“Bonded” at the seams: Why Tommy Bond should be in Cooperstown
The Baseball Hall of Fame has one job: to elect the greatest of the great who played this game and allow them to walk through the gates of eternity in Cooperstown. Only the greatest baseball players in history should be allowed to have a plaque in Cooperstown. Otherwise it wouldn’t be the Baseball Hall of Fame, but rather the Baseball Hall of Very Good.
One day, I want to bring my children to Cooperstown and show the the plaque of Baseball’s greatest performers. However, I feel it’s a shame that the Baseball Hall of Fame often forgets some of their greatest performers who played the game before the invention of the television.
Tommy Bond was born in Granard, Ireland on April 2, 1856, and later moved to America. He was one of Baseball’s greatest pitchers of the 19th century, yet many people probably have no idea who he was. I certainly didn’t before reading up on a long forgotten era in baseball history.
Bond made his major-league debut on May 5, 1874, for the Brooklyn Atlantics. At age 18, Bond pitched 55 games during his rookie season, going 22-32 with a 2.06 ERA. He started in each of the 55 games he pitched in 1874 and completed each one of them. He threw 497.0 innings that season, unimaginable for a rookie (or any player) in this era of Major League Baseball.
After pitching a couple of seasons for the Hartford Dark Blues from 1875-1876, Bond joined the Boston Red Stockings. It was in Boston where Bond first became a household name (long before the time of James Bond).
In 1877, Tommy Bond had his first of three straight 40-win seasons. He became the first pitching Triple Crown winner in baseball history as he led the league in wins (40), ERA (2.11) and strikeouts (170). And in 521.0 innings, Bond walked 36 batters, which amounts 0.6 walk per nine innings. It’s an amazing total rarely seen by baseball fans in this era!
Tommy Bond followed suit in 1878 by winning 40 games again and lowering his ERA to 2.06. He struck out a career high 182 batters that season. There was no Cy Young award at the time in baseball, largely because Cy Young didn’t make his Major League debut until 1890. If anything, Tommy Bond could have won the “Tommy Bond” award for best pitcher in baseball.
His third straight season of 40 wins came in 1879 when he went 43-19 with a league leading 1.96 ERA. He threw a career high 555.1 innings and walked only 24 batters! A season like that today would probably earn a pitcher $200 million. However Bond’s salary for the 1879 season came out to $2200. It’s astonishing how baseball players were paid nothing back in the 19th century, especially compared to today’s standards. What’s even more surprising is that after the 1879 season, Bond received a pay cut. In 1880, Tommy Bond signed a contract worth only $1500.
Tommy Bond would continue to pitch 10 seasons in the majors, finishing with a career record of 234-169. His career 2.14 ERA in 10th in major-league history. Bond was a six-time, 20-game winner and a four-time, 30-game winner. Historians can argue that Tommy Bond was Major League Baseball’s first great pitcher.
Now, how is it that Bond has yet to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?
In 1936, Bond only received 1.3 percent of the Veteran Committee’s votes and was never brought back to the Hall of Fame ballot. He died in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 24, 1941, at the age of 84. I implore the Baseball Hall of Fame to take another look at Tommy Bond. He was baseball’s best pitcher during his career and all of baseball’s best deserve to be in Cooperstown!
This article can also be found on here for continued support of this drastic oversight.