MLB Hall of Fame: Their mortality brought them immortality

PITTSBURGH, PA - CIRCA 1976: Dick Allen #15 of the Philadelphia Phillies and Willie Stargell #8 of the Pittsburgh Pirates stand next to each other during an Major League Baseball game circa 1976 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Allen played for the Phillies from 1963-69 and 1975-76. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - CIRCA 1976: Dick Allen #15 of the Philadelphia Phillies and Willie Stargell #8 of the Pittsburgh Pirates stand next to each other during an Major League Baseball game circa 1976 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Allen played for the Phillies from 1963-69 and 1975-76. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images) /

Roger Bresnahan

There are those who will tell you that Roger Bresnahan was the best catcher in the game’s first half century.

In 17 seasons with five teams, Bresnahan hit .279 and would have been a perennial All Star had such a thing existed at the time. But he is best remembered as the catcher who handled the great New York Giants staff headed by Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity between 1902 and 1908. Mathewson won 191 games in those seven seasons, almost all of them pitching to Bresnahan.

Late in his career, Bresnahan became a field manager with the St. Louis Cardinals, but his teams never finished higher than fourth. In retirement, he purchased a minor league team in his home town of Toledo, later dabbling in politics and other pursuits.

When the Hall of Fame was created, Bresnahan attracted steady support, but only in the 20 to 30 percent range. In the final election of his life, held in 1942, Bresnahan finished only 21st with 24.5 percent of the vote. He was approaching his 63rd birthday at the time.

In December of 1944, the 65-year-old confronted mortality. He suffered a fatal heart attack at his home. A few weeks later, the Hall’s Old-Timers Committee convened to consider candidates who had been ignored by the writers. In his mortality, Bresnahan was immediately moved to the top of their list.