Tommy John, who spent the first two years of his 26-year Major League career with the Cleveland Indians, was one of ten men named to the 2020 Modern Baseball Era ballot on Monday by the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Modern Baseball Era is one of four different Era Committees which looks at those previously involved in the game of baseball while giving consideration to them for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Candidates in these respective groupings are voted on by 16-member panels, with each era rotating every few years. Last year, the Hall gave consideration to those of the “Today’s Game Era” and added both reliever Lee Smith and designated hitter/outfielder Harold Baines to the ever-growing list of baseball immortals.
This year’s Modern Baseball Era ballot is composed of a total of nine players and one former executive. Any potential winners to come out of the grouping will be announced on December 8 during the Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, California.
The Yankee-heavy list of names includes John, Don Mattingly, and Thurman Munson, as well as other stars Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, and Lou Whitaker. Marvin Miller, the longtime leader of the Major League Baseball Players Association, is also on the list.
The southpaw John was the only member of the list to have a direct tie to the Indians organization. He signed with the Indians in 1961 after time at Indiana State University in his hometown of Terre Haute. He made his big league debut at the age of 20 late in the 1963 season and pitched six times during the final month of the schedule, posting an 0-2 record with a 2.21 ERA. He saw more extensive work the following season, pitching in 25 games and making 14 starts while going 2-9 with a 3.91 ERA for the sixth place Tribe.
Following the season, he was dealt as part of a three-team trade, landing in Chicago with the White Sox. That deal also sent Tommie Agee and John Romano to the Windy City, while the Indians acquired Cam Carreon from the Sox and Rocky Colavito from the Kansas City Athletics.
John remained in Chicago through the 1971 season. He was dealt that winter to the Los Angeles Dodgers and he stayed on the west coast through the 1978 season. While with the Dodgers, he had the famous surgery that now bears his name. He signed with the Yankees following the ’78 season and was traded to the California Angels late in the 1982 campaign and remained there midway through the 1985 season, when he was released and signed with the Oakland Athletics. He returned to New York early in the 1986 season and pitched for the club until his release on May 30, 1989, just days after his 46th birthday.
John finished his 26-year career with a 288-231 record, a 3.34 ERA, and a 1.28 WHIP over 700 starts and 60 relief appearances. He was an All-Star for the White Sox in 1968 and a decade later in three straight seasons from 1978 to 1980 (the first coming with the Dodgers and the latter two with the Yankees). He spent 15 years on the BBWAA ballots from 1995 to 2009, earning a high of 31.7% of the vote in his final season of eligibility. Only two players above him on the all-time win list have failed to receive a spot in Cooperstown – the maligned Roger Clemens (who won 354 games over 24 seasons) and Bobby Mathews (a 5’5” right-hander who won 297 games in 15 years from 1871-1887).
Evans spent nearly the entirety of his 20-year career in Boston with the Red Sox, spending much of that time holding down the right field spot for the club. He was an All-Star in 1978, 1981, and 1987, and was well known for his defensive work, claiming eight Gold Gloves over the course of his career. He was also a top power threat at the time, hitting as many as 34 home runs in 1987 and amassing 385 in his career while earning a pair of Silver Slugger Awards. He concluded his career in 1991 with the Baltimore Orioles. He spent just three years on the BBWAA ballot.
Garvey played 19 years in southern California, spending his first 14 big league seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers before closing out his career with five seasons with the San Diego Padres. He was a steady hitter at the plate, posting a lifetime .294 average, but he was not fond of his walks given his .329 career on-base percentage. He reached the 200-hit plateau six different times, twice leading the National League in the stat. He maintained a spot on his manager’s lineup card often, leading the league or baseball in games played six different times in his career. He was the 1974 NL Most Valuable Player, a ten-time All-Star (winning the game’s MVP award twice), a four-time Gold Glove winner, and a two-time NLCS MVP. He owned a career .338 average over five different postseasons. He spent all 15 years of eligibility on the ballot, reaching a high percentage of votes in 1995 with 42.6.
Mattingly spent much of his 14-year career with the Yankees as the team’s first baseman, earning nine Gold Glove Awards along the way. One of the game’s best hitters during his peak seasons, he won the batting title in 1984 with a .343 average, then was named the American League’s MVP in 1985 after boasting career best numbers at the time in hits (211), doubles (48), homers (35), and RBI (145). He finished second in the voting the following season with a career-high 238 hits and 53 doubles to go along with 31 homers and 113 RBI. He homered in eight straight games to tie a big league record in 1987. He made six straight All-Star teams in total from 1984-1989, but his production fell off some at the plate as he entered his 30s. He ended his career after the 1995 season with a .307/.358/.471 slash. He spent all 15 years on the ballot, but never surpassed his first-year vote total of 28.2%.
The late Munson, a native of Akron, spent eleven successful seasons behind the plate for the Yankees, earning some major hardware before his tragic death in a plane crash during the 1979 season. A first round draft pick by the Yankees in the 1968 draft out of Kent State University, Munson made his big league debut a year later. By 1970, he was a mainstay behind the plate for the Bombers, winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award after hitting .302. He was a first-time All-Star in 1971 and put together six more Midsummer Classic trips from 1973-1978, representing the pinstripes at the annual exhibition. He became a steady run producer later in his career and knocked in 105 during his MVP campaign of 1976.
Murphy spent 18 years in the Majors with Atlanta (15), Philadelphia (3) and Colorado (1). He was consistently one of the best in the game during his peak run from 1979 to 1987, when he was named an All-Star seven times (and in six straight seasons), a Gold Glove winner five times, a Silver Slugger four times, and in back-to-back seasons in 1982 and 1983 was named the NL’s MVP. He was a well-balanced threat, finding his way into the lineup almost every day for years while flashing power, speed, run producing ability, and strong defensive work as the Braves’ center fielder. He finished his career with 398 homers and spent all 15 years eligible on the ballot, but he earned no more than 23.2% of the vote in those years.
Parker was more traveled than most on the list. He spent his first eleven seasons with Pittsburgh, making four All-Star teams and winning consecutive batting titles in 1977 and 1978. The latter campaign, he led baseball with a .334 average and added 30 homers and 117 RBI to win the league’s MVP award. The next year, he helped the Pirates to a World Series title. He moved on to Cincinnati in 1984 and was an All-Star twice in four seasons there before joining the Oakland A’s for the 1988 and 1989 seasons (winning another World Series in the second year there). He was an All-Star for the final time of his career in 1990 while with the Milwaukee Brewers. He split his final big league season in 1991 with the California Angels and Toronto Blue Jays. Fifteen years on the ballot earned him no more than a 24.5% share of the vote.
Simmons spent many of his 21 big league seasons behind the plate, serving as a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals (13 years), Milwaukee Brewers (5 years), and Atlanta Braves (3 years). He was named an All-Star eight times, including six times with the Cardinals early in his career. He earned some MVP votes throughout his career, but never led his league in a key offensive stat (aside from intentional walks). He hit a career-best .332 in 1975 and parked 26 balls over the fence in 1979. He was a Silver Slugger winner in 1980 and was named a Player of the Week five different times in his career. He lasted just one season on the Hall ballot, earning a 3.7% figure in 1994.
Whitaker spent all but 32 games (played at DH) as the Detroit Tigers’ second baseman from 1977 to 1995. During his 19-year career, he posted a .276/.363/.426 slash with 244 career homers. He was the AL’s Rookie of the Year in 1978 after a strong first full season and was named an All-Star each year from 1983 to 1987. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner from 1983 to 1985 and was a Silver Slugger in those three years as well as 1987. He got a brief stint on the BBWAA ballot, falling off after one year with a 2.9% share.
Miller, the only non-player on the list, was the man that made the MLB Players Association what it was – one of the most powerful unions in the country. Miller was elected as the head of the MLBPA in 1966 and was behind some of the driving movements in the game, changing arbitration, mediation, and free agency. Miller retired from his spot in 1982, with players’ pockets reaping the benefits of his service time.
Seven of these men were together on the ballot late in 2017, when John, Garvey, Mattingly, Miller, Murphy, Parker, and Simmons were on a list that also featured Jack Morris, Luis Tiant, and Alan Trammell. The two former Tigers, Morris and Trammell, were elected out of that class of candidates.
Those up for consideration this year must be named on at least 75% of the cast ballots to earn election to the Hall of Fame and would be part of the Cooperstown Class of 2020 set for induction on July 26, 2020. Others voted in more customarily via the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote will be announced on January 21, 2020. The Today’s Game Era will be reviewed again next year.