12 August 2002

Enos Slaughter died today. He was memorialized in an article posted on ESPN that indicated that his delay in election to the Hall of Fame might have been due to his plotting a player strike if the Major Leagues became integrated in 1947. He denied ever having done this, as well as being a racist, and I do not know the evidence against him in this area, so I cannot speak to it.

However, I do know that
A) some of the writers, probably quite a few, were likely at least somewhat racist themselves, and
2) they never seemed to have any trouble electing racists to the hall before (see: Ty Cobb).

More likely, Slaughter simply wasn't elected for 20 years after he was eligible because he wasn't a clear-cut Hall of Famer. His supporters would say that he hit .300 for his career (so did John Kruk) and that he was on five World Series teams (winning it four times. I imagine that if he had produced similar stats for the St. Louis Browns instead of the Cardinals, there would be a lot less support for him. Frankly, a .300 lifetime average is not that difficult to come by, and Stan the Man was always a better player than Slaughter was. Enos only led the league in RBI once, and never led in any of the percentage stats or power numbers. In an era when many players hit 25-40 homers routinely, Slaughter never smacked 20 in a season. He didn't amass 2400 hits, or 1400 runs or RBI, or have even one truly great season, despite playing in an era when Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Musial, Mays, Mantle, Duke Snyder, Ralph Kiner, Ted Kluszewski, Hank Aaron and others were doing just that. Don't get me wrong: Lots of players would love to have had the career he did. "Country" was a very good player for a long time, but his contemporary writers saw him as just that, and no more, not a HoFer. It was only the Veterans' Committee, with the benefit of 25 years of perspective, that seemed to think he belonged, but then they also thought that Jim Bunning and Phil Rizutto and Larry Doby belonged, so it's tough to take their word for it. I think he was better than that group, but certainly not a lock for the Hall. Enos Slaughter was, in some ways, the Paul O'Neill of his day. They both finished their career with a batting average about 20 points higher than the average, with moderate power (this is a generous assesment in Slaughter's case) and the good fortune to have played on Center Stage five or six times. Comparable career numbers, and average seasons, based on the leagues they played in, though Slaughter spent more seasons on the various statistical leaderboards. But otherwise, very similar. And I doubt that Old Pauly Girl will get much support when it comes his time.

Actually, current players like Fred McGriff and Rafael Palmiero may face similar scrutiny when they come up for election in 6 or 8 years. What do you do if Crime Dog hangs on for a couple more years and finishes his career with 522 dingers? How do you keep a guy out who has more homers than Ted Williams? He's had 9 or 10 seasons with 30+ homers, but never 40. Seven or 8 seasons w/ 100+ RBI, but never 110! Only 2 seasons with 100+ runs! Hit .300+ four times, but never topped .320! We, his contemporaries, know that he was always pretty good, but never great, and therefore should probably not be in the hall of fame, especially as a firstbaseman, even if he ends up with 540 homers, because it's all about perspective. McGriff shouldn't be compared to Jimmy Foxx and Duke Snider and Mickey Mantle. He should be compared to Palmiero, Todd Helton, Frank Thomas, Mo Vaughn (when they were good), Jason Giambi and Jeff Bagwell, his contemporaries. And when you do that, it's hard to justify electing him.

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