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 Reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)
(Photo Reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images) /

Jimmy Collins

For much of the game’s history. Collins was considered the greatest third baseman to ever play the game. A star in Boston, for the National League Beaneaters from 1896 through 1900 and then for the team that would come to be known as the Red Sox, Collins was a career .294 hitter and by consensus the best gloveman at the hot corner over the course of a 14-season career.

He won a home run title in 1898, although his total of 15 would not impress today. Five times his batting average topped .300, his career best of .346 coming with the 1897 champion Beaneaters. He starred on four pennant winning teams including the first World Series winners, the 1903 Red Sox.

When the Hall held its initial vote in 1936, Collins’ candidacy was hurt by the fact that voting was conducted in two phases: pre-1900 and post-1900. Players like Collins and Cy Young, whose stardom spanned both groups, tended to be hurt by split voting. He peaked at 32.8 percent in 1937.

That may not sound impressive, but it’s worth considering how saturated the ballot was in those early years. The top 20 vote-getters that year, and 26 of the top 30 – have since been inducted.

When Collins’ vote share fell to 29 percent in 1942, Bob Stedler, sports editor of the newspaper in Buffalo where Collins lived, launched a campaign to get him elected to the Hall at the next election in 1945. Collins was 73 and in ill health at the time. He didn’t make it to 1945, dying in March of 1943.

The writers again rejected Collins in 1945, although they did give him his highest vote share of 49 percent. But the Hall’s old-timers committee, voting a few weeks later, elected Collins unanimously alongside Bresnahan.