Eight former Dodgers are on the Hall of Fame ballot, although chances are that not a single one would wear the team’s cap should he be inducted.
Several follow a long, curious tradition of future Hall of Famers playing with the Dodgers for an eye blink near the end of distinguished careers, their greatness mostly a memory.
An outlier is Adrián Beltré, a shoo-in as a first-ballot inductee this year. He signed with the Dodgers at age 16, broke into the majors with them at 19 and left as a free agent after seven seasons, capped by a monster walk year in 2004 when he hit 48 home runs and posted an otherworldly 1.017 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Yet Beltré capped his 22-year career with eight exceptional seasons in Texas that burnished his Hall of Fame bonafides. He’s almost certain to wear a Rangers cap into Cooperstown. All but two of 193 Baseball Writers Assn. of America voters whose ballots have been made public have voted for him.
Gary Sheffield, who is hovering around the 75% necessary votes for induction in his last year on the ballot, would have an interesting cap decision. The slugger played for eight teams in 22 years and spent the most time — parts of six seasons — and won his only World Series with the Florida Marlins. He had 3½ extremely productive years with the Dodgers from 1998-2001 but also starred for several other teams. He seems like an excellent candidate to opt for a cap without a logo, an option in recent years.
Fred McGriff, who played for six teams including one forgettable year with the Dodgers, went in without a logo last year. Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina, both inducted in 2019, don’t have logos and neither does Yogi Berra, but that’s because his head is tilted on his plaque.
Greg Maddux is also logo-less because he split his most productive stretch between the Braves and Cubs and couldn’t choose. That 19 of his 760 career starts were made in a Dodgers uniform in 2006 and 2008 presumably didn’t figure into the equation.
Before 2001, electees chose the logos on their caps. Since then, though, HOF officials ask a player for his preference but make the decision based on where he “made his most indelible mark,” according to former Hall president Jeff Idelson.
Plaques hanging in the Hall of Fame currently honor the 340 players, managers and contributors elected since 1936. The plaques include a raised bronze sculpture of the player wearing a cap backed by two crossed baseball bats and a laurel wreath.
The former Dodgers on this year’s ballot besides Beltré and Sheffield have little chance of induction, and only Adrián González spent a significant number of his productive seasons in Chavez Ravine. However, it appears he won’t reach the 5% vote total necessary to remain on the ballot.
Manny Ramirez batted .396 after coming to the Dodgers in a midseason trade in 2008 and has Hall of Fame numbers, but is on fewer than 40% of the ballots made public. He was suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2009 with the Dodgers and again in 2011 with Tampa Bay.
Andruw Jones has about 70% of public votes, although anyone who saw him play only during his single season with the Dodgers would wonder why. Overweight and out of shape at age 31, he batted .158 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 2008 while being paid $21.4 million, his stint in Atlanta as baseball’s premier center fielder in the rear-view mirror.
Also on but down the ballot are outfielder Bobby Abreu, who batted .246 in L.A. during the 17th of his 18 seasons, and Jimmy Rollins, who posted a pedestrian slash line of .224/.285/.358 as the Dodgers shortstop at age 36 in 2015.
Chase Utley has a decent chance of eventually reaching the Hall of Fame, although he’s at about 44% of the votes in his first year. His HOF-worthy seasons were spent in Philadelphia, then from 2015-2018 he was a strong clubhouse presence and solid player with the Dodgers. A lasting contribution was convincing several teammates to adopt dairy-free diets.
So much for the current crop. Let’s turn back the clock with a quick quiz:
Which of the following Hall of Famers never played for the Dodgers? Jim Thome, Rickey Henderson,Gary Carter, Juan Marichal, Frank Robinson, Hoyt Wilhelm, Jim Bunning, Tony Lazzeri, Rabbit Maranville, Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, Waite Hoyt, Kiki Cuyler.
Answer? None! They all were Dodgers, just not for long.
Thome’s time in L.A. was the baseball definition of a Hollywood cameo, 17 pinch-hit appearances in September 2009 during which he hit zero of his 612 career home runs. He did have a clutch single in a Dodgers victory over the Phillies in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
Henderson was a Dodger in 2003 at age 44 in the last of his illustrious 25-year career. He batted .208 in 30 games and accumulated the last three of his all-time record 1,406 stolen bases and last seven of his all-time record 2,295 runs scored.
Carter’s cap choice created controversy because he wanted to wear a Mets logo but the Hall insisted he go with the Expos. The Dodgers, for whom in 1991 he batted .246 with six home runs in the 18th of his 19 seasons, weren’t in the conversation.
Marichal was a Dodgers nemesis as the ace of the San Francisco Giants for 14 years, best known for bashing catcher John Roseboro over the head with a bat in 1965. Yet he finished his career with two forgettable starts for L.A. in 1975, giving up nine earned runs in six innings before retiring because of back pain.
Robinson and Wilhelm had 21-year careers that included brief Dodgers tenure. Robinson led the Orioles to four World Series — including a four-game sweep of the Dodgers in 1966 in which he was MVP — and in 1972 hit 19 of his career 586 home runs in his only season in L.A. That same year, knuckleball specialist Wilhelm posted a 4.62 ERA in 16 relief appearances with the Dodgers before retiring at age 49.
Bunning, the only big leaguer to be voted into the Hall of Fame and the U.S. Senate, pitched a half-season for the Dodgers in 1969, tossing 56 of his 3,760 career innings and collecting three of his 224 wins for them. Hoyt’s career numbers were nearly identical to Bunning’s a generation earlier — notching 237 wins in 3,762 innings — and he finished his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, going 0-3 in 1938.
Lazzeri, a second baseman, helped the Yankees to five World Series titles from 1927 to 1937 playing alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Yet he squeezed in 39 at-bats over 14 games in Brooklyn to begin the 1939 season before the Dodgers released him.
Maranville, a colorful 5-foot-5 shortstop, spent an uneventful mid-career season with Brooklyn in 1926, batting .235 in 78 games at age 34. He swore off booze a year later and resurrected his career, starring for the Boston Braves until he was 43 and had played 23 seasons.
Cuyler, an outfielder blessed with power and speed, wears a Cubs logo on his HOF cap and also starred with the Pirates and Reds. He found himself in a Brooklyn uniform at the end, however, batting .273 as a part-time player in 1938.
Brothers Paul and Lloyd Waner were Pittsburgh Pirates icons in the late 1920s and ‘30s who amassed more than 5,000 hits between them and posted lifetime batting averages well above .300.
Paul joined a Brooklyn lineup in 1941 that included fellow future Hall of Famers Joe Medwick and Pee Wee Reese. But he was released after hitting .171 in 11 games. He returned to the Dodgers in 1943 and batted .311, but was released late in the 1944 season. Lloyd’s stint as a Dodger was even briefer, going 3 for 14 in 1944.
Hall of Famers wearing L.A. Dodgers logos are shockingly few: Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Don Sutton. That’s it as players. Walter Alston and Tom Lasorda join them as managers.
Other names that leap to mind — Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Reese, etc. — wear caps bearing the “B” of Brooklyn or chose another team’s logo — Mike Piazza went in with the Mets.
All of which results in an oddity: The path to Cooperstown often ran through Brooklyn or Los Angeles, but most were mere stopovers that tainted the back of Hall of Fame baseball cards.