If you’re looking for a dark horse candidate to make the Hall of Fame cut the next time the Modern Baseball Committee votes, you might want to check out slugger Darrell Evans.

Truth be told, being underrated probably came pretty naturally to Evans.

I mean, Evans came up with the Atlanta Braves in 1969 and stayed there into 1976. In case you don’t remember, that span just so happens to overlap Hank Aaron’s last six years in Atlanta. No one was going to get much attention playing in that monumental shadow as Hammer chased down and passed Babe Ruth for the all-time home run mark.

Not even Darrell Evans, who put up a monster season for a 1973 Atlanta Braves team that finished in fifth place in the old NL West — not that the fate of the club mattered much as Aaron marched toward Ruth.

For his part, Evans smacked 41 home runs and drove in 104, while also scoring 114. He also led the Major Leagues by drawing 124 walks (he’d do it again, with 126, the next season).

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Find 1974 Topps Darrell Evans on eBay (affiliate link)

Find 1974 Topps Darrell Evans on Amazon (affiliate link)

Back in those days, no one was really talking about “three true outcomes” or Sabermetrics, but Evans would have been a darling if they had, thanks to that .959 OPS, 156 OPS+, and 9 WAR he put up that season.

As things played out, Evans finished a distant 18th in the NL MVP balloting, even though he outplayed most of those who finished in front of him (including Aaron, but you could make a case that Hank was easily the most “valuable” player in the game those years).

And Evans played an outstanding third base, too, even though he whiffed on Gold Glove honors (for his whole career!). Today’s advanced metrics show he was generally in the top five of all hot corner men that season, right there with Graig Nettles and Mike Schmidt.

At least Evans made it to his first All-Star Game that season. Otherwise, though, it was a whitewash on awards.

The next spring, the Braves slugger seemed nonplussed by the whole thing, judging by his smiling, lunging image that greeted collectors when they started pulling cards from wax packs after another long winter without baseball.

He looked happy to just be part of it all. He looked every bit the part of his nickname — Howdy Doody.

And the thing is, while Evans hit his absolute peak during the 1973 season, he kept being part of it all for a long, long time.

He was part of it all for some pretty rough Giants teams, from 1976 through 1983.

He was part of it all for a great Detroit Tigers team in 1984, and then he led the American League with 40 home runs at age 38 for a not-anywhere-near-as-good Tigers club in 1985.

Evans kept smashing baseballs for the Bengals all the way through 1988, then wrapped up with 11 dingers back where it all started, Atlanta, in 1989.

And all along the way, hardly anybody ever talked about Evans being great, even though he often was.

If you look at his final numbers, a couple really stand out — 414 home runs and a .248 batting average.

I suspect that second one played a heavy hand in his falling off the Cooperstown ballot after just one try, in 1995.

But compare that homer total to those of guys like Jim Rice and Harold Baines, and then look at more “modern” stats like WAR, and it’s hard to understand why those players are both in and yet no one ever even mentions Evans in a HOF context. Add in a much more stout defensive profile for the Howdy, and his case looks even stronger.

When the Modern Baseball Committee votes again in December 2022, I’ll be rooting hard for Lou Whitaker to get the call. But I wouldn’t mind all that much if his smiling, overlooked 1984 Tigers teammate joins him on the induction stage come summer of 2023.

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