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) /

Rabbit Maranville

Maranville played 23 seasons for five teams, but peaked as a 22-year-old second-year star with the Boston Braves in 1914. The team’s shortstop, he led the ‘Miracle Braves’ to a  stunning pennant and even more stunning World Series sweep of the Philadelphia Athletics, after which he was runner-up to teammate and double-play partner Johnny Evers in Most Valuable Player voting.

Never much of a hitter,  Maranville compiled a lifetime .258 average, a fact that has made him a particular target whenever pundits gather to discuss the least worthy members of the Hall. Following his 1935 retirement, Hall voters accorded him modest recognition, his vote totals generally ranging between 25 and 40 percent. He peaked at 56 percent in 1947, fell back and in 1951 begane another gradual climb.

By then it was a race with Maranville’s own mortality. Although only 60 years old in 1951, it had been a hard 60 years: Maranville’s life was populated with alcohol, late nights, injuries and other inducements to mortality. Chronic heart disease was diagnosed.

Perhaps that incursion into mortality moved voters. He climbed to 52 percent in 1952, and to 62 percent a year later. But in January of 1954, just weeks before that year’s Hall vote was to be taken, Rabbit Maranville succumbed to heart disease.   When the Hall votes were counted, he led the ballot at 82 percent. He had gained the support of 76 voters in just two seasons, but missed by weeks living to know of it.