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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Baseball Lost A Team Of Legends This Year

In the span of just a few weeks, not just one but two iconic St. Louis Cardinals died: Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. These were defining members of many Cardinals championship teams as players who stayed within the St. Louis family for decades after their careers ended. They were routinely included in opening day festivities at Busch Stadium, wearing their red jackets.

We lost Tom Seaver, the defining Met. Joe Morgan, perhaps the best second baseman to ever play the game, with the Cincinnati Reds and numerous other teams. Whitey Ford, big game pitcher par excellence for the New York Yankees. Al Kaline: Mr. Tiger. And just Saturday, we lost Phil Neikro, the master of the knuckleball.

That’s seven Hall of Fame players. To put it in perspective, we lost seven Hall of Famers combined from 2016 to 2019: Frank Robinson in 2019; Willie McCovey and Red Schoendienst in 2018; Roy Halladay, Jim Bunning and Bobby Doerr in 2017; and Monte Irvin in 2016.

The last time as many as four Hall of Famers died was 2010, when Ron Santo, Robin Roberts, Bob Feller and Sparky Anderson all passed — though Anderson had earned induction as a manager, not a player. Most years since the turn of the century, it’s one or two Hall of Famers; in 2004 and 2008, it was none.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 30, 2020 at 01:37 PM | 37 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, obituaries

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   1. Rennie's Tenet Posted: December 30, 2020 at 02:38 PM (#5996648)
Overall, BB-Ref has 110 "Batter" deaths* recorded so far this year (may be a few reported after the year ends), up from 97 last year and 98 in 2018. There were 102 in 2011. Just poking around, there were some really big numbers recorded: 122 in 1968, 142 in 1969, 140 in 1970, before dropping off to 102 in 1971. Hard to believe that's the Federal League just dying off en masse.

*This is listed as "Batters," but I think includes pitchers who never had a plate appearance?
   2. Rally Posted: December 30, 2020 at 03:27 PM (#5996661)
First HOF class I remember watching was Hank Aaron's 1982.

Only 3 players who were HOFers on that day are still alive:

Aaron, Mays, and Koufax
   3. Walt Davis Posted: December 30, 2020 at 03:56 PM (#5996674)
As I noted in the Niekro thread, a player who debuted at the start of the expansion era would now be 80 or older; those in the 2nd wave 70+. More teams of course means more players making an ML debut, more players having long careers, etc. so more player deaths, more notable deaths. It doesn't necessarily mean more HoFers but the early post-expansion era did produce a large number of them. Similar to societal trends -- the oldest boomers are now 73.

#2: That was 38 years ago and, with a few exceptions (some related to an early death), you don't become a HoFer before age 42 and usually a good bit older. It's depressing but not surprising.
   4. DL from MN Posted: December 30, 2020 at 04:04 PM (#5996677)
Lou Brock is the only one of those not in the Hall of Merit. However, Jimmy Wynn and Dick Allen are both HoM electees.
   5. DL from MN Posted: December 30, 2020 at 04:07 PM (#5996679)
Tommy Lasorda's been in the hospital since November. I hope he gets to go home soon.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: December 30, 2020 at 04:08 PM (#5996680)
It's not so much that time flies, more that it fades slowly from memory. I was a genuine adult human being in 1982, it can't possibly have been that long ago. I bought Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom that summer, I was trying to get Heidi interested in me (nope, just friends), I played very badly in the US Open Chess tournie that summer (it's an open tournament, anybody can play as long as they pay).
   7. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: December 30, 2020 at 08:28 PM (#5996782)
The following HOF players are 80+ (I believe this is the whole list):

Mays (1931)
Aaron (1934)
Aparicio (1934)
Koufax (1935)
Mazeroski (1936)
Cepeda (1937)
Marichal (1937)
Brooks Robinson (1937)
G. Perry (1938)
Billy Williams (1938)
Yastrzemski (1939)

Koufax must have the record for the longest time alive as a "Hall of Famer", right?

Heck of an All-Star team of living HOFers 80 or older:

1B - Billy Williams
2B - Mazeroski
SS - Aparicio
3B - Brooksie
OF - Aaron, Mays, Yaz
DH - Cepeda
SP - Koufax, Perry
We'd need a catcher. The oldest HOF catchers still alive were both born in 1947, and they're pretty awesome: Bench and Fisk.

Good luck getting a ground ball through that infield...or a fly ball over the CF's head...or a base hit if you are left-handed...that's a pretty special group of 10 players left who are 80+.
   8. "bothsidesism" word 57i66135 Posted: December 30, 2020 at 08:36 PM (#5996786)
the year's not over yet.
   9. Howie Menckel Posted: December 30, 2020 at 09:09 PM (#5996799)
If someone bought the original 1952 Topps 407-card baseball card set as a kid, and all this time kept adjusting his cards so that those who have passed away are removed...

I believe that old-timer would only have two cards left in the "living" pile - Eddie Robinson and Willie Mays.

who knows what happened to the second guy, but Robinson - who just turned 100 - recently started recording a regular podcast about his baseball memories
   10. Cooper Nielson Posted: December 31, 2020 at 03:28 AM (#5996851)
the year's not over yet.

Exactly. Posting this article when there are still days/minutes left in the year seems to be tempting fate. 2020 might decide it needs a better catcher and first baseman, and *poof*, Johnny Bench and Miguel Cabrera have a head-on collision on their way to a New Year's Eve party in the Bahamas.

My goodness, that's a strong rotation. Whitey Ford as the #4 starter?!?
   11. cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: December 31, 2020 at 04:48 AM (#5996858)
Posting this article when there are still days/minutes left in the year seems to be tempting fate.
Agreed, it's unwise to tempt fate here but there are more bones to pick with Cy Young Award assessment pieces in mid August.
   12. cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: December 31, 2020 at 06:26 AM (#5996863)
Also, Tina Louise is the final living castaway.
   13. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: December 31, 2020 at 10:22 AM (#5996869)
Koufax must have the record for the longest time alive as a "Hall of Famer", right?

Bob Feller was inducted in 1962 and died on December 15, 2010 (48+ years). Koufax was inducted in 1972, so depending on when exactly the induction dates were in 1962 and 1972, he either just passed Feller or should pass him very soon.
   14. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: December 31, 2020 at 10:43 AM (#5996875)
Ok, I checked the induction dates. 1972 was 15 days later than 1962 so Koufax just passed Feller today!
   15. Rennie's Tenet Posted: December 31, 2020 at 08:02 PM (#5996946)
Does anyone know how many living major leaguers there are, former and current? BB-Ref has debut dates for 19,902 players. They have deaths by year, but no way to sum them for all years. Even if you could sum them, it would be dependent on deaths being recorded. The union website just says 1200 players are represented, but not how many receive benefits. Is there an estimate?
   16. Mefisto Posted: December 31, 2020 at 09:22 PM (#5996956)
The amazing thing about that list of HOF players over 80 is that 4 of the 11 played for the Giants in 1964/5, along with Willie McCovey, and that team failed to win a pennant. Just how bad do the other players have to be for a team with *5* legit HOF'ers to fail to win a pennant?
   17. Ron J Posted: December 31, 2020 at 10:37 PM (#5996958)
#16 They had some other useful pieces too. You can do worse that Tom Haller at catcher. Jim Ray Hart hit. (And was generally regarded as worse than Dick Allen at third)

The main contributor to the run of no pennants with all that frontline talent (because the core stayed together for a while) is Hal Lanier.

That said, he was not horrendous in 1964. Jose Pagan picked up the slack (Schofield and Pagan were worse in 1965 which is impressive). Jesus Alou hit for a very empty average (he was a fair amount better in 1965).

They usually had two real open wounds in the lineup as well as often a less than stellar back half of the pitching staff.

Like the (prime) Mathews/Spahn/Aaron braves it's a team that could have cruised to multiple (more in the case of the Braves) pennants with an honest look at the talent.

Pretty much giving away an awful lot of talent didn't help. Lindy McDaniel was a pretty good reliever but Bill Hands and Randy Hundley should have got them more. They got essentially nothing for Matty Alou. And Ray Sadecki wasn't much of a haul for Orlando Cepeda.

Bill James commented on this in one of the Abstracts. His take was that they were so good at finding talent and refining that talent that they just didn't evaluate what they had properly. Doesn't hurt to give away a guy who turns into an all-star because first of all he wasn't Willie Mays (the standard they seemingly judged everybody by) and second, there's more where he came from.
   18. The Duke Posted: December 31, 2020 at 11:00 PM (#5996960)
12. I guess it really was Ginger, not Mary Ann
   19. VCar Posted: January 01, 2021 at 01:04 PM (#5996985)
I'll turn Mefisto's question into trivia. 1 team had 7 legit HOF'ers on their team back-2-back years and didn't win a pennant either year. There were actually a total of 8 HOF'ers between the 2 seasons, since 1 guy left and another joined. Name the team and the 8 HOF'ers.
   20. AndrewJ Posted: January 01, 2021 at 01:27 PM (#5996990)
19>> The 1927-28 Philadelphia A's. Can't name all the HOFers, though.

That’s seven Hall of Fame players. To put it in perspective, we lost seven Hall of Famers combined from 2016 to 2019:


To put it into even more perspective, only three of the seven HOFers who died in 2016-19 were voted in by the writers. All seven HOFers we lost in 2020 were BBWAA selections
   21. Ron J Posted: January 01, 2021 at 01:37 PM (#5996991)
#20 Cobb, Speaker, Grove, Foxx, Simmons, Cochrane, Collins (These I knew)

Had to look up the last one. I thought it would be a pitcher but no. Another old OF. Zack Wheat.

EDIT: Of course it's not exactly prime HOFers we're talking about. Obviously Cobb, Speaker, Collins and Wheat were well past their prime. Foxx wasn't yet Foxx (Joe Hauser was pretty good though)
   22. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 01, 2021 at 04:09 PM (#5997010)
Up at #15, I was asking if anyone knows how many living major leaguers there are. BB-Ref seems to have records for "19,902 MLB Players." I looked at an older version of the Lahman database, and at BB-Ref for the last few years, and I came up with about 10,100 players who were born after 1920 and don't have a death date listed.
I don't know how good of a number that is. One thing I'm sure of is that some guys born after 1920 would have died without it being reported, but I don't know whether that number's 100 or 1,000. Also, it feels like 10,100 guys between 20 and 100 should produce more than 110 deaths in a year.
   23. vortex of dissipation Posted: January 01, 2021 at 05:58 PM (#5997022)
Obviously Cobb, Speaker, Collins and Wheat were well past their prime.


Wouldn't deny that. But in 1927, Cobb, at age 40, still hit .357, fifth highest average in the league...
   24. vortex of dissipation Posted: January 01, 2021 at 06:09 PM (#5997024)
1933 Pittsburgh Crawfords had Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson, Jud Wilson, and Biz Mackey (although the last two were for only one game each according to seamheads.com).
   25. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 01, 2021 at 08:33 PM (#5997039)
#22, Stathead says their database has 19,063 players in it and 9,698 are deceased. This is the batting database but I believe it includes pitchers even if they never had a PA. So I think your answer is 9,365 living MLB players.
   26. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 01, 2021 at 10:10 PM (#5997060)
Thank you! It's odd that BB-Ref would start with 19,902 players and Stathead 19,063. Close enough, though.
   27. Walt Davis Posted: January 01, 2021 at 10:51 PM (#5997069)
#26 ... I can't say for sure but that may be pitchers without PAs who fell through the cracks. I don't know what b-r does if a player is on a roster but never plays but not sure there are that many of those anyway.

I'm not sure how to track down why but, for 2020, the b-r main MLB stats page has 1,291 "batters" and 735 "pitchers" (some of whom might have been position players) but the basic Stathead batting page gives just 618, only 37 with no PAs. The basic pitching page agrees on 735 pitchers (all with at least one BF).

That may just be some sort of temporary error but 2019 doesn't quite agree: 1,410 "batters" at b-r; 1,287 at stathead but at least we are now up to 297 with no PA (probably still not enough but closer than 37 in a dual-DH league even if it was 40% of a season). So first guess is there is some different criterion about how a pitcher with 0 PAs gets to be a "batter." Then if you're looking over time, as long as that pitcher qualified as a "stathead batter" at some point in their career, they'd be in the global stathead database. So probably 839 pitchers who never qualified as a "stathead batter" but did as a "b-r batter" ... and possibly there are some pitchers that didn't qualify as a "batter" in either database.
   28. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 02, 2021 at 08:20 AM (#5997084)
It’s possible that Stathead batting database includes pitchers who appeared in a batting lineup even if they never had a PA (I.e. an NL reliever who never came to bat), but not pitchers who never even appeared in the lineup (I.e. a pitcher who only pitched in games with the DH). I don’t really know how to give you a better number, however—presumably some of the pitchers who only appear in the pitching database are also deceased and aren’t included in the 9,698 deceased I have you earlier. So you can’t just subtract 9,698 from 19,902 to get 10,304. But the answer is probably somewhere between 9,365 (the answer I gave earlier) and 10,304.
   29. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 02, 2021 at 10:15 PM (#5997177)
If someone bought the original 1952 Topps 407-card baseball card set as a kid, and all this time kept adjusting his cards so that those who have passed away are removed...

I believe that old-timer would only have two cards left in the "living" pile - Eddie Robinson and Willie Mays.


I've got the repro set, and there are 8 more who are still with us:

Carl Erskine
Bobby Shantz
Cloyd Boyer
Charlie Maxwell
Wayne Terwilliger
Bobby Morgan
Johnny Groth
Bob Kelly

Bobby Brown would've made it, but he was drafted early in the 1952 season and never got a Topps card that year.

who knows what happened to the second guy, but Robinson - who just turned 100 - recently started recording a regular podcast about his baseball memories

What a great find! That makes up for consigning 8 players to early graves.....
   30. Howie Menckel Posted: January 02, 2021 at 11:13 PM (#5997182)

Bobby Brown would've made it, but he was drafted early in the 1952 season and never got a Topps card that year.

wait, wouldn't that have meant he wouldn't have gotten a 1953 card? [update, he is in the 1952 set]

What a great find! That makes up for consigning 8 players to early graves.....

heh, however many there were
:)

buddy of mine of a certain age was a Terwilliger fan for reasons he says he still can't explain...
   31. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 02, 2021 at 11:21 PM (#5997183)
I compared the lists of BB-Ref pitching and batting deaths for 1975, 1980,1990, 2000, 2010, and 2018-20. Everyone on the pitching lists was on the batting lists.

George Spriggs got added to the list of 2020 deaths, at age 83. He died on December 22. Another outfielder from the Pirate system in the 60s, he was a teammate of both Al and Bob Oliver at Columbus in different years. Spriggs signed with the Pirates in 1963, and was one of the last players to move from a Negro League team (Detroit Stars) to a National or American League organization.
   32. EddieA Posted: January 02, 2021 at 11:26 PM (#5997184)
I've got the repro set, and there are 8 more who are still with us:

Carl Erskine
Bobby Shantz
Cloyd Boyer
Charlie Maxwell
Wayne Terwilliger
Bobby Morgan
Johnny Groth
Bob Kelly


Guess that makes Bobby Shantz the oldest MVP, coincidentally 1952.
   33. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 03, 2021 at 08:25 AM (#5997201)
Bobby Brown would've made it, but he was drafted early in the 1952 season and never got a Topps card that year.


wait, wouldn't that have meant he wouldn't have gotten a 1953 card? [update, he is in the 1952 set]


Maybe Brown is included in some newly released "improved" set, but you can't find his name on the original set's checklist.

buddy of mine of a certain age was a Terwilliger fan for reasons he says he still can't explain...

I'd thought Terwilliger had played in the first MLB game I ever went to (May 7, 1952), but it turns out he spent that year in St. Paul.
   34. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 03, 2021 at 09:43 AM (#5997208)
I compared the lists of BB-Ref pitching and batting deaths for 1975, 1980,1990, 2000, 2010, and 2018-20. Everyone on the pitching lists was on the batting lists.


It seems somewhat random which pitchers appear in the batting database and which don’t (if they have zero career PA), but I think I have figured it out.

For example, Stan Thomas pitched only in the AL during the DH era, before interleague play, and has no batting stats page on BB-Ref. I assume he’s not in the Stathead batting database.

However, his Yankees teammate Ed Figueroa also had no career PA, but he is listed as having two Games Played as a batter and is presumably in the batting database. One of those games was this one. Thurmon Munson was removed for pinch hitter George Zeber, and DH Cliff Johnson was moved into the field at catcher. However, because Johnson moved from DH, for some reason the PBP shows Zeber replacing Figueroa in the lineup rather than Munson. So Figueroa gets a game as a batter, even though he had no batting line.

If you’re looking for the number of living players and you only use the batting database, you will miss guys like Stan Thomas. But if you simply add the pitching and batting databases, you will doublecount guys like Figueroa (and any pitcher who had a PA).

I think the closest solution is to add the pitching and batting databases, but then remove guys in the batting database who played at least one game as a pitcher.

So: we know that there are 19,902 total players on bb-Ref.

There are now 9,699 deceased players in the batting Db, and 4,389 deceased players in the pitching Db. But 4,358 deceased batters appeared at pitcher in at least one game, so presumably those are doublecounted. So I think there are 9,699 + 4,389 - 4,358 = 9,730 deceased players, and 19,902 - 9,730 = 10,172 living players. Assuming BB-Ref accurately tracks when players have passed away.

Your original tally of 10,100 was pretty close!
   35. flournoy Posted: January 03, 2021 at 12:00 PM (#5997223)
It seems somewhat random which pitchers appear in the batting database and which don’t (if they have zero career PA), but I think I have figured it out.


Yes, you do. Look at the 2020 Braves, for example. Mark Melancon is shown on the batting stats list with one game played and everything else zeros, while the other pitchers are shown with zero games played and everything else blank. That's because Melancon appeared in the batting lineup in a game where the Braves moved the DH onto the field. The other pitchers wouldn't have entries in many batting databases based on 2020.
   36. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 03, 2021 at 12:19 PM (#5997228)
"Assuming BB-Ref accurately tracks when players have passed away."

Thanks for reviewing! I re-checked it on the most recent Lahman database, and came out at about 10,300. There were about 50 players who were born before 1920 who had no death date, so I presumed them dead.
   37. Moeball Posted: January 04, 2021 at 06:21 PM (#5997419)
Although the records vary a bit from source to source, I just treat it as approximately 20,000 major leaguers in history. This is useful in HOF analysis. Top 1% of players all time? That would be 200 players. I think that's about right for the HOF. I guess I'm a little smaller Hall than the actual HOF but I think 200 players is reasonable.

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