Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stupid Bar Debates: The HOF and Don Larsen

Many years ago a good friend of mine and I were somewhere, doing things we shouldn't have been doing. And we were faced.

At some point he turns to me and says, "Dude, it's an absolute crime Don Larsen's not in the Hall of Fame."

I responded with something like, "Right on! Him and Mark Lemke!" It didn't even occur to me that my friend was serious. Being that we both continue to be obstinate southerners to this day (long story), and that we were both completely faced, the entire conversation quickly devolved into two idiots yelling at each other over a completely moronic topic.

Seeing a few paroxysms of grief over the non-induction of Jack Morris and the potential future induction of Curt Schilling, however, I'd like to pay tribute to my friend by revisiting his argument. And I'm serious.

It begins and ends with this: on the biggest stage and in the biggest situation Don Larsen threw a perfect game. Given that Larsen threw what is arguably the greatest baseball game ever pitched (biggest stage, biggest situation, perfect game), he deserves to be in the HOF. Period.

That, friends, was the argument. Brutal in its simplicity, airtight in its logic, jaw-dropping in its conclusion. None of this means any disrespect to Mr. Larsen, who was a heck of a ballplayer. His overall stats, however, would not make him a prototypical HOFer.

I only bring this up because most of the arguments for the inclusion of Morris and Schilling center on their credentials from particular games, Morris's being game 7 of the 1991 WS and Schilling's being the "Bloody Sock" game 2 of the 2004 WS. While both men have a better body of work, career-wise, than Larsen, their masterpiece games are often used, quite consciously, to gloss over the fact neither reached any of the typical HOF benchmarks in terms of traditional stats.

Non-traditional stats cloud the matter even further for Morris, whose lifetime ERA+ of 105 portrays him as a few shades better than league average. However, ERA+ also places Schilling (127) ahead of Bob Feller (122), which clearly points to the fact that ERA+ isn't a perfect measure.

My argument is not necessarily for/against either Morris or Schilling, but to point to an unsettling lynchpin in most arguments for both men's inclusion. In other words, most of their advocates are advocating for them based not on their overall careers (which were fine), but based on their performances in specific great games. This line of argumentation is fine, but it leads us back to my friend's position: where is all the love for Don Larsen? In the words of my friend, "Dude pitched the greatest game EVER (said at the top of one's lungs). Isn't that enough?"

Have a good one!


  1. HEY! No one disses the Lemmer. No one. Remember the last time you yanks p.o'd us Canucks we burnt down your White House.
    Lesson learned?

  2. Right on man! No disrespect meant to Lemke. Down south his name is spoken with kind of reverence reserved for church services and good whiskey (which no one drinks in public but everyone carries, in flasks, to church, where they consume it in the bathroom). Magnificent '91 Series, good career (hallowed by some, me included). But is he a HOFer for it---that's another bar debate.

    As for the War of 1812---seems like Canucks have a memory long as us southerners. No wonder you're a Braves fan!

  3. Lemke is in the local hall of fame . . . grew up <20 minutes away. Wold have played him if I were born 30 years earlier.

  4. In 1994, Tuffy Rhodes hit 3 home runs on Opening Day, the only National League player ever to do so. Many people consider Opening Day to be an important game/occasion.

    He has to go in, right?