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Authors: Robert Cohen

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Baseball's Hall of Fame or Hall of Shame

BOOK: Baseball's Hall of Fame or Hall of Shame
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BASEBALL’S

HALL OF FAME

OR HALL OF SHAME?

 

BASEBALL’S

HALL OF FAME

OR HALL OF SHAME?

 

ROBERT W. COHEN

CARDOZA PUBLISHING

 

Cardoza Publishing has a library of more than 200 up-to-date and easy-to-read books on gaming and sports information. With more than 10,000,000 books in print, these titles represent the best-selling and most popular gaming books anywhere.

 

First Edition

 

Copyright © 2009 by Robert W. Cohen
- All Rights Reserved -

 

Library of Congress Catalog No: 2008940737
eBook ISBN: 978-158042-527-8

 

Visit the Cardoza Publsihing website or write us for
a full list of our more than 200 titles.

CARDOZA PUBLISHING
P.O. Box 98115, Las Vegas, NV 89193
Phone (800)577-WINS
email: [email protected]
www.cardozabooks.com

 

 

In loving memory of my dad, who instilled in me
a love of the game of baseball and a
great appreciation of the history of the sport.
May you rest in peace, Dad.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

1. The Early Years and the First Signs of Favoritism

2. Selection Process and Eligibility

3. Special Selection Committees

4. Definition of a Hall of Famer

5. First Basemen (21)

6. Second Basemen (20)

7. Third Basemen (13)

8. Shortstops (22)

9. Catchers (16)

10. Change in Voting Philosophy, or Lowering of the Standards?

11. Leftfielders (22)

12. Centerfielders (22)

13. Rightfielders (24)

14. Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose

15. Pitchers (68)

16. Future Hall of Famers

17. Summary

GLOSSARY

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Acknowledgments

I wish to express my appreciation to Bill Deane, whose “Awards and Honors” chapter in
Total Baseball
proved to be an invaluable source of information to me during my research. Mr. Dean’s material included all the voting results from the Hall of Fame balloting through 1992.

THE EARLY YEARS AND THE FIRST SIGNS OF FAVORITISM

THE EARLY YEARS AND THE FIRST SIGNS OF FAVORITISM

 

The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York is unquestionably the most famous and prestigious sports Hall of Fame in existence. The odds against election are about 1,500 to 1 for the typical major leaguer, and enshrinement is considered to be the highest honor accorded to any player. The annual elections that are held to announce the latest inductees are followed very closely by fans of the game and, in some instances, inspire a great deal of controversy and debate. Baseball fans are very passionate about their favorite players, and are equally passionate about which ones should be inducted into Cooperstown.

There are those baseball purists who feel that only the greatest of the great should be enshrined, while many others have adopted a far more liberal philosophy. They feel that any player who was either a good, solid player for a very long period of time, or a very good player for a short period of time should be deemed worthy of election. There are even people who feel that a good player who truly excelled at only one aspect of the game should merit serious consideration.

Thus, in spite of the seemingly overwhelming odds against election, many of the selections that have been made over the years have inspired a great deal of controversy and second-guessing. The primary focus of this book will be on the validity of all the selections made, and, in some of the more questionable cases, providing a possible explanation as to the reasons behind the selections.

In the early years of the Hall’s existence, it was never thought that the selection process would eventually prove to be such a point of contention. In fact, the Hall had two much more simplistic purposes behind its creation. The first of these was to assemble a collection of baseball artifacts that might serve as a tourist attraction to the village of Cooperstown, considered by many to be the game’s birthplace. The second was to attempt to rekindle fan interest in the sport in the midst of the
Great Depression
. An earlier attempt had been made to accomplish the very same thing just a few years earlier when the All-Star game was played for the first time. Fans were encouraged to vote for the players they most wanted to see, briefly creating a positive reaction among patrons of the game. However, it was difficult for fans to attend games since the hot dog and soda they purchased at the ballpark was, in most cases, the only meal they could afford all day.

Nevertheless, fans gradually started returning to the game, and, in preparation for the opening of the Hall, two elections were held in 1936. The first was by the 226 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), and the other was by a special 78-member Veterans Committee. The BBWAA was to select five “modern” players from the twentieth century, while the Veterans Committee was to select five old-timers from the nineteenth century. Both elections required that any player chosen must be named on at least 75 percent of the ballots. The five “moderns” chosen were Ty Cobb (named on 222 of the ballots), Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner (both named on 215), Christy Mathewson (named on 205), and Walter Johnson (named on 189). Unfortunately, the Veterans Committee was unable to agree on who their five players should be. As a result, no old-timers were elected. For that election, 59 votes were needed to meet the minimum 75 percent requirement, but only Cap Anson and Buck Ewing were able to accumulate as many as 40 votes.

Therefore, only the five aforementioned all-time greats were initially selected for induction. However, annual elections were held in each of the next three years, in which the BBWAA voted in eight more worthy players:

 

 

During this same period, the original Veterans Committee was replaced by a smaller, more agreeable committee of Judge Landis, Ford Frick, Will Harridge, John Heydler, William Branham, and George Trautman. Thus, in essence, this committee was comprised of a commissioner, two league presidents, a retired league president, and the head of the National Association—all the men who held the power in baseball at the time. They appointed themselves the “Centennial Commission,” and, from 1937 to 1938, took it upon themselves to elect George Wright, Morgan Bulkeley, Ban Johnson, John McGraw, Connie Mack, Alexander Cartwright and Henry Chadwick to the Hall. None of these men had distinguished themselves as ballplayers—they were either managers, developers, or off-the-field powers—and, in certain instances, represented the people who had selected the members on the committee to office. While McGraw and Mack were long-time managers who were deserving of a place in Cooperstown, the other selections represent the first instances of favoritism shown in the selection process.

When old-timers complained that no players whose careers ended prior to the turn of the century were being elected, this Centennial Commission streamlined itself down to just Landis, Frick, and Harridge, re-named itself the Old-Timers Committee, and made six more selections in 1939. The six players they named were Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Candy Cummings, Old Hoss Radbourne, Albert Spalding, and Charles Comiskey. While the other five choices were all legitimate, Comiskey clearly reflected the bias of the members on the selection committee. A mediocre first baseman for three different major league teams, Comiskey was far more noteworthy as a baseball pioneer and the long-time owner of the Chicago White Sox. However, as owner of the Sox, he was well renowned for being a cheapskate and for mistreating his players. In fact, as we will see later, he was largely responsible for the Black Sox scandal of 1919.

By the time the Hall of Fame opened on June 12, 1939, in Cooperstown, it had 26 members—13 “modern” players elected by the BBWAA, six nineteenth century players selected by the Old-Timers Committee, and seven managers/executives/baseball pioneers selected by the Centennial Commission.

Some three years later, at the winter meetings held in Cincinnati in December of 1939, the writers decided to conduct an election every three years in the future, rather than on an annual basis. This ruling negatively impacted the Hall of Fame in two ways. Firstly, with elections being held more infrequently, attention was drawn away from the Hall. Fans eagerly anticipated the announcement of the annual selections, and their interest began to wane when they had to wait significantly longer for the elections to be held. Furthermore, a backlog of worthy candidates was created, making it more difficult for retired standouts to get elected.

With the names of so many outstanding players appearing on the ballot, it became more difficult for the voters to focus on the most worthy candidates, and for the players to meet the minimum 75 percent requirement for election. Thus, no new members were inducted in either 1940 or 1941, and, when the writers finally voted again in 1942, the only player they were able to agree on was Rogers Hornsby.

When the next election was held in 1945, no player was able to accumulate enough votes to be elected, despite the presence on the ballot of several all-time greats such as Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx. Fortunately, in 1945, a decision was reached to once again have the BBWAA vote every year.

Meanwhile, the composition of the Old-Timers Committee had been altered since its last set of selections in 1939. From 1939 through 1944, it consisted of Ed Barrow, president of the Yankees, Bob Quinn, president of the Braves, Sid Mercer, an old baseball writer, and Connie Mack. During this period, the Committee chose not to select anyone to the Hall. As a result, Rogers Hornsby was the only player inducted from 1940 through much of 1944. Then, in August of 1944, with Commissioner Landis suffering from ill health, he expanded the Old-Timers Committee to six members, adding Stephen C. Clark and Mel Webb. Clark was one of the Hall’s founders, and Webb was a disagreeable old sportswriter from Boston who cost Ted Williams the MVP Award one year by leaving him completely off his ballot. Landis also gave the committee more power by appointing its members to be the trustees of the institution, and by establishing its existence through perpetuity. He further authorized its members to select players who played before 1900, and to dictate the rules and policies of the entire Hall of Fame selection process.

The first official act of this new “Permanent Committee” after meeting for the first time at Landis’ funeral in November of 1944 was to elect him to the Hall of Fame. The validity of this selection will be discussed in a later chapter, but this was only the first of several rather questionable decisions the group would eventually make. Over the next two years, 1945 and 1946, the committee elected no fewer than 21 players from the nineteenth century and first few years of the twentieth. Approximately one-half of these selections were valid ones, but the others were all questionable. These players were:

 

 

Brouthers, Clarke, Collins, Delahanty, Duffy, Kelly, Griffith, McGinnity, Plank, and Walsh were all good choices, but the others were highly debatable, and, in some instances, unjustifiable. Each of these selections will be discussed in detail later in this book, but, for the first time, players were elected who clearly did not belong. The saddest part of this is that irreparable damage was done to the Hall, since its standards were lowered considerably. No longer could it be said that only great players resided in the Hall of Fame because several others of lesser ability had now been inducted as well. This created a gray area for voters in future elections, one that, unfortunately, still exists to this day.

BOOK: Baseball's Hall of Fame or Hall of Shame
13.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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