HOF: The Catfish – by G. Scott Thomas

Catfish Hunter was touchingly humble when knowledgeable of his election to the Nationwide Baseball Corridor of Fame on January 14, 1987.

“I don’t know if I deserve it,” he mentioned. “I used to be a management pitcher who hit spots. I had gamers behind me to again me up. If I didn’t play on these groups, I wouldn’t have gained as many as I did, and I wouldn’t have been within the World Sequence six instances.”

He was completely proper.

Hunter spent a decade (1965-1974) with the Kansas Metropolis and Oakland Athletics, adopted by 5 seasons with the New York Yankees. Every of these franchises made the World Sequence thrice. The A’s gained all three, the Yankees two.

Hunter was an essential cog in these championship machines. He gained 224 regular-season video games, one other 9 in postseason play.

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However two information have to be acknowledged. The Catfish benefited from the help of nice lineups, as he admitted, in addition to the consolation of pitching in pleasant ballparks. The huge Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum stays a nightmare for hitters to today, no matter its present identify could be. And the previous Yankee Stadium statistically favored pitchers throughout his New York tenure within the mid- and late Seventies.

Hunter, because of this, was 31 % higher at dwelling (2.70 ERA) than on the street (3.92). No different Corridor of Fame pitcher ever loved such a determined home-field benefit all through his profession.

And but, even below such favorable circumstances, Hunter’s document wasn’t all that nice. It’s true that he twice led the American League in wins, however he additionally allowed probably the most earned runs and probably the most dwelling runs two years apiece.

“You may argue Hunter was a Corridor-of-Fame-caliber pitcher for 5 seasons — and I’d agree — however apart from that, he was both common or beneath common,” mentioned Matt Snyder, a member of the Baseball Writers’ Affiliation of America (BBWAA). His conclusion was buttressed by Hunter’s high quality rating (QS) of 30 factors, which is correct on the very backside of the marginal vary.

Eighty-three pitchers are currently enshrined in Cooperstown. Right here’s how they’re slotted into the 4 QS ranges:

  • Wonderful (60 factors or extra): 32 pitchers

  • Good (45 to 59 factors): 25 pitchers

  • Marginal (30 to 44 factors): 15 pitchers

  • Poor (29 factors or much less): 11 pitchers

Hunter outranks solely the 11 Corridor of Famers who occupy the very lowest rung, a gaggle that features such questionable inductees as Jack Chesbro, Jesse Haines, Waite Hoyt, Rube Marquard, and Mickey Welch. It may very well be argued that each one of them, together with Hunter, ought to have remained exterior the plaque gallery.

And but the BBWAA was fast to vote him in. Hunter made it to the corridor in simply his third yr of eligibility, rising from 53.7 % help in 1985 to 68.0 % in 1986 and 76.3 % in 1987, edging 5 votes above the 75-percent threshold.

What might the voters have been pondering?

Properly, they had been swayed by all of these World Sequence rings, in fact, and by the in depth media publicity that Hunter obtained in his New York years. Peter Ueberroth jokingly urged one other issue, the weird and extremely publicized habits of the tyrants who owned the Athletics and Yankees again then.

“Catfish Hunter had the excellence of taking part in for each Charlie Finley and George Steinbrenner,” mentioned Ueberroth, who was the commissioner in 1987, “which is sufficient in itself to place a participant within the Corridor of Fame.”

If the writers really needed to elect the very best obtainable pitcher in 1987, they need to have targeted on Jim Bunning, who had exactly the identical variety of victories as Hunter (224) and a high quality rating almost twice as excessive (53 factors).

However Bunning fell 21 votes in need of induction in his eleventh yr on the BBWAA’s poll. His help would erode barely within the 4 elections to return, triggering the expiration of his eligibility in 1991.

It wasn’t till 1996 that the Veterans Committee, the corridor’s model of an appeals courtroom, ushered Bunning into the plaque gallery.

  • Profession: 1965-1979

  • Groups: Kansas Metropolis (American League), New York (AL), Oakland (AL)

  • Main place: P

  • Profession stats: G 500, W-L 224-166, SV 1, ERA 3.26

  • League chief: W twice, ERA as soon as, CG as soon as, ER (most) twice, HR (most) twice

  • High quality rating: 30 factors (marginal)

  • Chosen to HOF: 1987

  • Chosen by: Baseball Writers’ Affiliation of America