With the recent announcement that St. Louis Cardinals catcher, Ted Simmons, will finally be inducted into the exclusive “Cooperstown Club,” it tells me that Sherm Lollar will probably never make the cut. Simmons is considered one of the best hitting catchers in MLB history, while Sherm was only known for his defense. Although a victory for catchers in general, I’m still disturbed that the Hall of Fame is all about hitters and pitchers. Back in 2017 I wrote a Sherm support letter to “The Hall” expressing my concern that there were 220 members that were former players including 77 pitchers. (See Post # 5). What would a pitcher be without a catcher and the rest of his team? After all, you can’t be a winning pitcher unless your team scores at least one run. With the addition of Ted Simmons in 2020 there will now still be only 20 catchers honored.
At least there’s been some recent attention to catchers, including Mike Piazza (2016), Craig Biggio (2016), Ivan Rodriguez (2017), and Ted Simmons (2020). At the time I wrote my letter, there had been a 10-year drought in recognition since Louis Santop of the Negro Leagues in 2006. Simmons was voted in by the Veteran’s Committee whose role is to consider players from the past, like Sherm Lollar. They voted- in fellow White Sox alumni outfielder Harold Baines (2019) whose playing career started in 1980, 17 years after Lollar retired from the field. The baseball writers tend to focus on the modern era players. Two other White Sox catchers, Carlton Fisk (2000) and Ray Schalk (1955) are currently enshrined.
Sherm Lollar played from 1946-1963. Only two catchers from that era are currently in the Hall of Fame, Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella. I recently bought a Sherm Lollar endorsed catcher’s mask and mitt from that time period. It made me realize how crude and cumbersome their equipment was compared to modern-day gear. Bats haven’t changed much through the years. Baseballs, on the other hand, have become a controversial topic. Also, home stadium dimensions favored the offensive production of certain players. Sherm had a lifetime fielding percentage (FP) of .992. higher than any other current HOF catcher despite the heavy mask and flimsy mitt that he was forced to wear. Of those worthy of future consideration, only Elston Howard has a higher FP at .993 but with 147 fewer games.
Sherm Lollar is ranked in the top 40 catchers of all time by most studies. Twelve of those players are already in the Hall of Fame. I feel there should be more recognition for defense at that position, especially back in the fifties when expectations for catchers were not necessarily about hitting. Their role was to be an on-field general and pitching coach. Regardless, Sherm still hit .264, certainly better than both Schalk and Gary Carter (2003). Next in, will be Joe Torre, Victor Martinez, Jorge Posada, Joe Mauer, and Buster Posey. Sherm is still far down the list, but high on mine.