Two Hall of Fame Member Facts

Craig Biggip Art by Opie Otterstad (2004) HOF, 2015

Craig Biggio
Art by Opie Otterstad (2004)
HOF, 2015

The 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame Yearbook is a ready source for coming up with your own list of “fun facts” about the membership. Of course, I do have to start with one that most of us already know about our very first 100% pure and fully declared Houston Astros inductee, Craig Biggio:

(1) Craig Biggio is a Houston Astro in the same sense that Stan Musial was a St. Louis Cardinal, Joe DiMaggio was a New York Yankee, Ernie Banks was a Chicago Cub, Johnny Bench was a Cincinnati Red and Ted Williams was a member of the Boston Red Sox. They were all one-team guys. There were others like them, but today’s game and the financial considerations facing both players and clubs in this 21st century huge money big business culture make “loyalty and mutual contentment” less powerful as the factors keeping athletes on the same team for all of a double-digit years career. In light of the fact, we say, “Hail, Biggio, one of the last of a vanishing breed of MLB players!” Not only that, your 668 doubles were the 5th most, all-time, and the most ever compiled by a right-handed batter in baseball history.

(2) With Yogi Berra turning 90 two days ago, we now have four living members of the Hall of Fame still with us – and apparently too healthy and happy with their current missions in life to leave the rest of us short-handed for proof that love is forever – and that nice guys either finish last or go home first. All of these four men are a handful of the nicest people ever documented by the legion of baseball writers who still cover their tracks.

Bobby Doerr Age 97 HOF, 1986

Bobby Doerr
Age 97
HOF, 1986

Bobby Doerr, 97 years (DOB: April 7, 1918)  is the oldest. As a second baseman and another of those one-team-only fellows is described by his late former manager ad fellow Hall of Famer Joe Cronin as “fine a man who ever wore a spike shoe.” He also played a pretty darn good second base for the Boston Red Sox for 14 years (1937-44, 1946-51). Doerr’s best hitting year was 1944, when he batted .325 and led the AL in slugging with a percentage of .528.

Monte Irvin Age 96 HOF, 1973

Monte Irvin
Age 96
HOF, 1973

Monte Irvin, 96 years (DOB: February 25, 1919) is right behind Doerr as the second oldest. As a primarily left fielder, this current Houston resident of several years played all but one of his eight big league seasons with the New York Giants before a last season with the Chicago Cubs topped things off (1949-56). Monte’s big league career had been shortened by the old racial color line and he spent most of east productive early years as one of the most feared hitters in the Negro League. In fact, he came very close to playing the role that Jackie Robinson then so ably filled in breaking the color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Monte Irvin didn’t believe in leaving those ducks on the pond. In 1951, he batted .312  with 24 HR for the Giants while also leading the NL in RBI with 121.  He also batted .329 with 97 RBI in 1953.

Irvin is beloved today as one of baseball’s great ambassadors and one of the nicest gentlemen you could ever hope to meet. I still highly value the day he rode with me to a SABR meeting in Houston back in 2010. I was totally smitten by his generous sharing of great baseball stories, but I was mindful also to do the best job of driving possible as we talked and navigated the freeways of Houston. After all, I was transporting a national treasure. – Thanks for that special day memory, Monte Irvin!

Red Schoendienst Age 92 HOF 1989

Red Schoendienst
Age 92
HOF 1989

Red Schoendienst, 92 years (DOB: February 2, 1923) 2nd Baseman Red Schoendienst is one of those nice guys who should have been a career St. Louis Cardinal, but he wasn’t able to escape the needs of Cardinal General Manager “Trader Frank” Lane to trade players the way some people need to rearrange the home furniture on a frequent basis. As a result, one of the greatest, nicest infielders of all time, and a tenacious guy who would still beat the hell out of you, if you were on the other side, got shuttled away during his 12th season as a Cardinal for a brief stay with the New York Giants in 1956 before being traded away again to the Milwaukee Braves in 1957 and a four-year run (1957-60) with a serious contender and champion. Red then returned to the Cardinals for limited service over three seasons (1961-63) to complete his 19-season (1945-63) total MLB career. He also did well in a couple of terms as Cardinals manager and he remains active in his support of the Cards and the City of St. Louis. – Keep it going, Red!

Yogi Berra Age 90 HOF 1972

Yogi Berra
Age 90
HOF 1972

Yogi Berra, 90 years (DOB: May 15, 1925) Like Craig Biggio of the Astros, Yogi Berra, of course, was a a pure-blood career member of the New York Yankees, even though he was always a native St. Louisan that Cardinals misjudged as a potential MLB talent. *  Rumor was that Frank Lane also tried to trade Stan Musial to the Yankees for Yogi Berra at one point, but that the Busch ownership put quash of sanity on that deal before the trigger could be pulled. What a bloated error that would have been – and what a blight that would have been upon the “Baseball Spirit of St. Louis.”

My favorite Yogi story is still the one about the time he attended a day lunch function sponsored by Mayor Wagner of New York, wearing a spring-colored line suit and bright accent tie. Mrs. Wagner greeted Berra with much approval for his choice of dress. “Good Morning, Yogi,” the mayor’s wife exclaimed. “You really look cool today!”

“Thank you, Madam Mrs. Mayor,” Yogi responded. “You don’t look so hot yourself!”

* Footnote Correction: See how easy it is to make an “E” in the reporting of baseball history. As Jim Stokes points out in his comment on this column, he and I were both wrong about Yogi Berra being a Yankee one-team career lifer, even though I do think we both did know somewhere in the murky files of memory that Yogi spoiled that pedigree for all time when, as manager of the 1965 New York Mets, he went 2 for 9 in 4 games as a hitter for his club and spoiled the purity of his previously secured all-Yankee career. – Way to go, Yogi!

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7 Responses to “Two Hall of Fame Member Facts”

  1. Jim Stokes Says:

    While everyone remembers Babe Ruth as a New York Yankee, he was not a “one-team guy”. He began and ended his career in Boston. He spent several years, primarily as a pitcher, for the Boston Red Sox before the trade that brought the “Curse of the Bambino” on the Red Sox. He ended his career with a short stint back in Boston with the Boston Braves.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      My embarrassed apologies. I meant Joe DiMaggio, not Babe Ruth. I’m just getting old, I guess. I really do know about the “Curse of the Bambino” and the circumstances that sent Ruth from Boston to New York. This was just one of those times when my mind reached for one name and my fingers typed another. – It happens. That’s all I can say.

      • Jim Stokes Says:

        Joltin’ Joe is a great example of a HOFer who spent his entire career with the Yankees, but he is certainly in good company. Some of the greatest players in the history of the game spent their entire careers in the Yankee pinstripes. You could just as easily have chosen Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford or, of course, Yogi Berra.

  2. Bill McCurdy Says:

    How right you are, Jim. May as well throw HOF Yankee lifers Earle Combs and Bill Dickey into the mix of clear choices as well.

    • Fred Soland Says:

      You will be able to add the names of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera to that list in a few years when the Hall enshrines them in their respective first years of elegibility as well!!

  3. Jim Stokes Says:

    I was wrong about Yogi Berra playing his entire career for the Yankees. I knew that he went on to manage the Mets after his playing days were over, but I overlooked the fact that after managing the Yankees to the American League pennant in 1964 and being fired for losing the World Series to the Cardinals, he came back to play 4 games for the New York Mets in 1965. As Maxwell Smart of the “Get Smart” TV series that was popular at that time might have said, “Missed it by that much!”

    • Fred Soland Says:

      Jim,
      Perhaps a slight change of verbiage would make you correct again. Yogi played his entire career for New York.

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