Baseball historian Bill James calls George Kelly, “the worst player in the Hall of Fame”. After playing for five different teams during a 16-year career, Kelly found himself on the Baseball Writers’ ballot for Cooperstown consideration. He received just a single vote his first year on the ballot in 1947.
Needing 75% for enshrinement, Kelly topped out at 1.9% in 1960 when five writers deemed him Hall-worthy. In total, the writers considered him in seven different voting periods before dropping him from the ballot. In those seven elections he totaled 7.3%, yet he still made the Hall in 1973.
His inclusion into baseball’s shrine of honor is due to one man: Frankie Frisch, Kelly’s New York Giant teammate from 1919-1926.
After a no-doubt Hall of Fame playing career in which he established the highest lifetime average among inducted switch hitters, Frisch became a voting member of the Hall’s Veterans Committee. Once there he ascended to the position of committee chairman, wielding his substantial influence to induct men who played alongside him. Frisch’s legacy with the Veterans Committee is a dark chapter in the Hall’s history as he played the leading role in electing former teammates who fall well below Cooperstown standards.
Shown above is a letter written by Frisch to Paul Kerr, president of the Hall of Fame from 1961-1978. Frisch writes, “I want to thank you Uncle Paul for selecting the Old Flash as a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame Committee on Veterans. I feel it quite an honor, and I am proud, and I do hope I can do a thorough job.”.
The letter continues before Frisch pens his remarkably consistent signature at the bottom. The Old Flash would serve on the committee from his appointment in 1966 until his death in 1973.
Baseball historians agree that the selections of Jesse Haines (1970), Dave Bancroft (1971), Chick Hafey (1971), Ross Youngs (1972), and Kelly (1973) are among the most glaring errors in the the history of Hall of Fame.