Mean to the Hall of Fame | Replacement Level Baseball Blog

  4. Pretty awesome post, Bryan. That’s a pretty awesome group, too. I might advocate for Mel Ott and Cap Anson, if not for your solid explanations for everyone you left out.

    Probably the most worthy name you didn’t discuss is Kid Nichols, but I guess four pitchers who played prior to the existence of the Hall of Fame is enough.

    • Bryan says:

      Dan, Ott’s in the club. I can see Anson and Nichols in the group too, but I was purposefully cautious about prehistoric guys, since a case can be made that the data we had about them when the Hall opened wasn’t sufficient to consider them historically elite.

      • Oh, thanks. Missing Ott was an oversight on my part, maybe because his name wasn’t bolded the first time he appeared, but it is later. Again, great post.

  5. Pingback: My Hall of Fame Ballot, or How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Process | Replacement Level Baseball Blog

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