Last month on December 5, five former baseball players received the necessary votes to be a part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. The Hall’s Early Baseball Era Committee, which considers candidates whose primary contributions to baseball came prior to 1950, elected former Negro League players/managers Bud Fowler and John “Buck” O’Neil. The Golden Days Era Committee, which considers candidates whose primary contributions to baseball came between 1950 – 1969, elected former Major League players Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, and Saturnino Orestes “Minnie” Minoso. The induction ceremony will be July 24 at the Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
The other candidates on the Golden Days Era Committee ballot not elected to the Class of 2022 were Dick Allen (who missed by one vote), Ken Boyer, Danny Murtaugh, Maury Wills, Billy Pierce, and Roger Maris.
The names on the Golden Days Era Committee’s ballot brings back memories of the 1964 Major League season. That year, the American and the National League pennant races went down to the last games of the season before a winner emerged. All ten of the candidates on the Golden Days Committee’s ballot were still active in the Major Leagues that season; five in the National League and five in the American League. Two were in their rookie seasons and two were at the end of their careers. One began the growing pains that would lead to being a successful manager, while one had a pause put on his role as a Major League manager. One played on a team in the last year of its dynasty, while another played on a team that would sandwich the season between two World Series championships. One reached the high mark of his career, while for another it would be year six of 25 years in the Major Leagues.
In the National League on September 20th of 1964, the Philadelphia Phillies were in first place leading the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals by six and one-half games. One of the reasons for the Phillies’ success, newcomer third baseman Richie Allen. It would be a few more years before Allen would prefer to be called by the name which his mother and family addressed him; “Dick”. Allen’s .318 Batting Average with 29 HRs and 91 RBI that summer earned him the honor of being 1964 National League Rookie of the Year. Highlights of his 15 years in the Major League include hitting 356 HRs, being a seven-time All Star, and being named 1972 American League Most Valuable Player while with the Chicago White Sox. Despite Allen’s heroics in 1964, the Phillies lost ten straight games beginning September 21 and finished in second place on game behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals clinched the National League pennant by beating the New York Mets 11 – 5 the last game of the season. Third baseman Ken Boyer, at the height of his 15 years Major League career in 1964, led the team. Boyer, a seven-time All Star who would finish with 282 HRs and 1,141 RBI, hit .295 that season with 24 HRs and 119 RBI. Named the 1964 National League Most Valuable Player, Boyer also hit a home run to help the National League win the All-Star Game that season. He is considered one of the best third basemen in the Major Leagues during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The San Francisco Giants were only two games out of first place on October 2, however, the team lost its last two games and finished fourth. It would be the last of the 18 years career for Giants’ lefthanded relief pitcher Billy Pierce (3 – 0, 34 game appearances, forty-nine innings pitched). The six-time All Star lefthanded ace of the Chicago White Sox pitching staff in the 1950s, Pierce won 218 games including 35 shutouts and two 20 game winning seasons. He pitched the first four innings of the White Sox 5 – 3 win against the Kansas City A’s on August 20, 1961; the first Major League game I attended.
The 1963 World Series champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, slipped to sixth place in 1964. Dodgers’ shortstop Maury Wills hit .275 and won the fifth of his six straight National League stolen base titles with 53. The Dodgers would rebound to be World Series champions in 1965.
The Pittsburgh Pirates in 1964 tied with the Dodgers for sixth place. After the season Pirates’ manager Danny Murtaugh retired. He had been the team’s manager since 1957 and led the Pirates to be World Series champions in 1960. Murtaugh came out of retirement for another stint as Pirates’ manager in 1970 and led the team to another World Series championship in 1971.
The candidate needed twelve votes (75%) for election to the Hall of Fame. Dick Allen received eleven while the other four each received less than four. I am surprised that Ken Boyer and Maury Wills did not receive more votes. But that is my generational bias speaking. To me, a 13 years old baseball super fan in 1964, the pennant races that season were the most exciting I had experience.
I will talk about the five other players on the Golden Days Era Committee ballot my next post.