When Joe Gordon earned his spot in the Hall of Fame last week, the reception was rather underwhelming. The Yanks issued a perfunctory three-sentence congratulatory press release, and the reaction from the fan base was a deafening silence.
Joe Gordon seemingly is a man last to baseball history. Despite garnering contemporaneous praise from many in baseball and winning an MVP the same year
Joe D Ted Williams won the Triple Crown, his accomplishments are lost on the vast majority of Yankee fans. He doesn’t have a plaque in Monument Park. His number isn’t retired. He’s just not part of that Mystique and Aura surrounding the storied Yankee history.
On the surface, Joe Gordon seems like a rather unlikely candidate for the Hall of Fame too. He played for only 11 seasons, surrendering his age 29 and 30 seasons to World War II, and his career accomplishments aren’t that impressive. He didn’t hit any major offensive milestones and ended his career with a .268/.357/.466 line and a 120 OPS+. Should this open the Hall of Fame floodgates to a whole bunch of people who were good but not great over the course of their careers? It’s certainly a question we’ve debated around here over the last few weeks.
I still think, however, that the answer is no, and there’s a reason why. At the time of his retirement, Joe Gordon was probably the top offensive second baseman of all time. Since 1950, he has been overshadowed by plenty of others, but as The Times noted last week, Gordon’s success as a second base was largely unparalleled at the time. He won an MVP award. He earned himself nine trips to the All Star Game and had five World Series rings. By the time he retired, Gordon held the mark for most home runs by a second baseman and considered to be the better fielding half of the double-play combo he formed with Phil Rizzuto.
Gordon’s Yankee tale ended after the 1946 season. After a sub-par post-War campaign, the Yanks shipped him off to Cleveland, and the trade worked out for both teams. In return for Gordon, the Yanks landed themselves Allie Reynolds. Reynolds, a name not lost to history, would go 7-2 over six winning World Series for the Yanks. That is one deal that certainly worked out.
In the end, Gordon is a deserving member of the Hall of Fame. He was the best his position for the better part of 13 years, and it seems as though his time had long since passed. I wonder how many other deserving players have been lost to baseball history.