After a busy week of signings of free agents, especially affecting the immediate future of the New York Yankees, the attention of MLB fans has shifted to Florida. The Winter Meetings are taking place the week of December 9, during which trades will almost surely be made.
On Monday, December 9, the first of the 2014 Baseball Hall Of Fame election results were announced. Three interesting and deserved candidates listed on the Expansion Era Ballot of 12 names were elected by the votes of a 16 member committee chosen by the HOF. The votes of ¾ (12) of the 16 electors were needed for a candidate to be successful.
Three of the most successful managers in major league history, Bobby Cox, Tony LaRusssa and Joe Torre, were chosen by a unanimous vote of the electors to enter the Hall on July 27 during the next annual induction ceremony. All three were managerial rivals during the same era and the teams under the leadership of each won more than 2,300 games.
They rank only behind ancient managerial icons Connie Mack of the A’s and John McGraw of the Giants in number of victories. LaRussa is third with 2,758 wins, Cox is fourth with 2504 and Torre is fifth with 2,326.
LaRussa, whose greatest successes came with Oakland and St. Louis, led teams to six pennants and three World Series championships. Despite that level of success, he said of being member of the HOF, “I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable in that group.” The skipper in the majors for 33 years explained what baseball meant to him, “I never worked a day in my life. I worked at an occupation I loved.”
Fans of the New York Yankees should have been elated to know that the manager of their team from 1996-2007 was in the newest group of Hall of Fame elected members. The Yankees under the helm of Torre reached the playoffs every season from 1996-2007. The team’s record in the postseason during those years was 78-47. The Yanks were World Series champions in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
The Managing General Partner of the Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner, issued the following statement regarding Torre’s election, “Joe led our team during one of the most successful runs in our storied history and he did it with a quiet dignity that was true to the Yankee way. Joe’s place in Yankees history has been secure for quite some time and it’s appropriate that he now gets to take his place among the greats in Cooperstown.”
In an interview televised by MLB, each gave their greatest thanks to family members for putting up with the demands of their careers in baseball. Both Torre and LaRussa also gave great credit to a man not known to most baseball fans, George Kessell. The baseball lifer spent 69 years, until his death in 2008, in the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a player, coach, manager, scout and instructor. Torre commented that Kessell was “the one who spent the most time with me and taught me the most baseball.” LaRussa said, “George Kessell is like a father to me.”
Cox was drafted by the Yankees and played his only years in the majors with the Yanks, 1968 and 1969. He gave thanks to the late Yankee manager Ralph Houk for his managerial beginning, “I sort of idolized Ralph Houk, our manager in New York. He gave me the chance to manage in Class A in Fort Lauderdale. Thank God, he took the time to go down there [Florida].”
Although Cox led the Braves to one World Series victory, 1995, hed led the club to a record 14 consecutive seasons in the post-season.
The only discordant note on the election for knowledgeable baseball observers was the absence of approval for the first leader of the MLBPA, Marvin Miller, and former owner of the Yankees George Steinbrenner. Both had a huge influence upon baseball. Perhaps, the personal feelings of the electors interfered with who they voted in favor of or who they excluded from consideration. Hopefully, a different electorate in the future will support these two baseball giants.