McGriff at home in Hall of Fame

by Gary Shelton on December 25, 2022

in general

By Scott Myers

Guest Columnist

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Finally, an MLBer born in Tampa, Florida will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (BHOF) as a player.  On December 4, 2022 Fred McGriff was elected unaminously by the 16-member Contemporary Era Players Committee for induction into the BHOF, scheduled for July 23, 2023.

Three other MLBers from Tampa are in the BHOF:

  • Al Lopez – inducted as a manager
  • Wade Boggs – inducted as a player, born in Omaha, NE, moved to Tampa at age 11
  • Tony La Russa – inducted as a manager

During Fred’s playing career, although I did not follow him closely or root for him intensely, I was very aware that he was a star for many years.  Just recently, while examining his statistics more closely, I discovered that he had 15 consecutive seasons (1988 to 2002, which includes the strike shortened 1994 season) where he drove in 80 or more runs, which produced a slash line of .288 BA/.380 OBP/.514 SLG/.894 OPS.  What a testament to consistency and durability!  To add some context, only one player in MLB history has had a longer streak – Henry Aaron with 17 consecutive seasons.  Of active players, the longest streak belongs to Hall of Fame bound Miguel Cabrera with 11.  The longest active streak for current players is 7 (discounting the strike shortened Covid season of 2020) belonging to Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado.

By the time Fred became eligible to be placed on the BHOF ballot in 2010, I was of the opinion that he was of Hall of Fame caliber.  After the 2014 voting where Fred received just 12% of the votes, I decided that I had to take action on his behalf.  So, from 1/12/2014 until 1/25/2019 the last line in my email signature read “Fred McGriff to the HOF!”  My efforts were too little too late as Fred garnered just 40% of the votes in 2019, his last of his 10 years on the ballot.  Justice had not been served.

I had the good fortune to meet Fred in January of 2018 at a fund-raising event for the Tampa Baseball Museum.  Fred was the guest speaker.  At the end of his speech he took questions.  I asked him who was the pitcher that he least wanted to bat against.  His answer:  Left-handed pitcher Randy Johnson.  Fred, being a left-handed hitter feared no right-handed pitchers.  But with Randy Johnson, Fred had just two goals when at bat:

  1. Don’t get killed.
  2. Don’t embarrass himself.

Fortunately for Fred, he faced Randy Johnson just 10 times during his career.  The results were 0 for 8 with 1 walk, 1 sacrifice hit, and 3 strikeouts.

After the Q&A session, I chatted briefly with Fred one-on-one.  I was wearing my Eddie Murray shirt (my all-time favorite player).  Fred immediately commented that ‘Eddie was good people’, which immediately convinced me that Fred was ‘good people’ too.

So, the bad/sad news is that Fred was not elected to the BHOF by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).  The good news is that he was elected just 4 years afterwards by the Contemporary Era Players Committee.  Fred will be still by a young man of 59 years of age when he gets inducted in 2023.  Of the 133 players inducted into the BHOF after their time on the BBWAA ballot expired, Fred is the 2nd youngest and 5th fastest (measured by number of years after retiring from MLB) to get in.

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