The Hall of Fame could be getting some new members this weekend, by way of the Contemporary Baseball Era committee. I bet you didn’t know that existed.
Up for election this year are managers Cito Gaston, Dave Johnson, Lou Piniella and Jim Leyland, umpires Joe West and Ed Montague, and executives Hank Peters and Bill White.
The selection process for this competition is a bit quirky. The individuals were chosen for the ballot based on making their biggest impact after 1980, but behind closed doors, the 16-person panel will discuss their entire body of work before and after that date.
In my opinion, it’s a great thing to honor those who dedicated so much of their lives to our sport. Guys like Joe Torre, Jim Kaat and Tim McCarver, for example, great players who went on to another phase of the game and excelled. Can you imagine dedicating 50 years to baseball? An amazing legacy. All of these men did just that and deserve recognition.
Here’s where the voting committee comes in, it’s a tough job. You’re talking about an honor that will change these men’s lives. They range in age from mid-70s to mid-80s. Piniella has been on the ballot before, missing by one vote. Imagine that, one committee member’s vote kept him out of the HOF. Same happened to Dick Allen twice, one vote short.
It takes 75% for election — 12 of the 16. The panel includes several members already enshrined in Coopertown — Torre, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Jeff Bagwell, Tom Glavine, Ted Simmons and Bud Selig — and the announcement is set for Sunday night.
While all of the candidates deserve to be considered for their service to baseball, I’m partial toward one in particular, Davey Johnson. We became teammates in 1977. He was a renowned storyteller who could reach into his career and keep you entertained for hours.
I still remember the time he told me about Joe West kicking him out of a game. They were having a beef over a call, Davey was in the dugout, and Joe ejected him because he could read his lips.
Now, Davey is up for election again. He’s twice been on the ballot as a manager, and both times drew fewer than five votes.
His career as a player was filled with accomplishments. He played with the Orioles during their dominance from 1965 to 1972, went to the World Series four times and won two championships. Three Gold Gloves and four trips to the All-Star Game. That ain’t hay, as they say.
As an Atlanta Brave in 1973, he was Hank Aaron’s protection in the lineup and set a record for home runs by a second baseman, 43, that stood for 48 years. After a couple years in Japan, he returned to play with the Phillies and Cubs before retiring after the 1978 season.
He then agreed to manage an independent league team, the Miami Amigos, a collection of players much like the movie “Major League.” The league folded 72 games into the season.
The Mets hired Davey to manage in their system, and he became the top guy in 1984. He was the first manager to win 90 games in each of his first five seasons, with the highlight being his World Series win in 1986. But he and Mets boss Frank Cashen didn’t get along, and after a 20-22 start in 1990, he was fired. He is the winningest manager in Mets history and a member of the Mets HOF.
He sat out for two years to help with family health issues, then 44 games into the ’93 season, he took over as Reds manager. He led Cincinnati to the NL Central lead before the 1994 strike and in ‘95 won the division title. His differences with owner Marge Schott led to him being replaced after that season. Once again, Davey Johnson proved to be a winning manager.
In ’96, Johnson returned to the Orioles. The year before they had gone 71-73. With Johnson, they went to the AL Championship Series two straight seasons, and he won the first of his two Manager of the Year awards. It seemed if you wanted your team to go to the postseason, hire Davey Johnson.
Later, with the Dodgers, he won his 1,000th game, faster than any manager ever, a mark since broken by Joe Girardi. Following this short stint in LA, his love of the game was expressed by his work away from MLB.
He managed the Netherlands National Team and was bench coach for its 2004 Olympic team. He managed Team USA in the World Cup, was bench coach for the 2006 WBC, managed the 2008 Olympic team, managed the 2009 WBC team. He then managed in the Florida Collegiate Summer League for two seasons.
While doing all of the above, he was a consultant to Jim Bowden of the Washington Nationals. Then became a senior adviser to Mike Rizzo, the current GM. You guessed it, he became Nationals manager during the 2011 season. In 2012, he brought playoff baseball to Washington. It was the third time he led a team to the best record in baseball, the second time he won the Manager of the Year award.
Now almost 81, Davey sits in a rocker on his porch, a unique baseball man who experienced more than maybe any ever. One thing he was not was a “yes” man. He had his differences with ownership in New York, Cincinnati and Baltimore, but nothing stopped him from winning. He was Manager of the Year in both leagues. He won in the majors, the minors, the Olympics, the WBC, collegiate leagues. Give him a team and it won.
He finished 301 games over .500 as a manager and is 10th all-time in winning percentage among those winning at least 1,000 games. The nine managers above him on that list are all in the Hall.
As for that, he has missed the vote before. With utmost respect to Lou Piniella, Cito Gaston and Jim Leyland, all of whom deserve this consideration, Davey Johnson’s devotion to baseball after 1980 at all levels is unmatched. Combine that with his playing career, this should be his year.
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt was a three-time NL MVP. The Philadelphia third baseman hit 548 home runs and led the Phillies to their first World Series championship in 1980.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB