Tommy John loses bid for the Hall

No Hall for Tommy John

For the 15th and final time, Tommy John on Monday was not elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by baseball writers.

John remains the winningest pitcher in MLB history not in the Hall. He received 171 votes or 31.7 percent of the ballots cast this year, his highest vote total percentage. A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote to gain election. After 15 unsuccessful tries, players are no longer eligible to appear on the ballot and revert to the Veterans Committee process.

John, now 65, won 288 games in a 26-year career that included three 20-win seasons, four All-Star selections and four World Series appearances. He pitched for six clubs -- the Indians, White Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Angels and A's -- and at the time of his retirement was 23rd on the all-time win list.

He had 162 complete games and 46 shutouts, but his longevity and consistency may have worked against him in the eyes of some voters. As a pitcher, consistency was his chief asset. He won 13-plus games 11 times, with an amazing 22 seasons spanning the first (1965) and last (1987).

"I have no control over it. I don't really worry about things I can't control. Let it fall where it may," he has told

Hall or no Hall, John's fame is assured because of the historic 1974 elbow operation that now bears his name. It has been suggested that Dr. Frank Jobe deserves Hall of Fame consideration himself for performing the experimental procedure, transplanting a healthy but unnecessary tendon from John's right wrist to reconstruct the torn ulna collateral ligament that had held his left elbow in place.

2009 Hall of Fame Inductions
2009 Results
PlayerTotal VotesPercentage
Rickey Henderson51194.8%
Jim Rice41276.4%
Andre Dawson36167.0%
Bert Blyleven33862.7%
Lee Smith24044.5%
Jack Morris23744.0%
Tommy John17131.7%
Tim Raines12222.6%
Mark McGwire11821.9%
Alan Trammell9417.4%
Dave Parker8115.0%
Don Mattingly6411.9%
Dale Murphy6211.5%
Harold Baines325.9%
Mark Grace224.1%
David Cone213.9%
Matt Williams71.3%
Mo Vaughn61.1%
Jay Bell20.4%
Jesse Orosco10.2%
Ron Gant00%
Dan Plesac00%
Greg Vaughn00%

But it was John, with the rebuilt arm, who won more games following the surgery (164) than before it.

To the skeptic, John hung around from 1984-89 to chase personal goals, persistence now perhaps being held against him. To John, it was a matter of still being able to pitch at a high level and still being asked to do so. He didn't pitch out the string in Detroit or Pittsburgh or in some other relatively lowlight situation, but in the Bronx, going 29-24 for the Yankees in his last four seasons.

"I was one of the five best pitchers the Yankees could find in baseball for the last four or five years," he recalled, with some pride and some lingering bitterness. "I didn't strike guys out and I gave up hits, but I didn't let runs score and I won ballgames. That's what you're supposed to do. I think my win total, my longevity, coming back from the arm surgery, all of the wins I had post-surgery -- that should be enough."

Someday, it might be. John could be a candidate for the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee, whose charge is to serve justice to deserving players who somehow slipped through the cracks of the writers' ballots.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for's Tom Singer contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.