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 /
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Bob Gibson: One of five greats to have died in 2020.  Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Gibson: One of five greats to have died in 2020.  Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

2020 (7)

The toll taken on the MLB Hall of Fame during 2020 begins on April 6 when Tiger legend Al Kaline died at age 85. A first-ballot inductee in 1980, Kaline had been named on 88 percent of the ballots. An 18-time All Star, he was the American League batting champion in 1955 (.340) at the tender age of 20 years, 280 days. That was 12 days younger than Ty Cobb had been won he won his first batting title in 1907.

Within a five-week span, the baseball world has lost four more greats. Tom Seaver died on Aug. 31. A 311-game winner and 1966 Rookie of the Year, Seaver was the ace of the 1969 World Series winners. When he became a first-ballot inductee in 1992, it was with 425 of the 430 votes, a record for any selectee at the time.

Only a week after Seaver’s passing, the baseball world was saddened again when Cardinal outfielder Lou Brock died. An eight-time stolen base champion, Brock set the record in 1974 with 118 steals. He was a force on Cardinal World Series winning teams in 1964 and 1967.

Brock’s teammate on those great Cardinal teams, Bob Gibson, died less than a month later on Oct. 2. A 251-game winner for St. Louis, Gibson was almost literally unbeatable in World Series play. He won seven of nine decisions, averaged 10 strikeouts per start, and had a career 1.89 World Series ERA.

Gibson was elected by the writers in his first year of eligibility in 1981.

Whitey Ford, who died in October, won 236 games and played a role in seven Yankee World Series winners: 1950, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961 and 1962. He won the 1961 Cy Young Award with a  25-4 record.

Morgan died Oct. 12, marking the first time that the Hall had lost six sitting members in the same year. A two-time World Series winner with the 1975-76 Reds, he had 2,517 base hits. In both of those World Championship seasons, Morgan was  voted the league’s Most Valuable Player.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 with 82 percent of the vote.