42 for 21: My Ballot

Dec 15, 2021 by Adam Darowski

I was honored to be invited to participate in a new project from the 42 for 21 Committee recently. A disproportionately small number of Negro League and Black Baseball players are represented in the Baseball Hall of Fame. This committee aims to rectify that. From the project invitation:

There are several ways of looking at how equitably the Negro Leagues & Black Baseball are represented in Cooperstown. One way is to compare the percentage of Negro Leagues & Black Baseball players in the Hall of Fame who debuted in the Segregated Era to the percentage of African American or Latino players who debuted in the Integrated Era.

Currently, only 17.5 percent of players in the Hall from the Segregated Era come from the Negro Leagues & Black Baseball, while 43 percent of players from the Integrated Era are African American or Latino. That is a huge disparity and shows how much more attention needs to be paid to players from the Negro Leagues & Black Baseball.

This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, starting with this tweet back in August:

Once Black and Latino players were allowed into the American and National League, they dominated. These numbers clearly show that in order to accurately and fairly include the best players of the pre-integration era in Cooperstown, we need to induct many, many more candidates from the Black baseball.

Of course, there’s a huge issue. This era is already overpopulated compared to other eras (particularly the early 20th century). There’s no chance we’d ever see candidates removed from the Hall of Fame (nor should we), so that really leaves us two options:

  1. We induct many more players from the Negro Leagues and Black Baseball so they are more equally represented.
  2. We do nothing and fail to recognize Black stars that were at the same level as White Hall of Famers.

The first option comes with its own issues. If we suddenly induct dozens more players from Black baseball, that means the pre-integration era is even more overpopulated when compared with other eras. If you care about each era being (relatively) similarly represented (as I do), then that means you have to “lower the bar” and allow more players from the modern era in the Hall of Fame.

Honestly, I don’t think that’s an issue as the bar for pre-1950 players is already much lower than that for post-1950 players (post-1970 in particular). If inducting two dozen Negro League players means we need to induct two or three (or even four?) dozen more modern players, then, heck—sign me up. I understand not everyone is that gung ho about adding Hall of Famers. But, if our choice is between celebrating more players or misrepresenting the quality of the Negro Leagues… well, then I’m in favor of opening the doors for more inductions.

The 42 for 21 Committee (which is headed by Gary Gillette, Ted Knorr, and Sean GIbson) held a vote to compile a list of the top 42 deserving candidates outside of the Hall. Their reasoning for the 42 (besides the obvious nod to Jackie Robinson):

Another startling statistic illustrates the point: even if 42 more deserving candidates were to be inducted, it would bring the percentage of Negro Leagues & Black Baseball from the Segregated Era only to about 33% (depending on the mix of players and non-players). That would still be far below the corresponding level of the Integrated Era.

The results of the vote were announced today. Go to their website to see the announcement. Below is my ballot.

As I’ve conducted my Negro Leagues research, I’ve been keeping a list of Hall of Fame candidates sorted into “tiers.” On my 42 for 21 ballot, I voted for all 30 candidates in my “Certainly” and “Probably” tiers. 30 felt like a lot, but it’s still well short of the 42 needed to begin approaching parity.

Here are 11 of the 14 names on my “Certainly” list (my ballot included Buck O’Neil, Bud Fowler, and Minnie Miñoso and all three were elected via the Era Committee process earlier this month).

  1. John Beckwith
  2. Vic Harris
  3. Grant “Home Run” Johnson
  4. Oscar “Heavy” Johnson
  5. Dick Lundy
  6. Dobie Moore
  7. Alejandro Oms
  8. “Cannonball” Dick Redding
  9. George “Tubby” Scales
  10. George Stovey
  11. “Candy Jim” Taylor

16 more names are on my “Probably” list. I’d much rather err on the side of inclusion for these candidates, though I’m not as certain about these candidates as the ones above. I’m still relatively early in my Negro Leagues research, so these opinions can (and will) change over time.

  1. Newt Allen
  2. Sam Bankhead
  3. William Bell
  4. Ed Bolden
  5. Chet Brewer
  6. Bill Byrd
  7. Rap Dixon
  8. John Donaldson
  9. Gus Greenlee
  10. Sammy T. Hughes
  11. Dave Malarcher
  12. Oliver “The Ghost” Marcell
  13. Hurley McNair
  14. Spottswood Poles
  15. C.I. Taylor
  16. Quincy Trouppe

There are still quite a few names on my “Unsure” list that I’m still evaluating, from the famous Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe to short-career stars like Chino Smith and Nip Winters to 19th century pioneers such as Clarence Williams and Harry Buckner.

If you’re curious why Negro League stats are not included on the Hall of Stats yet, I assure you I’m thinking of the best way to handle it. You can get a sneak peek with this thread if you’d like:

Here are the final results of the vote. My choices are in bold.

  1. Dixon, Rap
  2. Redding, Cannonball Dick
  3. Beckwith, John
  4. Donaldson, John
  5. Greenlee, Gus
  6. Lundy, Richard
  7. Harris, Vic
  8. Johnson, Grant
  9. Allen, Newt
  10. Poles, Spottswood
  11. Brewer, Chet
  12. Bolden, Ed
  13. Taylor, C.I.
  14. Scales, George
  15. Taylor, Candy Jim
  16. Oms, Alejandro
  17. Trouppe, Quincy
  18. Moore, Dobie
  19. Byrd, Bill
  20. Stovey, George
  21. Walker, Fleet
  22. Wright, Bill
  23. Marcell, Oliver
  24. Newcombe, Don
  25. Radcliffe, Ted
  26. Malarcher, Dave
  27. Bankhead, Sam
  28. Hughes, Sammy T.
  29. Smith, Chino
  30. Bell, William
  31. Jenkins, Fats
  32. Davis, Piper
  33. DeMoss, Bingo
  34. Winters, Nip
  35. McNair, Hurley
  36. Johnson, Heavy
  37. Jethroe, Sam
  38. Wilson, Artie
  39. Tiant, Luis
  40. Strong, Ted
  41. Dismukes, Dizzy
  42. Pettus, Bill
  43. Petway, Bruce

A lot of agreement. Some things I have to look into, though. I have Heavy Johnson on my “Certainly” list, but his ranking doesn’t reflect that. Please note that the numbering above doesn’t include some ties. Please see the press release for the proper rankings.

Again, I was thrilled to take part in this project. I look forward to seeing what comes next.

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