Clarkson, Flick, Rice, Rixey elected to Hall of Fame

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Samantha Burkett

In a year where the Baseball Writers’ Association of America did not hold a Hall of Fame vote, the Veterans Committee added to the Hall of Fame roster with four of the greatest players the game has known.

Fifty-three years ago this week – on Jan. 27, 1963 – John Clarkson, Elmer Flick, Sam Rice and Eppa Rixey were elected to the Hall of Fame. At the time, the BBWAA policy – instituted in 1956 – called for Hall of Fame elections in even-numbered years only. The rule would be abandoned starting in 1967 in favor of an annual election.

But for the four electees in 1963, the timing could not have been better.

Flick, who was 87 in 1963, remains the oldest living inductee at the time of his induction. The lifetime .313 hitter played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Bronchos and Cleveland Naps from 1898 to 1910. Flick won a batting title in 1905 and led the league in RBI in 1900 with 110 and runs in 1906 with 98.

Fellow right fielder Sam Rice played 20 seasons for the Washington Senators and Cleveland Indians. He retired in 1934 at age 44. He finished his career with 2,987 hits – the most hits of anyone who did not reach the 3,000-hit plateau – and led the league in hits twice, recording over 200 in five seasons. He hit over .300 in 13 seasons and stole a league-leading 63 bases in 1920. Rice won a World Series with the Senators in 1924, contributing six hits in the Series.

The Class of 1963 and deceased members' representatives hold their new plaques. From left to right: Representative of John Clarkson, Elmer Flick, Sam Rice and Eppa Rixey's daughter. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Clarkson, who retired atop the National League’s career wins list, won 328 games for the Worchester Ruby Legs, Chicago White Stockings, Boston Beaneaters and Cleveland Spiders in 12 seasons between 1882 and 1894. He had a career 2.81 ERA and led the league in innings pitched four times, including twice when he threw 620-plus innings. He also led the league in strikeouts three times. He won the equivalent of the Triple Crown in 1889 – leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA – and won 30-plus games in six seasons.

Rixey pitched in 21 seasons for the Phillies and Reds from 1912 to 1933. He won 266 games with a 3.15 ERA. A four-time 20-game winner, Rixey pitched for teams which finished in the bottom half of the league 12 of his 21 seasons. In 1922, he led the National League in wins with 25 and innings pitched with 313. When he retired, he held the league record for wins by a left-handed pitcher.

During the 1963 Induction Ceremony, a new tradition was also started. The first ever J.G. Taylor Spink Award was presented by the BBWAA for excellence in baseball writing. The recipient of the first award was J.G. Taylor Spink, who had passed away the previous December.

Although Spink’s award is listed as being given out in 1962, it was actually presented at the following year’s ceremony – a practice that remained in effect for the Spink award until 2007.

Samantha Burkett is a freelance writer from Fairport, N.Y.

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series