Miller and Simmons Selected by Hall’s Modern Era Committee
Bob Toth | On 09, Dec 2019
Cooperstown added two more names to its collection of the legends of the game on Sunday night, when the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced that former MLBPA union chief Marvin Miller and catcher Ted Simmons had been selected by the Modern Baseball Era Committee for inclusion as part of the Hall Class of 2020.
News broke from San Diego on Sunday night as the coming Winter Meetings inched closer to kicking off on Monday. The results of the ten-member ballot, which included former players Simmons, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, and Lou Whitaker, as well as Miller, added two to the guest list for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in July. The Modern Era panel considers those whose most significant contributions to the game of baseball occurred during the period between 1970 and 1987.
Persons up for consideration must be recognized on 75% of the ballots. Simmons was named on 13 of the 16 ballots cast, while Miller received the minimum 12 required. Evans was named on 50% of the ballots, while Parker had seven votes and Garvey and Whitaker each earned six. Vote totals for John, Mattingly, Munson, and Murphy were not disclosed, meaning that they had received three votes or less in the process.
Miller’s induction ends years of wasted time to honor a man who reshaped baseball during his time as the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 to 1982. During that time, the former labor attorney turned the players union into one of the strongest in the country, ushering in a new era that included collective bargaining, arbitration, free agency, shared revenue, and a substantial increase in player salaries.
Current executive director of the MLBPA, Tony Clark, shared some powerful sentiment in the past about Miller’s absence from the Hall, following Miller being left out by committee voting in 2013.
“Words cannot adequately describe the level of disappointment and disbelief I felt when learning that once again the Hall of Fame has chosen to ignore Marvin Miller and his unparalleled contributions to the growth and prosperity of Major League Baseball. Over the past 50 years, no individual has come close to matching Marvin’s impact on the sport,” Clark shared in a statement in December of 2013. “He proved to all involved in Major League Baseball, and to outside observers, that a healthy collective bargaining environment would benefit all the game’s stakeholders. Today, players, owners, front office personnel, fans and the media owe Marvin a debt of gratitude. Despite the election results, Marvin’s legacy remains intact, and will only grow stronger, while the credibility of the Hall of Fame continues to suffer.”
Miller, who passed away in 2012 at 95, had too been vocal about the hall selection process that had repeatedly shunned him in the past, leading him to say on multiple occasions that he did not care to join the list of some of the most important figures in the game. He had received just seven votes in the process in 2009, 11 in 2010, six in 2013, and seven in 2017.
“[Enshrinement] would be nice,” shared Miller in December of 2007 to the Sports Business News, “but when you’re my age, 89 going on 90, questions of mortality have a greater priority than a promised immortality.”
While plenty have spoken out on Miller’s behalf over the years, there was one instance in particular that happened in Cooperstown that shined light on his impact on the game. During Nolan Ryan‘s induction speech in 1999, the flamethrower took time out from his historic moment to thank Miller for helping him during his Express path to Central New York.
“I would like to thank somebody that definitely has had an impact on myself and my family and many ballplayers sitting in this audience today and that was Marvin Miller,” said Ryan. “I came into the game when I broke into the major leagues, and the minimum salary was $7,000, and I had to go home in the winter time and get a job. And the first year that I was in the big leagues, the job I had was at a service station pumping gas from 3:00 to 9:00pm and closing the service station so Ruth and I could live through the winter until baseball season started. She worked in a bookstore at the college. And because of Marvin’s efforts and the people in baseball, we brought that level up to where the players weren’t put in that situation. Marvin, I appreciate the job that you have done and the impact that it’s had on my family. Thank you.”
Toby Harrah, 17-year big leaguer who spent five of those campaigns in Cleveland, previously spoke about how Miller was viewed in his home.
“I played ball for the Senators, Rangers, Indians, and Yankees in the ’70′s and ’80′s. Marvin Miller was a hero in our household during that time,” said Harrah. “The players today may not even know who he is but they have much to be grateful for to this fine man. It took me ten years to make what many players make in a couple days now. He will definitely have my vote and my wife’s as well.”
Miller now will take his rightful place in Cooperstown next summer, albeit posthumously.
Simmons, a switch-hitting catcher and first baseman, spent 21 years in the Majors from 1968 to 1988. He was widely regarding as one of the better hitting catchers in MLB history and owned the second-highest rWAR of any catcher not previously inducted into the Hall of Fame (Joe Mauer, who spent much of the second half of his career at first base and designated hitter, is the other). While the Baseball Writers Association of America saw so little in his career numbers that he was bounced from their ballot after earning just 3.7% share in the 1994 vote, the Modern Era saw differently and named Simmons 13 times.
Simmons spent 13 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, five years with the Milwaukee Brewers, and three years with the Atlanta Braves. He was an eight-time All-Star who posted a career slash of .285/.348/.437 with 248 home runs. His numbers in the early stages of his career compared similarly to fellow Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. Nearly one year after “Pudge” was elected to his spot in Cooperstown, Simmons was denied entry to the Hall by one vote by the Modern Era Committee.
Now 70, Simmons gave credit for his Hall trip to the focus in recent years on advanced statistics.
“If it weren’t for the analytics people, my career as a potential Hall of Famer probably would have been shut down and forgotten a long time ago. When they started talking about on-base percentage and WAR and how WAR was comprised, it became a real study and then the real comparisons started to develop.”
The voting panel for the Modern Baseball Era ballot included former players George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith, and Robin Yount; executives Sandy Alderson, Dave Dombrowski, David Glass, Walt Jocketty, Doug Melvin, and Terry Ryan; and media members and/or historians Bill Center, Steve Hirdt, Jack O’Connell, and Tracy Ringolsby. The next vote for the Modern Era is slated for December of 2022 and could consist of many of the eight men denied a trip to New York this vote, including the former Indians hurler John.
The two newest Hall members will share the Cooperstown stage on July 26, 2020, at the annual induction ceremony. The rest of the potential members of the Class of 2020, voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, will be announced on January 21.
Photo: Getty Images