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Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Scandal

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Most baseball fans are aware of the scandals involving "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, and most recently, steroids. However, few casual baseball fans are aware of the Hall of Fame voting scandal that involved Hall of Fame second baseman Frankie Frisch. Frisch is a no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer with a lifetime batting average of .316, 2,880 hits, four World Series rings, and the 1931 MVP. He ended his career in 1937 and was inducted in 1947. However, it is what he did after his playing career that he seems to be most remember for.

After his playing and managing years, Frisch became chairman of the very powerful Baseball Hall of Fame Veteran's Committee. This committee's responsibility was to elect players to the Baseball Hall of Fame who may have been overlooked during the initial balloting by the Baseball Writers and were no longer eligible for induction. This committee tended to favor "old-time players" who played during what they believed was the most difficult era in baseball. During his tenure as chairman, many of Frisch's former Giants and Cardinals teammates, the majority of which had been retired for over 40 years, were elected to the Hall of Fame by this committee. These inductions are among the most widely criticized inductions made by the Veteran's Committee. The player's inducted during Frisch's reign that draw the most attention by critics are Jesse Haines, Dave Bancroft, Chick Hafey, Rube Marquard, Ross Youngs, and George Kelly. These players, known as "Frisch's Friends", were all inducted between 1970 and 1973. There's a saying in baseball that says, "Stats don't lie." After comparing these players statistics to other Hall of Famers, one can clearly see that they do not have the accomplishments that warrant Hall of Fame induction.

Jesse Haines, a teammate of Frankie's with the St. Louis Cardinals, has a career record of 210-158, with a 3.64 career ERA, and a measly 981 strikeouts. While his 210 career wins are comparable with other Hall of Famer pitchers, his win percentage, ERA, and strikeout totals make him an average pitcher, not a Hall of Famer.

Dave Bancroft was a teammate of Frisch's at the end of his career with the New York Giants. Bancroft finished his career with a mediocre batting average of .279 and never hit more than seven homeruns in a season or batted in more than 67 runs. He was inducted in 1971, 41 years after playing his final game and just one year before his death.

Chick Hafey has one of the best arguments for being a Hall of Famer among those mentioned by critics because his career was cut short due to a sinus condition. Hafey ended his career with 164 homeruns and a lifetime batting average of .317 despite missing most of the 1935 season, and all of the 1936 season before retiring in 1937.

Rube Marquard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971, 46 years after playing his final game. Marquard had a lifetime record of 201-177 and an ERA of 3.08. He has the worst win/loss percentage among Hall of Famer pitchers having only 24 more wins than losses. He is described by Baseball Hall of Fame critic Bill James as, "probably the worst starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame."

Ross Youngs is another example of a player whose career was cut short and because of this does not have the numbers that match up to other Hall of Famers. Youngs finished his career in 1926 with a career batting average of .322, but only 592 RBI's and 812 runs scored, both the lowest amongst all Hall of Famers. Youngs died one year later due to a kidney disorder. Youngs played his entire career with the New York Giants and was most likely a sympathetic induction by the Veteran's Committee.

Lastly, is first baseman George Kelly. Kelly has a respectable lifetime batting average .297, 148 career homeruns, and 1,020 RBI's. While these numbers are good, they by no means show that Kelly is a Hall of Fame baseball player.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is an honor that is reserved for the best players in the history of the game. While there will always players who are "borderline" Hall of Famers, I believe it is very clear that these particular players were elected not because of their performance on the field, but because they had a friend with the power to induct them. Many people make the argument that it is impossible to compare the accomplishments of players in one era to those of players in a totally different era. While this is a valid argument, every era has its good players that are just not good enough of exceptional enough for Hall of Fame induction. If every decent or good player were inducted into the Hall of Fame it would take away from the honor and mystique of being elected into the Hall of Fame.

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