Getting one vote for the Hall of Fame

Last year, Benito Santiago and Bret Boone made their first and only appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America. Neither man came close to the 75 percent of the vote needed from the writers for enshrinement, which shouldn’t have come as any surprise, really. Santiago and Boone collectively boasted about 3,600 hits and a .265 lifetime batting average, and there were rumors that each used steroids.

They at least fared better on the Cooperstown ballot than Raul Mondesi and Carlos Baerga, among others who went voteless. And in the process, Boone and Santiago joined an interesting club, ballplayers who’ve received one vote for the Hall of Fame.

Since 1964, 115 baseball players have received one vote in a year from the BBWAA for the Hall of Fame. Prior to this, in the years leading back to the initial election for Cooperstown in 1936, the results were wilder, with an average of 27 players each year getting one vote. A number of these earlier players have since been enshrined, including Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto and Warren Spahn who received lone votes in the days when active players sometimes got nods for Cooperstown.

For a time during the early days of Hall of Fame voting in fact, all players were eligible, even active ones, which explains DiMaggio’s single vote in 1945. The overall voting process isn’t the most rational of things looking back on it, but then, Hall of Fame voting sometimes isn’t. I don’t know if it needs to always be, given the abstract, subjective nature of Cooperstown. It’s a museum, after all, that memorializes fame.

I write often about the Hall of Fame on my Website, and I’m currently conducting a project having people vote on the 50 best baseball players who aren’t enshrined (voting runs through Dec. 1, and please feel free to email me at
for a ballot.) Baseball may have one of the more restrictive Halls of Fame in all of professional sports, and as such, many notable players have fallen short in the voting over the years. I've written before about one-and-dones like Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker who received less than five percent of the vote in a year and were thus excluded from future BBWAA ballots.

I've also written a couple of times about players who didn't receive any votes, a club which includes Vern Stephens, Hal Trosky and Jimmy Wynn. The list of players who got one vote is no less noteworthy.

Fifty-nine eventual Hall of Famers received one vote in a year from the BBWAA for Cooperstown, all of this coming in the 20 main elections writers conducted from 1936 through 1962. The reason such a list exists is forgivable: In the early days of Hall of Fame voting, the ballot sometimes teemed with dozens of future honorees. All the same, it doesn't completely explain forgotten non-members like Babe Adams, Hank Gowdy and Johnny Kling sometimes trouncing scores of future Hall of Famers in the voting.

Gowdy was the first baseball player to enlist in World War I and later served in World War II as a chaplain. That's commendable, but it doesn't justify him receiving more votes than 26 future Hall of Famers in 1955, including Earle Combs, Joe Gordon and Joe Sewell, who got one vote apiece.

The 59 Hall of Famers who comprise this club, with the year or years they received a single vote, and their eventual year of enshrinement, are:

{exp:list_maker} Addie Joss: 1960 (enshrined 1978, Veterans Committee)
Al Lopez: 1949, 1956 (enshrined 1977, VC)
Al Simmons: 1946 (enshrined 1953, BBWAA)
Amos Rusie: 1937, 1942, 1945 (enshrined 1977, VC)
Arky Vaughan: 1953 (enshrined 1985, VC)
Bill McKechnie: 1950 (enshrined 1962, VC)
Billy Hamilton: 1942 (enshrined 1961, VC)
Billy Herman: 1948 (enshrined 1975, VC)
Billy Southworth: 1945, 1950, 1952 (enshrined 2008, VC)
Bobby Wallace: 1937 (enshrined 1953, VC)
Bucky Harris: 1938, 1939 (enshrined 1975, VC)
Burleigh Grimes: 1937, 1938, 1939 (enshrined 1964, VC)
Casey Stengel: 1948 (enshrined 1966, VC)
Charlie Gehringer: 1936 (enshrined 1949, BBWAA)
Chick Hafey: 1948, 1951, 1952 (enshrined 1971, VC)
Connie Mack: 1936 (enshrined 1937, Centennial Committee)
Dave Bancroft: 1939, 1946 (enshrined 1971, VC)
Dazzy Vance: 1936 (enshrined 1955, BBWAA)
Earl Averill: 1949 (enshrined 1975, VC)
Earle Combs: 1945, 1952, 1955 (enshrined 1970, VC)
Edd Roush: 1942 (enshrined 1962, VC)
Elmer Flick: 1938 (enshrined 1963, VC)
Eppa Rixey: 1937, 1945 (enshrined 1963, VC)
Fred Clarke: 1936 (enshrined 1946, OTC)
Freddie Lindstrom: 1949 (enshrined 1976, VC)
Gabby Hartnett: 1936 (enshrined 1955, BBWAA)
Goose Goslin: 1948, 1954 (enshrined 1968, VC)
Hack Wilson: 1937, 1939, 1942 (enshrined 1979, VC)
Heinie Manush: 1948, 1949 (enshrined 1964, VC)
High Pockets Kelly: 1947, 1949, 1962 (enshrined 1973, VC)
Frank "Home Run" Baker: 1936 (enshrined 1955, VC)
Jack Chesbro: 1937, 1946 (enshrined 1946 OTC)
Jake Beckley: 1942 (enshrined 1971, VC)
Jesse Burkett: 1937 (enshrined 1946, OTC)
Jesse Haines: 1939, 1947 (enshrined 1970, VC)
Joe DiMaggio: 1945 (enshrined 1955, BBWAA)
Joe Gordon: 1945, 1955 (enshrined 2009, VC)
Joe Kelley: 1939, 1942 (enshrined 1971, VC)
Joe McCarthy: 1951, 1953 (enshrined 1957, VC)
Joe Medwick: 1948 (enshrined 1968, VC)
Joe Sewell: 1937, 1948, 1954, 1955, 1958 (enshrined 1977, VC)
John Clarkson: 1946 (enshrined 1963, VC)
Kid Nichols: 1946 (enshrined 1949, OTC)
Lefty Gomez: 1947 (enshrined 1972, VC)
Leo Durocher: 1948, 1949, 1952, 1956, 1962 (enshrined 1994, VC)
Lloyd Waner: 1950, 1951 (enshrined 1967, VC)
Max Carey: 1945 (enshrined 1961, VC)
Phil Rizzuto: 1956 (enshrined 1994, VC)
Red Faber: 1938, 1942 (enshrined 1964, VC)
Rick Ferrell: 1956, 1958, 1960 (enshrined 1984, VC)
Rube Marquard: 1936 (enshrined 1971, VC)
Sam Crawford: 1936 (enshrined 1957, VC)
Sam Rice: 1938, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952 (enshrined 1963, VC)
Satchel Paige: 1951 (enshrined 1971, Negro League Committee)
Stan Coveleski: 1938, 1950 (enshrined 1969, VC)
Tony Lazzeri: 1945, 1947 (enshrined 1991, VC)
Travis Jackson: 1952, 1954, 1962 (enshrined 1982, VC)
Waite Hoyt: 1939, 1942, 1946 (enshrined 1969, VC)
Warren Spahn: 1958 (enshrined 1973, BBWAA) {/exp:list_maker}
Voting-related sound and fury began to die down in the 1960s, with more and more older players having been enshrined by the Veterans and Old Timers committees and new rules modernizing the ballot, making it so that a screening committee picked out a smaller number of names each year. That still has left hundreds of additional players throughout baseball history who received a single vote for the Hall of Fame from the BBWAA at least once but haven't been enshrined.

Some of these men have names that pass by the eyes of even the most ardent of baseball researchers like ships in the night. I'd have never heard of Bob Kuzava had he not appeared on the 1964 ballot and somehow gotten a vote despite a 49-44 lifetime record and 4.05 ERA. Other players in this group, though, are more notable.

Denny McLain won 31 games, American League Most Valuable Player, and the Cy Young Award in 1968 and earned a single Hall of Fame vote in his first appearance on the ballot a decade later, courtesy of an all-time epic flameout in between which had him gone from the majors before his 30th birthday. McLain appeared twice more on the ballot, in the years before the one-and-done rule came into effect, earning three votes in 1979 and another two in 1985. He still has his Hall of Fame supporters.

So do Rocky Colavito, who received one vote in 1975 and Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat, who got one vote in 1968 and 1970, respectively and, with Allie Reynolds, comprised a famed pitching triumvirate for the New York Yankee dynasty of the late 1940s and early '50s.

Like McLain, fellow All Stars Colavito, Lopat and Raschi all made subsequent appearances on the Hall of Fame ballot, and Raschi even jumped to 37 votes, about 10 percent of the electorate in his final year of eligibility with the writers in 1975. Since the mid-1980s, though, getting less than five percent of the vote from the BBWAA has relegated a player to consideration solely from the Veterans Committee, and for a time, it disqualified him for perpetuity. As such, the list of possible snubs for Cooperstown has dwindled significantly.

David Segui is no one's Hall of Famer, nor is Steve Bedrosian even if he helped the San Francisco Giants win the National League pennant in 1989. They each got a lone vote for the Hall of Fame. So did former Philadelphia Phillies catcher Darren Daulton, whose vote in the 2003 election may have been the best thing that happened to him that year, seeing as he got arrested for his second DUI less than a week before voting results were announced.

Occasionally, though, old stars join the one-vote club. Cecil Fielder did so in 2004, his 51 home run, AL MVP season in 1990 but a distant memory. Terry Pendleton and Jeff Burroughs had MVP seasons, too, years before they got the one-vote treatment, and Johnny Callison, Lenny Dykstra and Greg Luzinski each came in second one year for an MVP but got one Hall of Fame vote another.

Others like Jay Buhner, David Justice and John Kruk were solid, if unspectacular players who might have deserved more than one vote for Cooperstown. Kruk's lifetime OPS+ of 133 was better than anyone else on the 2001 ballot including the two men enshrined that year, Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett, even if it must be noted in the same breath that Kruk played just 10 years and retired with 1,170 hits.

Mark Davis, Pat Hentgen and Bob Welch were all Cy Young winners, and the writers gave them one vote each in 2003, 2010 and 2000, respectively.

Davis is an obvious snub, seeing as he apparently followed his 44-save Cy Young season with the San Diego Padres in 1989 by entering the Witness Protection Program, and no one's crying foul over Hentgen and his 131 wins being denied Cooperstown. Even Hentgen doesn't mind having to pay for a ticket into the museum, I'd venture. But Welch went 211-146 with a 3.47 ERA over 17 seasons, won 27 games in 1990, and he wouldn't be the worst pitcher the Veterans Committee has enshrined. Same goes for Dizzy Trout, who went 170-161 in his career, won 20 games consecutive seasons during World War II, and received one Hall of Fame vote in 1964.

It's hard to say, though, what earns so many other players who fall into this category their one vote. Jim Deshaies got his vote in 2001 after he famously campaigned for it, even launching a Web site to do so. Deshaies pitched seven seasons in the midst of his career for the Astros, and his vote came perhaps appropriately from a Houston Chronicle beat writer.

I suspect a lot of local writers cast these kinds of symbolic votes, knowing the players they covered and perhaps befriended have no shot at Cooperstown but can be spared the indignity of going voteless with their help. And these writers sometimes have votes to burn, with every voting member being allowed 10 picks for Cooperstown each year. Maybe some writers cast token votes as jokes, too, the idea of Dock Ellis getting a Hall of Fame vote in 1985 as odd and humorous as him pitching a no-hitter some years before on acid. Certainly, someone had to be joking when they gave Walt Weiss a vote in 2006.

Other times, writers seem to genuinely believe certain players belong in Cooperstown even if no one else shares in their beliefs. George Case played 11 seasons with the Washington Senators and Cleveland Indians and in his prime was one of the fastest men in the American League, winning six stolen base titles and having the green light from his manager to run whenever he wanted. But he quit playing in 1947 at 31 and his 349 steals rank behind a number of men who weren't in Cooperstown at the time, including 19th century great Billy Hamilton, who got his plaque in 1961, and two other stars of the late 1800s George Van Haltren and Jimmy Ryan, who never got any votes from the BBWAA and still aren't enshrined. I wondered if Case's lone vote in 1958 came from his friend, longtime Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich, who told a D.C. area group honoring Case in 1989 that he belonged in Cooperstown. I emailed Case's son about it, but he didn't know.

With a new season of Hall of Fame voting underway, it will be interesting to see who joins the one-vote club. The crop of newcomers who automatically qualified for this year's BBWAA ballot by playing 10 seasons doesn't look especially strong, Bernie Williams being perhaps the only newcomer the writers will eventually enshrine. And with more and more players from the Steroid Era like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro becoming long-term holdovers on the ballot, good for 10 or 20 percent of the vote each of their 15 years of eligibility with the writers, the number of players with one vote or less could start to balloon, geting closer again to what it was in the early days of Hall of Fame voting.

Joe Randa, Mike Remlinger and Tony Womack are no Joe DiMaggio, Warren Spahn and Phil Rizzuto, but they might join them in the one vote club this year. Regardless, others will surely follow.

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Comments

  1. Bobby A said...

    I hope Mike Remlinger gets a vote. I saw him around Chicago a few times with his family, and he seemed like the nicest dad.

  2. Joe Guzzardi said...

    Outstanding research by my friend Graham Womack who has done great Hall of Fame work on his site, Baseball Past and Present. A particularly fascinating regular column that Graham writes is his weekly feature “Does He Belong in the Hall of Fame?” Check it out at
    http://www.baseballpastandpresent.com

  3. Sam said...

    Great article. Would love to see more.

    Rocky Colavito may not be HOF calibre, but he sure deserved more votes at any time than 1. A great home run and RBI man who did not strike out alot for that time and a “helluva” fielder with a rifle arm that was among the best ever.

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