Cooperstown Justice? A Bill Freehan Kernel for Thought

by M.C. Antil on January 14, 2019

I have not written about baseball in a while, and this one will not be a full-fledged baseball post as much as it will be a simple kernel for thought for those of you still counting down the days to Spring Training. I stumbled upon it the other day while scrolling through the online publication, FranGraphs, and it really gave me pause.

Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter are two of the finest catchers in history. Both were enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown soon after becoming eligible.

Bill Freehan is regarded today as a very good catcher, but hardly an all-time great. In fact, in his one and only year of consideration, he received just 0.5% of the Hall of Fame vote and was dropped from the ballot and not given any future consideration.

In their careers, Carlton Fisk made 11 All Star teams. Gary Carter made 11 All Star teams.

Bill Freehan made 11 All Star teams.

Carlton Fisk earned one Gold Glove. Gary Carter earned three Gold Gloves.

Bill Freehan earned five Gold Gloves.


* * * * *


Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Especially when you consider the fact that Fisk retired with a lifetime OBP (on base percentage) of .341 and Carter did so with a lifetime OBP of .335.

Freehan, meanwhile, retired with a lifetime OBP of .340.

What’s more – in an era so dominated by starting pitching, mind you, that in the middle of it they actually lowered the pitching mound by a full third – Freehan regularly hit in the heart of a rugged Tigers lineup and, at his peak, averaged roughly 27 more games caught per year than Fisk and a handful more per year than Carter.

And on top of all that – just like recent Hall of Famers, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Chipper Jones – the guy managed to play his entire All Star career with one franchise and in the process became a beloved local icon in his own hometown.

But one season and then off the ballot forever? Now that’s a Hall of Fame injustice.

(Bill Freehan, by the way, never did leave Michigan. He still lives there, though now in a fulltime hospice care facility. For some time now, he’s been suffering from an advanced form of Alzheimer’s Disease; the product, his doctors speculate, of a lifetime of concussions, blows to the head, and fouls tips off his face mask.)


Footprints Large and Small: Miscellaneous Deaths of 2018

January 9, 2019

Among a few of the other many deaths of 2018; a dozen or so lives who touched us one way or another during their time among us. Robin Leach Bouncy, slightly doughy, and often cartoon-like Brit who came along at the right place at exactly the right time; a guy who both exploited and made […]

Read the full article →

Footprints Large and Small: Actor Deaths of 2018

January 6, 2019

Among the many fine actors whose passing in 2018 we mark with the passing of the year: Philip Bosco In the early days of Hollywood, if not radio, one might argue the most bankable asset of any actor was his voice. At some point, however, especially during the method-driven 50’s, signature voices began to take […]

Read the full article →

Footprints Large and Small: Business World Deaths of 2018

January 2, 2019

Among the many men and women who left us in 2018 from the world of business included a few heavyweights whose impact can still be felt, some more than others.  They include: Russ Solomon He took his little music store on Watts Street in Sacramento – opened in 1960 and named after his father’s drug […]

Read the full article →

Footprints Large and Small: Sports Deaths of 2018

December 31, 2018

Even though the world of sports didn’t experience any passings on a level of music’s loss of, say, Aretha Franklin, it did lose a number of greats who left their mark, however faint, upon our collective psyche. Among them: Tommy McDonald A throwback to the days when many football stars were built like the rest […]

Read the full article →

Footprints Large and Small: Musical Deaths in 2018

December 28, 2018

Besides Aretha Franklin, a giant for the ages and a singer for all time, the music world also lost a number of lesser lights this year who, nevertheless, left their mark on our collective soul.  Among them: Danny Kirwan He may have spent much of his life a homeless and helpless substance abuser, but prior to […]

Read the full article →

R.I.P.: Joe Osborn

December 22, 2018

He and his buddy, a brilliant young picker named James, were two Louisiana teenagers from Shreveport who’d made a few records with their boyhood pal Dale Hawkins before heading west to seek whatever fame and fortune they could muster. I’ll spare you all the machinations, but the important thing to know is that at a […]

Read the full article →

Santa Stories: The Greatest Gift

December 6, 2018

The following is yet one more in a treasure trove of stories based on a lifetime of Santa Claus calls to kids at Christmas. Just over a decade ago, I opened a Christmas Eve email from a woman in what I’d soon learn was a rough-and-tumble section of Baltimore. She told me she’d recently adopted […]

Read the full article →

Santa Stories: Arthur and His Coat of Many Colors

November 24, 2018

The following is yet one more in a treasure trove of stories based on a lifetime of Santa Claus calls to kids at Christmas. Some 20 years ago, I got an email from a good friend requesting a Santa call. She said she’d been worried about her eleven-year old stepbrother, her father’s only child by […]

Read the full article →

Santa’s Inbox

November 14, 2018

Every year around this time, the holiday season begins in earnest for me. Because this time each year, my little Santa business kicks into gear. While the phone calls from Santa to kids around the country are often reward in and of themselves, a few residual benefits also reveal themselves over the course of the […]

Read the full article →