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Replay

Even back in 1971, Baseball Hall of Fame voting was a tricky task

All-time Yankees great Yogi Berra first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1971, but remarkably, he was not elected that year.
All-time Yankees great Yogi Berra first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1971, but remarkably, he was not elected that year.

Editor’s note: The Globe is reaching into its archives to bring you “Replay,” articles from the past that highlight something interesting, timely, or revealing. This column by Harold Kaese about those who are not voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame appeared on Sunday, Jan. 24, 1971, under the headline “Hall of Fame good? Not for egos of Wynn, Satchel Paige.”

Before one of his last World Series Casey Stengel said the most valuable player for the Yankees during the years when they were winning 10 pennants for him was neither Mickey Mantle nor Joe DiMaggio but Yogi Berra.

DiMaggio had played only three seasons for him before retiring, and therefore was not considered by the manager. It was between Berra and Mantle, and Stengel chose the catcher because of his consistency, particularly in the clutches.

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But although Berra missed the Hall of Fame on his first try, Mantle probably will make it on the first crack when he becomes eligible three years hence.

Berra will never be neglected, but Mantle got about three tons of ink to his one. He was more glamorous, more talented and more heroic, especially when he was wincing in pain, which was about 90 percent of the time if you believe Yankee followers.

Compared to Mantle, Berra was a peasant — a grubby performer who if he didn’t make his own jokes had them made for him.

But Berra was the man who handled great Yankee pitchers, who made an uncountable number of big hits (many of them off bad balls) and he was appreciated by his manager, if not by the jury of writers who shut the Hall of Fame door on him this week, as they also shut it on Early Wynn and Ralph Kiner.

Halls of Fame are good — it is said — for the game, good for those lucky enough to be voted in, and good for the egos of those who do the electing — in this case baseball writers of at least 10 years experience.

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But the pain caused by Halls of Fame is at least equal to any good they do, as you probably guessed after hearing Wynn express his disappointment, and the wives of Berra and Kiner wonder what effect this gratuitous slur would have on their children.

Do-gooders cause so much pain and grief in this world, of which sport’s contributions are awards, trophies and Halls of Fame. An athlete not only has to stand losing on the field, but he must be able to take it on the chin from egomaniacs claiming the authority to hand out ribbons and medals.

As a voter and egomaniac, I must say that I do not relish the role and never have. Why should I for no good reason at all take it upon myself to embarrass Berra and his wife and kids? Is this a privilege that should give me a sense of power and make me feel good?

Still, I voted, not so much as a privilege but as a duty, a minority going along with the majority, because of the democratic process; and seven of the 10 I voted for were in the first 10, and that and 15 cents will get me a cup of coffee.

Like Kennedians dismayed by a reverse in the vote for Senate majority whip, many baseball people now want to change the system. Be more selective in choosing the voters; put at least the top vote-getter into the Hall of Fame, even though he gets only 51 percent.

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Most conscience-stricken writers think something is wrong when a pitcher who has won 300 games is turned down and nobody at all is elected.

But there is another 300-winner besides Wynn who is not in the Hall of Fame — Michael Welch, 316-214. But nobody is crying for him. He pitched 1880-92, years that now do not count.

The system has been changed several times over the years because the voters insist on having minds of their own. But while the system can be changed, nobody can change the fact that anybody having the right to vote also has the right to vote as he chooses.

Even Ty Cobb was not a unanimous choice. Should the four out of 226 voters who left his name off their ballots in 1936 have somehow been weeded out by the system?

It is even truer of Hall of Fame elections in baseball than most voting that if you do not vote as I do, there has to be something the matter with you.

Of the nine former Red Sox players on this year’s list of 50 eligibles, all got some recognition — from George Kell (105) to Jackie Jensen and Vic Wertz (2) — suggesting that they made some friends along the line.

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The first black player on the list was 29th — Don Newcombe, with only eight votes — but if this seems like racism, stick around another 10 years when many more black all-stars will be eligible. The first white player in 1981 may be 29th.

Which should remind us that if Berra, Wynn and Kiner want to console themselves, they only have to remember that neither Satchel Paige nor Josh Gibson is yet in the Hall of Fame.