New committee gives Staub shot at Hall
Objectivity and friendship seldom fit well in the same thought. One usually gets in the way of the other, or they join hands and create a world-class contradiction, similar to the one that follows: I didn't vote for Rusty Staub when he was on the Hall of Fame ballot. I'm not sure that I would check his name now, were I afforded another opportunity. I'm not sure I wouldn't. At the same time, I can't say I'd be disappointed if, come Monday, we learn that the new Expansion Era Committee has elected the Le Grande Orange to the Hall. I'd be delighted for him.
My objectivity as a voter for the Hall is in pretty good shape, I'd say, made strong by publicly justifying my votes in the annual December exercise and by conversations with my colleagues, past and present, about the candidates. I offer as proof these decisions: I never voted for Vada Pinson, my favorite player not named Mickey when I was a kid. He was close enough that no one would have questioned the vote.
I also withheld my support from Joe Torre, a man I have long admired, and who I would have considered a viable candidate had he not said "I'm not at that level," or had we been permitted to consider his body of work beyond his playing career and before his time with the Yankees. Torre was such a strong candidate that he remained on the ballot for 15 years. Who would have called me on it had I checked his name?
And I put aside my childhood feelings about Harmon Killebrew -- I had considered him, at best, a Yankees nemesis -- and voted for the man. How could I not?
Voting for the Hall is a privilege. I take it seriously. There is no such thing as a frivolous vote or a name checked because of familiarity or friendship.
Anyway, I will be pleased if the 16-man committee casts at least 12 votes for George Steinbrenner and Marvin Miller on Sunday -- each deserves a plaque in Cooperstown. They ought to be inducted in the same year. Without a Marvin, there would have been no George as we came to know him. And if Rusty makes it, I'll feel good for him and perhaps a little foolish about decisions about him.
The Hall hardly would suffer from his inclusion. He doesn't have 3,000 hits or 500 home runs. He's not all that close, either. But he wouldn't dilute the Hall, he'd enhance it.
The voters among the membership of the Baseball Writers' Association of America are to assess the HOF worthiness of former players by measuring their ability and record as a player, their integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the teams for which they played. The papers that accompany the ballot provide no advice about how much emphasis to place on the less tangible aspects of player's career. Nor does it tell us to consider a player's post-career contributions.
I suspect most voters judge primarily on how well a player performed and consider his integrity and character only if he is lacking integrity and character. The steroids issue and the row of dominoes it has caused makes those less tangible aspects more prominent and perplexing these days. Of course they don't apply to Staub, who came upon his .279 average, 2,716 hits, 292 home runs and 1,466 RBIs naturally. The unfair aspect of the process is that the candidacy of The Large Orange and others don't benefit much because they have been good, caring and well-behaved people while active.
Staub now is known for his generosity and tireless work raising funds his charities, the most notable being the New York Police and Fire Widow's and Children's Benefit Fund Foundation that he directs. What he does now and what he has done for decades is remarkable, exceeding anything anyone has done as a player. He helps hundreds with thousands by raising millions even with the sick economy.
But we can't consider that when we consider him as a Hall of Fame candidate.
That he is being reconsidered Sunday by the new committee is right and good and warranted. If Staub wasn't a Hall of Fame player, then he was just short of it. We know his character didn't develop the day after he retired. And We have his numbers to consider.
None of them is spectacular. Another 284 hits, and this conversation is needless. With faster wheels, he might have needed 250 to reach 3,000. They could play him deep on the infield.
A total of 13 additional RBIs added in the proper places in 1970, '71 and '76, and he would have had six seasons of 100 or more. That would catch some eyes.
Then again, his career RBIs exceed those of -- are you ready? -- Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews, Jim Rice, George Davis, Yogi Berra, Charlie Gehringer, Joe Cronin, Jim Bottomley, Robin Yount, Joe Medwick, Johnny Bench, Orlando Cepeda, Books Robinson, Johnny Mize, Duke Snider, Carlton Fisk, Roger Connor, Paul Waner, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Eddie Collins, Hugh Duffy, Dan Brouthers, Enos Slaughter, Hank Greenberg, Pie Traynor, Zack Wheat, Bobby Doerr, Gary Carter, Frankie Frisch, Bill Dickey, Jim O'Rourke, Chuck Klein, Joe Kelley, Tony Lazzeri, Heinie Manush, Gabby Harnett, George Sisler, Earl Averill, Tony Gwynn, Joe Morgan, Bobby Wallace, Luke Appling, Rickey Henderson, Sam Rice, Kirby Puckett, Bill Terry, Bid McPhee, Kiki Cuyler, Ryne Sandberg, Hack Wilson, Joe Sewell, High Pockets Kelly, Ralph Kiner, Fred Clark, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, Ernie Lombardi, Home Run Baker, Edd Roush, Jimmy Collins, Joe Gordon, Larry Doby, Jesse Burkett, King Kelly, Travis Jackson, Arky Vaughn, Lou Brock, Pee Wee Reese, Rabbit Maranville, Charlie Comiskey, Buck Ewing, George Kell, Monte Ward, Roy Campanella, Bill Mazeroski, Hugh Jennings, Billy Herman, Chick Hafey, Mickey Cochrane, Harry Hooper, Willie Keeler, Max Carey, Ozzie Smith, Louie Aparacio, Nellie Fox, Lou Boudreau, Joe Tinker, Freddie Lindstrom, Red Schoendienst, Elmer Flick, Billy Hamilton, Rick Ferrell, Jackie Robinson,Tommy McCarthy, Wilbert Robinson Earl Combs, Lloyd Waner, Frank Chance, Ray Schalk, Ross Youngs, Dave Bancroft, Richie Ashburn, Leo Durocher, Phil Rizzuto, Johnny Evers and Roger Bresnahan -- to name a few.
And Staub drove in more runs than Pinson and Torre, and finished within 118 of Killebrew.
It should be noted here that 92 of his RBIs came in 418 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. Staub was extraordinarily successful in that challenging role.
None of that addresses his defense. The late George Kissell, the fundamentalist behind the Cardinals' success for more than 60 years, said two outfielders played their positions properly in his view -- Andy Van Slyke and Daniel Joseph Staub. Even when diminished foot speed became an issue, Staub positioned himself intelligently and according to game circumstance and count. Kissell -- considered a baseball genius -- considered Staub an outfield genius.
And Staub threw as well as any right fielder except for Clemente and one or two others until his shoulder betrayed him in 1973. He threw smart, too.
His off-field contributions to the team went beyond reading pitchers. And he did that as well as anyone. Sometimes he needed to see merely one inning before he'd announce "OK, I've got his breaking ball." He shared the information, and in the eighth and ninth innings, he used it himself.
He was generous with his time and his baseball intellect. He nudged young players in the right direction. When he was with the Mets, he provided roundtrip transportation for Manhattan guys. He convinced Keith Hernandez to re-sign with the Mets after 1983. How great a contribution was that? He donated a sauna to the clubhouse. He ran in the mornings with Jay Horwitz. He was a good teammate, a good co-worker.
When I was roasted by writers, Rusty brought me ribs -- his ribs, thank God. Once he cooked dinner for all of us from New York when we were in Detroit. Twice he cooked dinner for me in West Palm. Oh, the port he served!
Maybe I should have voted for him even though he was -- is -- a friend.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.