This Day in History …… Hall of Fame Voters A Little Pickayunish!

January 10, 1945.  This Day In History baseball writers fail to elect a Hall of Famer as no one receives the required 75% vote.                                        

Yesterday on Twitter someone asked why a player would be elected to the Hall of Fame in subsequent years if they weren’t chosen in the first year.  After all, nothing had changed as far as the player was concerned, his statistics remain the same.

In 1945 Frank ChanceRube Waddell, and Ed Walsh came closest and, in fact, all three of them  were actually elected to the Hall the next year, in 1946.  What changed from 1945 to 1946 that  allowed these fellows to garner 75% of the votes, when they were unable to do so the previous year?

I found this a little puzzling and set out to research the people who actually do the nominating and selection and what the process is all about.  After about four hours, I gave up the search.  I ran into overwhelming statistics such as  only 296  have been elected to the HOF since 1936, out of a possible 17 quadrillion players (17,275,882,859,193,771 to be exact) who have played Major League Baseball.   (I’m an accountant by trade and still had to count backwards in three’s to come up with quadrillion ~ it’s just a little mind-boggling). However,  Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson stated recently that only “207 players out of approximately 18,000 players who have appeared in the major leagues have earned induction to Cooperstown.”  Either way, you have to admit whether it’s quadrillion or thousands,  it’s still a pretty lousy percentage.

The common denominator in researching the Hall of Fame process as it relates to baseball is that it’s complicated at best and controversial at worst.   The rules have changed frequently.

  •  The five-year waiting period wasn’t established until 1954.
  • In 1936 all players were eligible, including active ones.
  • From 1937 to 1945 there was no waiting period.
  •  From 1946 to 1954 there was a one year waiting period.
  • An exception to the waiting period was made for Joe DiMaggio because of his high level of support in previous years.
  • The Veteran’s Committee can make exceptions to (some of) the rules.
  • Merits of various candidates are subject to endless debate about who does and does not belong in the HOF.
  • Players of the Negro Leagues have been considered at various times but only after 1971.
I added this little gem on January 17, 2012 from Bill Miller’s  On Deck Circle.  It’s a must-read article  entitled, “The Baseball Hall of Fame: A qualitative analysis, Part I.  Here’s an excerpt:
“Just nine years after The Hall’s initial Mount Rushmore election, the Veteran’s Committee apparently got drunk and elected every 19th century Irish ball player they could think of.  Maybe they were celebrating the end of WWII.”
There’s been a lot of leeway over the years.  For example, until 2001  Hall of Famers could decide which team they wanted to be linked with as opposed to which team they had the best statistics with.   That doesn’t affect the selection, but it’s just another example  of how the rules have changed.

Babe Ruth, Hall of Fame Plaque

It’s going to be a lot of fun next year when Barry Bonds comes up for eligibility.  That subject along with Pete Rose’s ban from baseball will make for an interesting read and lots of comments from good intentioned and well-informed readers  I’m sure!

For everything you’ve always wanted to know about the subject link here to National Baseball Hall of Fame courtesy of Wikipedia and Baseball Almanac.

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