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With all the talk about whether Mariano Rivera deserves to be a unanimous choice for the Hall of Fame (not that he has a chance of it) it made me wonder which players should have been. The most obvious one to me is Willie Mays, but you could also include a bunch of others: Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and so on. How many players do you think should have been unanimous? — Lonnie L.
Funny you bring this up, Lonnie. Joe Posnanski had a great, detailed column on Thursday on all of the mostly ridiculous circumstances that kept legendary players from being unanimous choices, going back to the first Cooperstown class in 1936.
In the piece, he listed 15 players before the turn of the century that should have been unanimous. His list:
Ruth, Williams, Mays, Aaron, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Mike Schmidt, Nolan Ryan and George Brett, plus Pete Rose had he not bet on baseball.
He also listed a few after the turn of the century that at least deserved serious consideration, including Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr. and Greg Maddux.
That’s 18 right there. And Posnanski notes, Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig were both elected on special ballots after their deaths.
I don’t have a Hall of Fame vote for another few years, but had I had the chance to vote for any of these 20 players, I would have done so without a split-second of doubt.
I’d also include Rickey Henderson, who as Bill James once noted had the statistics of two Hall of Famers, as someone worthy of 100 percent of the votes.
Jackie Robinson wasn’t close to unanimous — he got 77.5 percent of the vote when elected in 1962 — but he’d come close to it now, even if times may not have changed for the better as much as it once seemed in this country.
Also, if you want to say Pedro Martinez should have been unanimous, I’m not going to argue, though his relative lack of longevity probably cost him a few checkmarks here and there. Decent peak, though.
All right, so I’m going to expand my list to 23 — adding Pedro, Jackie, and Rickey to that original 20 with Gehrig and Clemente. They are the greatest among the greats, and while one of the joys of baseball is the daily debates, there should be no argument against any of these legends.
Oh, and a word of warning: Just wait until the New York media starts pumping up Derek Jeter as someone who should be unanimous when he’s eligible next year. I hope someone leaves him off and votes for Nomar.
But what does everyone else think? Which players in history should have been unanimous Hall of Fame selections? I’ll hear you in the comments.