What he did:If baseball awarded the equivalent of Oscars, Pinson would have been a perennial Best Supporting Actor nominee. One of the quintessential role players of the 1960s, Pinson did many things well, hitting for average and power, stealing 305 bases lifetime, and finishing just shy of 3,000 hits. He was never really a star, overshadowed by Cincinnati Reds teammates like Frank Robinson and Pete Rose, though Pinson placed as high as third in MVP voting in 1961 when he led Cincinnati to the World Series. In another era, a fellow blogger told me, Pinson might have been more.
...Why: First of all, count Pinson as another great hitter who may have missed out on the Hall of Fame because his prime years happened to fall in the 1960s. Like Jimmy Wynn, Frank Howard, Bob Watson, and maybe a few others from this decade, Pinson might have had a better shot at Cooperstown had he not peaked at a time that so clearly favored pitchers. As it stands, he went the full 15 years on the writers ballot for the Hall of Fame, and if he’s not a viable Veterans Committee candidate today, he at least rates an honorable mention.
Maybe the ’70s and ’80s weren’t the 1920s or ’30s or late 1990s, able to add 40 batting average points and 50 to 100 home runs to Pinson’s lifetime totals. But it’s likely his .286 batting average and 256 home runs would rise enough in any other time in baseball history since the Deadball Era to get him enshrined. He might not approach Dawson’s 438 home runs, but he’d surely increase his .327 to .323 advantage in on-percentage and have a chance at 3,000 hits (and near-automatic enshrinement.) And one can only wonder how many more bases Pinson would have stolen than Dawson’s 314.