Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How about Frank and Buck?

Whitey was a fine baseball man in his day with some really good years in Kansas City and some great ones in St. Louis. Fine. Not greatness in my mind. I don’t even want to debate if he should be in or not.

All it does however is sadly remind me that two people I absolutely think should be in and aren’t are Frank White and Buck O’Neil.

Frank White was the best defensive second baseman of his era. 8 Gold Gloves and 1 more stolen from him. He was a 5 time all star and won the Silver Slugger in 1986 for being the best offensive player at his position that year. It isn’t without debate among baseball people who will say he didn’t hit well enough to be in the HOF. I say it is a shame if the HOF is so much about offense and if we can induct great hitters who weren’t great with the leather then why shouldn’t it be the other way around? Clearly, defense doesn’t get any respect at the HOF. How is Frank White all that different than let’s say Ozzie Smith? First, I understand Ozzie played a different position but I would have preferred to have Frank White at the plate any day to Ozzie. It is a crime Frank White is not in the Hall of Fame. I’m not a stat geek so maybe I’m missing something. He is within the range of total hits of other second basemen already in the HOF but his batting average would be the lowest. Of course, Tigers fans have a similar and credible beef about Sweet Lou Whitaker as well. Second base just doesn’t get much respect. Maybe they can put them in the HOF fame together.

Buck O’Neil, while not displaying the kind of numbers as a player that would merit entry, should have been enshrined simply for his magnificent contributions to the game. He was the first black coach in the major leagues for the Cubs. More importantly to me, he kept the historical flame of the Negro leagues alive when nobody else cared. He graciously and patiently kept the faith for decades until public interest and Ken Burns found him. Without him, the sad but rich history would have been lost forever and it has made the game richer for all who play it and watch it. I say sad but really when you talked to Buck it was never sad or about being the voice of victim. I’m proud to say I met him several times.

Today’s KC Star article also reports that Ewing Kauffman came up short. I love the Kauffman family for what they brought to Kansas City but I can’t in good faith say that as an owner of a baseball team he did anything that merits entry into the Hall of Fame. Funny but firing Whitey only to see him go over to St. Louis and succeed should be enough to keep Mr. K out. It seems silly to me to put people like this in the Hall when people like Frank White and Buck O’Neil aren’t.

Many of us have kicked and screamed over Buck’s not getting in but I rarely hear the outrage over Frank White’s not being in the HOF. While now it is much more difficult because he has fallen off the ballot perhaps people, the Veteran's Committee, can make it happen before Frank dies too.

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