Baseball Hall of Fame results: Lee Smith becomes final player to miss out on 15th try – CBSSports.com
This means he has become the last player ever — absent the rule reverting back — to fall off the ballot after 15 tries. The new rule only gives players a maximum of 10 years on the ballot. Smith along with two others (Don Mattingly and Alan Trammell) were grandfathered in under the 15-year rule, but now all are gone.
As with most of the 15-year guys, Smith is a borderline candidate. He’s third in career saves at 478, but he only pitched 1,289 1/3 innings over his 18-year career, spent with the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals and five other teams. His 3.03 ERA (132 OPS+), 1.26 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 don’t show tons of dominance, either.
In the end, Smith never received more than 50.6 percent of the vote. With Smith checking in at 34.2 percent in his final year, he never received less than 29.9 percent, either. Whatever all of that means, we can probably agree that it doesn’t equate to a surefire Hall of Famer.
Smith joins a litany of other very good-to-great players who had 15 years on the ballot without earning induction.
We’ll only go back to 1964 because there was a run-off and several veterans committees made things far more complicated. Without getting into too many details for this space, the voting process was far different than than it is now. So consider this a “modern” compilation. In reverse chronological order, here are the 15-and-done guys who still haven’t made the Hall:
Smith, Alan Trammell, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Tommy John, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Jim Kaat, Luis Tiant, Minnie Minoso, Mickey Lolich, Curt Flood, Tony Oliva, Thurman Munson, Ken Boyer, Maury Wills, Harvey Kuenn, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Don Larsen, Lew Burdette, Gil Hodges, Ted Kluszewski, Mickey Vernon, Don Newcombe and Al Dark.
There’s hope for Lee Smith when it comes to the veterans committee, because the following players were on the ballot for 15 years and are now Hall of Famers: Joe Torre (though he’s in as a manager), Ron Santo, Orlando Cepeda, Bill Mazeroski, Jim Bunning, Nellie Fox, Red Schoendienst and Richie Ashburn.
On the flip-side, Dazzy Vance actually got in on his 16th try (again, lots of voting differences back in the ’50s and ’60s), while Jim Rice and Red Ruffing got in on their 15th tries.
Whether Lee Smith gets in eventually is a mystery, but for now, we know that he’s the answer to a trivia question. He’s the last 15-and-done guy.