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.)

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