The Vets’ Committee Speaks, Says Yes to Herzog and Harvey

Membership in the Hall of Fame grew by two on Monday, as Whitey Herzog and Doug Harvey received sufficient support from the 16-man Veterans’ Committee. Harvey is one of those slam dunk candidates who should have been elected years ago. He was the National League’s counterpart to Nestor Chylak, a commanding presence behind the plate and on the basepaths who was long respected and regarded by peers as the premier active umpire in his league.

Herzog is a more debatable choice. I have no real objections to his election; he was a fine manager who successfully imposed a system of speed, defense, and line-drive hitting on two different organizations in Kansas City and St. Louis. Here’s what has me puzzled. How is Herzog any more deserving than Danny Murtaugh, who received only 50 per cent of the vote from the Vets’ Committee? Murtaugh had a higher winning percentage (.540 to .532), won two World Championships to Herzog’s one, and took his teams to the postseason at the same rate of success as “The White Rat” (33 per cent). Statistically, Herzog has only won significant advantage: he won three pennants to Murtaugh’s two. Perhaps Herzog deserves some extra credit for performing double duty as the Cardinals’ general manager in the 1980s, but Murtaugh also merits some credit for his work in integrating the Pirates’ lineup and clubhouse during the tumultuous time of the sixties and seventies.

A few other notes of interest from Monday’s Veterans’ Committee announcements. From the list of executives and owners, Marvin Miller, Jacob Ruppert, and Bob Howsam did not win election, with Howsam falling well short. The pioneering Miller, as expected, received very little support from the major league executives on the Vets’ Committee; bad feelings from failed owner-player negotiations of the past die hard.

Ruppert, the owner who oversaw the first dynasties of the Yankees’ franchise, continues to be forgotten. In his nearly 25 years as owner, Ruppert’s teams won ten American League pennants and seven world championships. Ruppert regularly spent big bucks in bringing in top notch talent, from his major league acquisitions of Babe Ruth and Carl Mays to his minor league purchases of Joe DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri, and Lefty Gomez.

And then there’s Howsam, who made several excellent trades that helped the Cardinals win the 1967 world championship and later assembled the “Big Red Machine” of the 1970s. Despite the highly impressive resume, Howsam received fewer than three votes from the 12 voting members of the committee.

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Bruce Markusen is the manager of Digital and Outreach Learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He has authored seven baseball books, including biographies of Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Ted Williams, and A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, which was awarded SABR's Seymour Medal.
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Hey Bruce, I guess the voters looked up their lifetime batting averag.[Herzog 257, Murtaugh 254]. By the way how come umpires are in the same category as managers or am I missing something. jim vankoski

The way I look at it Bruce is that Doug Harvey’s umpire votes took 15 away from a manager. In my opinion umpires should not be in the same category as managers period. I am willing to bet that at least 75% of your readership would agree with me.Votes for an umpire just make it harder for a qualified manager to get in. Glad you are not giving up on the Murtaugh case. We will continue our support of Danny as well. I am looking forward to his biography due out this March. Keep up the good work. jim

Bruce Markusen
Bruce Markusen

Jim, I believe that managers and umpires are grouped into the same category since they are both “on-field position.” In contrast, the other Vets Committee ballot consists of “off-field” positions like owners, executives, and pioneers.

Herzog’s case was helped by the fact that he is a more famous and more recent manager than Danny Murtaugh. Also, when a candidate like Herzog is still living, there is more of a sense of urgency to get him elected.

Still, I won’t give up on Mr. Murtaugh’s case just yet.