Nothing sparks as much controversy among baseball fans as Hall of Fame voting. I do not count myself among the zealots who lobby long and hard for their favorite player. If anything I view the Hall as too crowded already. Take the initial class voted in – Cobb, Ruth, Wagner, Mathewson, and Walter Johnson, or those voted in soon thereafter, Gehrig, Foxx, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, and Rogers Hornsby. Those to me are true Hall of Famers. All-time greats. How many players since then are truly worthy to be mentioned in the same conversation? Certainly DiMaggio, Williams, Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Gibson, Clemente. The 70s produced quite a few no-brainers – Bench, the finest catcher to ever play, and others like Carew, Seaver, Schmidt, and Palmer, who were outstanding seemingly every year, and who spent a decade or more dominating the leader boards and the internal checklists of fans as the very finest at their positions. So by that measure barely a handful of players per decade are true Hall of Famers, the rest belonging in the ‘Hall of Very Good’.
My intention for this post is not as much to create discussion of who belongs and who does not, as much as to look at the best players from the 1970s who for one reason or another are not in the Hall of Fame. My list is for those who played the majority of their career in the 1970s, so I excluded men like Frank Howard and Bill Freehan (who played the majority of their careers in the ’60s), or Alan Trammell and Keith Hernandez (’80s). Here are the very best players from our favorite decade who are not immortalized in Cooperstown:
1) Pete Rose– Charlie Hustle, the major league hit leader, was a three time batting champ, 17-time All-Star who hit .300 or better 14 times, and had 200+ hits and scored 100+ runs 10 times each. He won 3 World Series rings (’75,’76 with Reds, ’80 with Philadelphia), 2 Gold Gloves (’69 and ’70), the 1963 Rookie of the Year, 1973 National League Most Valuable Player, and 1975 World Series MVP. A .303 lifetime hitter, Rose was no mere singles specialist, topping 40 doubles 7 times, with 746 career 2-baggers, along with 135 triples and 160 homers. He also hit .321 with 13 doubles and 5 homers in 67 post-season games.
Why he’s not in the HOF: While Rose’s on the field performance is worthy of mention with all the names listed above, and he played the game with a passion rarely seen since the dead-ball era, he bet on baseball, then denied he did. I can’t believe there is a single writer who denies Rose’s baseball stats warrant induction, but his actions seriously compromised the integrity of the game. No player’s Hall worthiness causes more debate, but he’s easily the best 1970s player not there.
2) Steve Garvey– It took the Dodgers’ 1968 first round draft pick until 1974 to push his way into the starting lineup, but once he did, Garvey made the most of the opportunity, batting .312 and knocking in 111 runs, while winning the Gold Glove, All-Star Game MVP and National League MVP honors. Then he hit .389 in the NLCS and .381 in the World Series. Thus began a 7-year run with 6 300+ batting averages (he hit .297 in the other year), 5 100+ RBIs (95 and 80 in the others), 6 200+ hit years (192 in the other), 4 Gold Gloves and 3 pennants, and the 1978 NLCS MVP when he hit .389 with 4 HR. A 10-time All-Star, Garvey played in 1,207 consecutive games, 5 World Series, and had a .338 lifetime batting average over 55 post-season contests.
Why he’s not in the HOF: Garvey’s top tier numbers from ’74-’80 slipped a bit from there, and after turning 32 he never had another .300 average or 200 hit season. He finished with 2599 hits, 272 homers and a .294 average, and while he was a good contact hitter who did not strike out a lot, he walked even less, and his .329 OB% certainly worked against him. I’d argue Garvey was comparable, if not better overall than Hall of Famer Tony Perez, who had more power than Garvey but hit for a lower average (.279), was nowhere near as good a first baseman, and hit only .238 in 47 post-season games.
3) Thurman Munson– Munson was the heart and soul of the Yankees’ return to glory in mid-late decade. The Yankee captain was 1970 Rookie of the Year, a 7-time All-Star, won 3 Gold Gloves, and was the 1976 American League MVP. He topped .300 5 times and 100 RBI 3 times, and cut down 44% of would-be base stealers in his career, including 61% in 1971, when he committed one error all season. He was an outstanding clutch player, hitting .357 in the post-season.
Why he’s not in the HOF: Munson was killed in a plane crash in August of 1979 at the age of 32, and just did not have the longevity in a 10 year career with 1,558 hits to receive strong consideration. Its debatable had the accident not occurred if Thurman would be inducted. 5 more seasons at the level he played his first decade would have been enough, but while he was hitting .288 in 1979, his body was showing the normal wear and tear of nearly 1,300 games caught – chronic shoulder problems and knee issues so bad there was talk he may not do much more catching the remainder of the season. One thing is for certain- the Yankees, who had just won three straight pennants and two World Championships with Munson, would make only one more Fall Classic appearance and did not win it all again for 17 years without him.
4) Dave Parker– I originally left Parker off the list since he played more games in the 1980s (1299) than 70s (868), but decided to add him because of his impact as a ’70s player. Cobra had 5 strong years with Pittsburgh to close out the decade, never hitting lower than .308 with two batting titles, three Gold Gloves, averaging 37 doubles, 98 RBI, 95 runs, and 14 outfield assists. In the early 80s Parker’s performance tailed off, coinciding with his involvement in a drug scandal, but he reformed himself and rebounded with strong seasons for the Reds, A’s and Brewers. Parker was a 7 time All-Star who drove in 90+ runs 10 times and finished Top 10 in the MVP vote 6 times; he hit .290 overall with 2,712 hits, 526 doubles, 339 home runs and 1,493 RBI.
5) Bobby Grich– He came up as a shortstop and started the 1972 All-Star game at short, but moved to 2B after Davey Johnson was traded and won 4 Gold Gloves there as Mark Belanger’s DP partner. Grich hit 224 career homers, a high amount for a middle-infielder of that era, including a career high 30 with 101 RBI for California in 1979, and a league-leading 22 in the 1981 strike season. The 6-time All-Star had 1,833 career hits, 320 doubles, and a .370 OBP. While I’m not a fan of the stat, its impossible to ignore that Grich’s 71 WAR ranks 2nd only to Rose among 70s players not in the HOF.
6) Luis Tiant– Luis enjoyed 4 20-win seasons, and led the league in shutouts 3 times (’66,’68,’74) and ERA twice, first with a 1.60 mark for Minnesota in 1968. In 1972 with Boston he went 15-6 and had a league-best 1.91 ERA, relieving in 24 games with 3 saves before moving into the rotation where he started 19 with 6 shutouts and 12 complete games, including 9 of his last 10 starts. Tiant nearly willed the ’75 Sox to a World Series victory over Cincinnati, going 2-0 in 25 innings over 3 starts. He won 229 games in his career with 2,416 strikeouts.
7) Graig Nettles– A 6-time All-Star, Nettles was overshadowed by George Brett and Mike Schmidt during his career, but smashed 390 lifetime homers, including a 7th best 252 during the 70s, and led the league with 32 in 1976. Nettles put together 4 straight seasons with 90+ RBI, and was a fine third baseman who earned 2 Gold Gloves and enjoyed an outstanding defensive 1978 Fall Classic in one of two World Championships he won with the Yankees.
8) Dick Allen– Allen enjoys a cult-like following of HOF supporters, and had 4 seasons at the elite level. He was the 1964 Rookie of the Year with 29 homers, 91 RBI, a .318 average, a league leading 125 runs scored, and 13 triples. In 1972 he put together a year for the ages for the White Sox as American League MVP, hitting .308 while leading the league in home runs (37), RBI (113), walks (99), OBP (.420), and slugging (.603). The 7-time All-Star topped 30 homers 6 times and led the league in slugging 3 times. Allen had all the tools. He hit .292 in his career with 351 homers, but had numerous attitude and off the field issues, and never had another strong season after the age of 32.
9) George Scott– A man nicknamed Boomer who wore a batting helmet in the field would not be expected to be a stellar defender, but that’s exactly what George Scott was. Originally a third baseman, Scott moved well and had soft hands, and won 8 Gold Gloves for his work at first base. He had 6 seasons with 20 or more home runs, topped 80 RBI 7 times, and in 1975 led the American League in home runs (36) and RBI (109).
tie 10) Bobby Bonds– A true 5-tool superstar, Bonds dominated the 1970s, tying Reggie Jackson for the most extra base hits (586), finishing second in runs scored (1020), and fourth in home runs (280) and stolen bases (380). He topped 100 runs scored 5 times and 40 stolen bases 7 times. Bonds hit 302 career doubles, 66 triples, and won 3 Gold Gloves in right field, where he racked up 128 assists, with 6 seasons of 10 or more.
tie 10) Tommy John– After the 1974 season, John was coming off consecutive years leading the league in winning% (16-7 in 1973, and 13-3 in ’74) but needed a serious elbow operation that had never been attempted before. He missed all of 1975 but returned from the surgery that now bears his name to win 20+ games in 3 of the next 5 seasons. In all Tommy won 288 career games, and went 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 14 post-season appearances for the Dodgers, Yankees, and Angels.
tie 10) Ted Simmons– An 8-time All-Star catcher, Simba had 8 seasons with 90+ RBI and 3 years with 100+. The switch hitting Simmons finished his 21-year career with a .285 batting average, 2472 hits, 483 doubles, 248 home runs, and 1389 RBI.
Honorable Mention: Jim Sundberg, Cesar Cedeno, Bert Campaneris, Reggie Smith, Joe Rudi, Mike Marshall, Sparky Lyle, Ron Cey, Frank Tanana, Al Oliver, Amos Otis, Bill Madlock, Sal Bando, Fred Lynn, and Rusty Staub
Joe Gersbeck is a baseball historian and lifetime fan/student of the game who lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons. His website is http://www.1970sBaseball.com and his book, 1970s Baseball: A History and Analysis of the Decade’s Best Seasons, Teams, and Players is available on Amazon, B&N, and iBooks: