The Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of professional sports. It’s where the best of the best are enshrined, plastered on walls and bronzed in busts. Inclusion doesn’t just mean greatness for a few seasons. It means historical greatness over an entire career. Only the smallest percentage of athletes are elected into their respective halls of fame. And there’s not a single athlete who’s put on a uniform who hasn’t dreamed of one day entering that hallowed ground.
Getting voted into the Hall of Fame is no easy task. Normally, it takes an overwhelming majority of knowledgable sports writers to elect a new member. These are the experts, the ones who study their sports for decades on end. They make sure that only the cream of the crop make it in, and that the Hall of Fame is reserved for only the best to ever play.
Every once in a while though, those keepers of the flame make a mistake. Sometimes a player slips through the cracks, and one of the unworthy makes it in. Here are the top 10 most inexplicable Hall of Famers of all time that will surely leave you scratching your head.
10. Troy Aikman
Yes, Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls. He was a member of the famed “Triplets,” the group of Dallas Cowboys who helped dominate the early ’90s. Constantly, he is mentioned with the likes of his piers – all-time quarterbacks like Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and John Elway. But did any of those signal callers throw for more than 20 touchdowns in a season only once? Or never throw for more than 3,400 yards? Have a TD/Int ratio of 165/141? It’s clear that winning means a lot – and Aikman has rings. But was he really responsible for those championships, or was he the weak link of the Triplets? It seems like the players he was throwing to might have done most of the work.
9. Andre Dawson
Andre “The Hawk” Dawson had an average – though very long and productive – big league career. But the Hall of Fame isn’t just about productivity. It’s about being exceptional. Baseball, more than any other sport, is about numbers. And nothing about Dawson’s numbers was exceptional. Playing for 21 MLB seasons, “The Hawk” only batted .300 five times. He only hit more than 30 homeruns three times. And he only eclipsed 100 RBI in four seasons, all while only making eight All-Star teams. Yes, he won an MVP award, and his career totals weren’t bad. But you should compile some decent stats in 20-plus years in the bigs. Plus, he never even played in a World Series. It took Dawson nine years of eligibility to make it into the Hall of Fame. He probably should still be waiting.
8. Eppa Rixey
From 1912 through 1933, Eppa Rixey pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds. It was a career that spanned 21 seasons, which is no small feat for a pitcher. But baseball, as everyone knows, is a numbers game, and accumulating statistics aren’t all that matters. Rixey’s career record is the biggest black mark on his Hall of Fame resume: 266-251. When a pitcher wins only 15 more games than he lost, he doesn’t deserve a place in Cooperstown. Yes, his 266 wins were the most ever by a left-handed pitcher, until Warren Spahn eclipsed him in 1959. But his 251 losses is still the all-time record for lefties, and he led the league in losses twice. Rixey had a durable career, but not a Hall of Fame one.
7. Bill Mazeroski
Longtime Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski is one of the few cases of a player’s Hall of Fame resume being severely propped up by a specific moment in time. In the 1960 World Series against the Yankees, Game 7 had already turned into one of the most dramatic in history. Then, in the bottom of the 9th inning after New York had rallied to tie, Mazeroski hit a home run to win it, bringing the title home to Pittsburgh. It truly was a historic moment that has stood the test of time. But the great fielding “Maz” had a career average of .260, and never eclipsed .283 in a season. He never hit 20 home runs, nor did he score 75 runs. To say his offense was anemic would be an overstatement. And it also wasn’t worthy of the Hall of Fame.
6. Reggie Miller
This is another case of “moments” defining a career. And yes, Reggie Miller had quite a few moments. Without a doubt he was a character, a winner, and one of the most memorable players of his era. But was he actually as good as he was perceived? In 18 NBA seasons, Miller only made five All-Star teams. He averaged 18 points per game, only eclipsing 20 six times. He shot 50% from the field only four times, and was only named All-NBA in three seasons, all 3rd Teams. Reggie Miller was certainly great. But these are not the numbers of a Hall of Famer.
5. Drazen Petrovic
Drazen Petrovic’s life was much too short. He was tragically killed in a car accident years before his time, and there is still a pall cast over his legacy. But this is a conversation about Hall of Fame candidacy, and in that case he falls short. Petrovic only played four NBA seasons, averaging 7.6 and 10 points per game with the Portland Trail Blazers. On the Nets he was much better, scoring 20 and 22 ppg, along with a handful of assists and rebounds, but there is no other body of work to pull from. Yes, he was an important international figure, and the Basketball Hall of Fame takes all levels of basketball into account. But there just isn’t enough to warrant a place for Petrovic in Springfield. Four seasons of NBA basketball isn’t worth eternal enshrinement.
4. Mitch Richmond
Mitch Richmond is a case of numbers actually not telling the tale. While Richmond averaged 21 points per game over a 14-year career and made six All-Star teams, he didn’t have enough “moments” to warrant a spot in the Hall. In fact, for all his scoring, his teams were often forgotten. Only making the playoffs four times in his career (3 as a focal point of the team), Richmond was never able to lift his squads to any level of contention, and never came close to winning an MVP. In all, Richmond never felt like a “special” player. And more than statistics, that’s what the Basketball Hall of Fame is all about.
3. Ray Schalk
Ray Schalk was a defensive whiz from 1912 through 1929, mostly for the Chicago White Sox. He expanded on the previously accepted defensive capabilities of the catcher, partially redefining the position. By all accounts, he handled pitchers as well as anyone had ever done. But baseball is a two-way game, and Schalk has possibly the worst batting statistics of anyone in the Hall of Fame. In 18 big league seasons, Schalk had only 1,345 hits. He had fewer than 600 RBIs and runs scored. Worst of all, his .253 batting average is the lowest of any position player in Cooperstown. This gives Schalk the shameful honor of being the worst hitter in the Hall of Fame. And that warrants a high spot on this list.
2. Tom Yawkey
The only owner on this list didn’t get here by accident. The sole owner of the Boston Red Sox for 44 seasons, Yawkey was a racist and generally horrible person. And while being a saint isn’t a prerequisite for Hall of Fame enshrinement (Ty Cobb was appalling, but made it into Cooperstown), Tom Yawkey was especially rancid. He was the last owner to sign a black player, refusing for years to integrate his team. He passed on chances to sign Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays solely based on race. If the Red Sox had black players in their farm system with Major League potential, he would trade them without explanation before letting them reach his team. Jackie Robinson personally called him “one of the most bigoted guys in baseball.” On top of it all, Yawkey never even won a World Series in his four decades of ownership. How this man made it into the Hall of Fame is an incredible mystery.
1. Joe Namath
“Broadway Joe” Namath was one of the most charismatic, mesmerizing, moment-seizing quarterbacks in pro football history. Tailor-made for the city he played in, New York – and all of America – adopted Namath as their second son, putting him on their shoulders and following his every throw. When he won the Jets their only Super Bowl title, after predicting their victory no less in one of the most stunning upsets of all time, his ticket to immortality had been punched. But the Hall of Fame is for the best of the best. The historically great, at every position. And what doesn’t fit that criteria is a quarterback with more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. And not by a small margin either – Namath threw almost fifty more interceptions than scores in his 13 seasons. That makes him not just unexceptional, but exceptionally average. Of anyone else in history, that makes Joe Namath the most inexplicable Hall of Famer of all time.