Sometimes in sports, numbers do not tell the whole story. Sometimes in sports, they do.
For the past several years, Art Monk has been denied entrance in the National Football League Hall of Fame. In the case of Mr. Monk, numbers tell a compelling story.
When Art Monk retired, he caught more passes than any other receiver in NFL history. His record has since been eclipsed but how does a man who’s grabbed 940 catches for nearly 13,000 yards and still be slighted for football highest honor? Football writers have yet to find a place in Canton hallow grounds for Art Monk. Say whatever you want, there is no logic or excuses for such an oversight.
Art Monk was part of two Super Bowl champions and even caught seven passes for 113 yards against the Buffalo Bills in the 1992 Super Bowl. What makes Monk stats more amazing is that he played for a predominately running team and he never had a Hall of Fame quarterback throwing passes in his direction.
In 183 straight games, he managed to get open to catch at least one pass – signifying that he was an integral part of any Redskin offense. Many excuses have been made for not allowing him in the Hall of Fame, but the stats speak for themselves. Art Monk deserves his place among football’s immortal.
Another player who has been slighted by voters is Bert Blyleven. If Art Monk is deserving of being in NFL Hall of Fame, Bert Blyleven equally deserves to be in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Blyleven won 287 games and if he had managed to squeeze out 13 more victories over his career, we would not be having this debate. He would be automatically in. Finishing just 13 victories shy of 300 doomed this great curve baller. Blyleven did not have a blazing fastball like Roger Clemens or Nolan Ryan. What he had was guile, smarts, and a curveball that kept batters on their heels. Only four pitchers have managed to strike out more batters.
Blyleven helped two different teams in both leagues to World Series championships. As an important cog of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1987 Minnesota Twins pitching staff, Blyleven showed that he was more than just a good pitcher over the years but a winner. Like Art Monk, who played a key role in two Super Bowls, Blyleven played a key role in two World Series championships.
Here is another statistic gem. Since 1900, Bert Blyleven ranks 5th in strikeouts, 8th in shutouts, and 17th in wins. There are seven other pitchers who rank in the top 20 in wins, shut outs and strikeouts. All of these other pitchers are safely enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Again, this is a case of statistic being overwhelming.
Hall of Fame voters have often ignored numbers when selecting Hall of Fame players. Sandy Koufax never reached 170 career wins but between 1962 and 1966, there was no better pitcher in baseball. An arthritic left arm ended his career prematurely but no one will argue that he didn’t belong.
Gale Sayers is another player where numbers don’t tell the full story since in a six-year period in the last ’60s and early ’70s, no one was better when handling a football. Knee injuries ended a promising career.
Then there are those players who just happen to be on the right team. Lynn Swann’s performance in the Super Bowl propelled him in the Hall of Fame. Joe Namath threw more inceptions than touchdowns throughout his career but for one game, he was the perfect field general. In winning Super Bowl III, Namath got his ticket punched in Canton. Even though his stats in Super Bowl III were not overwhelming, his command of the football field was. For 60 minutes against the heavily favored Colts, he was brilliant in directing the New York Jets offense. Those 60 minutes defined his career just as Swann spectacular catches in the Super Bowl defined his career as a clutch receiver in the big games. Sometimes being showcased in the right game is beneficial.
I won’t argue that statistics do not always determine if a player is deserving of Hall of Fame consideration. However, there are times that numbers are too overwhelming to ignore. In the case of Bert Blyleven and Art Monk, numbers are too overwhelming to ignore.