TERRE HAUTE —
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
By doing so, you may be labeled an optimist, a dreamer or unapologetically Hautean.
Let’s hope you’re also right.
That’s the day Terre Haute (and the rest of the world) finds out whether Tommy John will become a Hall of Famer. The gatekeepers to baseball’s greatest shrine — the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum — have not let John inside through 16 voting sessions since the Terre Haute-born pitcher first became eligible for consideration in 1994. The primary electors, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, passed over John for 15 consecutive years until his eligibility via that method expired in 2009. Then, the Veterans Committee — a panel of Hall of Fame players, managers and writers who study the cases of overlooked Hall candidates — bypassed Tommy in 2010 and chose to induct longtime manager Whitey Herzog and ump Doug Harvey.
On the bright side, John has never left the Hall’s radar.
Last week, the Hall of Fame announced John had earned a spot on the Veterans Committee ballot for 2013. As in 2010, the committee is considering big-league players, managers, executives and umpires from the Expansion Era (those who made their greatest contributions after 1973).
John joins 11 others on that ballot — fellow players Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry and Ted Simmons; managers Joe Torre, Billy Martin, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox; late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner; and players union pioneer Marvin Miller.
Lots of great baseball names on that list. Yet, none is more deserving than John to be one of those chosen on Dec. 8; the vote is to be revealed the next day, Dec. 9.
The 16 Veterans Committee voters know the 70-year-old John well. They’re his contemporaries — playing greats Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro and Frank Robinson; managers Tommy Lasorda (John’s boss with the Dodgers) and Herzog; execs Paul Beeston, Andy MacPhail, David Montgomery and Jerry Reinsdorf; and writers Steve Hirdt, Bruce Jenkins, Jack O’Connell and Jim Reeves.
Why recite the entire, lengthy Veterans Committee roster, especially the latter members who are unknown to most of us?
Because they are “they.”
As Terre Haute honored John last month by naming the ball diamond at Spencer F. Ball Park “Tommy John Field,” local residents repeated the comment, “They should put Tommy in the Hall of Fame.” For that to happen, at least 12 of those 16 Veterans Committee voters must pick John’s name on their Hall of Fame ballot next month when they gather at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
Like folks here, those committee members probably think fondly of Tommy, even if his sinkerball forced a few of them to hit into double plays. He’s a likable, down-to-earth, friendly guy. The voters aren’t asked to consider sentiment, though. Instead, they’re called to consider a candidate’s record, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to their teams. Of course, big-league baseball thrives on statistics, so the “record” criteria looms largest. John aces every other category. Stats geeks can argue his statistical Hall of Fame credentials like Republicans and Democrats wrestling in Congress, but most miss the big-picture reasons Tommy John should have a plaque in Cooperstown.
He gave baseball its greatest comeback story.
In mid-career, John tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. Such injuries ended pitchers’ careers, until 1974 when John agreed to a revolutionary surgery to implant a tendon from his other arm into his left elbow. The surgeon, Dr. Frank Jobe, said, “On a scale of 1 to 10, Tommy’s chances of ever pitching again were less than 1,” according to the Hall of Fame archives.
If those odds prevailed, John would likely be the first and last pitcher to try the procedure. Instead, he won another 164 games before retiring in 1989 — 40 more victories than he’d posted before the surgery. Today, it’s known as Tommy John surgery. John is not famous because of the surgery. The surgery is famous because of John’s performance for 14 seasons afterward.
John’s Hall of Fame-caliber performance. Had he fizzled or merely hung on to his career, Jobe would be a footnote, and hundreds of pitchers — from high school to the majors — would have to quit when they felt that “pop” in their elbows.
If any of us Hauteans wrote an open letter to the Veterans Committee voters, that point should be emphasized. Yes, John won 288 games (more than any eligible pitcher not already in the Hall), forced hitters into 605 double plays (the most by any pitcher since 1916), shined in the postseason with a sparkling 2.65 earned-run average, and never — never — missed a start after his surgery, even at age 46. Even more significant, though, Tommy beat the odds, rehabilitated himself with no blueprint for his injury, and pitched even more masterfully for years and years.
His detractors insist John pitched a mind-boggling 26 seasons, yet still didn’t reach 300 wins. Well, never mind the season and a half he missed because of the surgery. Hidden within John’s career numbers is a quirky stat, compiled by stats legend Bill James. In 24 starting assignments, John left the game with his team leading, only to have a relief pitcher blow his lead (and what would’ve been another victory notch for Tommy) before the team went on to win. Only one other pitcher, Roger Clemens, had that happen more times, James deduced. Just half of those no-decision outings would’ve given John the magical 300th victory.
Guts, craftiness, durability and success at the highest level were Tommy John trademarks.
Come on, Hall of Fame voters, do the right thing. Give TJ his place in Cooperstown, and his hometown a chance to celebrate with him on Dec. 9.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
- Local & Bistate
Purdue shooting leaves one person dead
A Purdue University engineering student opened fire inside a basement classroom Tuesday, killing a teaching assistant and prompting officials to put the campus on lockdown, police and the university said.
VIDEO: Sax at the Crossroads
Saxophonist Michael Reed spiced up the Crossroads of America under long-awaited sunny skies around noon Tuesday, March 11, in downtown Terre Haute.
THS grad Miller among students in adjacent building when shooting occurs
Kris Miller and his roommate were in a computer lab of Purdue’s mechanical engineering building Tuesday when they received a call that a shooting had occurred next door.
Bosma moves gay marriage ban bill to friendlier committee
Republican House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma sent a bill that proposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage to a more conservative-leaning legislature committee Tuesday, because it lacked support on the first committee to which it was assigned.
We enter the deep freeze again
If you had to step outside to get your newspaper this morning, you might have noticed it’s painfully cold once again.
Levy redirects school funds
If the new “protected levy” legislation goes into effect later this year, it would mean “a substantial reduction” in revenue for Vigo County School Corp. bus transportation, capital projects and bus replacement funds, according to the district’s chief financial officer.
School debt levy redirects funds across Indiana
School officials and state legislators from around the state are searching for ways to keep the school buses running — and children safe on the streets — pending the loss of millions of dollars for school transportation.
More than 50 school districts in Indiana stand to lose at least 20 percent of their revenues for transportation, new buses and other big-ticket projects under a new law that requires them to first pay off their debts.
VIDEO: Sen. Donnelly updates T-S editorial board
Passage of a long overdue U.S. farm bill could be completed by the end of this month, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Tuesday.
Vigo coroner tries again for salary increase
After being denied last year, Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos is again seeking to have her county salary increased to match that of several other county office holders.
Police find stolen handgun, drugs during traffic stop
A traffic stop Monday night on Third Street led to the arrest of a Terre Haute man on drug-related charges and recovery of a stolen handgun that had belonged to a Vigo County Sheriff’s Department reserve deputy.
Street closings for March 11
• The intersection at 29th and Harrison will be closed until noon today for water line replacement.
• The southbound lane of 25th Street from Barbour to Grand avenues is closed today for fire hydrant repair.
Vigo County Jail Log: March 11, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Monday and Tuesday, based on jail records.
ISTEP+ testing begins today in Indiana
The student body of Woodrow Wilson Middle School issued a collective battle cry on Monday as it began a week of standardized testing.
Red Cross kicks off fundraising campaign
Disaster can hit at any time, whether from a tornado or fire that leaves a family homeless.
Man arrested on multiple burglary charges
A Montezuma man has been arrested in connection with residential burglaries in Parke and Vigo counties and on suspicion of illegal sale of firearms.
$1.4 million revamp of Third Street in works
Plans to spruce up Third Street through downtown are taking shape.
New principal picked for Hoosier Prairie
Hoosier Prairie Elementary has a new principal, Jennifer Russell, effective today.
Possible bookkeeping 'abnormalities' under scrutiny at TH airport
State authorities are investigating possible “bookkeeping abnormalities” at the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.
UPDATE: Putnam deputy indicted
A Putnam County Sheriff’s deputy who also serves as a Greencastle city councilman has been indicted by a federal grand jury on allegations of deprivation of civil rights in his police duties, and he has been placed on administrative leave as a deputy.
UPDATE: Indictment alleges deputy committed violence against suspects
A Putnam County deputy, Terry Joe “T.J.” Smith, 37, has been arrested on a federal indictment charging him with committing violent acts against suspects.
Feds arrest Putnam County deputy on charges of violence
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A sheriff’s deputy from a rural Indiana county has been indicted on federal civil rights charges.
Vigo County Jail Log: March 10, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, based on jail records.
Police: Meth organization dismantled in Vigo County
Five people face criminal charges after police dismantled an alleged methamphetamine organization in Vigo County, according to an Indiana State Police news release.
Food Inspections: March 10, 2014
The Vigo County Health Department inspected the following food establishments during the week of Feb. 24 - 28:
Canvasing families: Mothers confront life with diabetic children
Four Wabash Valley mothers who sat around a circular table Thursday night couldn’t hold back tears as they talked about their children’s battles with a lifelong disease and their hopes for helping other affected families.
MAX JONES: Newspapers can be fun, too; check out Readers’ Choice
Smart and savvy newspaper readers (that’s all of you, of course) know full well that their daily consumption of news and information isn’t an exclusively high-brow pursuit.
Changed wording to SJR-9 delays debate on right to hunt, fish
A much-debated ban on same-sex marriage wasn’t the only proposed constitutional amendment to get knocked off of this November’s ballot. Gone, too, is the less contentious proposal to protect Hoosiers’ right to hunt and fish.
You’re home now: A veteran’s Midwest move that almost wasn’t
To say that Michael Curry was stressed is an understatement.
A service member who has been in the U.S. Army for more than 21 years, he had just arrived in Vigo County with his family — wife, four teen-age children, mother-in-law and two dogs — when he learned the home loan he had obtained in Texas was denied.
Valley lawmakers assess legislative session’s trials, tribulations
As state legislators head into the final week of the state legislative session, five of them from the Wabash Valley met with citizens Saturday at the Vigo County Public Library in downtown Terre Haute and engaged in conversation about the “ups and downs” of the recent session.
Families often unaware of helpful groups for kids with disabilities
One Saturday morning event in Terre Haute aimed to raise awareness about the resources available to people with disabilities.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Purdue shooting leaves one person dead