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An Interview With Patrick Languzzi, The Man Behind The Petition To Get Dwight Evans Back On The Hall of Fame Ballot

Under current Hall of Fame voting rules, the Expansion Era Committee meets once every three years to vote on retired players who are no longer eligible for election by the BBWAA, have been retired 21 or more seasons, and made their biggest contributions to the sport after 1972. In addition to the retired players, the Expansion Era ballot also includes retired managers, umpires, and executives from the post-1972 era. One player who is eligible to be included on December's Expansion Era ballot is former Red Sox right fielder, Dwight Evans.

Despite owning impressive career totals such as 385 home runs, 2,446 hits, and 8 Gold Glove Awards, Evans struggled to draw support in BBWAA Hall of Fame voting and fell off the ballot after failing to draw the necessary five percent needed to stay on the ballot on a very crowded 1999 election. However in recent years, Evans has become a popular Hall of Fame debate in the sabermetric community and several articles have been written in support of his overlooked Hall of Fame candidacy. One particular writer, Patrick Languzzi is spearheading a campaign to put Dwight Evans on December's Expansion Era ballot. Languzzi, who writes for MLB Reports as the Hall of Fame Correspondent, created his own website, Call to the Hall, which is devoted to bringing awareness to Dwight Evans' overlooked Hall of Fame candidacy. Languzzi even started a petition which calls for Evans to be selected as one of the twelve finalists on December's Expansion Era ballot. Languzzi was nice enough to take the time for me to interview him about his Call to the Hall website and petition.


What do you feel makes Dwight Evans a Hall of Famer and what led you to support his Hall of Fame candidacy?

Most people would agree that Evans' defense was of Hall of Fame caliber, but what a lot of people don't know is that he also had offensive Hall of Fame numbers. For instance, during his 20 year career ('72-'91), no one in Major League Baseball reached base more than Dwight Evans (3,890) and ONLY Reggie Jackson hit more home runs in the American League during that time period. Dwight Evans also led the American League in HRs during the decade of the 1980's (256) and led all of Major League Baseball in extra base hits (605) and runs created (1,067). And, if you go back to the inception of the American League in 1901 until Evans retired in 1991, he ranks as one of the four most prolific right handed home run hitters in league history, trailing only Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx, Al Kaline, and Harmon Killebrew in home runs during that time.

I had always felt that if Jim Rice were to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame, that you could make a case for Evans. It was at the time of Rice's induction in 2009, that my wife challenged me to do the research since I felt so strongly. The more I uncovered, the more convinced I became, and once the Red Sox and some local BBWAA writers took an interest, I knew I was probably on to something.


Since you mentioned the Red Sox interest, are you able to expand on that?

The Red Sox have been great to me and very supportive. I reached out to them three years ago with some offensive statistics on Evans. It wasn't nearly as comprehensive as what I have now, but enough to catch their attention. Now it's become a body of work of his combined play. I worked with Dick Bresciani, the team historian. Bresciani was the person responsible for putting together Jim Rice's Hall of Fame case for the BBWAA in Rice's last year (2009) of eligibility (in which he ended up getting inducted). His advice to me was to stay away from the rhetoric and stick to the stats, he claims the only thing Hall of Fame voters would be in interested in would be statistics to support why Evans (or any player for that matter) should be in the Hall of Fame.


Tell us about your Call to the Hall website and the online petition.

It was another challenge from my wife that led me to create a website called: Call to the Hall. She simply stated, "why don't you build a site, this way you can educate people on Evans' accomplishments if you feel so strongly that he deserves the Hall of Fame."

The site is designed to help educate fans on Dwight's Hall of Fame credentials and career accomplishments, including: Video Footage, an On-line Petition, Hall of Fame Player Comparisons, Unique Achievements, Endorsements and more.

I created an on-line petition so that the general public could cast their own vote, should they want to support Evans. I felt that if enough people supported any given cause, in this case Evans, that whoever it [petition] was directed to, might take the cause into more consideration.


Patrick, you, along with Nick Carfardo of the Boston Globe were recently interviewed by Tom Caron on the New England Sports Network (NESN) to discuss Evans' overlooked Hall of Fame candidacy (see link below). What was that experience like?

http://nesn.com/2012/12/dwight-evans-hall-of-fame-candidacy-languishes-with-veterans-committee-video/

The experience was validating for me, meaning, when I started this project, I never imagined it would have gone as far as it has, and gotten the attention it's drawn. It's great to see that I'm not the only one that feels that Evans' case deserves to be revisited.


You mention in the NESN clip that you got a chance to meet Dwight, what can you tell us about meeting him?

Through all of my research, I've gotten to know Evans, and what I've found is that he is extremely humble and unwilling to discuss himself as a possible Hall of Fame candidate. He was humble as a player too. A good example of this is the clip from the 1987 All-Star game (see link to clip below) when Dwight fields a fly ball and fires a strike to home plate, Tim Raines the player at third holds from tagging up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfoKeKlqzpU&feature=youtu.be

What I like about it was after Dwight fires the ball in, he just turns and begins his walk back out to right field. There's no arrogance or poor sportsmanship involved. Players nowadays would be staring down runners after a throw like that. He did just the opposite.

I asked him about that play, he stated that it wasn't like him to act in any other manner, that he was just doing his job by trying to keep the runner from scoring.

Most humble athlete I've EVER had the opportunity to meet.

ANOTHER reason I'd love to see him get inducted.

H-U-M-B-L-E !!!!


What is your favorite Dwight Evans moment?

My all-time favorite moment is one that Dwight NEVER mentioned, even after I got to know him. I had to see it for myself on his [NESN] TV biography, then asked him about it. His reply was simple, "it wasn't about me, so why would I tell you?" While in the thick of the 1982 AL East Division race, Dwight hit two home runs at the request of his son Tim, who was in the hospital having one of his more than 30 surgeries. Most of his teammates didn't even know his kids were so sick. His wife Susan said that he [Dwight] never wanted anyone to think he was using it as an excuse for why he had a bad day at the park if he didn't do well.

See, what most people don't know, is that Dwight has two sons with a life threatening disease called Neurofibromatosis or NF. What's not included in the article (below), is that his son Tim asked him to hit a home run the night before he hit the two, which he did.

Dwight's quotes about that night are included in an article David Laurila wrote for Fangraphs below:

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/dwight-evans-hall-of-fame-individual/


Earlier in our discussion you mentioned that you felt Dwight's fielding may have overshadowed his offense? Would you mind elaborating, especially given that he played right field in one of the toughest ballparks in all of Major League Baseball?

Sure, Dwight is arguably the best right fielder of his era, and had one of the greatest outfield arms the game has ever seen. So when most think of Dwight Evans, they recall his fielding and incredible arm. But what a lot of people don't know or realize, is that he had offensive Hall of Fame numbers to go along with it.

As I mentioned earlier, Dwight led the American League for the entire decade in home runs and all of MLB in extra base hits as well as winning five-straight Rawlings Gold Glove awards. The ONLY other player that comes close to this combined accomplishment is Hank Aaron with three Gold Gloves in his entire career. Pretty good company if you ask me.


Why do you think Evans fell off the BBWAA ballot so quickly?

We can speculate and theorize, but if you go back and look at the Hall of Fame voting [ballot] between '97 and '99, their [Rice and Evans] votes dropped during the McGwire and Sosa home run barrage. I'm not convinced that was coincidental. I think the writers may have been enamored with what was going on with the home run in baseball at the time. I also feel strongly that the perception on Evans was that of a great defensive player with a phenomenal arm, so it's easy to overlook his offensive accomplishments.


I agree that the '98 home run race was a major factor. I also think the '99 Hall of Fame ballot played a large role in Dwight falling off the ballot. Aside from this year's ballot with Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, Piazza, Schilling, and Sosa, the only other ballot crowded with such a statistically impressive group of first time nominees was the '99 ballot with Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, and Dale Murphy. I believe that with the focus expanding to include sabermetric stats that Evans certainly would have picked up a lot of votes in the 2000's, possibly even enough to be elected by the BBWAA...which leads me to my final question: How much do you think the emergence of stats like his OBP, WAR and OPS+ impact his Hall of Fame candidacy?

Personally, I believe they strengthen his case. Obviously the voters weren't focused on sabermetrics when Dwight was on the ballot and seem to take those types of stats into more consideration with today's candidates. I think you put it best in one of your past articles, "when you look past Dwight's traditional stats and focus on his career .370 OBP, 62.8 WAR, and 127 OPS+, he's on par with the BBWAA inductees of the last thirty years."

----by John Tuberty

Sources: Call to the Hall, Baseball Reference, Baseball Reference Play Index, Fangraphs, Baseball Hall of Fame, NESN

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