Veterans elect '40s star Gordon to Hall
Second baseman for Yankees, Indians picked by committee
LAS VEGAS -- Joe Gordon, a nine-time All-Star second baseman for the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians and an American League MVP, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday by one of the two Veterans Committees charged with the assignment. The announcement came on Monday during the Winter Meetings at the Bellagio hotel."He was an acrobat," said Hall of Fame right-hander Bob Feller, who played with Gordon for the Indians from 1947-50. "He was always in front of the ball." Added Bobby Brown, Gordon's teammate in 1946: "Joe was a terrific second baseman whose career paralleled Bobby Doerr. He was a great fielder who had great range. He didn't hit for a high average, but he would hit for power. He was a great fielder and a great guy."
Feller, 90, is the second-oldest living Hall of Fame player and is seven months younger than Doerr. Gordon was 63 when he passed away in 1978.
Gordon was the only player selected out of 20 candidates considered by separate committees analyzing the careers of players whose careers began prior to 1943 and 1943 or after. Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski was the last player voted into the Hall by a different formation of the current Veterans Committee in 2001.Gordon, whose career began in 1938, was picked by the 12-person committee surveying candidates from his era. He received 10 votes, or 83.3 percent. As in all Hall elections, a player must receive 75 percent of the vote. In the case of the post-1942 committee, a player would have to have been named on 48 of the 64 ballots to be elected. On the pre-1943 slate, it was nine votes from the 12 members. "We are thrilled and proud to welcome Joe Gordon to the Hall of Fame family," said Hall of Fame chairman of the board Jane Forbes Clark. "The Veterans Committee for this ballot had the challenge of considering players who retired long ago, but the Hall of Famers and historians on the committee did their homework with diligence and effort, and we thank them." Gordon will be inducted posthumously on July 26 during the annual ceremonies behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, along with anyone selected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. On the BBWAA ballot, the most likely candidates are Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice. "It's about time and 40 years too late," said Jerry Coleman, who played against Gordon from 1949-50. "I voted for him and campaigned for him [for the Hall of Fame] every year. He was one of the greats of the game -- a truly brilliant defensive player. To me, he was the perfect second baseman with his ability to turn the double play and hit for power in such a difficult hitter's park as Yankee Stadium. He made Phil Rizzuto and Lou Boudreau better. He wasn't just good, he was great."
No one from the post-1942 committee was elected. That group included such fan favorites as Ron Santo, Joe Torre, Gil Hodges, Dick Allen, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Al Oliver, Vada Pinson, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills. That 10-player ballot was handled by a Veterans Committee made up of the 64 living Hall of Famers.A maximum of four inductees could have been elected by either committee. Jeff Idelson, the Hall of Fame's president, said that the post-'42 committee placed an average of 3.3 names on their ballots and that all living Hall of Famers participated. Santo, the former Cubs third baseman, received 39 of the votes, or 60.9 percent, from that committee of 64. Kaat was next with 38 votes, or 59.4 percent. "It's so ridiculous that nobody gets in again," Santo said from his Arizona home. "I can't understand it." Joe Morgan, another Hall of Fame second baseman who is also vice chairman of its board, explained that he and his contemporaries can't seem to reach a consensus on who should be elected. "There are some guys out there who I believe belong in the Hall of Fame," Morgan said. "I think all of the players feel there are some guys out there who belong. The problem is, we can't find 75 percent that agrees one guy is the guy." During elections held by a single reconstituted Veterans Committee in 2003, '05 and '07, that included 80-85 members and voted for a ballot of 25 nominees, no one was elected, prompting the formation of four separate committees last year. This is thus the fourth consecutive time that a committee made up predominantly of the living Hall of Famers did not elect a player. But it's the first election conducted with this particular system. Idelson said any further changes in the post-1942 committee would be determined by the Hall's Board of Directors. "It's the first time we've tried it with a small electorate and a smaller ballot," Idelson said. "The question becomes, how do we refine it? And if so, when? And that's something the board will have to determine." Under the revamped rules, another committee including Hall of Famers, historians and members of the BBWAA examined 10 players whose careers began prior to 1943. Aside from Gordon, that group included Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, Sherry Magee, Carl Mays, Allie Reynolds, Vern Stephens, Mickey Vernon, Bucky Walters and Deacon White. "Joe Gordon was a real good guy and darn good ballplayer," said Yogi Berra, who played with Gordon in 1946. "He was a big part of the Yankees in the '40s. When we traded him for Reynolds, it was just one of those good exchanges. He helped Cleveland a lot, and Allie really helped us. It's great that Joe made the Hall; I think Allie should be in, too."
Gordon played 11 seasons as a second baseman with the Yankees and Indians from 1938-43 and '46-50, winning the AL MVP Award in '42. Gordon finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting four other times. He played in six World Series, winning five times, four of them with the Yankees.
"As a young man in Cleveland, I remember what a spectacular ballplayer Joe Gordon was," Yankees chairman and longtime owner George Steinbrenner said. "He was a great second baseman, a great Yankee and an inspiration to millions of Americans for many years. The Yankees are proud of his election."Standout players who are no longer eligible for the annual BBWAA ballot are eligible to be screened and subsequently elected by either of the Veterans Committees. Players whose careers began before 1943 will be up for a vote every five years or not again until 2013, while those who played from '43 on will be nominated every other year. The latter thus will happen again in 2010. Last year, two separate committees voting on executives and managers/umpires elected five people: managers Dick Williams and Billy Southworth, owners Barney Dreyfuss and Walter O'Malley, and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. All were inducted this past July 27, along with Rich Gossage, the sole electee by the BBWAA.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.