2020: The MLB Hall of Fame’s doleful year

Jul 20, 2019; Cooperstown, NY, USA; National baseball hall of fame chairman of the board Jane Forbes Clark greets Hall of Famer Phil Niekro as he arrives at the National Baseball Hall of Fame during the Parade of Legends. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 20, 2019; Cooperstown, NY, USA; National baseball hall of fame chairman of the board Jane Forbes Clark greets Hall of Famer Phil Niekro as he arrives at the National Baseball Hall of Fame during the Parade of Legends. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
5 of 7
Next
Yankee great Joe DiMaggio. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Yankee great Joe DiMaggio. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

1999 (4)

Although four MLB Hall of Famers died in 1999, only one of them ranks among the game’s true elite. That one is Joe DiMaggio, who died March 8 at the age of 84.

Many are surprised to learn that DiMaggio was not a first-ballot selectee. He was actually elected by the writers in 1955, his fourth year on the ballot. DiMaggio won the 1939 and 1940 batting titles, was a three-time most Valuable Player and had a role in nine Yankee World Series winners.

One month later, long-time pitcher Early Wynn died. He was 79. A 300-game winner on the number, Wynn watched for the Senators, Indians, and White Sox. He is best recalled for his leadership role on pennant winning staffs in Cleveland (1948 and 1954) and Chicago (1959). The writers elected him in 1972.

That August, Dodger shortstop great Pee Wee Reese died at age 81 in Louisville, his lifetime home town. Inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1984, Reese was a career .269 hitter, prompting criticism of diminishing Hall standards from those who felt an immortal should have a higher batting average.

Then on Sept. 14, former Oakland and Yankee pitcher Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter died of ALS. Elected in 1987 in his third year on the ballot, Hunter had won 224 games and played a leading role on World Series winning Oakland teams from 1972 through 1974. He was also a member of Yankee World Series winners in 1978 and 1979.