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Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Mystery of Cecil Travis

I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame web page recently, not to read about the newly selected inductees, Cal Ripkin, Jr. and Tony Gwynn, who were locks to get in on their first ballots, but to see how the others fared. The people for whom I would have voted finished 1-8, 10, and 19. Jim Rice, who I thought would FINALLY get in, finished fourth, with a lower percentage (63.5%) than the year before (64.8%), while the ones I had hoped would get in, Goose Gossage and Andre Dawson, did get over 50%, but not the required 75%. I skipped McGwire (#9) and selected Albert Belle, who failed to get even 5% and won't be on the ballot next year. Neither will Orel Hershiser, which the local paper indicated, correctly before the vote was announced, that he might be one of the best pitchers to get on the ballot only once. All the people I was sure would not make it to a second vote got zero votes, and the folks that I thought were likely not to get a second shot got 2 to 4 votes; but I missed Jay Buhner, who got only 1.

However, there is, as lawyers are wont to say, another bite of the apple: the Veterans' Committee. Currently comprised of living Hall of Fame members, and award-winning writers and broadcasters, the committee votes every two years. The vote in 2003 selected no one; Gil Hodges, the manager of the 1969 World Series champion New York Mets, and umpire Doug Harvey came the closest to the 75% threshold. The vote in 2005 also selected no one, with Hodges and long-time Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo each coming up short.
(The person in third place in 2005, Tony Oliva of the Minnesota Twins, was one of my favorite players in the day, an eight-time All Star, who led the league five times in hits, four times in doubles, thrice in batting average, once in slugging percentage. He and Willie Mays both batted .211 in their last seasons according to one source; I’m not saying he’s Willie Mays - who is my favorite player - just noting it.)

Here's the 2007 Veterans Committee ballot. A lot of familiar names from my childhood. Here are some stats on the players, and mini-bios on the non-players.

The one name I had never heard: Cecil Travis. "His career batting average of .314 is a record for AL shortstops, and ranks third among all shortstops behind Honus Wagner (.327) and Arky Vaughan (.318)." Cecil Travis, who played 12 years for the lowly Washington Senators, 10 before World War II, then after suffering frostbite at the Battle of the Bulge, two unremarkable post-war seasons.

Here's the weird thing, though: on the HoF web page, it appears that you can look up every player who was voted upon by the BBWAA - we'll call it the traditional way. Even those folks with zero votes show up. But there's nothing indicating voting for Cecil Travis.

What's a librarian to do but to contact the Hall of Fame directly.
I looked back at the voting rules and did not see anything that would have kept him off a ballot. If you go back to the voting results of the late 1940's, there is no player listed that received zero votes. If he would have received one vote, he would be listed.

If you have further questions, let us know. Thank you for contacting the Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

Late 1940s? Shouldn't it be the early 1950s, after the five year wait? I wrote back and asked.

The five-year waiting rule did not come into effect until 1954. No specific guidelines were set as to who was eligible for consideration nor to which committee would consider whom. The 75% majority was necessary for election by either committee, which continues today. A one-year wait had been in effect from 1946-1953 and no wait was specified before then due to WWII.

So, Cecil Travis' name presumably came up in the late 1940s and he received no votes? As a guy I know wrote me: "They were still catching up to all the old-timers. Not surprised he didn't get votes." Yeah, but ZERO votes?

Cecil Travis died on December 16, 2006. But for the war, he would probably have been a Hall of Famer. Expect that he'll get a lot of votes next month, maybe not enough to win, but a goodly number.

1 comment:

Greg said...

You call yourself a baseball fan and you've never heard of Cecil Travis????? The nerve. Next you'll tell me you never heard of Eppa Rixey. Sheesh. You kids today - no sense of history.