Results tagged ‘ Johnnie Lemaster ’
On Monday, the San Francisco Giants announced the formation of a “Wall of Fame” that would be displayed at AT&T Field beginning with the 2009 season. The inaugural class of Wall of Famers would include over 40 members. The criteria for making the Wall are simple: a retired player becomes automatically inducted if he has played at least nine seasons with San Francisco, or has been an All-Star who has played at least five seasons with the Giants.
This “Wall of Fame” sounds like a good idea, a noble concept, but it’s one that has gone awry. Now there’s no problem with the top end of the wall. The Giants, who have been celebrating their 50th year in San Francisco (yes, it’s been that long since the move west from the Polo Grounds), easily have an elite group of core players to form the upper tier of the wall: Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. Then you have a second tier of really good players who have been All-Star caliber performers, including the underrated Felipe Alou, the late Rod Beck, the late Bobby Bonds, Vida Blue, Will Clark, Chili Davis, Darrell Evans, the late Tom Haller, Jim Ray Hart, Gary Lavelle, Jeff Leonard, Greg “Moon Man” Minton, Kevin Mitchell, Robb Nen, and Matt Williams. And if you want to include a group of “common card” Giants, players who have been contributing foot soldiers over the years, you have a solid group formed by the likes of John Burkett, Dick Dietz, Scotty Garrelts, Atlee Hammaker, Mike Krukow, Mike McCormick, Stu Miller, John “The Count” Montefusco, Rick Reuschel, Chris Speier, and Robby Thompson. They were all decent players, or better in some cases. Some of them, like Montefusco, were also very popular with the fans. By all means, give them their places on the Wall.
But here’s where the Giants have gone wrong. When you start including players like Johnnie LeMaster, Tito Fuentes, and Kirt Manwaring, especially in the inaugural class of the Wall of Fame, I think you’ve lost all credibility. LeMaster, in particular, makes the Giants look like they’ve miscalculated their standards. He is one of the worst players to step onto a field in the last 40 years; he couldn’t hit, couldn’t field, couldn’t steal bases. He was a bad player who was best known for putting “Boo” on his uniform in response to angry fans at Candlestick Park.
As for Fuentes, he was a colorful performer who was a member of the 1971 team that claimed the National League West, but at his peak was never much more than an average player. And for much of his career, he was well below average, an iffy fielder who struggled to reach base. Finally, Manwaring was a little bit better, a good defensive catcher who couldn’t hit for either average or power. On the list of standout Giants catchers of the past 40 years, Manwaring would rate well below Haller, Dietz, Bob Brenly (also scheduled for Wall induction in 2009), and current Giants receiver Bengi Molina. I just don’t see where a one-dimensional catcher like Manwaring merits inclusion on this list.
The problem with the Giants Wall of Fame is quite simple: the standards for induction are way too low. Nine years of play with the Giants, or five years and one All-Star appearance with San Francisco, will open the floodgates too wide for mediocre or worse players to join the Wall of Fame. Do you really want light-hitting utility infielders, middle-of-the road platoon players, and interchangeable long relievers making your team’s Wall of Fame? The Giants would be far better off tightening the standards, perhaps by calling for a minimum of 12 years with the franchise, or perhaps by making the criteria more subjective, based on a player’s performance and popularity in San Francisco.
By all means, let’s honor the Jim Ray Harts, Count Montefuscos, and Rick Reuschels of the Giants’ baseball world. I love it when players who were good, but something less than immortal, receive their due. But when you’ve lowered the bar so far that you have to include the Johnnie LeMasters of years gone by, it’s time to shake up the formula, give it a good stir, and start over again.