Pete Rose’s ongoing grotesquery

Pete Rose

Pete Rose talks at a commemoration of the Phillies’ 1980 World Series conquest and exposes himself as a moral idiot. Again.

So long as he remains on baseball’s permanently ineligible list, Pete Rose’s presence at any major league team event sends a negative message as things stand already. But when he appeared at Citizens Bank Park to join the commemoration of the Phillies’ 1980 World Series winner, the mere negative went to grotesque in the same speed of light by which Rose made it so in the first place.

Not because of Rose’s Rule 21(d) violations that got him banished from baseball in the first place, but because Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Alex Coffey had the temerity to do her job Sunday afternoon.

“I asked Pete Rose what he would say to people who say his presence here sends a negative message to women,” Coffey tweeted. “His response: ‘No, I’m not here to talk about that. Sorry about that. It was 55 years ago babe’.” What “that” was is the early 1970s extramarital affair he conducted with a girl who wasn’t quite at the legal age of consent when it began.

That revelation first emerged in court in 2017, during Rose’s defamation lawsuit against John Dowd, the attorney who first investigated the depth of his baseball gambling under the aegis of then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti. Two years earlier, Dowd gave a radio interview in which he said Michael Bertolini—through whom Rose often bet on baseball and whose notebooks had notes aplenty on those bets—told investigators Rose had “underage girls” brought to him during a spring training and, shall we say, engaged sexually with them.

The specific girl in question, the one who prompted Coffey’s question to Rose in the first place, provided the court a sworn statement in a motion. It amounted to saying Rose committed statutory rape, since the legal age of sexual consent in Ohio then and now (Rose was with the Reds at the time) is sixteen years old. (Both sides dropped the suit later.)

Rose was fortunate that he was beyond arrest and prosecution over that, since the statute of limitations for statutory rape expired long before that affair came to light. Morally, of course, it was another stain upon him well before he couldn’t help himself with Ms. Coffey.

“It was 55 years ago, babe?”

Put aside for one moment (and only one) the message Rose’s cavalier dismissal and term of address to Coffey. Consider that his presence Sunday sent a negative message to women and men as well as baseball. For a few grotesque moments the Phillies looked like a team that couldn’t have cared less about anything beyond a cocktail of nostalgic self-celebration and the ballpark gate.

After Sunday’s on-field ceremony, the Inquirer itself noted, Rose was made available to the press and asked about Coffey’s question and his comment. “I’m going to tell you one more time. I’m here for the Philly fans,” Rose replied. “I’m here for my teammates. I’m here for the Phillies organization. And who cares what happened fifty years ago? You weren’t even born. So you shouldn’t be talking about it, because you weren’t born. If you don’t know a damn thing about it, don’t talk about it.”

That’s the man who once said of Cincinnati naming a street after him that they “should have named an alley after me, the way I acted in school” and who once displayed a knowledge of baseball history that was almost as encyclopedic as his at-the-ready knowledge of his own statistics. (“We’re going down,” Rose once told a teammate when the Reds’ flight hit harsh turbulence, “and I have a .300 lifetime batting average to take with me. Do you?”)

He must have missed or ignored history classes having nothing to do with baseball and everything of the very anchorage that says teachers teach and students learn and discuss events far older than a mere half century.

“He’s an intellectual from Yale, but he’s very intelligent,” Rose said of Giamatti’s successor Fay Vincent. What would Rose know about intellect or intelligence above and beyond ninety feet between the bases, sixty feet from the pitching rubber to the rear point of home plate, and how to make enough occasions involving his old teams about himself above them?

What Rose does know is selectivity. Once upon a time it was the kind that enabled him to become (if you didn’t believe it, he’d tell you proudly) baseball’s first million-dollar singles hitter. Today it enables him to dismiss such inconvenient truths as his lifetime banishment for violating Rule 21(d) (he says of it that he was “suspended”) and his ancient but no less disgraceful extramarital dalliances with a girl who should have been thinking of the prom instead of the ballplayer old enough at minimum to have been her father.

Rose’s permanent banishment, of course, means that any of his teams who wish to include him in certain event must ask permission from the commissioner’s office. It’s probably a stretch to presume Rob Manfred will dismiss future such requests after Rose’s Sunday grotesquery, since this is a commissioner to whom the common good of the game usually involves making money for it first and Rose remains perversely good box office.

But if Rose hadn’t been so bluntly dismissive of Ms. Coffey’s very legitimate question, maybe the worst that would have come forth from Sunday’s doings and undoings would have been Rose’s 1980 Phillies teammate Bob Boone.

Bad enough that Boone had “no idea” whether Rose’s ancient dalliance with a teenager was considered when other 1980 Phillies insisted he be part of the celebration. Almost as bad: Boone saying, “This is the best hitter we’ve ever had. And he did some things wrong. If you want to, put something on the board that says he did these things wrong, but I always felt he has to be in there. He’s not in there, but I’m telling you, he’s the greatest hitter to ever play.”

This is the best hitter we’ve ever had?

Well, now. The best hitter on the 1980 Phillies posted a 1.004 OPS. He played his entire career with the Phillies, has a franchise-high 106.8 wins above a replacement-level player (WAR), and has the highest Real Batting Average (total bases + walks + intentional walks + sacrifice flies + hit by pitches, divided by total plate appearances), .626, of any Hall of Fame third baseman who played in the post-World War II/post-integration/night-ball era.

If Rose hadn’t written the script that got him banished not just from baseball but from standing for Hall of Fame election, he would be one of twelve postwar/post-integration/night-ball era Hall of Famers with a sub-.490 RBA. (Rose’s is .483.)

The best hitter the Phillies have ever had—who just so happens to have been named both the 1980 National League’s Most Valuable Player (one of his three such awards) and the Most Valuable Player of the 1980 World Series—was unable to attend Sunday’s doings because he tested positive for COVID-19. “I’m sorry that I can’t be with my championship brothers,” said Mike Schmidt in a video statement to be shared for the occasion.

“To have his body,” Rose once said of Schmidt, “I’d trade him mine and my wife’s and I’d throw in some cash.” To have Rose’s self-inflicted (and permanent, not “lifetime”) banishment from baseball and the Hall of Fame, self-soiled reputation, and self-imposed image as a statutory rapist who eluded account for it simply because of the statute of limitations and, we assume, his one-time teen paramour’s longtime reluctance to speak up and out, Schmidt probably wouldn’t trade even one brain cell.

The Phlying Phillies

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper launches his seventh-inning blast off the Miller Park scoreboard behind the center field fence Thursday. Would you have predicted a seven-game winning streak for the Phillies  including six straight since Joe Girardi’s execution?

Don’t look now, but that’s a seven-game winning streak the Phillies have now posted, six of which—including Thursday’s 8-3 demolition of the Brewers in Milwaukee—have happened since Joe Girardi was thrown off the bridge in favour of his bench coach and longtime associate Rob Thomson.

From the moment they took down the Giants in what proved Girardi’s final game on the bridge, the Phillies’ thought-formidable offense went from sputtering to out-scoring the opposition 53-19. Living up at last to their preseason billing as a threshing machine at the plate, they posted an .877 team OPS entering Thursday’s game largely by way of hitting eighteen home runs during the streak.

They’ve also pitched above and beyond enough to make it matter. Entering Thursday, the Phillie streak showed a team 3.00 ERA and—better, yet, by far enough—a 2.38 team fielding-independent pitching (FIP) rate.

They even helped take another manager down while they were at it, sweeping the Angels last weekend and thus putting Joe Maddon into a guillotine that may have been built for him before the season began. Sweeping the National League Central-leading Brewers doesn’t measure their skipper Craig Counsell for beheading just yet. But still.

Before they beat the Giants last week the Phillies looked so lost, so unable to shake the late-inning deflations and bullpen arsons, that calling them by their ancient Phutile Phillies nickname seemed more than an exercise in phutility. Since beating those Giants, it looks as though it’s phun to be a Phillie again.

Even being out-hit by the Brewers 11-9 on Thursday, and opening by Brewers starter/defending Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes striking them out in order, the Phillies still found a way to turn a measly one-run lead after six full innings into a five-run margin of triumph.

It only began with Bryce Harper, whose UCL injury limits him to designated hitting, leading off the Philadelphia seventh with a parabolic home run banging off the scoreboard well behind the center field fence. Giving him three bombs in his past four games.

Then with outfielder Mickey Moniak aboard on a two-out walk in the top of the eighth, Kyle Schwarber hit a hanging 2-1 sinker 432 feet over the right center field fence. And in the top of the ninth, Harper set the table with a first-pitch base hit to right center and Odubel Herrera dined on a hovering changeup—after fouling off four straight—to prove practise makes perfect, sending it into the right field seats.

A first-inning blast from former Ray Willy Adames and a leadoff bomb in the sixth by Hunter Renfroe were the only damage the Brewers could do until former Phillie (and former longtime Pirate standout) Andrew McCutcheon singled Christian Yelich home with two outs, before Phillies reliever James Norwood got the game-ending ground out from Brewers third baseman Jace Peterson.

“Someone put the fear of God into them,” says a lady of my acquaintance regarding the suddenly Phlying Phillies. Considering Girardi’s reputation as a by-the-book, nuclear-intense martinet, perhaps it was more as though someone removed the fear of God from them. Most of it, anyway.

When they finished sweeping the Angels this past Sunday, the big blows were Harper’s grand slam and rookie third baseman Bryson Stott, Stott walking it off with a three-run blast against the Angels’ own wavering bullpen arsonists. Harper was almost beside himself over Stott’s blast.

“I’m so happy for the kid, man,” the defending National League Most Valuable Player crowed after that 9-7 win.

What an at-bat. What a situation for him. Being able to put our trust in our young guys the last couple days, and really let them just play . . . it’s been great. And it paid off today. The thing about Bryson is he’s got to play. He’s used to playing every day. From high school, to college, to minor league baseball, to now. He’s used to playing every day, and that’s what we’ve got to do for our young guys . . .

Our young guys have got to play. When you want your young guys to have success, they have to play everyday. And when they have those opportunities, I think they’re going to take full advantage of that. If that’s Bryson, if that’s [Nick] Maton, if that’s [Alec] Bohm-er or anybody else . . .

From Girardi’s difficulty in trusting his youth to Thomson’s apparent fearlessness in trusting the young guys to just play. There were those taking Harper’s commentary as a veiled shot at Girardi, and you can understand why to a small extent. On the other hand . . .

“We needed to get going,” Harper said after the Phillies finished sweeping the Brewers. “Everybody knew that. It’s just a different vibe. I think we’re just playing good ball right now.”

Maybe a change of managers doesn’t always ramp up into immediate winning streaks. But remember the 2009 Rockies pinking Clint Hurdle and installing former Dodger manager Jim Tracy on the bridge. Tracy took the gig with the Rockies when they were 18-28. They started 2-4 under him but then hit an eleven-game winning streak that turned into fourteen of fifteen and launched them toward the National League wild-card game.

Ironically enough, Hurdle took the Rockies bridge after Buddy Bell was executed in 2002 . . . and they won six straight to begin the Hurdle era. And, 107 years ago, Pat Moran took the Phillies bridge to open the season, went 8-0 out of the chute, and ended up in the World Series, where they lost to the Red Sox who featured a kid pitcher named Babe Ruth.

On the other hand, there were 81 mid-season manager switches from 1987-2010, eighty of which came courtesy of executions. Only nineteen of those teams changing skippers mid-season finished those seasons with .500 or better records for the year, and out of those nineteen only five—Tracy’s Rockies, the 2004 Astros, the 2003 Marlins, the 1989 Blue Jays, and the 1988 Red Sox—reached the postseason, with one (the ’03 Fish) going all the way to win the World Series.

Nobody wants to spoil the Phillies’ party now. But the precedents don’t favour them entirely, either. Savour it while you have it, Phillieppine Island. For however long it proves to last. And if the currently Phlying Phillies manage to make the postseason at all, count your blessings and your miracles. They don’t happen as often as we’d like.

The Phillies throw out the first manager

Joe Girardi

Girardi’s Philadelphia nightmare ends with his execution Friday morning.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A front office builds a team with money no object and no other cohesive object in mind. They front-load the team with sluggers, leaving little room for defensive fortification, overtaxing a fine starting rotation, and discover they can’t out-slug the wasted defensive outs or the bullpen’s arson.

All of which leaves their third-year manager half lost for finding ways to prevent late-inning collapses, early-inning slaughters, and solving the riddle of how he could have been handed what amounts to a desperation roster built with no forward thinking and not even a nod toward replenishing the farm or delivering mid-season fortification.

Then, seeing that uncohesive, porous mess deliver a 22-29 season-opening record, they reach into their heart of hearts, pray hard, and decide it’s time answer all the last fortnight’s speculation and throw out the first manager of the season.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2022 Phillies. Sitting twelve games behind the division-leading Mets in the National League East. Unlikely to improve even to a shot at one of the NL’s wild cards unless their fielders patch up the holes in their gloves and their defensive routes and their bullpen discovers more than just bull.

For openers. It’s not that Joe Girardi is any sort of managerial genius. He’s been a fairly overrated manager in his entire skippering career. But this one’s on that front office, led by Dave Dombrowski, an executive with a too-well-known tendency to sacrifice a future for a today that doesn’t always strike platinum. Not to mention the classic mealymouthed style of explaining why Girardi should have become the sacrificial lamb.

It has been a frustrating season for us up until this point, as we feel that our club has not played up to its capabilities. While all of us share the responsibility for the shortcomings, I felt that a change was needed and that a new voice in the clubhouse would give us the best chance to turn things around. I believe we have a talented group that can get back on track, and I am confident that [interim manager] Rob [Thomson], with his experience and familiarity with our club, is the right man to lead us going forward.

Translation: We still thought this team could slug more than enough to out-fly fielders who might as well be scrubwomen wearing oven mitts and save the asses of relief pitchers who forget to check the gasoline cans at the gates. And if you think we’re going to execute the people responsible for building that mess in the first place, you don’t know us vewwy well, do you?

Except that four of the Phillies’s sluggers (Nick Castellanos, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, and Kyle Schwarber) haven’t been slugging quite to the extent they were expected to slug, even if three of them dialed long distance during that ten-inning fall to the Giants last Monday.

The slugger who’s been hitting like the defending MVP he is and who just so happens to be their best defender, Bryce Harper, has a torn UCL in his throwing elbow that’s limited him to a DH role for long enough now. He’s been around the league average in right field when he played before the injury; he’s posting a .943 OPS/.166 OPS+ so far that are not too far under the numbers (1.044/181) with which he led the entire Show last year.

The Phillies have achieved the surrealistic feat of outscoring their opposition yet awakening this morning seven games below .500. The big reasons, as ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle reminds us, are a 4-10 record in one-run games and a fourth-highest-in-Show fourteen losses in games during which they held a lead at one or another point.

“Measures such as these are never wholly on the manager,” Doolittle writes, “but they are certainly not data points in his favor. The best embodiment of Girardi’s struggles is probably an early-May loss to the Mets in which Philadelphia blew a 7-1 lead it carried into the ninth inning. It sure seems the heat under his seat kept rising after that game.”

The Phillies also continued leaning upon Corey Knebel to close out games—but why? He spent May picking up four nebulous saves and earning very nebulous credit for one win during which he surrendered the game-tying run in the top of the ninth and was bailed out in the bottom by a two-run infield error.

Meanwhile, Seranthony Domínguez has been an assassin out of the pen through today: he has a 1.83 ERA and a 1.92 fielding-independent pitching rate in 19.2 innings’ work thus far. Knebel: 3.27 ERA/4.01 FIP. You tell me who should be getting the work when the games are squarely on the line—and screw the “save situations,” the real moments when a game needs saving aren’t limited to the ninth inning.

So maybe continuing to assign “roles” to his dubious-enough pen instead of training his eyes upon the best of the group falls on Girardi. He’s hardly the only manager who might still believe in “roles” instead of what the game moment and the records as they are tell him. Maybe his long-time associate Thomson will pay closer attention and move accordingly, even with the continuing dubious straitjacket of the three-batter minimum for relievers.

But everyone with eyes to see looked upon the stockpile of designated hitter-types Dombrowski and company assembled when the lockout ended and that hurry-up spring training began and said, with no sarcasm intended, just what Jayson Stark asked aloud in The Athletic: “Can a team as defensively challenged as the Phillies win anything?”

In one way Dombrowski did work with a hand tied behind his back. Last winter’s free agency market—rudely interrupted by the ridiculous owners’ lockout—offered him little enough chance to fix a dead-last defense (the 2021 Phillies were the Show’s worst for defensive runs saved) at all, never mind in one grand sweep. But there remains the sense that he didn’t have to go all the way the wrong way.

Fair play: There have been teams who could and did hit their way to even the World Series despite having defenses helpless even against a division of babies in carriages. Just ask the 2015 Mets, whose porous defense enabled them to lose a World Series in five games despite taking leads into the ninth inning in three of their four losses.

Maybe these Phillies have done their notoriously negative-think fan base a big favour. (Remember the Philadelphia wedding. Clergyman to the happy couple: I now pronounce you husband and wife. Clergyman to the gathering: You may now boo the bride.) Not by firing Girardi but by collapsing early and often under the weight of their slug-now/defend later construction. They’re not likely to make the postseason even as an outside entrant in the expanded wild card picture. They won’t be able to break the hearts the 2015 Mets broke.

But Girardi isn’t exactly innocent. Another Athletic writer, Britt Ghiroli, isolates the point. Again, stop me if you’ve heard this before, as in when his days managing the Yankees came to a halt, but make note of where Ghiroli places the core responsibility:

Two things seem to have sunk Girardi: recent bullpen-management moves that came under fire and players telling The Philadelphia Inquirer that it didn’t look like they were having any fun on the field. (They aren’t very fun to watch on the couch, either.) Girardi is known as a no-nonsense guy, and although clubhouse culture can be overrated, once players start mentioning it, it almost always spells doom for the manager. This is still a mess Dombrowski created, a defense far worse than anyone envisioned and a bullpen problem that just never seems to go away. Firing Girardi doesn’t make the Phillies a playoff team, or even a competitive unit. But it does quell the masses, at least temporarily.

The only thing missing now is Dombrowski saying, “I didn’t fire Joe. The players did.” The questions now include just how long before the Phillies’s administration gets what previous team regimes finally got and sends Dombrowski on his not-so-merry way, too, in favour of a builder whose materials aren’t limited to collapsible shelves.

Guest column: Gladstone—Pension shock for Shockley

Costen Shockley

Costen Shockley as a Phillie. After his trade to the Angels for 1965, he left baseball rather than return to the minors, fearing for his family’s discomfort.

By Douglas J. Gladstone

If you grew up rooting for the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies—and even if you didn’t, you’ve probably heard or read about the team because, by now, the story of that squad’s heartbreaking collapse over the last week of the season is etched in history—you probably remember Costen Shockley.

To countless Delawareans, Shockley was a legend. Not because he was one of the “Whiz Kids,” and not because he was all that great a player, but because he valued family first: he quit the game after being traded to the West Coast* so he wouldn’t have to abandon his wife and small child. He found jobs in construction and, by all accounts, never looked back or regretted his decision to place his family ahead of his career.

In a Society of American Baseball Research publication entitled The Year of Blue Show: The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, the love Shockley had for his family was clearly in evidence. Authorr Mel Marmer quotes Shockley as having said the following:

In June (1965), when I approached (manager) Bill Rigney and asked if I was going to stay with the Angels, he said yes. So I moved my wife and baby out to California (from Delaware). Then (on June 12) they asked me to go to the minors instead, to Seattle. I wasn’t going to have my wife drive to Seattle. She didn’t know anything about the city. I never really adjusted to the big-league atmosphere. I wasn’t making any money then, only $1,000 a month. It cost me $600 to rent an apartment; I was using up my bonus money ($50,000); the major league minimum was only $6,000. . . So, I quit. I took my family over baseball. Do I think I could have played in the big leagues? Sure, I think I would have done well.

A resident of Georgetown, Shockley, who died on May 30, had his priorities straight.  Too bad neither Major League Baseball nor the union representing current players, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, do.

See, Shockley was one of the ever dwindling group of retired men not receiving an MLB pension. As of this writing, there are only 511 left.

All these retirees don’t receive a traditional pension for having played the game they loved because the rules for receiving MLB pensions changed over the 1980 Memorial Day Weekend. None of these men accrued four years of service credit, which was what ballplayers who played between 1947–1979 needed to be eligible for a pension.

Instead, effective this past March, for every 43 game days of service a pre-1980 player accrued on an active MLB roster, all he receives is a yearly payment of up to $11,500.  That’s $718.75 for every 43 game days. By the way, that payment went up a whopping 15 percent. It used to be $625 for every 43 games on an active roster.

But now that he’s dead, Shockley’s loved ones won’t even get the $2,872 for his approximately four months of service; and that’s before taxes are taken out. Because if you’re a non-vested, pre-1980 player, the bone the league and union are throwing you cannot be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary.

In rejecting the $300 million deal his former club, the Washington Nationals, offered him before signing with Philadelphia, current National League Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper famously rationalized that he didn’t want $100 million deferred on the back end of his contract. “What does that do for me?,” he asked. “What does that do for my family?”

Family means different things to different people, I suppose. The Pittsburgh Pirates embraced the concept of family when the team won the World Series in 1979. That is why MLB and MLBPA—Costen Shockley’s baseball family—need to do right by the remaining non-vested retirees now. Before it’s too late.

Douglas J. Gladstone is the author of A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve.

* On 3 December 1964, Shockley was traded with pitcher Rudy May to the California Angels for notorious pitcher-playboy Bo Belinsky. May went on to enjoy a fine sixteen-season career for four major league teams, including the Yankees’ 1981 pennant winner.

Short-career pre-1980 players to whom I have spoken have attested that one reason for their freeze-out is that they were seen mostly as September call-ups. For the record, Shockley played his first major league game for the Phillies in July 1964; and, he made the Angels out of spring training 1965, playing in forty games before electing to leave baseball rather than go to the minors for his family’s sake.—JK.

Miñoso, O’Neil reach Cooperstown, but Allen’s still excluded

Minnie Miñoso, Hall of Famer at long enough last—but posthumously.

There’s a bit of poetic justice in the first black player for the White Sox and the first black coach in the entire Show with the Cubs becoming Hall of Famers together. But only a bit. Minnie Miñoso and Buck O’Neil should have been voted the honour while they were still alive, not posthumously by the Early Baseball Committee.

So should Dick Allen have been voted the honour while he was still alive. But Allen missed out by a single vote with the Golden Days Era Committee on Sunday. The committee elected Allen’s great contemporary Tony Oliva, but Oliva is still alive to accept the honour.

Miñoso died at 89 in 2015; O’Neil, at 94 in 2006; Allen, at 78, almost a year ago. Nobody ever said things were entirely fair even disallowing the races of these three men, but it’s not so simple to say better late than never for Miñoso and O’Neil; or, for Allen, who’ll surely be voted the honour in due course without having lived to accept it.

Cuban-born Saturnino Orestes Arrieta Miñoso didn’t get his chance in the Show until he was 25, thanks to baseball’s segregation until Jackie Robinson emerged. When the seven-time All-Star finally arrived in 1951—eight games with the Indians before his trade to the White Sox—Miñoso posted a season that should have earned him both the league’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honours.

Award voters in those years had already come to terms with non-white players, but they were still distant enough from the idea that a league’s most valuable player didn’t necessarily have to be on a pennant winner. Miñoso’s season eclipsed the two Yankees who won those respective awards, Gil McDougald (Rookie of the Year) and Yogi Berra (Most Valuable Player), at least at the plate.

Berra’s award probably came as much for his handling of the Yankee pitching staff as for his team-leading runs scored and runs batted in. McDougald had a solid season, but Miñoso out-hit him, out-scored him, and out-stole him. (Miñoso led the league with 31 stolen bases and could be argued as the real father of the Show’s stolen-base renaissance his eventual Hall of Fame teammate Luis Aparicio kicked off in earnest later in the decade.) He also walked more often, struck out less often, and played more field positions competently than the multi-positional McDougald did.

Miñoso put up a lot of MVP-level seasons without winning the award, even though he might plausibly have won three such awards if voters then looked beyond assuming pennant winners automatically carried the league’s most valuable players. He was also (read very carefully) the first black Latino to crack the Show.

In the years that followed after his career ended, there came a few who looked deeper and concluded that Miñoso might have been the most deserving player not to reach Cooperstown for a very long time. When Allen Barra wrote Clearing the Bases in 2002, he devoted an entire chapter to Miñoso and drew that very conclusion, even if he had Miñoso’s age as a Show rookie wrong. (Barra said 29; Miñoso was 25. But still.)

“His 1951 season,” Barra wrote, “taught a lesson to Latin players for the next forty-odd years: you will have to do better than the non-Latin player just to be noticed, and far better to win an award . . . Minnie Miñoso was a better ballplayer than several white players of his time who are in the Hall of Fame. He was also better than [several] black players from his era that are in the Hall of Fame.”

He was also an effervescent personality who used it to win White Sox World over emphatically, while he played and for decades to follow. Chided once because his English was rather halting, Miñoso is said to have replied, “Ball, bat, glove, she no speak English.” At least as classic as the day black Puerto Rican first baseman Vic Power, told by a Southern server that the restaurant didn’t serve black people, was said to have replied, “That’s ok, I don’t eat black people.”

John Jordan O’Neil won one Negro Leagues batting title, made three Negro Leagues All-Star teams, and was known to be swift and slick at first base, but his stronger metier was as a leader and a manager. In fact, O’Neil managed the legendary Kansas City Monarchs to three pennants before baseball’s integration began to mean the death knell for the Negro Leagues themselves.

Buck O’Neil—pennant-winning Negro Leagues manager, groundbreaking Cubs coach, nonpareil baseball ambassador—and Hall of Famer at long enough last, albeit posthumously, too.

As a Cubs coach and scout O’Neil was immeaurable in his mentorship of Hall of Famers such as Ernie Banks and Billy Williams. In due course, he discovered Hall of Famer Lou Brock and World Series hero Joe Carter. As a baseball ambassador, both concurrent to his work with the Cubs and beyond it, O’Neil was even more immeasurable for helping to keep the Negro Leagues legacy alive.

This friendly, soulful man who was a people person first and foremost told all who’d listen that, regardless of the disgrace that kept himself and his fellows from their warranted tastes of what was then considered the only major league baseball life, those who played Negro Leagues baseball managed to have fun, live reasonably, and savour the good in life.

I once wrote that getting O’Neil to shut up about baseball would have been like trying to take the alto saxophone out of Charlie Parker’s mouth. “People feel sorry for me,” O’Neil once said. “Man, I heard Charlie Parker!” Referencing, of course, the virtuoso alto saxophonist who helped change jazz irrevocably with his running mates Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Thelonious Monk (piano, composer), and Kenny Clarke (drums, the first to shift timekeeping to a ride cymbal away from the bass drum) by inventing the smaller-lineup, freer-wheeling style known as bebop.

O’Neil was a jazz nut who linked the musical art to baseball unapologetically and seamlessly. “Music can’t be racist. I don’t care what,” he told Joe Posnanski for the invaluable The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America.

It’s like baseball. Baseball is not racist. Were there racist ballplayers? Of course. The mediocre ones . . . They were worried about their jobs. They knew that when black players started getting into the major leagues, they would go, and they were scared. But we never had any trouble with the real baseball players. The great players. No, to them it was all about one thing. Can he play? That was it. Can he play?

O’Neil made his way into his country’s complete consciousness once and for all time when he factored large in Ken Burns’s 1994 documentary, Baseball. Others of his generation who endured with him made fans, but O’Neil made friends. He became what Pete Rose only claimed himself to be, the single best and most effective ambassador for the game ever seen—and that’s saying a lot.

He missed being elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006, by the Committee on African-American Baseball. There was much speculation that his exclusion then had to do with a dispute between O’Neil and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s original research director, Larry Lester, over policy issues. But I’ve never forgotten the sweet grace with which O’Neil accepted the result.

“I was on the ballot, man! I was on the ballot!” he exclaimed, while saying it showed America itself was growing up and getting better even if the growing pains continued to be  too profound.

God’s been good to me. They didn’t think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That’s the way they thought about it and that’s the way it is, so we’re going to live with that. Now, if I’m a Hall of Famer for you, that’s all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck. Don’t weep for Buck. No, man, be happy, be thankful.

O’Neil accepted when invited to induct the seventeen in Cooperstown. His speech evoked living history, deep love, and concluded when he got the Hall of Famers on the podium and the crowd on the lawns to hold hands and sing a line from his favourite gospel song, “The greatest thing in all my life is loving you.”

Three months later, that irrepressibly active and life-affirming man died under the double blow of bone marrow cancer and heart failure.

Dick Allen, who should have been elected to the Hall while alive, and fell one vote short posthumously by the Golden Days Era Committee Sunday.

I have long argued that Tony Oliva deserved to be elected to the Hall of Fame, and I’ve found no evidence to change that conclusion—but Dick Allen, whose career dovetailed completely to his, was over twice the player Oliva was, especially at the plate.

I saw both of them play while growing up and beyond. Oliva was a smart batsmith and run-preventive right fielder. Allen was a wrecking machine at the plate and a brain on the bases in all regards; his Rookie of the Year season compared favourably to Joe DiMaggio’s and he didn’t just hit home runs, what he hit should have had not meals and stewardesses but astronauts on board.

I once did an analysis that concluded a fully-healthy Allen might have finished his career with about 525 home runs, while a fully-healthy Oliva might have finished his with about 315. Neither man reached the Sacred 3,000 Hit Club; hell, neither of them reached 2,000 lifetime hits. But the Hall of Fame is supposed to be about greatness, not mere longevity or compilation. Allen and Oliva were Hall of Fame-great, but only one is now a Hall of Famer.

Allen’s unwanted war with 1960s Philadelphia’s racial growing pains, the city’s carnivorous sports press, and isolated bigots on his own teams too often eroded the memory of just how great he really was. So did the injuries that kept him (and Oliva, in all fairness) from having a more natural decline phase than he (and Oliva) should have had.

But I’m going there again. Line them up by my Real Batting Average metric—total bases + walks + intentional walks + sacrifice flies + hit by pitches, divided by total plate appearances—and Tony Oliva’s going to be holding Dick Allen’s coat, in peak and career value.

First, their peak values:

Player, peak PA TB BB IBB SF HBP RBA
Dick Allen, 1964-72 5457 2592 685 120 33 11 .631
Tony Oliva, 1964-70 4552 2090 303 82 38 36 .560

Now, their career values:

Player, career PA TB BB IBB SF HBP RBA
Dick Allen, 1963-77 7315 3379 894 138 53 16 .612
Tony Oliva, 1962-76 6880 3002 448 131 57 59 .537

I wrote more extensively about Allen when he lost his battle with cancer last year. And it’s also fair to mention that, in his later years, Allen not only made peace with the Phillies organisation but became one of the most popular members of the team’s speakers’ bureau.

But one more time, here, I’ll hand Jay Jaffe the last word—the best short summary of the hell through which Allen was put so unconscionably in his Philadelphia years by a Philadelphia sports press and population uncertain or unthinking about the city’s racial growing pains, and by some teammates likewise uncertain or unthinking—from The Cooperstown Casebook:

[C]hoosing to vote for him means focusing on that considerable peak while giving him the benefit of the doubt on the factors that shortened his career. From here, the litany is sizable enough to justify that. Allen did nothing to deserve the racism and hatred he battled in Little Rock and Philadelphia, or the condescension of the lily-white media that refused to even call him by his correct name. To underplay the extent to which those forces shaped his conduct and his public persona thereafter is to hold him to an impossibly high standard; not everyone can be Jackie Robinson or Ernie Banks. The distortions that influenced the negative views of him . . . were damaging. To give them the upper hand is to reject honest inquiry into his career.

The next Golden Days Era Committee meeting will be five years from now. Allen waited long enough while he was alive. He damn well deserves a plaque in Cooperstown, even if his family alone can now accept on his behalf.

It’s an absolute wonderful thing to see Minnie Miñoso and Buck O’Neil get their due even posthumously. It’s a wonderful thing to see elected Bud Fowler (arguably the first black professional baseball player); Gil Hodges (the great Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman/Miracle Mets pennant-winning manager); and, Oliva plus his great Twins teammate Jim Kaat, pitcher, whose Hall case is really a) borderline at beat and b) could be seen by re-arranging his best seasons. (Kaat tended to pitch his best baseball too often when someone else was having an off-chart career year.)

But Dick Allen’s continuing exclusion remains a disgrace.