Vada Pinson: All time Cincinnati Reds OF vs Hall Fame

vada pinson

The Cincinnati Reds made the World Series in 1961, where they lost to the New York Yankees. It was the first time they made it to the show since winning the World Series in 1940. This was before the development of the Big Red Machine teams of the late 1960s and 1970s. Former NL and AL MVP Frank Robinson was the best offensive player on that team, but one of the better players on the Reds during that decade was Vada Pinson. Pinson was a very good left hand hitting and throwing center fielder who really put up some solid numbers during his time with the Reds.
Over the course of the past couple weeks, I have mentioned players who I think should be in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. I have mentioned Al Oliver, Ted Simmons and Alan Trammell among those who are among those I support that are no longer eligible. Pinson signed with the Reds in 1956 and was up by 1958. Pinson burst on the scene in 1959, with a solid combination of power, speed and defense. If it wasn’t for the emergence of Giants slugger and future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, Pinson would have gotten more consideration for the Rookie of the Year Award. He hit .316, 20, 84, while leading the league in 2Bs (47), runs scored (131), at bats (648) and plate appearances (706). Pinson would lead the NL in 2Bs, ABs and PAs in 1960 as well and led the NL in hits the year the Reds won the Pennant in 1961. He would drive in over 100 runs in the next two seasons, leading the NL in GP (162), hits (204) and 3Bs (14).
After four more solid seasons, Pinson finally had a down year in 1968. He was traded to the St Louis Cardinals, where he played in 1969. He would drive in 70 runs for the 1969 Cardinals and 82 for the 1970 Indians before finishing his career with Cleveland (1970-1971), California Angels (1972-1973) and Kansas City Royals (1974-1975). For his career (1958-1975), Pinson hit .286, 256, 1170 with 485 2B, 127 3Bs and 305 SB. His 2757 hits are the most for a player is not in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. The exceptions are, of course, the players who have more hits and are still eligible to be voted in by the BBWAA and those like Pete Rose who are not eligible.
If Pinson made the Hall of Fame, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. However, he was a good player that put up some very good numbers for his career, but does not stand out. He made the All Star team his first two full seasons and never returned. The Reds also became the Big Red Machine after Pinson had left. The one thing that holds Pinson back is the other players that played in his time. Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron and others dominated the NL a lot more than Pinson did. If Pinson had played 10 years earlier or 10 years later, he would have stood out more.
I hold out Pinson for Hall consideration for now. I’d like to see Oliver, Trammell, Gil Hodges and Simmons in before Pinson. He does deserve having his number 28 retired by the Reds. His .297 Reds average, 1887 hits, 978 runs scored and 814 RBIs are among Reds all time leaders. Though in some cases the numbers are not as close, Pinson belongs in the discussion with Reds great OFs Tony Perez, Pete Rose and Ted Kluszewski. Add in the 11 seasons with the team, and he should be honored, posthumously, as he passed away in 1995. At the time of his passing, Pinson had one year left of Hall eligibility.

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