Each year a new hall of fame inductee class ushers a group of elite players into the annals of history, forever memorializing them as among the best to ever play their sport. We witness heartfelt, emotional speeches, no-brainer first ballot selections, and the joy of players that have patiently waited for years to finally get the votes necessary. But for every player welcomed into that elite brotherhood, many more are left knocking on the door, hoping to be let in. Debates rage in online forums or between sports media figures on which players are most deserving, but there are often simply too many excellent players and not enough spots to go around.
A large portion of these debates are focused on whether certain players should be allowed into the hall in spite of past indiscretions (gambling, use of performance enhancing drugs). These debates are messy and represent a bitter divide in the sports community. For what it's worth, I think that the notion of a hall of fame lacks any credibility if greats such as Rose, Bonds, and Clemens aren't recognized as some of the best to play their game. But this list is not about players that might be accepted with an asterisk next to their names or never get the votes because of perceived rule violations. This is about the others that have deserving resumes, no complicated baggage, and still have failed to garner the respect of voters.
Part of the problem lies in the lack of an objective standard for evaluating hall of fame candidates. Some voters emphasize the importance of an athlete reaching certain benchmarks of individual statistics. Others place higher value on contributing to team success and winning championships. The era in which an athlete played may also come into play when determining their qualifications for hall of fame votes. Many voters feel that if a player had less competition during their time in the game it could suggest that their statistics might be artificially inflated. The varying metrics used to place votes for certain players and not others, and the high number of votes required to make a hall of fame class results in a multitude of both very talented and successful players consistently missing the cut. The following represent 20 athletes with hall of fame worthy resumes but a lack of necessary support from voters.
20 Jimmy Johnson
We often forget that players aren’t the only ones inducted into the hall of fame because most debates focus on player comparisons. But coaches are just as deserving, particularly those with incredible careers like Johnson. Jimmy took over the head coaching position for the Cowboys in 1989. In five seasons with Dallas, he took a team from a 1-15 record to back-to-back Super Bowl victories. It is a tougher sell in part because he only coached for nine seasons, but he still amassed an 80-64 record. Had Johnson and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones been able to get along better, there’s no telling how many rings Johnson would have won with the Cowboys. Either way, he deserves recognition for assembling one of the greatest teams in NFL history.
19 Tommy John
Perhaps more iconic now for giving his name to the famous elbow surgery procedure, Tommy John has a decent argument for the most glaring omission of any MLB pitcher. His 288 wins ranks him 26th all time and his 26 seasons would certainly gain him more respect if longevity was a statistic valued more than strikeouts. But his win total is really the only relevant number. Currently, 49 pitchers are in the hall of fame with less wins, and he is one of only nine pitchers in history with over 700 games, 4,600 innings pitched, 285 wins (with 180 complete games), and 2,200 strikeouts. He may not have a Cy Young award or a World Series ring, but the numbers prove he certainly deserves to be in the hall.
18 Tim Hardaway
Hardaway played 13 seasons, averaging 17.7 points, 8.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He is the only member of the famous Warriors “Run TMC” trio that electrified Bay Area crowds in the early 1990s not yet in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. He brought some pride back to the Miami Heat by helping them reach the playoffs multiple times alongside hall of famer Alonzo Mourning. His signature crossover move – the UTEP two-step – was a thing of beauty. Despite not having any championships, he represents another deserving candidate for enshrinement.
17 L.C. Greenwood
Greenwood represents an unfortunate example of a player that would have to enter the hall posthumously. Greenwood was a critical player for the Steelers’ infamous “Steel Curtain” in the 1970s. He helped anchor a defensive line that contributed to four Super Bowl victories, and his 73.5 sacks rank him second in franchise history. With nine other members of that Steelers team already in the hall, Greenwood’s omission is rather glaring.
16 Morten Andersen
Picking a kicker for a hall of fame spot is always a difficult sell, but if any deserves a spot it is Andersen. Morten is the NFL’s all-time leading point scorer with 2,544 career points. He also holds the NFL record for most games played with 382. That incredible longevity alone should be a big factor. But he’s simply the most accomplished kicker in history. He has 565 career field goals made, an NFL record, with a percentage of 79.7. He made the top 15 in voting last year, and it may take him a few more tries, but he should make it eventually.
15 Robert Horry
This NBA journeyman was never a flashy, big time scorer or award-winner, but his ability to play a critical role on some of the best teams in history positions him for a spot in the hall of fame. Horry played for three different teams and won an incredible seven NBA championships over 16 seasons. You read that right. Seven. More than Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. You don’t achieve that success just by being lucky. “Big shot Bob” had a penchant for knocking down clutch buckets when they matter most: in key playoff moments. He deserves a spot.
14 Roger Craig
Roger Craig has been passed over so many times that it seems he may never make the cut, but this former 49ers running back is just as deserving as any that have played that position for the team since. Most notably, he was the first player in NFL history to have 1000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season. He was an integral part of the dominant Niners teams of the 1980s that won three Super Bowls. Both Montana and Rice are in; why not Craig?
13 Tim Raines
It mystifies me that Raines hasn’t made the hall in his eight years on the ballot, but his highest vote percentage (55%) came on this last ballot, so perhaps his time will still come. Raines is often compared to hall of famer and Padres legend Tony Gwynn because they have strikingly similar numbers (particularly OBP and total bases), yet somehow Gwynn was a first ballot inductee and Raines is still waiting. The numbers should eventually speak for themselves. Raines has a career .295 batting average and an impressive .385 on base percentage. Add to that 1,571 runs scored, 170 home runs, and 980 runs batted in. But the most impressive stat is his 808 stolen bases, which puts him fifth all-time (the four above him are all in the hall of fame). Raines only has two years left on the ballot, so he’s running out of time for voters to wise up and give him his much-deserved credit for a fantastic career.
12 Ken Stabler
The snake recently passed away denying him the ability to personally accept the much-deserved credit for an excellent football career. As the quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, Stabler led the team to a Superbowl XI victory over Minnesota. Stabler threw for almost 28,000 yards in his 15-year career and was the NFL MVP in 1974 as well as a 4-time pro bowler. He died tragically after a battle with cancer and his family has put together a site for donations toward research on colon cancer and degenerative brain diseases. An all-around standup guy and an icon in Raiders history, perhaps we’ll see his name in the NFL hall of fame class of 2016.
11 Allen Trammell
The Tigers middle infielder anchored a great defense for 20 MLB seasons, but hasn’t been able to secure the votes in 14 years on the hall of fame ballot. His offensive numbers aren’t like the others on this list, but for a shortstop they still rank on par with men already in the hall. He has more home runs (185) than Ozzie Smith, more RBIs (1,003) than Smith or fellow hall of famer Barry Larkin, multiple gold gloves, multiple all-star games, and a World Series ring. Perhaps most impressive is his 70.4 WAR (wins against replacement), ranking him 8th all-time among shortstops and top 100 overall. With low ballot numbers, he’s unlikely to qualify in his final year of eligibility and will have to hope for the expansion era committee to give him his due diligence.
10 Chris Webber
The number one overall pick out of Michigan never won an NBA title but should still go down as one of the best big men to play the game. He was integral to Sacramento’s success in the early 2000s and finished his NBA career with a points-per-game average over 20. He also had career averages of 9.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and is top 100 in the NBA in total points, rebounds, and blocks. We know that a title is not a prerequisite for hall of fame status, and the voters should get wise to that fact and grant Webber his rightful place among the all-time NBA elite.
9 Dave Andreychuk
For the most part, the hockey hall of fame does a great job of making sure that those deserving of recognition are honored. Andreychuk may be one of only a few exceptions. This talented left wing played an amazing 26 seasons in the NHL putting him sixth all-time in games played (1639), and 14th overall in goals scored with 640. He is one of only a handful of players in the top 25 all-time in goals that is not currently in the hall, and two of those players have yet to retire. He just missed the last induction class and hopefully they will correct this error in 2016.
8 Terrell Davis
Davis is an interesting case because his career was cut short due to a series of injuries. Even with a relatively short seven seasons in the league (and only four in which he played more than eight games), he still retired as the Denver Broncos all-time leading rusher with 7,607 yards. Davis won the league MVP and a Super Bowl MVP, helping to lead the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl championships in the late 1990s. Indeed, it is his postseason performance that justifies his hall of fame bid. In nine playoff games Davis averaged 142.5 rushing yards (tops for any player with at least five games) and scored 12 touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly, of the seven members of the 2000 yard club (reaching that number in a single season) Davis is the only eligible player not in the hall of fame.
7 Tony Dungy
One more coach with an even stronger resume is longtime Bucs and Colts great Tony Dungy. Dungy has the distinction of winning Super Bowls as both a player (with the Steelers) and head coach, only the third in history to do so. He became the first African-American to coach a Super Bowl winning team, and the first coach to defeat all 32 teams. With a record of 139-69 and a history of consistent playoff appearances, this is a man truly deserving of the honor.
6 Mike Piazza
Piazza is an interesting anomaly because he has impressive numbers, particularly for a catcher, but no championships to show for them. But the numbers are so strong that the lack of a ring shouldn’t matter. In 16 seasons, Piazza hit .308 with a .377 OBP. He had 427 home runs, 1,335 runs batted in, and over 1,000 runs scored. His home run total is the most all-time by any catcher. If you believe, as I do, that the hall should recognize the top players at each position, this is simply a no-brainer. Thankfully, Piazza seems primed to make it next year, having accrued almost 70% voting on the most recent ballot.
5 Curt Schilling
Schilling is a pitcher that has just been unfortunate to be on the ballot with too many other outstanding players of the same position. However, with Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz now in, Curt should get a nice boost and, perhaps, a rightful induction sometime in the next few years. His combination of great numbers and postseason success make for an excellent resumé. He has 216 career wins and over 3,000 strikeouts. Even better, he is 11-2 in postseason play with an ERA of 2.23 and a WHIP of 0.97. He had World Series wins playing for three different teams and his “bloody sock” performance is one of the most memorable in postseason history.
4 Don Cherry
Announcers rarely get the credit they deserve for the part they play in the game, and Cherry is certainly a prime example of this type of snub. This Canadian broadcasting legend is an iconic figure for the sport of hockey, and one deserving of proper recognition. He created the first period intermission program “Coach’s Corner” and is considered the voice of Canadian hockey. Even legend Bobby Orr has written that Cherry deserves to be recognized in the hall. Who are we to argue?
3 Kurt Warner
Warner just became eligible and missed on the necessary votes in his first ballot, so this isn’t too big of a snub just yet. Warner has two NFL MVP awards, three Super Bowl appearances, and one championship ring. He has a career completion percentage of 65.6, which ranks him top five all-time in the category. Warner is special because he rescued not one, but two teams from nearly a decade of sub-.500 play. Both the Rams and Cardinals had been mired in long streaks of losing seasons before Warner arrived and took them to Super Bowls. There’s a decent chance he makes it next year, though probable first ballot quarterback Brett Favre will also be eligible.
2 Jeff Bagwell
Bagwell is one of those players that I keep expecting to make the class yet somehow it hasn’t happened. One would think that the recent induction of his longtime teammate Craig Biggio is a signal that Bagwell’s time is about to come. Bagwell was an offensive force for the Astros for 15 seasons and is their all-time leader in home runs (449), runs batted in (1,529) and batting average (.297). He also happens to have a career OBP over .400, a rookie of the year award, and an NL MVP trophy. Some voters are skeptical because of steroid allegations, but they have been largely unsubstantiated. He has had at least 50% ballot numbers each year, so perhaps his time will come soon.
1 Marvin Harrison
Let me begin by saying that I am a huge Oakland Raiders fan, but Tim Brown making the Hall before Marvin Harrison just doesn’t make any sense. The numbers don’t really add up, and if Brown’s stats were good enough for a selection, then Harrison is an obvious hall of famer. In 12 seasons with the Colts, Harrison accrued 14,580 receiving yards, good for 7th all-time, just behind Brown. His 128 career touchdowns put him 5th overall, two spots ahead of Brown. He is third all-time in receptions (1,102), ahead of Brown and fellow hall of famer Cris Carter. Toss in the facts that he was an 8-time pro bowler, and a Super Bowl champion, and this looks like one of the biggest snubs in recent memory.
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