Al Kalin and Duke Snider, two premier outfielders who were as accomplished in the field as they were at bat, were voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Associaton of America today.
Kaline, who was named on 340 of the 385 ballots cast, became the 10th player in history picked for the Cooperstown, N.Y., shrine in his first year of eligibility. Snider, who missed by 16 votes last year when Willie Mays was the only player elected, received 333 votes. Candidates needed 75 percent, or 289 of the 385, for election.
"I was very, very shocked," Kaline said. "I thought my chances were fairly good but I tried to stay low key about it, not too high and not too low. That was the way I played, too."
In addition to Mays, the other Hall of Famers elected in their first year of eligibility were Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Ernie Banks, Warren Spahn and Mickey Mantle.
Pictcher Don Drysdale received 238 votes, 51 shy of election, to finish in third place. The late the second consecutive year, collecting 233 votes, and Hoyt Wilhelm, with 209 ballots, was the only other player to receive more than 200 votes.
"I can't think of two finer selections by the baseball writers and I want to commend them on their choices," said Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. "These are two of the finest outfielders who ever played the game.
"I thought of guys who didn't make it on the first ballot," Kaline continued. "The last three days, I was really nervous.
"Al said three days . . . but it's been 11 years for me," Snider said. "On the West Coast, there was a horse named On Trust. Somehow he always found a way to finish second and I was beginning to wonder if I was another On Trust. If I didn't make it this year, I was wondering if I ever would."
Both men have impressive Hall of Fame credentials.
Signed off the sandlots of Baltimore by the Detroit Tigers in 1953, Kaline never spent a day in the minor leagues. He played 22 seasons, compiling a career batting average of .297 with 399 home runs and 3,007 hits. In 1955 at the age of 20, he led the league with a .340 average, becoming the youngest batting champion in American League History.
Snider batted .295 in 18 seasons, most of them with the Dogers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. He slugged 407 home runs, stringing five straight seasons, 1953 to 1957, in which he hit 40 or more. His 11 World Series home runs remain a record for National League players.
Both men were superb fielders as well and prided themselves on their defensive abilities.
"Lots of times, I felt better after making a super play in the outfield, running in whith the fans cheering, thatn I did getting a big base hit." Kaline said. "Hitting is tough, but there's no reason you can't go ou in the field and make the plays."
Snider was at the center of a lively New York debate in the '50s when fans argued the merits of the citys three premier center fielders -- the Duke in Brooklyn, Mays with the Giants and Mantle with the Yankees. It was an endless debate and today Snider offered another candidate.
"I saw Joe DiMaggio at the end of his career and he was so smooth and graceful," he said. "He'd have to be up there, too."
DiMaggio, the former Yankee center fielder whom Mantle succeeded, was one of those who didn't make it the to the Hall of Fame in his first try. w
Snider played 11 seasons in Brooklyn before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Even though he is a native of California, he said the move hurt him.
"In a baseball sense, I was born in Brooklyn," he said. "I felt lost playing in the (Los Angeles) Coliseum. It wasn't the same as 'the friendly confines of Ebbets Field.'
"When they tore down Ebbets Field, they tore a bit of us. We wept when we learned the team was moving and we wept even more when that big steel ball knocked down the right field wall in Ebbets Field."
Kaline recalled his early days in Detroit with fondness.
"My first manager was Fred Hutchinson and he took care of me. He picked the right spots for me to play. Then there was Johnny Pesky. He'd sit next to me on the bench and taught me the finer points of the game. They force-fed me on how to play baskeball."