Yankees: 3 NYY Stars Who’d Have Been Hall of Famers Without Injuries
By Adam Weinrib
These Yankees stars would’ve made the Hall of Fame if not for the injury bug.
The New York Yankees have a hallowed set of Hall of Famers enshrined in Cooperstown — as well as several players who still sit on the Hall’s outskirts and deserve further consideration.
But we’re Yankee fans. We’re not satisfied with a bunch of “Yes” votes and a couple of maybes. We need the world to acknowledge that getting 90% of the breaks isn’t enough, and we’d be further dominating the Hall’s landscape if just a few more had gone our way.
If all things were equal, I believe these three fan favorites would’ve made the Baseball Hall of Fame, too. Alas, they fell victim to father time, as well as a few unhappy accidents.
3. Elston Howard
Elston Howard is in Monument Park, but not the Hall of Fame.
Plenty of factors conspired against Elston Howard’s Cooperstown induction, but one final injury officially did him in and closed the case.
Howard did not debut with the Yankees until the age of 26, back in April of 1955. He signed with the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs back in 1948 as a 19-year-old, and played three seasons in their outfield, rooming with a young Ernie Banks along the way. Of course, it became tough for Howard to break through once he joined the NYY’s minor-league system.
For one thing, Yogi Berra was still firmly entrenched as the starting catcher. For another, it took the team…quite a bit too long to integrate, to say the least.
But once Howard arrived, he raked — Ellie made the AL All-Star team 12 consecutive times in nine seasons (they used to double up on the game per year, which was a…mistake). He was the AL MVP in 1963, and a destroyer of worlds from the age of 28 through 35. Unfortunately, his age 36 season was marred by an elbow injury suffered in Spring Training, which required surgery. Although he made the All-Star Game one final time that season, his career featured three more mediocre-to-bad seasons after 1965.
The late start was one thing, but three more representative years from Howard, instead of a few disastrous ones, might’ve gotten him over the Hall hump anyway. 1,800 hits or so instead of 1,500, he could’ve passed the 200-homer mark and hit .280…sigh. Howard’s road was doomed from the start, but that elbow issue really cinched it.