If Luis Tiant is ever to make it into the Hall of Fame, it will have to come at the hands of the Veterans Committee, in whatever form that body may take.

That’s because, after a stellar career that spanned 19 seasons and six franchises, Tiant’s 229 wins, 3.30 ERA, 2416 strikeouts, and 66.1 WAR were enough to keep him on the writers’ ballot for the full 15 years.

But not enough to ever move him above his debut peak of appearing on 30.9% of the ballots. By the end of his run, in 2002, El Tiante garnered just 18% support — which was a jump up from less than 10% in the mid-1990s.

So it was off to Cooperstown purgatory, waiting for the Veterans Committee.

Tiant came under consideration by the Old Fogeys Association for the first time in 2005, and then again and again and again as the first decade of a new millennium waned.

Nada. (Or, if not exactly nada, at least not enough.)

In 2011, the first Golden Days Era committee convened a vote and Tiant was considered … but passed by.

Same deal in 2014.

And, when the newly realigned Modern Era committee convened a vote late in 2019, considering players who shone mostly from 1970 through 1987, Tiant wasn’t on the ballot.

Ditto for the latest rendition of the Golden Days group, now considering the 1950 through 1969 group — no Tiant on the ballot.

Tiant pitched from 1964 through 1982, so he could legitimately be considered by either committee …

  • He won 20 games for the first time in 1968 before doing it three times in the 70s.
  • Amazingly, he also won the American League ERA title in ‘68, the “Season of the Pitcher,” and finished fifth in MVP voting, his highest ranking ever for that award.
  • He won about a third of his games and accumulated about 40% of his WAR before 1970.

So, Louis Tiant really did shine in both “eras,” and maybe that’s been part of the reason he hasn’t made the Cooperstown cut — similar to Dick Allen among position players (though Allen’s case has been hampered in other ways, too).

In any case, it remains the Veterans’ way or the highway for El Tiante, which somehow makes his final Topps card a more fitting tribute than it already was:

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Even though he had last pitched in September of 1982, Tiant was still technically a free agent as 1983 dawned, and Topps must have thought he had a bit more gas in the tank.

And, with nearly 20 years under the bridge since his debut, he certainly fit the “Super Veteran” mold very well.

Heck, the back of the card even gave us a quasi career-capper:

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Granted, Tiant did have real career cappers that year from both Topps …

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… and Donruss …

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… but neither of them have quite the flair of that Super Vet.

And, as it turns out, neither have anywhere near the symbolic significance as that side-by-side Indians-Angels affair when it comes to Tiant’s ultimate place in baseball’s pantheon.

For now, the Super Veteran continues to wait for the Eras Veterans to decide his Cooperstown fate.

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