Not a single player on the 1984 Detroit Tigers is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But while we may have to wait to see one of the ’84 World Champs inducted into the Hall, we don’t have to wait for them to be honored. If the voters can’t get it right about the players who were the stars of the ’84 Tigers, they can do the right thing by inducting the entire team.
The Hall of Fame should create a new honor to celebrate the great teams in baseball history. Each July a new team can be “inducted” as a unit, as one. The players on the team won’t be inductees, but the team will be. A new section in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum can list these inducted “Hall of Fame Teams.” An appropriate plaque or exhibit could honor them. Living members of the team would be invited to Cooperstown for the weekend. While Trammell may not be inducted as a player (yet), he might be chosen by his ’84 teammates to give the acceptance speech for that “Hall of Fame Team,” especially since the team leader (Sparky Anderson) has passed away.
The ’84 team is not just loved in Detroit and Michigan by Tiger fans, it had one of the most thrilling seasons in history. The team led from wire-to-wire, only the fourth team to ever do that. They got off to the fastest start in the history of baseball: winning an incredible 35 of their first 40 games. They had a roster filled with All-Stars in their prime: double play duo Trammell and Whitaker, Morris, catcher Lance Parrish, starter Dan Petry, center fielder Chet Lemon, right fielder Kirk Gibson, and closer Willie Hernandez, who won the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. Other noteworthy players were on the club: Darrell Evans, who clubbed more than 400 career homers; future home run champ Howard Johnson; and hard-throwing reliever Aurelio Lopez.
Imagine the excitement each year if the Hall of Fame inducted a great team from the past. There are some no-brainers, like the 1927 Yankees, the 1955 Dodgers, and the 1975 Cincinnati “Big Red Machine.” Those teams will get in for sure, and their fans will have another reason to travel to Cooperstown. Maybe the Hall of Fame Team induction is held on Saturday, the day before the individual honors, so as not to take away from that ceremony. But it has to happen during the same weekend, because too often the Hall of Fame voters have failed to elect anyone, which makes the Hall of Fame Weekend ceremony disappointing.
Detroit fans know a lot about disappointment, having watched as Morris, Trammell, and Whitaker have been held out of the Hall of Fame. The most egregious was when Sweet Lou failed to garner enough votes to stay on the ballot for more than a year.
Fans and the media would love the debate that would surround the election of Hall of Fame Teams, just as they debate which players belong in Cooperstown. And most franchises have at least one great team that would garner attention. The Seattle Mariners, who have never played in a World Series and don’t have a Hall of Fame inductee yet, have the 2001 team that won 116 games. The 1969 New York Mets, 1982 St. Louis Cardinals, 1987 Minnesota Twins, 1993 Philadelphia Phillies, and 2004 Boston Red Sox are a few of the most popular teams in baseball history and each would deserve consideration for election as a unit. Can you imagine the excitement that a ’69 Mets reunion would create in Cooperstown? Or how great it would be to see members of the 1972-74 Oakland A’s together to celebrate their dynasty by accepting induction as one of baseball’s greatest teams? Teams could be honored for one specific season or for multiple seasons (or eras) if they had a stretch of postseason success.
If the Hall of Fame wants to broaden their mission to honor the history of the National Pastime, and if they wish to ensure that some sort of an induction will take place every summer, they should consider welcoming Hall of Fame Teams to Cooperstown.