Keeping the Hall of Fame theme going, it was interesting to note the circumstances surrounding the election of Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice, two vastly different players linked roughly by the era in which they played and their position in left field.
I loved watching both of them play. Rice because of the way he hit with so much power and consistency, and Rickey and because of the way he disrupted the opposition with his unique presence on the basepaths.
I have always been intrigued that a player with his immense talent and skill could have moved about as much as he did throughout his career. As should have been the case, there wasn’t all that much kibitzing the last couple of days about Rickey the difficult superstar, but there certainly was when he was playing.
In terms of our hobby, I think all that moving around had an impact on his stature with diehard fans. In the days before free agency, it would have been unthinkable for a player with his abilities to play for so many different franchises, but nowadays it barely raises an eyebrow.
In contrast to Rickey, Rice played sixteen seasons in relative anonymity in Boston through the 1970s and 1980s. He was also the last man to top the 400 total bases mark (406 in his MVP season in 1978) until 1998, when offensive numbers suddenly took a major leap forward. I was always partial to the total bases statistic because of the combination of power, durability and consistency that it personified. My guy, Henry Aaron, did it in 1959 with a mere 39 home runs and in the 154-game season.
Obviously, total bases numbers require a lot of plate appearances, and though I can’t immediately check it out, I’ll bet that no player with at least 45 home runs ever had as many at bats (677) as Rice did in that amazing 1978 season.
I don’t quibble with Flash Gordon getting the Veterans nod, but I would still insist that the 1942 MVP Award that probably had an enormous impact on his overall stature with fans was wrongly awarded. He had a wonderful season, but Ted Williams won the Triple Crown and thus should have been the MVP. I know it begs the debate about whether an MVP has to be on a winning team, but I reject that with the observation that an individual award can’t fairly be dependent upon the efforts and abilities of 24 other guys. Geez, it was the Triple Crown!
The other reason I wanted to blog about these dudes was to show off Dick Perez’s incredible artwork. We can all be thrilled that he continues to create artwork of the newest HOFers every year, producing it in the same style that he employed for the coveted Perez-Steele Hall of Fame Art Postcards Series that ran from 1980-2001.