There have been 19,969 men to play Major League Baseball. Only 263 have made it into the Hall of Fame.
There are players who are not in the Hall of Fame – and likely will not be anytime in the future – but their significant singular achievements are more than worthy of their special place in baseball history. It’s the Hall of Significant Achievement.
Here’s my Top Ten:
Johnny Vander Meer: Pitched back-to-back no hitters in 1938. Today, no one pitches back-to-back complete games!
Bobby Thomson: His 1951 “Shot Heard Round The World” that won the pennant for the New York Giants (over those poor Brooklyn Dodgers) remains the most famous home run in history.
Denny McClain: The last of the 30-game winners (20 wins is very rare now), he went 31-6 in 1968 to win the American League Cy Young Award for the Tigers. He followed up with a 24-9 season in ‘69 to win another Cy Young. But he fizzled out after that and was finished at age 28.
Kirk Gibson: “In a season that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened” said Vin Scully as a hobbling Gibson circled the bases after hitting his game-winning home run for the Dodgers in the first game of the 1988 World Series.
Elroy Face: He went 18-1 out of the bullpen for the 1959 Pirates for a winning percentage of .947, best in history (with at least 10 decisions). Only 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds, he’s still alive at 93.
Bo Jackson: Maybe the best of all two-sport athletes. He was an All-Star in baseball with the Kansas City Royals in 1989 and a Pro Bowl pick with the Raiders in 1990. He had a 32-home run, 105 RBIs and 26 stolen bases season for KC and ran for 221 yards in a game for the Raiders, a record for Monday Night Football which still stands.
Roger Maris: Many still believe his 61 home runs in 1961 is still the single-season home run record. Maris was the MVP that year and also won the award the previous season for the Yankees.
Maury Wills: In 1962, he stole a record-shattering 104 bases while being caught only 13 times. He finished with 586 career steals and still has support to make it to Cooperstown.
Tony Cloninger: In 1966, the Milwaukee pitcher hit not one, but two grand slams in the same game! Imagine that? A pitcher with a career batting average of .192! He would finish his career with a total of 11 home runs. (In 1989 Fernando Tatis of the Cardinals hit two grand slams in the same inning!)
Red Barrett: An unknown with a pedestrian career record of 69-69 was the most efficient pitcher in history – or at least he was for one game. Pitching for the old Boston Braves in 1944, he threw a three-hit complete game shutout in 58 pitches. The game took 1 hour, 15 minutes. Where have you gone, Red Barrett?
Note: Bill Mazeroski’s series-winning home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 certainly deserves to be on the list, but Mazeroski is already in the baseball Hall of Fame – the one in Cooperstown.
We’re gathering again for a baseball Hot Stove Luncheon (with a dash of NFL, too) on Thursday, Jan. 20 at 11:45 a.m. at Palm Valley Country Club in Palm Desert. Buffet lunch and guest speakers. All welcome. $25 per person. RSVP at Plays4pars@aol.com.
Pete Donovan is a Palm Desert resident and former Los Angeles Times sports reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: From Kirk Gibson to Elroy Face, 10 baseball players not in Hall of Fame but worthy of high praise