Last Updated: January 24th, 2024 by Jake Cain
It’s a curveball that’ll leave even the most die-hard fans scratching their heads.
Think all baseball legends nab a first-ballot Hall of Fame nod?
Stars like Joe DiMaggio and Cy Young, iconic to the core, didn’t make that immediate leap to Cooperstown glory.
As we gear up to unveil a lineup of surprising legends who hit a home run in their careers but struck out on their first Hall of Fame pitch, you’ve got to wonder—who else got sidelined on their first shot at baseball immortality?
Join us as we round the bases with the greats who waited for their call to the Hall.
List Of First Ballot Snubs
Despite his legendary status, Cy Young was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame occurred in 1937, a full 20 years after his retirement and two years after his passing. This delay stands in sharp contrast to his monumental career achievements, including an astounding record of 511 wins, which remains unsurpassed to this day.
During his extensive 22-season career, Young amassed a total of 7,356 innings pitched, a testament to his durability and skill on the mound. His career earned run average (ERA) stood strong at 2.63, reflecting consistent dominance. A three-time Triple Crown winner, Young was a model of pitching excellence at the turn of the 20th century.
The namesake of the Cy Young Award, established in 1956 to honor the best pitchers, is an enduring part of Young’s legacy. The inaugural award represented the single best pitcher across Major League Baseball (MLB), with separate awards for the American and National Leagues initiated in 1967, thereby perpetually memorializing Young’s impact on the game. His iconic status is irrefutable, yet his Hall of Fame induction came surprisingly belated given the indelible mark he made on baseball.
Cy Young’s career not only set the standard for pitching dominance but also continues to inspire and shape the criteria for pitching excellence in MLB. This anomaly in the Hall of Fame voting history highlights the evolution of standards and recognition in baseball over time.
Tristram Edgar Speaker, better known as Tris Speaker, despite his exceptional record, was not a first ballot Hall of Famer. Born on April 4, 1888, he played an outstanding 22-year career in Major League Baseball, primarily with the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians. Known as “the Gray Eagle,” he was a formidable offensive and defensive player, and his achievements placed him among the all-time greats of the sport.
Speaker’s career batting average stood at an impressive .345, which ranks him sixth on the all-time list. He also set a record for career doubles with 792, and his 3,514 hits are the fifth-highest in MLB history. These statistics alone would often guarantee a first ballot induction, yet he reached the Hall of Fame later.
Defensively, Speaker distinguished himself as the superior center fielder of his time. He consistently showed skill that outshone peers in his era, leading the American League in putouts seven times and in double plays six times over the course of his career. His short outfield play and strong throwing arm contributed to defining his legendary status on the field.
Despite Speaker’s formidable resume and his friendly rivalry with another great, Ty Cobb, his initial Hall of Fame bid did not suffice. It wasn’t until 1937, several ballots past his eligibility, that Speaker was inducted, a seeming oversight for a player with such astounding accomplishments in baseball history.
Rogers Hornsby’s absence as a first-ballot Hall of Famer is particularly striking given his extraordinary statistical achievements. His career batting average of .358 is second only to Ty Cobb, underscoring his prowess at the plate. Hornsby also won two Triple Crowns and was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player twice.
Despite an illustrious career spanning 23 seasons, Hornsby’s admission to Cooperstown was not immediate. He played for several teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, amassing seven batting titles. Moreover, he managed to exceed a .400 batting average three times, a rare feat in the sport’s history.
Hornsby’s delay in Hall of Fame induction is a topic of interest among baseball historians and fans alike. Critics often cite his contentious relationships with team management and media, along with a relatively short managerial career, as factors that may have influenced voting. Nonetheless, his induction in 1942, on the fifth ballot, did eventually recognize his exceptional contributions to baseball.
Jimmie Foxx, known as “Double X,” was one of baseball’s legendary sluggers, yet surprisingly not a first ballot Hall of Famer. His career statistics boast a .325 batting average and 534 home runs, placing him among the game’s elite hitters. First baseman for teams like the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox, Foxx’s impact on the game was immense, with two MVP awards and a Triple Crown in 1933.
Despite his dominance during the era, Foxx’s entry into the Hall of Fame occurred in 1951, not during his initial years of eligibility. This lag in induction could be attributed to a combination of factors, such as the shadow of Babe Ruth and the changing voting patterns of the era. His prowess on the field, including a formidable slugging percentage of .609, makes his delayed entry a curious case in baseball history.
Foxx’s post-career challenges, which included battles with alcohol and injury, perhaps colored the perception of his career at the time of Hall of Fame voting. Even with these difficulties, his transition from player to coach and brief stint as a pitcher adds to his diverse baseball legacy. The Society for American Baseball Research provides a detailed look into Foxx’s life and career, offering insights into his journey and delayed recognition by the Hall of Fame.
Joseph Paul DiMaggio, famously known as “Joltin’ Joe,” made an indelible mark on baseball history, yet surprisingly, he was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Despite an exceptional career with the New York Yankees, which spanned from 1936 to 1951, DiMaggio was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955, which was the second year of his eligibility. His career achievements include a remarkable 56-game hitting streak in 1941, which remains one of the most enduring records in Major League Baseball.
DiMaggio’s statistics underscore his prowess on the baseball field: a lifetime batting average of .325, 361 home runs, and he was a three-time MVP award winner. His athletic excellence helped lead the Yankees to ten American League pennants and nine World Series championships. Yet, DiMaggio’s initial Hall of Fame snub remains one of the most talked-about oversights in baseball’s history.
His impact extends beyond numbers, as DiMaggio’s grace and skill in center field were exemplary. He was known for his strong defensive plays, racking up a total of 6 putouts in a significant game following an eight-month hiatus due to surgery. His contributions to the sport have made him a cultural icon well beyond the diamond.
Hank Greenberg, often hailed as one of baseball’s legendary sluggers, surprisingly was not a first ballot Hall of Famer. With a prolific career including 331 home runs and 1,276 RBIs, his stats are reflective of a typical first ballot inductee. Yet, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956, well after his first year of eligibility.
Greenberg’s batting average was an impressive .313 during his 13-year career, even with a four-year hiatus serving in World War II. The break likely impacted his accumulation of career statistics and Hall of Fame consideration. He returned to baseball post-service with vigor, continuing to dominate as a powerful hitter.
The fact that Greenberg was one of the few Jewish superstars in baseball during the 1930s and 1940s added significance to his career achievements. He faced anti-Semitism but rose above the discrimination with grace and strength on the field. His contributions to the sport extended beyond his statistics, serving as an inspiration to many.
Yogi Berra’s entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame was not as immediate as his career might have suggested. Despite his exceptional achievements, including being an 18-time All-Star and securing 10 World Series championships, Berra was inducted only on his second ballot in 1972. This delay was surprising considering his impressive career statistics and contributions to the game.
In his 19 seasons with Major League Baseball, Berra amassed 2,150 hits and 358 home runs. His postseason record was equally remarkable, with Berra participating in a record 14 World Series during his tenure with the Yankees, as outlined in this Yogi Berra biography. The reasons behind his delayed induction remain a topic of discussion among baseball historians and fans.
Berra’s impact extended beyond his playing days as he also took on roles as manager and coach after retiring as a player. His leadership was instrumental in both the New York Yankees’ and New York Mets’ successes in these positions. Yogi Berra’s legacy in baseball is undisputed, making his initial Hall of Fame snub even more perplexing to many in the baseball community.
Harmon Killebrew’s delayed recognition by the Hall of Fame is unexpected given his remarkable power-hitting prowess. Despite a career that saw him launch 573 home runs and earn 11 All-Star appearances, Killebrew was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, reflecting a surprising delay for a player of his caliber.
His impact on the game was significant; from 1959 to 1972, he averaged 37.8 home runs per year, showcasing consistent home-run power. Not only was Killebrew a heavy hitter, but he was also versatile on the field, playing first base, third base, and left field throughout his career. His career highlight includes being named the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1969.
Given his statistical output and contribution to the sport, Killebrew’s induction into the Hall of Fame, albeit delayed, solidified his legacy in baseball history. His prowess at the plate was not matched by many, and he remains one of the sport’s most impressive sluggers. His legacy continues to influence players and fans alike, maintaining a prominent place in the annals of baseball.
Considered one of the greatest second basemen, Roberto Alomar was inducted into the Hall of Fame not on his first ballot, but on his second attempt. His career achievements include 12 All-Star appearances and 10 Gold Glove Awards, reflecting his excellent defensive skills. Alomar also won two World Series championships with the Toronto Blue Jays, underlining his contributions to successful teams.
He boasts a .300 career batting average and over 2,700 hits, a testament to his consistent offensive performance. Alomar’s induction came in 2011 with 90% of the vote, a marked increase from the 73.7% he received the previous year. This discrepancy in votes highlights the subjective nature of the voting process, despite Alomar’s clear qualifications.
Craig Biggio, a prominent figure in the Houston Astros’ history, embarked on his Major League Baseball career as a catcher before transitioning to second base, and later to the outfield. He amassed 3,060 hits, a milestone that often heralds entry into the Hall of Fame. Despite his impressive statistics, including being a seven-time All-Star, Biggio was not inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2013.
His contributions to the game extended beyond batting achievements; he demonstrated exceptional versatility. Biggio is the only player in MLB history to be an All-Star at both catcher and second base, which speaks volumes about his skill set. Additionally, his 668 doubles rank him fifth on the all-time list—a testament to his talent as a hitter.
By his third year of eligibility in 2015, Biggio received 82.7% of the votes, surpassing the required 75% threshold for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His initial omission from the Hall was surprising for someone with his credentials including most doubles by a right-handed hitter in MLB history. His enshrinement was eventually granted recognition he rightly deserved for his 20-year tenure with a single team.
Nap Lajoie, a name synonymous with early 20th-century baseball excellence, was not a first ballot Hall of Famer despite career achievements that would seemingly merit quick induction. His batting prowess was evident, with a remarkable career batting average of .338, one of the highest for a second baseman. He also notably hit for the cycle on July 30, 1901, cementing his reputation as a versatile hitter.
Lajoie’s defensive skills were equally impressive; he redefined the second baseman’s role with his outstanding fielding abilities. His contributions to the game were eventually recognized with a Hall of Fame induction in 1937, second ballot, a decision that today might puzzle enthusiasts familiar with his statistics. Beyond the numbers, Lajoie’s impact resonates in the evolution of the second baseman’s role in baseball.
The delay in Lajoie’s Hall of Fame induction highlights the evolving criteria of baseball’s most prestigious honor over the years. His post-managerial years saw a continued high level of play, consistently batting over .300 from 1909 to 1913. That Lajoie was not an immediate first ballot Hall of Famer is a fact that surprises many and serves as a topic of discussion regarding the standards of the era’s voters.
Grover Cleveland Alexander stands as one of baseball’s elite pitchers, yet his induction into the Hall of Fame wasn’t immediate. His career, spanning from 1911 to 1930, included stints with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals. Alexander’s pitching prowess was distinguished by a significant 373 major league victories, placing him among the all-time leaders.
Known affectionately as “Old Pete,” his mastery over pitches earned him a reputation for remarkable control on the mound. Alexander completed an outstanding 90 shutouts and maintained a career earned run average (ERA) of 2.56. Despite such impressive stats, his Hall of Fame acknowledgment came on the third ballot with 80.9% of the vote in 1938.
He notably struggled with personal issues, including epilepsy and alcoholism, which may have affected his initial Hall of Fame consideration. These challenges did not overshadow his significant impact on the game, including winning a World Series with the Cardinals in 1926. Alexander’s delayed Hall of Fame induction serves as a reminder that even the most skilled players can be overlooked initially by voters.
Edward Trowbridge Collins Sr., known as Eddie Collins, had a distinguished baseball career, yet was surprisingly not a first ballot Hall of Famer. He played from 1906 to 1930, primarily as a second baseman for the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox. A Columbia University graduate, Collins’ career boasts records in several major league categories.
- On-base percentage (OBP): .333
- Batting average: .333
- Hits: 3,315
- Stolen bases: 741
Despite these impressive stats, Collins initially did not receive the instant Hall of Fame recognition that one might expect.
It’s significant that Eddie Collins was part of the famous $100,000 infield and was considered a strategic base runner. His absence as a first ballot inductee showcases the unpredictable nature of Hall of Fame voting.
Robert “Lefty” Grove stands as one of baseball’s monumental figures whose entry into the Hall of Fame was curiously not on the first ballot. His career in the majors, predominantly with the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Red Sox, did not commence until he was 25 due to an extended minor league tenure. Once in the Major Leagues, his prowess was undeniable, leading the American League in strikeouts in his first seven seasons.
Grove’s dominance is further highlighted by his extraordinary nine ERA titles, an achievement unmatched in the annals of baseball history. His career winning percentage sits at an impressive .680, placing him at the pinnacle among pitchers with at least 300 wins. Grove clinched 300 victories in 1941, a rarely surpassed milestone, further solidifying his status as a legend of the game.
Despite these unparalleled accolades, Grove’s path to the Hall of Fame was staggered, with induction coming in 1947, two years after his eligibility began. The delay did not diminish his legacy; his contemporaries and baseball historians acknowledge Grove’s indelible impact on the sport. His commanding presence on the mound has since become a benchmark for pitching excellence in Major League Baseball.
Mel Ott, a legendary figure in baseball, did not receive the accolade of being a first ballot Hall of Famer despite his remarkable career. Known for his distinctive high leg kick, Ott’s prowess at the plate was undeniable. He was one of the most prodigious power hitters of his era, leading the National League in home runs six times.
Born in Gretna, Louisiana, Ott’s baseball journey led him to spend his entire 22-year career with the New York Giants, where he amassed 511 home runs. This impressive feat made him the first National League player to surpass the 500 home run mark. His career batting average stood at a notable .304, further bolstering his legacy as one of the game’s greats.
Ott’s contributions went beyond his batting; he also had a stint as the Giants’ manager from 1942 to 1948. Despite these achievements, his induction into the Hall of Fame came in 1951, not immediately after he became eligible in 1950. His delayed entry into the Hall of Fame serves as a reminder of the unpredictability and selectiveness of the voting process, even for players of his caliber.
Click here for more detailed insights into Mel Ott’s career and impact on baseball.
Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford, a linchpin of the New York Yankees’ pitching staff, surprisingly was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He adorned his 16-year career exclusively with the Yankees, accumulating impressive accolades such as six World Series championships and being a 10-time All-Star. Despite these feats, his entry into the Hall of Fame was deferred until a later ballot.
- Career Highlights:
- World Series Champion: 6 times – (1950, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962)
- AL Cy Young Award: 1961
- All-Star: 10 times – (1954–1964, except 1960)
Ford’s statistics are a testament to his dominance on the mound; he led or tied for the American League in wins three times (1955, 1961, and 1963) and in earned run average twice. His finest season was arguably in 1961, posting a record of 25-4, which earned him both the Cy Young Award and the World Series MVP—a rare double. Yet, his recognition by the Baseball Hall of Fame did not mirror his immediate impact on the sport, as he was overlooked in his first year of eligibility.
- Career Statistics:
- Wins-Losses: 236-106
- Earned Run Average: 2.75
- Strikeouts: 1,956
Ford’s delayed Hall of Fame induction is particularly surprising given his remarkable postseason performances. He holds the record for the most consecutive scoreless innings in World Series history with 33 2/3 innings, a testament to his clutch pitching under pressure. His legacy as a cornerstone of Yankees’ dominance in the ’50s and ’60s is undiminished, regardless of the initial oversight by Hall of Fame voters.
Eddie Mathews, a name synonymous with power hitting and exceptional talent at the hot corner, surprisingly was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His career began with the Boston Braves in 1952, and he swiftly distinguished himself as a slugger. With 512 home runs, his bat helped define the Braves’ offense for over a decade.
Mathews represented the Braves franchise in three different cities: Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. His 17-year major league career includes nine consecutive seasons with at least 30 home runs, a testament to his consistent power at the plate. In 1978, he finally received induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, yet not as a first-ballot inductee—one of the game’s mysteries given his achievements.
His exceptional defense and powerful swing made him a respected figure in baseball circles. Mathews was also a key player in the Braves’ 1957 World Series championship, further solidifying his legacy. Despite his remarkable career statistics and contributions to the game, Mathews had to wait until his fifth year of eligibility to be enshrined in Cooperstown, a fact that continues to perplex baseball aficionados.
Gaylord Perry, an acclaimed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB), was surprisingly not inducted as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His illustrious career spanned over two decades from 1962 to 1983, where he pitched for eight different teams. Notably, he was a five-time All-Star with a reputation for his durability and success on the mound.
Statistics: Perry amassed 314 wins over his career, striking out 3,534 batters. His earned run average (ERA) was a remarkable 3.11. He achieved the coveted Cy Young Award in both the National League (NL) in 1978 and American League (AL) in 1972, making him the first to win the award in both leagues.
Perry’s notable achievements also include pitching a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on September 17, 1968. This achievement underscored his ability to perform against the stiffest competition, outdueling Bob Gibson, another pitching legend. His induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame came in 1991, after his second ballot, a delay some fans found surprising given his contributions to the game.
Rollie Fingers stands among the most iconic relief pitchers in baseball history, sporting a signature handlebar mustache. He was known for his precision and effectiveness on the mound, which redefined the value of MLB relievers and established the modern closer role. Fingers’ career highlights include 341 saves, a 2.90 ERA, and being named the 1981 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
Despite these accolades, Fingers was not inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. It took him until his second appearance on the ballot in 1992 to receive the honor. His induction was a testament to his legacy, marking him as only the second reliever at the time to be enshrined.
Throughout his 17-year tenure, Fingers pitched for the Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, and Milwaukee Brewers. He holds the distinction of being a seven-time All-Star and led the major leagues in saves three times. His illustrious career undoubtedly set a new precedent for relief pitching in the major leagues.
Carlton Fisk, an emblem of longevity and prowess behind the plate, had to wait for his Hall of Fame induction despite an illustrious career. His MLB tenure spanned 24 seasons playing for the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox. Fisk set a record with 2,226 games caught, a testament to his endurance and skill as a catcher.
Fisk’s accolades include being the 1972 American League (AL) Rookie of the Year, and he was an 11-time All-Star. Notably, he wasn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a status that his career numbers might suggest was a missed mark. Fisk’s induction came in 2000, his second year of eligibility, receiving 79.6% of the vote, just above the 75% threshold.
His most famous moment, the game-winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 in the 1975 World Series, is an iconic scene in baseball lore. Despite such moments and holding the record for most home runs by a catcher when he retired, Fisk’s wait for Hall of Fame recognition was unanticipated. His career batting average was .269 with 376 home runs, underscoring his impact as both an offensive and defensive player.
Mike Piazza, despite a legendary career as one of baseball’s greatest hitting catchers, was not a first ballot Hall of Famer. His Hall of Fame induction came in 2016, after a fourth-year ballot appearance, with a vote percentage of 83%, showcasing the voters’ initial hesitance. Piazza hit an impressive 427 home runs, holding the record for most home runs by a catcher.
He finished with a robust career batting average of .308 and an OPS (On-base plus slugging) of .922, further solidifying his offensive prowess. During his career, Piazza had 36 two-home-run games and one three-homer game. His 396 home runs as a catcher are the most ever at the position.
Defensively, critiques often shadowed his accolades, yet he logged 11,647 innings behind the plate. Piazza was a 12-time All-Star and captured the Silver Slugger Award ten times. His accomplishments set a new benchmark for catchers in the MLB and changed the perspective on the offensive potential for the position.
Considered one of baseball’s most impressive hitters, Vladimir Guerrero‘s entry into the Hall of Fame was not as immediate as one might expect for a player of his caliber. Despite a stellar career, Guerrero was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, his second year of eligibility. His career statistics justify a quicker induction: a .318 batting average, 449 home runs, and 1,496 RBIs.
- Batting Average: .318
- Home Runs: 449
- RBIs: 1,496
Guerrero, often recognized for his aggressive swinging and pleasant demeanor, made his mark across 16 MLB seasons. His nine consecutive All-Star appearances from 1999 to 2007 underscore his consistent performance.
- Montreal Expos (1996-2003)
- Anaheim Angels / Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2004-2009)
- Texas Rangers (2010)
- Baltimore Orioles (2011)
Guerrero’s impact extended beyond statistics, evidenced by his 2004 American League MVP award. Additionally, he helped lead the Angels to five playoff appearances. His omission from first-ballot induction raises questions about the criteria voters prioritize.
Former Major League Baseball pitcher Trevor Hoffman, renowned for his time with the San Diego Padres, had a remarkably delayed entry into the Hall of Fame. Despite being MLB’s first pitcher to reach both 500 and 600 saves, he was not a first-ballot inductee. His initial rejection in 2016, securing only 67.3% of the vote, fell short of the required 75%.
In his career, Hoffman tallied 601 saves, a record he held until 2011 when Mariano Rivera surpassed it. His consistency and longevity were embodied by a formidable 2.87 career ERA and 9.36 strikeouts per nine innings. Hoffman’s accolade of seven All-Star appearances underscores his competence as a closer.
Hoffman eventually entered the Hall of Fame in 2018, after three years of eligibility. His induction not only celebrates his remarkable achievements but also serves as a testament to his resilience and the respect he garnered within the game.