Jim Creighton for Hall of Fame?

December 29, 2017

One big surprise I omitted from my account last month of John Thorn’s annual post-Series talk was his revelation that he’s a big 19th century guy. This probably shouldn’t be a shock—he is, after all, MLB’s official historian, so you’d expect he’d be more conversant in 19th century baseball lore than you or me or practically anybody this side of the late Bob Gregory—but I was shocked nonetheless to hear him answer a question about his prime candidate for election to the Hall of Fame with a blithe "Jim Creighton."

Who, you ask? The name may be familiar to some of you—it wasn’t one I’d never heard before—but I definitely needed to look him up to make my own call on his credentials for induction into the HoF.

I had assumed he was some early slugger, but no, his fame is mostly due to his pitching: Creighton was the first to bend the rules about pitching with a straight underhand motion, the elbow fully extended throughout. He invented the snapping of the wrist, adding the first of many innovations to the pitching motion, primarily the concept of making pitches difficult to hit. Before Creighton got started, it seems, pitchers were there to help the batter connect smoothly with pitches, so he began the whole idea of pitchers as batters’ adversaries, for which we owe him a debt of gratitude. The concept of the game, before Jim Creighton, seemed to be "Batters vs. Fielders," with "pitchers" acting more or less as neutral functionaries, neither on the batters’ side nor the fielders', which is a contradictory concept, given that pitchers become fielders the instant the ball is released. So Creighton is a very important changer of the way the game of baseball is conceived of, and he was a great practitioner of his innovative techniques for his entire major league career.

Still, I think it’s a tough sell, Jim Creighton for the Hall of Fame, and I’m not entirely sure that John Thorn’s entire conception of what the Hall of Fame is intended to honor meshes with my conception.

Or with the Hall’s, for that matter. The whole debate about the ten-year-minimum-career rule of theirs (which I have argued vehemently against, in another context) kind of gets blown out the window with Creighton, whose entire major league career ended in his fourth year of pitching. Creighton’s "entire major league career," that I just referred to, is something of a joke: he played only from 1859 through 1862, and his pitching career consists of exactly 32 games, or one full season by 162-game-season standards.  I say "exactly" but in fact we don’t know very exactly what Creighton did on the mound, or anywhere else, because records from his day are 1) not very thorough and are 2) not exactly what we would normally consider "records." Creighton, who died a few months after turning 21 years of age, has a page on baseball reference.com but there are no records on that page, just his biographical info, which is pretty scanty.  Most of the info I’m citing here comes from an article in "The National Pastime"’s website, and that article is entitled "The Legend of Jim Creighton." https://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/legend-jim-creighton We have legends, not records, to attest to his baseball career, and I can hardly comprehend, much less support, anyone’s case for Baseball’s Hall of Fame on the basis of legends, which is one remove from "old wives’ tales" and two removes from "out-and-out BS."

I have several different objections even to considering a player like Jim Creighton for induction into Hall of Fame, but it’s a pretty silly argument, in that I would either be arguing with those who concede what I’m saying to begin with or with those who have entirely different standards for inclusion in the Cooperstown pantheon. To discuss the question of whether Cooperstown has a place for such as Creighton is itself a separate argument, before we even look at his (or other 19th-century players’) credentials. I categorically deny that 19th century baseball has a close enough resemblance to the game we’re honoring with a Hall of Fame to merit its players a place in that Hall, and you’ll have to convince me that 19th century players are major leaguers before I’ll want to discuss any of their particular arguments.

Creighton is, perhaps, the perfect case. By any standard I want to use, he has no case to make at all: 32 games? Throwing underhand? From 45 feet? No, and No, and No. Next?

By John Thorn’s standards, though, that stuff is irrelevant. The important question from his perspective is something like: did this man have a significant impact on the game’s evolution?  If "Yes" (and I would concede a "Yes" is in order), then Creighton is an overlooked giant who clearly belongs in any Baseball Hall of Fame.

What I dispute is whether that question is the right one to ask.

I find the question utterly irrelevant. I don’t care a fig for what anyone’s contemporaries felt about their man at the time, or his purely historical contributions. Creighton was obviously highly thought-of, according to "The Legend of Jim Creighton."  The article’s lead illustration is of some sort of baseball pantheon from 1865, prominently featuring a shrouded image of the late Jim Creighton in the top center of the drawing, plainly showing him as a man among men, a god among gods, the single greatest player of all time. ("Time," of course, ending in 1865.)

I just see a kid who came up with a very useful idea, that of actually pitching the ball, as opposed to lobbing it up there for the batter to whack away at. Great idea! Fabulous! Without that idea, the modern game of baseball couldn’t attract flies! Bravo! Kudos!

But draw an analogy, say, with cooking. Say we had a Hall of Fame of Chefs (there probably is one) and it honored great men without whom cooking would not exist. If they could identify the first man in recorded history to boil an egg, would they honor him with a plaque in their pantheon of greats? Say that some day we happen upon an ancient hieroglyphic from 45,595 B.C. marveling that Ugg-man solidified a pigeon egg by inserting it into a clay pot filled with very hot water and Lo! It assumed semi-solid form, and Lo! It was good to eat. Yum!

Is this man a great chef?  Well, for his time, maybe, but his time sucked eggs. (Literally.) And IN his time, he was considered a genius, probably, an intuitive, perceptive, God-like inventor of chefly technique that put everyone else to shame. But I think we would feel comfortable concluding So What?

I mean, are we next going to honor the man who invented fire, because without that invention Ugg-man couldn’t possibly have had water hot enough to dunk his pigeon egg into? And how about that pigeon, anyway? Shouldn’t we devise a plaque honoring it as well, since Ugg-man could scarcely have boiled his three-minute egg without first having something to boil, after all?

Or do we conclude that someone (or some chimp) had to have discovered that eggs were tasty (or as was said about the first man to eat an oyster, "Brave fellow!"), someone inevitably had to discover how to make a fire, someone had to put two and two together, and it really doesn’t matter if we know his name or not, he ain’t getting a plaque in the Culinary Hall of Fame. (Apparently, there really is a Culinary Hall Of Fame, btw-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culinary_Hall_of_Fame-- located in Colorado for some reason, inducting chefs, websites, blogs, restaurants, cooking schools, recipes, you name it. No cavemen, though, as far as I can tell.)

It makes about as much sense to honor Creighton for inventing the pitched ball (as opposed to the lobbed ball) as it does to honor the umpire (if there was one) who ruled "Yeah, that’s okay, what the kid is doing there." Seems to me that the other team probably howled like scalded dogs the first time Creighton threw a fast, moving, challenging pitch over the plate, and somebody had to decide that it was okay to throw like that. Otherwise, the game couldn’t have evolved as it has, unless someone came along later on and it was decided at that point, "Okay, he can do that, even though we agreed that when that punk from Brooklyn tried it back before the War, that fast pitching was a no-go in a slow-pitch game." Do we want to honor that umpire, too? (Actually, I just found out from William Ryczek, the author of "The Legend of Jim Creighton," that the HoF has already honored that umpire, though this is before the concept of umpires: "The Brooklyn Eagle [a newspaper, not a bird] sent a reporter, probably [Henry] Chadwick, to study Creighton’s motion, and the reporter declared his delivery to be legal." Chadwick, part-time arbiter of rules, part-time sports reporter, part-time Father of Baseball (or at least a defendant in the paternity case), of course, actually does have a plaque in Cooperstown.

This is pretty loopy, far as I can tell. We literally have a reporter making perhaps the most crucial rules decision in baseball history: the pitcher is allowed to try to get the batter out. If Creighton is pitching against teams whose pitchers are still trying to let the batters smack the ball as best they can, then aren’t Creighton’s victories a little bit tainted? Ryczek goes on for a bit about how fabulous a performance Creighton had that first season, 1860, though he admits that he can’t really compute Creighton’s ERA on account of no one kept track of errors in those days. (He credits Creighton with a really good ERA anyway, on the basis of probability, guesswork, and speculation.)  Even if the other pitchers soon caught on to what Creighton was doing out there, they probably took a few games to change their own deliveries, refine their technique in copying him, etc.—and of course Creighton only pitched 20 games in 1860 anyway, so you’d have to figure the season was half shot before the word got around the league (if "league" there was) what the kid was up to.

Honestly, I just don’t see what was the big deal about Creighton, admirable though he might have been.  (When I was in junior high, I had to read a play entitled "The Admirable Crichton," about a butler who became a sort of king to an aristocratic family stuck on a desert isle. After they got rescued, he reverted to his status as a servant. Haven’t thought of that in years—seems somehow appropriate here.) There’s just so much stuff in baseball history that was done for the first time, that we never stop to think about.  Who came up with the idea of wearing uniforms? Did the players wear caps in the earliest games? How about caps with brims, shielding their eyes from the sun? How about the inventor of the jockstrap, Jacques S. Tropp? There’s a man who has saved many a player from an unnecessary orchiectomy, but do we honor him? Noooooo.

The whole idea of "invention" is kinda fascinating, mainly because if something’s around when we’re born, we tend to assume that it’s always been around, and of course "always" is an awfully long time. Every piece of equipment in the game, every strategy, every convention, had to have been invented at some point, and probably resisted, argued over, derided, rejected, before finally coming into common use. Woody Allen‘s funniest story describes the invention of the sandwich, turning the story of the Earl of Sandwich (the guy who supposedly came up with the idea of keeping his hands grease-free during a card game by holding his slab of meat between two slices of bread) into a lifelong epic-tragic struggle involving an Edisonian series of mishaps (two consecutive pieces of meat and one slice of bread, setting the good Earl back years in his diligent research) and insights (the Earl marries "Nell, a greengrocer’s daughter, who was to teach him everything he would know about lettuce") before devising the world’s first sandwich.  It’s really an idiotic concept, "the man who invented the sandwich," like if he didn’t do it, we would never have had sandwiches.

When I taught journalism, I used to have to explain the technological breakthroughs that were needed to develop the modern concept of the newspaper. My own favorite involved the "discovery" of the reporter, which we now would consider basic to the whole concept of journalism, but someone actually had to come up with the idea of sending men to cover stories as they happened. Before some genius came up with the idea, newspapers essentially covered stories by writing up accounts of things that people came into their offices and told their versions of—none of this first-hand interviewing of principals, fact-checking, verification. Early newspapers were rumor-mills, sloppy as all-get-out, totally unreliable --and politically biased? Like crazy. They made Fox News look, well, "fair and balanced." Editors had their perspective, and slanted the "news" to fit their biases, quite openly. Early newspapers were mostly essays written by whoever owned a printing press. Nobody saw anything wrong in any of this, until some early newspaper editor decided that it might be valuable to send a man out into the street to look at a house burning down, and not just wait until some fireman (a volunteer, natch—fire departments had yet to be invented) popped by the office to tell him when and where and who and how and why. "Covering a story" had to be invented, but my students would look at me like I’d gone insane. How do you publish a newspaper without any reporters, Professor, and who would want to read one? Dunno, but New Yorkers did just that for a century or two.

My university is actually built on the site of several early New York City newspapers (my office is in the former New York Times headquarters but the campus also includes the sites of Pulitzer’s World, Greeley’s Tribune and several others), plus the site of Tammany Hall (the center of NYC party politics in the 19th century) and an early bar or two, which explains why newspaper staffs could just hang around the office all day long—the pols would give them dirt on politics, or someone in the bar (called "The Pewter Mug"—Pace’s parking lot stands on the spot today) would pass along a different version of the dirt over a glass of ale. City Hall is right across the street, and the whole metropolis was pretty much right where the first newspapers stood, so there was little need for a reporter to run around town looking for material, but when that early genius came up with the idea (James Gordon Bennett? I forget who came up with it, it’s been years since I taught journalism) the whole occupation of "reporter" as we know it was quickly copied by other newspapers, including the Brooklyn Eagle where Henry Chadwick worked, and became a standard part of late 19th century journalism.

Likewise with every other standard of journalism—they all had to have been invented, out of whole cloth sometimes, and usually with a great deal of resistance, all for stuff that we today assume has always been around. But most of the no-brainers that we understand about history in general were actually developed at some point in time—very few of them can be traced to a single light-bulb-going-off moment, and most were probably tried out several times before the right conditions arose to allow them to reach wide acceptance.

That’s what I make of most early baseball innovations: how much ingenuity did it require for some pitcher to get sick of tossing up weak shit, and see what he could do to make it harder for opposing batters to light him up like the tree in Rockefeller Plaza?  I mean, he was a player for his own team, right? He wanted to win. But the screwy rules of his early day required him to toss up weak shit, so it seems inevitable to me that someone at some point would have decided "Oh, hell with this!"  Creighton was just pitching at a place and time that let him get away with breaking the rules and the practices of pitchers of his day. He was good at it—for a year or two, until he died.

The story goes that he died from swinging a bat—he seems to have ruptured something vital in his gut. (The "Legend" page says it was an "inguinal hernia." I hate when I get those. While there, I also learned that Creighton died in his parents’ home at 307 Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights, a block over from where I used to live on Hicks Street—I’ve probably passed the still-standing brownstone he died in a few thousand times in my life, clueless as to its historical significance.) So you’ve got this young handsome guy dominating a league of amateur ballplayers for a season, 20 starts, at the age of 20, who drops dead tragically the next season (when he pitches all of 6 games), and the baseball-crazy world, such as it was, goes mad (or madder) with grief. Somehow I don’t add this up and get "Hall of Fame" out of the deal.

John Thorn does, however, and I have a lot of respect for Thorn’s thinking in general, so I got my hands on his book about 19th century baseball.  Jim Creighton’s Wikipedia page shows the kind of thought he brings to Creighton’s candidacy:

Baseball writer John Thorn commented in his book, Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, that Creighton "was baseball's first hero, and I believe, the most important player not inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame."

So he wasn't just giving a flip comment to the guy who asked him for his most-neglected HoF candidate--Thorn truly feels that Jim Creighton belongs in Cooperstown. Note the terms he applies to Creighton’s HoF case: "hero" and "most important player." In other words, John Thorn’s standards for induction are all about "fame" in the broadest historical sense, not about greatness as a baseball player: was he well-known in his time? Was he admired? Were his achievements significant?

This is perfectly valid, and to a degree, baseball has accepted these perfectly valid standards, which I choose to reject, in inducting many of its earliest HoFers. Nothing to be done about that (though I favor a process that deducts one player for everyone it inducts, at least for a while, until we get some of the more outlandish Bozos ejected from the clown car) but Thorn himself makes a pretty good case for the utterly messed-up way that the history of early baseball is hopelessly flawed in Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, the subject of my next article, on "Baseball and History."

 
 

COMMENTS (25 Comments, most recent shown first)

Marc Schneider
Steven,

I always enjoy your articles. They are very amusing and it surprises me that some here seem to be getting bent out of shape about what you wrote. I tend to believe, though, that the Hall should be more than about great players. Of course, there is also the Museum; the plaque room is just a small part of the Museum so maybe they could have a separate space honoring people like Creighton. I mean, geez, Creighton probably didn't have a pitching coach coming out every five minutes.​
2:25 PM Jan 10th
 
77royals
It's the "BASEBALL" Hall of Fame.

Not the "BASEBALL PLAYERS" Hall of Fame.

It's about the game, first and foremost.
5:40 AM Dec 31st
 
W.T.Mons10
First player to steal a base? Probably Alexander Cartwright; he did everything else, according to his HOF plaque.
8:59 PM Dec 30th
 
bearbyz
Wikipedia has a good write up on Creighton:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Creighton

12:18 PM Dec 30th
 
Steven Goldleaf
I'm actually not disagreeing with you, or with John Thorn, about Creighton, given your views on the Hall of Fame--I'm just disagreeing about what the HoF does, or should do, in my view. Yes, if we're honoring everyone who contributed materially to the sport of baseball, Creighton is crucial and deserves high honors. If we're honoring great players in Organized Baseball, then he can take a back seat. This is a legitimate discussion, in which the basketball HoF has leaned one way, including great college players and coaches equally with great pro players and coaches, while MLB has (mostly) honored AL and NL greats. (The Negro Leagues HoFers, I contend, are an anomaly, an attempt to rectify partly damages done to those players unjustly barred from playing MLB, a valuable symbol of a serious problem in MLB rather than an attempt to broaden the scope of the HoF.) But I have very little interest in having yet another discussion about the HoF itself--after giving my opinions, and hearing yours, I'm glad to agree to disagree. I just think we'll be chasing each other around the tree-trunk for a good long time, and my legs are tired. But I am really interested in discussing history apart from induction issues--from researching Creighton, mostly via John's book, I learned a lot and that's my main goal in writing about this subject, sharing what I've learned, not in convincing others that my opinions are the only correct ones.
12:03 PM Dec 30th
 
jrickert
I would argue that honoring the best players is a part of honoring the history but not the only part. I think that one of the things that sets baseball apart from most of the other major sports is the presence of the history of the game and honoring the pioneers is worthwhile.

As to whether the the development of fast-pitch baseball was inevitable, I'm closer to yes than no, but it could have happened that the first speedy pitcher was unpopular and that the rules could have been set limiting the speed of the pitch as in slow-pitch softball. Even if it was inevitable that does not necessarily mean that the instigator should not be honored. The development of the light bulb, flight, and calculus would have happened without Edison, the Wrights, and Newton/Leibniz but we still honor them as the creators. Jim Creighton was historically important in the development of baseball and I think it's appropriate to honor that in some way.
11:46 AM Dec 30th
 
Steven Goldleaf
The Hall of Fame may not be the best way to frame this discussion, since it's essentially not about the Hall of Fame as such but (to my mind) about early baseball, which is what John's book is about. It takes that form, however, because that was the form of the question John was asked and which he answered. I'm pretty much "whatever" when someone makes a strong or a weak case for anyone to be inducted into Cooperstown, mainly because of the complete lack of parameters for induction. (Or the few parameters that do exist, like the ten-year-rule, are, as I've argued, simply arbitrary and restrictive nonsense.)

I am interested, however, in the whole idea of Halls of Fame, and how they might be designed, or re-designed, to achieve some kind of equity and reasonableness that they now lack. That's a whole 'nother discussion, of course, but I'll be happy to have it. I appreciate John making a case for Creighton, not because I think that case has a lot of merit, by my benighted standards, but because Creighton illustrates so well what John's standards are. I could be wrong, but to my mind John is making the case for Creighton as a historian would, and if Cooperstown had a primary mandate to honor the history and development of the game, I think it would have a completely different set of plaques than it does now. I haven't the slightest issue with those honorees. But I think its mission, as it's evolved (and, yes, as I would like it to be), is mainly to honor players for their excellence on the field of play.

Other categories--founders, inventors, managers, labor leaders, etc.--can be honored, so long as we distinguish one type of honor from the main one (again, to my mind) but having a whole miscellaneous grab-bag of honorees just makes for a muddy discussion, always veering off the point and never reaching any sort of consensus, almost literally an apples-and-oranges sort of discussion. I just find that type of discussion less satisfying, and I think we actually have a certain degree of control over the type of discussion we want to have. Other folks might chime in with "No, I like a good free-ranging discussion that turns into a free-for-all, with everybody complaining that no one is hearing what I'm saying," but that's what makes horse-racing.​
9:37 AM Dec 30th
 
steve161
Two other Halls of Fame have approaches that may or may not be relevant to this discussion:

The Hockey Hall of Fame has a Builder's Wing.

Nobel Prizes are only awarded to the living.
8:34 AM Dec 30th
 
jthorn
A webcache issue may make one of the links offered below seem to be in error. It is not, but if balked you may wish to try this:

webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:cZgw-lNFVF4J:www.nyfolklore.org/pubs/voic38-1-2/p​lay.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
8:20 AM Dec 30th
 
jthorn
Interesting and amusing article, Steven, though your cheek must be sore from all those tongue-thrusts. I will await your next article to chime in, possibly, on the value of the Hall of Fame or its unlikely creation of a niche for Creighton, Doc Adams, or other ancient worthies. I first wrote about Creighton (and Adams) three decades ago, when no one else was; I republished those articles in Total Baseball and online by and by. For the moment, though, let's stick to Creighton and the idea of a Hall of Fame (baseball's was not the first nor the culinary hall the most odd). I offer for your possible interest:

http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/2d2e5d16

and

http://www.nyfolklore.org/pubs/voic38-1-2/play.html​
8:11 AM Dec 30th
 
doncoffin
Which leads me to a different historical question.

Who was the first player to try to steal a base? Surely, in the days of (essentially) slow-pitch baseball, stealing would have been absurdly easy. But who took the chance that he could get away this it...and succeeded? (As important as stolen bases were as an weapon on offense into the 1920s, this seems like an important question.)

(Incidentally, if Creighton does get chosen to be a member of the HoF, it wouldn't be as a player, would it? But as with Chadwick, but on a lesser level, an innovator? I'm cool with that.)​
9:50 PM Dec 29th
 
W.T.Mons10
Creighton was also, so far as we know, the first professional baseball player. Of course his major league career consisted of zero games, since he died 14 years before there was major league baseball.

Candy Cummings is in the Hall of Fame for inventing the curveball, so why shouldn't Creighton be in for inventing the fastball? What makes you think the Hall of Fame is about honoring greatness. When has the institution ever said that? According the actual standards of the Hall of Fame (as opposed to what you wish the standards were), which are none, Creighton is as good a pick as anyone.
9:07 PM Dec 29th
 
ventboys
I don't know SteveN, so I'm not sure what he's barking about. But to be clear, it's my stance (my stance, not some statement of fact) that Bill dismisses 19th century baseball, not because the players were inferior neccessarily, but because the game wasn't all that organized at the time, so what we call the major leagues in, say, 1886 wasn't really the major leagues as we think of them today.

Also, the numbers of games fluctuated, the rules fluctuated, leagues lived and died, players bounced all over the landscape, and it's all just a mess to analyze in any systematic way. Bill could spend half his life building equivalencies to account for all the weirdness, or he could draw a line and move on, getting a lot more accomplished. Bill, being an exceedingly astute man, drew the line and moved on.

So the upshot is that Bill doesn't want to waste his life dealing with what wasn't really the major leagues by any modern definition. A completely reasonable solution, especially in light of Bill's extensive database, built over years, that he uses to find insights into the game.

But that's Bill. The rest of us aren't Bill. We don't have his data needs, or his schedule. The 19th century is a huge part of baseball's history. It didn't cease to exist because Bill's busy, and I'm sure Bill would tell you that himself.

If he wasn't too busy.​
4:45 PM Dec 29th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Excellent way to look at it, BryanBM--since it's so ill-defined, there are as many opinions about who should get into the HoF as there are sphincters--literally or figuratively. Maybe I should label this (and other) articles "Just One Sphincter's Opinion."

You say "recency bias" like it's a bad thing. I, on the other hand, feel rather strongly that we don't have nearly enough of a recency bias, and so tend to over-rate players from earlier periods, while we overlook some of the world's best baseball players who suffer from having played before our eyes. I'll try to get my reasoning into the next article, not that you're going to buy it there any more than you did here.
3:18 PM Dec 29th
 
BryanBM
The Culinary Hall of Fame inducted this blog: hotfromthekettle.com/

This is called recency bias, same as not being able to understand the importance of the life and/or death of Jim Creighton at a time that baseball might never have overcome cricket as a national sport.

Of course the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is nothing like the World Golf Hall of Fame, Hockey Hall of Fame or Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame which celebrate a game wherever it is played and by either sex.

So the key question is defining when exactly a game turns into a sport since the history of the game is something the National Museum has never and most likely will never promote. The key induction is: https://baseballhall.org/hof/cartwright-alexander whose apocryphal "accomplishments" define the starting point of a sport.

According to some shed in upstate New York the "modern game" was born by 1848 and it certainly didn't need the life and/or death of Jim Creighton to surpass cricket in popularity. The first two decades of the "modern game" are the domain of brilliant visionaries who were figuring things out like 90 feet between bases, that wearing a glove wasn't unmanly and not to let the colored people play.

Al Spalding has a vastly more accomplished career than Jim Creighton but he likely doesn't get inducted if he doesn't found a sporting goods store.

If the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ever wanted to celebrate the game you would have plaques for Sadaharu Oh, Mamie Johnson, Vin Scully, Buck O'Neil and Marvin Miller. At some point it would even get around to considering Jim Creighton. But instead it's the shed that honors Tom Yawkey and the sport.
2:39 PM Dec 29th
 
77royals
I just see a kid who came up with a very useful idea, that of actually pitching the ball, as opposed to lobbing it up there for the batter to whack away at. Great idea! Fabulous! Without that idea, the modern game of baseball couldn’t attract flies! Bravo! Kudos!



Exactly. This is why Einstein is given too much credit. All he did was come with some ideas. He didn't even prove them. Just left it for others to do.

And John Adam's quest for independence? Pshaw. He had to get Jefferson to write some declaration for him.

And Hugh Hefner's magazine? He didn't even take the pictures himself.

Idea people are so overrated.


1:38 PM Dec 29th
 
SteveN
Ventboys, you seem to be building a straw man. I don't recall Bill ever saying that he didn't care much for 19th century baseball because of the numbers. He thinks that the quality of play was much below today's major, or minor, league levels.

Steve, no I don't see that page, even when following your link.
1:32 PM Dec 29th
 
Steven Goldleaf
I gotta visit the Culinary Hall of Fame, the next time I'm in Colorado. I mean, I come up with a dumb idea for the sake of making an absurd/funny sort of argument, and it turns out that not only is there one already, but their idea of what constitutes an honoree exceeds by far anything I could have come up with in terms of sheer stupidity and absurdity.
12:55 PM Dec 29th
 
bearbyz
Jim Creighton was the third person elected in the GOR. He was elected in 1881. Remember we were suppose to vote as the writers or whoever was responsible at the time would have voted. I think honoring for the hall of fame now would be kind of silly and it would only spread his biography to some more people. However, I could see a team of 19th century voters electing him.
12:32 PM Dec 29th
 
Steven Goldleaf
You don't get this page? https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=creigh000jim

It ain't much, but that was kind of my point.
12:26 PM Dec 29th
 
SteveN
I'm befuddled. I looked him up on Baseball Reference and.....he doesn't seem to exist.
12:07 PM Dec 29th
 
MWeddell
The voting instructions include:
6. Automatic Elections: No automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted.

By analogy, I'd argue that Jim Creighton shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame based on what's essentially a short-term (albeit important) accomplishment. He has to have a larger body of work to honor.
12:03 PM Dec 29th
 
sansho1
There are several ways of looking at what induction would mean vis a vis the concept of fame. Does the Hall exist solely to confirm, or also to confer? In terms of process, I would point to the recent induction of Deacon White as the most useful guide -- another player seemingly adequately "famous" in his time...certainly a central figure in the early development of the game. And yet, while he was an excellent player with respect to his peers, certainly his numbers no longer jump out, and whatever fame he once had was long dissipated.

But I was glad to see him honored, as my conception of the HOF would be one that pays homage to the pioneers, and the best way to do that on a continually refreshing basis is to keep finding contributors through which to view the game's development.​
12:00 PM Dec 29th
 
ventboys
It would be silly to honor such a short playing career, of course. Bob's argument was similar - that he was a superstar, so length shouldn't count - but I never bought it.

I did buy Creighton's role in changing the game as a possible avenue of entry. He was, in a way, what Candy Cummings is said to be. He's the guy who made hitting hard. If you think that's enough, that's enough. If you don't, you don't. But it's a reasonable argument.

Just to be clear, I don't buy Bill's 19th century dismissals, and honestly nobody else should feel obligated to, either. Bill works with numbers so much of the time that the unique challenges of the 19th century stats make them a massive pain in his butt. If he doesn't think they are worth the trouble, that's reasonable.

But any historian - not statistician, but historian - who dismisses the past because it's hard to count is not a historian. Major league fighting was once played with flint axes, and your basic LA street gang could have wiped the floor with Genghis Kahn's Mongol hordes. That matters to one type of analyst, but not to ALL analysts.

So all respect to Bill, who's why I'm here. But the 19th century was part of baseball's history. It's players are part of the pantheon.
11:39 AM Dec 29th
 
MarisFan61
Interesting subject (and interesting player).
The issue comes down to the one question of whether we think it counts, and how much it counts, that someone contributed a major change to the game. You spend a lot of space arguing that for you it doesn't. John Thorn thinks it does. Many other people probably think it does (and I'd say it's shown by a few existing Hall of Fame picks, including at least a couple that most people seem not to realize and so these players are often cited as poor HOF picks because their playing stats aren't great).

It's hard to argue people out of thinking something is or isn't important, and really that's most of what this is about. Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing the argument. It's an interesting one.
10:42 AM Dec 29th
 
 
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