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Either you belong in Cooperstown, or you don't. White Sox legends Minnie Miñoso and Dick Allen belong in the Hall of Fame. And yet, neither one is a member.
Miñoso and Allen have taken many swings at the Hall through the years via the BBWAA and various versions of veterans committees, and the most recent opportunity happens this weekend. We will find out Sunday after 5 p.m. Chicago time when an announcement is made via the MLB Network.
It's up to a group of 16 voters called The Golden Days Era Committee, and 12 of them need to give their assent in order to mint a new Hall of Famer. Allen and Miñoso are among 10 from their era up for review, along with another Sox great, left-hander Billy Pierce, and Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Roger Maris, Danny Murtaugh, Tony Oliva, and Maury Wills. It's possible none will make it, but any more than three getting in would be unlikely. Two former Sox sluggers getting in would be long-overdue justice.
Miñoso's and Allen's career numbers, especially when put into the context of their respective eras, show they rank with the best. They might not be Hall of Famers with the clarity one could see in Ernie Banks or Frank Thomas.
But the Hall of Fame has no tiers, no inner circle, perhaps aside from the first group of inductees in 1936. You're a Hall of Famer, or you're not – even if it takes certain players longer. But, if you want to know by how much Miñoso and Allen are Hall of Famers, it's possible to estimate using tools like Jay Jaffe's JAWS system. It calls Allen the 17th-best third baseman of all time (he played there before coming to the Sox in his 30s), and JAWS calls Miñoso the 18th-best left fielder of all time.
This means, long story short, that both men outperformed many players already in Cooperstown — particularly Allen, who is one of the best sluggers still waiting for induction.
Minnie Minõso's case for the Hall of Fame
But even systems like JAWS don't account for everything, and certain nuances do factor into the cases for both — particularly Minõso, who as an Afro-Latino joined the majors a few years after Jackie Robinson broke the modern color barrier. He deserves to have redressed the racist attitudes that delayed his arrival to the Sox and erased what would have been several prime seasons. It has been assumed, for far too long, that just because Miñoso came along after Jackie Robinson that MLB didn’t treat him in a similarly bigoted way.
A native of Cuba who played in the Negro Leagues as a 20-year-old, Miñoso didn't make it to the majors until he was 23 in 1949, two years after Robinson joined the Dodgers. He didn't play every day in the majors until he was 25 when Cleveland finally put him in the lineup. It's not like Robinson's arrival opened floodgates for Black players. It was more like a dripping faucet, with opportunities rationed for years. The Sox didn't have any non-whites until trading for Miñoso in 1951. Miñoso having racism poison the beginning of his career and, later, holding him responsible for it because his career numbers weren’t pretty enough because he didn’t play long enough in MLB should be viewed as an outrageous and unacceptable scandal.
It’s also possible the Sox using Miñoso for gimmick at-bats in the ‘70s and ‘80s when he was in his 50s might have given some the impression that he was more clown than ballplayer. That wasn’t Bill Veeck’s intention, and still the fault lies with voters misinterpreting what Miñoso was about.
Dick Allen's case for the Hall Fame
Allen was another ballplayer who probably would have been better served being born 10 years later. It’s hard to pin the social trouble Allen had periodically on racism alone, but let's face facts. He was an outspoken Black man in his early 20s in early ‘60s America when he started out. He was traded frequently. He was called a malcontent. He had a reputation for being "aloof." They even said he was a bad teammate.
Even if everything they said about Dick Allen was true, look at him and look at his times. There’s no way both weren’t shaped by a society hostile to people who looked like him. Even coming along five years later, like Reggie Jackson, would have helped Allen fit in better socially. This shouldn’t be used against him again.
Allen's counting statistics, like the 351 career home runs, which are 95th all time, don’t add up as well as other greats of his era. If they did, Allen would have made the Hall in the 1980s. But he did leave huge clues as to his greatness, like a .534 slugging percentage, which is 45th all time. His OPS is 59th all time. His offensive WAR is 63rd. He was a special hitter, whose great seasons are among the best ever, done while playing in big ballparks, and in eras that favored pitching.
Will either player get in?
The process used by the Golden Era Committee is the same type that sent Ron Santo and Harold Baines to Cooperstown in recent years. Baines' elevation was a surprise, though clearly it was unlikely to happen without having Tony La Russa and Jerry Reinsdorf on the committee when his election happened. Does anyone up for election this time have any such angels in their corner? None as obvious as La Russa and Reinsdorf, who always counted Baines among their friends and favorite colleagues.
So, it's up to a committee of people. If it were up to a formula or algorithm, Miñoso and Allen might have made the cut a long time ago. Of course, it would depend on who was programming the algorithm. Instead, it's a popularity contest. If the committee can see not only what Miñoso did for the game (as a player, a pioneer for Latinos and Blacks, and later as an ambassador), along with how MLB kept him out in his early 20s, then he'll make it.
If the committee can see how hot Allen burned in his prime, and how his personality and attitude might have benefited from coming along 10 years later, then he’ll make it. It’s just too bad neither player is alive to see it happen. Both just happened to be ahead of their times.