Joe Gordon and the Hall of Fame


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.

Categories : Days of Yore


  1. dan says:

    I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve to be in–I had no idea who he was before two weeks ago, so I cant judge–but his inclusion makes the “It’s not the Hall of Very Good” arguments by some sports writers ridiculous in my opinion. A guy can be very good and get in, there’s nothing wrong with that adjective.


  2. Januz says:

    There is a very famous quote: There is “One Hall Of Fame The Baseball Hall Of Fame” (John Havlicek). This from an NBA Hall Of Famer, at Phil Niekro’s induction. That is why there are debates about guys like Gordon, Ron Santo, Jim Rice, Bert Blyleven, etc, long after their careers ended. It is important that Cooperstown be selective, and not throw everyone in, while not at the same time becoming elitest, and losing relevancy.
    Historians look at numbers far too much when deciding if someone is Hall Of Fame material (Gordon being a nine-time all-star, in a weak era for middle infielders, comes to mind). But most people know who is an immortal and who is not. The Jeter vs Arod debate comes to mind. People know who has 4 rings and a WS MVP, and who chokes in the playoffs? Arod could hit 800 home runs, and he will never be regarded by fans in the same way as Jeter is. Same concept as Reggie Jackson vs Dave Winfield. One guy hit home runs on 3 consecutive pitches, the other one went 1-23 in the 1981 World Series. In a different sport, I think of a Ben Roethlisberger, who does not have awesome QB rating numbers………… Until the 4th Quarter (Ask the Ravens and Cowboys about it).
    I do not think that Gordon fell through the cracks (Like Rice did). The people who actually saw him, did not consider him a Hall Of Famer, and I trust their judgement, because I never saw Gordon play (Again unlike Rice, who has been kept out because writters did not like him, or Jack Morris, who should be in despite his ERA (10 shutout innings of the SEVENTH GAME of the 1991 World Series comes to mind) BOTH BELONG in Cooperstown).

    • But most people know who is an immortal and who is not. The Jeter vs Arod debate comes to mind. People know who has 4 rings and a WS MVP, and who chokes in the playoffs? Arod could hit 800 home runs, and he will never be regarded by fans in the same way as Jeter is.

      This is ludicrous. Alex Rodriguez is a much, much, much, much, much, much, much better player than Derek Jeter, and this is not even remotely close.

    • DanElmaleh says:

      Sorry Rice and Morris are not in the hall for baseball reasons and it should be that way. They were both very very good, but neither was a hall of famer. Dawson was a better player than Rice and there are many others who are not in who are better than Rice. the problem is there is alwasys one person who was “alnost as good as” or “better than” but that is a slippery slope.

      It would be nice to have a good hall of fame discussion on here sometime. I just like to keep it more to the elite players; of which Rice falls just short.

  3. Steve says:

    I’m assuming you meant “LOST” to baseball history.

    Other than that, nicely done, Ben. Good read.

  4. JD says:

    I’m so sick of the Hall of Fame and the baseball writers. Please, it’s essentially just a museum, who cares if it includes the very good players among the greatest of all-time. For anyone who’s ever been there, the greatest players have additional items and tidbits scattered throughout the museum (there’s that word again) besides just a plaque. Not every painting is the Mona Lisa (or every artist van Gogh for that matter), but last I checked the Louvre has thousands of pieces of art varying from very good to the sublime.

  5. JD says:

    So, you’re saying the likes of Jim Rice, Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven are akin to piece of shit paintings. Nobody is saying that they should induct Andy Hawkins or Alvaro Espinoza here.

  6. JD says:

    Fair enough. I still think induction is way too strict and the people who vote should not have the privilege to do so, while most of them feel it’s their God-given entitled right. The fact that they use awards that they give out to validate whether players are hall worthy or not is stupid. And the fact that they use blind milestones as markers also is dumb and adds as much to your argument as mine.

    Now Eddie Murray, for example, was a fine player for a very long time in which he was healthy enough that he didn’t have his career shortened or prime years ripped away, so he compiled the necessary milestone stats that allowed for induction. I don’t think anyone would or could argue that he was among the best at his position during his career, but the stats…

    I have no problem with Murray or Puckett getting in, but players who I would argue were better or at least as good are being left out. It’s not right. And I don’t think that it creates a slippery slope. There’s no harm in letting the very good in, it’s just a matter of where you draw the line, and right now there doesn’t seem to be a line.

    One last thing…you can’t really use the “prior Hall inductees” test either. You can’t even compare the ’80s with the offense happy ’90s with any accuracy. It’s patently unfair to compare Rice and Murphy with the ’90s hitters that are starting to get in because they played when 35 hrs could have won a home run title some years.

  7. Januz says:

    I cannot disagree with TSJC more. People who go strictly by numbers live in a vacume. I will take guys who produce in the clutch like a Jeter any day over a Rodriguez. I think of his play in the playoffs throwing Jeremy Giambi out at the plate. If he makes the same play against Oakland in June, no one remembers. But because it was against Oakland in October, everyone does. I think of Willie Mays’s catch against Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series. Some people consider it the greatest catch in baseball history. Guess who does not? Willie Mays. He said “I made better catches in my carrer”. But because it happened in the World Series, people remember it.
    What makes Coopertown special, is people remember the history of baseball far more than the NFL, NBA, or NHL. There is little doubt in my mind, that more people are aware of Honus Wagner than Sammy Baugh, George Mikan, or Maurice “Rocket” Richard, even though Wagner’s career ended decades before any of those athletes ever played a game. That is why I do not want baseball to turn into a numbers game, where even the greats have their numbers surpassed, and then they fade into oblivion (Like a Jim Brown).

    • Ben K. says:

      Two things.

      1. Please use the reply to this comment function. It’s there for a reason.

      2. Jeter isn’t more clutch than A-Rod. If you look at their respective careers, A-Rod has better numbers in almost any “clutch” situation, however you want to define it. So what you’re saying is that you are buying into media perceptions of clutch as the standard for the Hall of Fame. How is that any better than going off of pure numbers?

      • Januz says:

        I admit I am not an Alex Rodriguez fan (I never was). But I am not a person who buys into the media’s concept of “Clutch” (Or much of anything concerning the New York Yankees). I am very aware of what the media thinks about the Yankees in general (Negative and (Or) jealous)). The issue of Citi Field Vs the New Yankee Stadium comes to mind.
        Alex Rodriguez, will end up breaking most all-time power numbers (Assuming he stays healthy). But NO ONE will ever say this is the greatest player of all-time. That belongs to one man……….. George Herman Ruth. I am of the opinion that 50 years from now, no one will be putting Rodriguez on the same level as Ruth or Gehrig or DiMaggio (NINE Championships in 10 trips to the Series) or Jeter.

        • Ben K. says:

          The issue of Citi Field Vs the New Yankee Stadium comes to mind.

          What does this even mean? Are you saying coverage was unfair? That might just be because the Yanks built their stadium on valuable parkland that the team is slow to replace while the Mets built theirs on a parking lot next to undeveloped dump.

        • I am of the opinion that 50 years from now, no one will be putting Rodriguez on the same level as Ruth or Gehrig or DiMaggio (NINE Championships in 10 trips to the Series) or Jeter.

          If you really think that 50 years from now, people will put Derek Jeter but NOT Alex Rodriguez on the same level as Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio, you’re smoking something serious. Maybe Yankee fans, for sentimental reasons, but certainly not baseball fans as a whole. You’re equating 4 world series rings and numerous playoff AB’s with instant greatness and totally ignoring context. By that logic, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill will also be listed in the pantheon of great players before Alex Rodriguez will, and that is patently ridiculous.

          These posts of yours continue to make less and less sense. I agree with what JD said above, that the HoF is whacked and there’s way too many people in the BBWAA who have no business having a vote, but I’m damn glad that you also don’t have a vote.

          Saying that Derek Jeter is a better player than Alex Rodriguez, based on titles and “clutch stats” (which are directly related to clutch opportunities) is akin to saying that Emmitt Smith is a better runningback than Barry Sanders. It’s ridiculous.

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