We gave old Corky an awful lot of crap for leaving Rickey Henderson off his ballot, but it turns out there were 27 other Hall voters equally as stupid or forgetful. Henderson was voted in with 94.8% support.
It just goes to show you how hard it is to get into the baseball Hall of Fame. Not only must you have a stellar career, but then you have to rely on a gaggle of dry drunk beat reporters to consider your candidacy for longer than the commercial break during According to Jim.
Take Bert Blyleven, the former Twins pitcher whose career statistics stack up favorably to many pitchers already in the hall, including Don Sutton, Fergie Jenkins, and Tom Seaver. Blyleven is still a few dozen votes shy of the hall with only a few more years of eligibility. One can only assume Blyleven’s biggest fault is not having built a sufficient network of lackeys and media stooges to push his candidacy along.
He’s not the only one, either. I submit that there are plenty of candidates worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, but whose personality quirks — or historical or political enmity — seem to have hindered their candidacies.
Let’s look at some of the major ones:
Billy “Blue Tongue” Samsonite
The case for him: A career .254 hitter over 4 seasons with the Pirates, Samsonite does not at first glance seem like Hall material. But the poor-fielding third baseman broke 17 major league records over his brief career, including eating 67 sticks of blue cotton candy during a double-header with the Dodgers (hence the nickname).
Samsonite, a breakdancing aficionado, also held the major league record for consecutive bellymills on top of the Pirates dugout during a rain delay in 1985.
Why he’s not in the Hall: Six days after the US-led overthrow of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, Samsonite washed up on a beach on Sannibel Island, Florida, with three trash bags full of cocaine spun to resemble cotton candy attached to his belt. Many baseball writers considered this an indication of bad character.
Nixon van Nixon
The case for him: The prominent son of a Mississippi mill owner, van Nixon was an unlikely professional baseball star. He only tallied 92 hits over his 16 year career — and was widely heralded as the slowest runner to ever play pro sports — but baseball purists credit van Nixon for inventing the term “intangibles” when negotiating a contract in 1977. During those negotiations, van Nixon was able to convince the White Sox that what he lacked in actual baseball ability, he more than compensated for with vague attributes such as “grit,” “scrappiness,” and “heart.”
Why he’s not in the Hall: Van Nixon was so skillful at negotiating higher pay that he eventually surpassed the combined total of all sportswriters then working at all 6 Chicago newspapers. In a fit of jealousy, the reporters traded in their favors with the Chicago mafia to blackball van Nixon from Hall of Fame consideration.
The case for him: A French Canadian from eastern Ottowa, LaChauffeur was the first Major League Baseball player born to fur trapper parents in a lean-to. LaChauffeur won 432 games over 14 seasons, which would have easily granted him Hall access under normal circumstances.
Why he’s not in the Hall: Unfortunately Major League Baseball at the time weighed win/loss records according to the exchange rate — giving LaChauffeur only 112 “official” wins. Plus, those reverse sideburns are a crime against all that is good and righteous.