Each year, the Baseball Hall of Fame elects new members based on the era they came from. In 2021, four new members were added via the Golden Days Era Committee, which looks at players whose impact came primarily from 1950-1969. These four members are Gil Hodges, Minnie Miñoso, Jim Kaat, and Tony Oliva.
The other era committees are The Early Baseball Era (prior to 1950), The Modern Baseball Era (1970-87), and The Today’s Game Era (1988-present).
Hodges, Miñoso, Kaat, and Oliva were elected from a 10-person ballot of their era. To be elected, they needed at least 12 of 16 votes from the electing committee. Miñoso received 14 of 16 votes, while Hodges, Kaat, and Oliva all received 12. Dick Allen barely missed the cut, receiving 11 votes.
Hodges, who spent the majority of his career with the Los Angeles and Brooklyn Dodgers, is known as one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball. MLB went in depth on his achievement in their statement announcing his election. “Hodges played 18 seasons with the Dodgers and the Mets from 1943-63, earning eight All-Star Game selections and three Gold Glove Awards at first base.”
“He topped the 20-homer mark in 11 straight seasons from 1949-59, drove in 100-or-more runs each year from 1949-55 and played on seven pennant winners and two World Series champions, ending his career with 370 home runs – the third-most by a right-handed hitter at the time of his retirement. Hodges went on to manage the Senators and Mets for nine seasons, leading New York to a memorable World Series title in 1969.”
Sadly, Hodges passed away at age 47 in 1972, just eight years after the end of his illustrious playing career. Hodges was an All-Star with the Dodgers every year from 1949-55 and won three consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1957-59.
Miñoso is not only known as a phenomenal baseball player, but also one who broke a racial barrier to succeed, as MLB discusses in their statement. “Miñoso starred in the Negro National League with the New York Cubans from 1946-48 before debuting with the Cleveland Indians in 1949. He played 17 seasons with the Indians, White Sox, Cardinals and Senators, becoming the first dark-skinned Latin American player to appear in an AL or NL game.”
“Miñoso finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 1951 and earned the first of nine All-Star Game selections in the AL/NL Midsummer Classic that year. A three-time Gold Glove Award winner in left field, Miñoso led the AL in triples and stolen bases three times apiece and finished his career with 2,110 hits and a .299 batting average.”
Another thing that Miñoso is famous for is being one of the oldest players to ever appear in an MLB game, taking two at-bats over two games at age 54. Miñoso, like Hodges, passed away prior to his election to the Hall of Fame. He was 89, and passed away in 2015.
Kaat is one of two living members elected to the Hall of Fame from the Golden Days Era or the Early Baseball Era. He is known for his longevity, pitching at the Major League level for a quarter of a century. “Kaat pitched for 25 seasons with the Senators, Twins, White Sox, Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals, winning 283 games.”
“A three-time 20-game winner, three-time All-Star and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner, Kaat’s 625 career games started ranks 17th all-time and his 4,530.1 innings pitched ranks 25th. He helped the Twins win the 1965 American League pennant and the Phillies win National League East titles from 1976-78 before transitioning to a relief role, when he was a key member of manager Whitey Herzog’s bullpen as the Cardinals won the World Series.”
Yes, a 16-time Gold Glove winner. He won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves at the pitcher position from 1962-77. Kaat’s career went from 1958-83, with MLB deeming that the majority of his contributions came between 1950 and 1969.
Oliva is the other living member elected to the Hall of Fame in this cycle. His career did not span nearly as long as Kaat’s — playing just 13 full seasons and 15 total seasons — due to injuries. However, he was truly a dominant force for the Minnesota Twins. “Oliva spent his entire 15-year big league career with the Twins, winning three AL batting titles while leading the league in hits five times.”
“The 1964 American League Rookie of the Year, Oliva was named to the All-Star Game in eight straight seasons from 1964-71 before knee injuries took their toll. A Gold Glove Award winner for his play in right field in 1966, Oliva became the first player in AL/NL history to win batting titles in each of his first two seasons. He received votes in the AL Most Valuable Player balloting in each season from 1964-71 and finished his career with a .304 batting average.”
Oliva’s eight-year peak from 1964-71 could be widely regarded as one of the better primes in the history of the sport. Although he never won that evasive MVP award, his play will be remembered for generations to come with this honor.