The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
The Hall of Fame is an American history museum, and is located at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown, New York. The main focus for the Baseball Hall of fame is that it is the central point for the study of the history of baseball in the United States and beyond, displays baseball-related artifacts and exhibits, and honors those who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport. The Hall’s motto is “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, and Connecting Generations.”
The Hall of Fame was dedicated on June 12, 1939. Stephen Carlton Clark was owner of a local hotel and sought to bring tourists to Cooperstown, which had been suffering economically when the Great Depression significantly reduced the local tourist trade and Prohibition devastated the local hops industry. An $8 million library and research facility opened in 1994. The Hall of Fame has also sponsored educational programming on the Internet to bring the Hall of Fame to school children who might not visit Cooperstown. The Hall and Museum completed a series of renovations in spring 2005.
The Hall of Fame also presents an annual exhibit at Fan Fest at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Among baseball fans like my brother and myself, “The Hall of Fame” means not only the museum and facility in Cooperstown, New York, but the pantheon of players, managers, umpires, executives, and pioneers who have been enshrined in the Hall. The first five men elected were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wager, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, all, named in 1936. As of January 2013, 300 individuals had been elected to the Hall of Fame, including 208 former Major Leaguers, 35 Negro Leaguers, 19 managers, 10 umpires, and 28 pioneers, executives, and organizers. In addition, 12 Hall members who were not honored at any induction ceremony due to World War II travel restrictions, the most notable of whom are Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby, they will be officially recognized in 2013 In addition to honoring Hall of Fame inductees, the National Baseball Hall of Fame has presented 36 men with the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, 63 with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball writing, and two with the Buck O’Neill Award for contributions to baseball. While the Frick and Spink Award honorees are not members of the Hall of Fame, they are recognized in an exhibit in the Hall of Fame’s library. O’Neil Award honorees are also not Hall of Fame members, but are listed alongside a permanent statue of the award’s namesake and first recipient, Buck O’Neill, which stands at the Hall.
Selection process Players are currently inducted into the Hall of Fame through election by either the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), or the Veterans Committee, which now consists of three subcommittees, each of which considers and votes for candidates from a separate era of baseball. Five years after retirement, any player with 10 years of major league experience who passes a screening committee (which removes from consideration players of clearly lesser qualification) is eligible to be elected by BBWAA members with 10 years’ membership or more. From a final ballot typically including 25–40 candidates, each writer may vote for up to 10 players; until the late 1950s, voters were advised to cast votes for the maximum 10 candidates. Any player named on 75% or more of all ballots cast are elected. A player who is named on fewer than 5% of ballots is dropped from future elections. In some instances, the screening committee had restored their names to later ballots, but in the mid-1990s, dropped players were made permanently ineligible for Hall of Fame consideration, even by the Veterans Committee. A 2001 change in the election procedures restored the eligibility of these dropped players; while their names will not appear on future BBWAA ballots, they may be considered by the Veterans Committee.
Under special circumstances, certain players may be deemed eligible for induction. Addie Joss was elected in 1978, despite only playing nine seasons before he died of meningitis. Additionally, if an otherwise eligible player dies before his fifth year of retirement, then that player may be placed on the ballot at the first election at least six months after his death. The induction of Roberto Clemente’s in 1973 set the precedent when the writers chose to put him up for consideration after his death on New Year’s Eve, 1972.
The five-year waiting period was established in 1954 after an evolutionary process. In 1936 all players were eligible, including active ones. From the 1937 election until the 1945 election, there was no waiting period, so any retired player was eligible, but writers were discouraged from voting for current major leaguers. Since there was no formal rule preventing a writer from casting a ballot for an active player, the scribes did not always comply with the informal guideline; Joe DiMaggio received a vote in 1945, for example. From the 1946 election until the 1954 election, an official one-year waiting period was in effect. The modern rule establishing a wait of five years was passed in 1954, although an exception was made for Joe DiMaggio because of his high level of previous support, thus permitting him to be elected within four years of his retirement. No formal exception was made for Lou Gehrig, other than to hold a special one-man election for him. There was no waiting period at that time and Gehrig met all other qualifications, so he would have been eligible for the next regular election after he retired during the 1939 season, but the BBWAA decided to hold a special election at the 1939 Winter Meetings in Cincinnati, specifically to elect Gehrig (most likely because it was known that he was terminally ill (ALS), making it uncertain that he would live long enough to see another election). Nobody else was on that ballot, and the numerical results have never been made public. Since no elections were held in 1940 or 1941, the special election permitted Gehrig to enter the Hall while still alive.
If a player fails to be elected by the BBWAA within 20 years of his retirement from active play, he may be selected by the Veterans Committee. Following the most recent changes to the election process that were made in 2010, it is now responsible for electing all otherwise eligible candidates who are not eligible for the BBWAA ballot—both long-retired players and non-playing personnel (managers, umpires, and executives). With these changes, each candidate can now be considered once every three years. From 2008 to 2010, following changes made by the Hall in July 2007, the main Veterans Committee votes only on players whose careers began in 1943 or later.
Players of the Negro Leagues have also been considered at various times, beginning in 1971. In 2005 a study was completed on African American players between the late 19th century and the integration of the major leagues in 1947, and conducted a special election for such players in February 2006; seventeen figures from the Negro Leagues were chosen in that election, in addition to the eighteen previously selected. Following the 2010 changes, Negro Leagues figures will primarily be considered for induction alongside other figures from the 1871–1946 era, called the “Pre-Integration Era”.
The Veterans Committee underwent reorganization in 2001, in order to comprise the living Hall of Fame members and other honorees. The revamped Committee held three elections—in 2003 and 2007 for both players and non-players, and in 2005 for players only. No individual was elected at that time. In 2007, the committee and its selection processes were again reorganized; the main committee then included all living members of the Hall, and voted on a reduced number of candidates from players whose careers began in 1943 or later. Separate committees, including sportswriters and broadcasters, would select umpires, managers and executives, as well as players from earlier eras. In the first election to be held under the 2007 revisions, two managers and three executives were elected in December 2007 as part of the 2008 election process. The next Veterans Committee elections for players were held in December 2008 and no player(s) were selected, but the panel for pre-World War II veterans elected one play in their only vote. The main committee voted as part of the election process for inductions in odd-numbered years, while the pre-WWII panel would vote every five years, and the panel for umpires, managers, and executives voted as part of the election process for inductions in even-numbered years.
All individuals eligible for induction but not eligible for BBWAA consideration are now considered on a single ballot, grouped by the eras in which they made their greatest contributions.
The Hall is using the BBWAA’s Historical Overview Committee to formulate the ballots for each era, consisting of 12 individuals for the Expansion Era and 10 for the other eras. The Hall’s board of directors selects a committee of 16 voters for each era, made up of Hall of Famers, executives, baseball historians, and media members. Each committee meets and votes at the Baseball Winter Meetings once every three years. The Expansion Era committee held its first vote in 2010, with longtime general manager Pat Glick becoming the first individual elected under the new procedure. The Golden Era committee voted in 2011 with Ron Santo becoming the first player elected under the new procedure. The Pre-Integration Era committee voted in 2012 electing three figures. Subsequent elections will rotate among the three committees in that order.
While the text on a player’s or manager’s plaque lists all teams for which the inductee was a member in that specific role, inductees are depicted wearing the cap of a specific team, or, in some cases, wearing a cap without a logo. The Hall selects the logo “based on where that player makes his most indelible mark.”
Although the Hall always made the final decision on which logo was shown, until 2001 the Hall deferred to the wishes of players or managers whose careers were linked with multiple teams. Some examples of honorees associated with multiple teams are the following:
• Frank Robinson: Robinson chose to have the Baltimore Orioles cap displayed on his plaque, although he had played ten seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and six seasons with Baltimore. Robinson won four pennants and two World Series with the Orioles and one pennant with Cincinnati. His second World Series ring came in the1970 World Series against the Reds. Robinson also won an MVP award while playing for each team.
• Catfish Hunter: When elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987, Hunter declined to choose between the teams for which he played—the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees —as he had been successful with both teams and maintained good relations with both teams and their respective owners (Charles Finley and George Steinbrenner). His plaque shows him wearing a cap without a logo.
• Nolan Ryan: Born and raised in Texas, Ryan entered the Hall in 1999 wearing a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque, although he spent only five seasons with the Rangers, while having longer and more successful tenures with the Houston Astros (nine seasons, 1980–88 and his record-setting fifth career no-hitter) and California Angels (eight seasons, the first four of his seven career no-hitters). Ryan’s only championship was as a member of the New York Mets in1969. When he retired, Ryan hit two milestones, reaching his 5000th strikeout and 300th win, and throwing the last two of his no-hitters. Ryan later took ownership of the Rangers when they were sold to his Rangers Baseball Express group in 2009.
• Reggie Jackson: Jackson chose to be depicted with a Yankees cap over an Athletics cap. As a member of the Kansas City/Oakland A’s, Jackson played ten seasons, winning three World Series as well as the AL MVP award in 1973. During his five years as a New York Yankee, Jackson won two World Series, his crowning achievement occurring during Game Six of the 1977 World Series, when he hit three home runs on consecutive pitches and earned his nickname “Mr. October”.
• Carlton Fisk: Fisk went into the hall with a Boston Red Sox cap on his plaque in 2000 despite playing with the Chicago White Sox longer and posting more significant numbers with the White Sox. Fisk’s choice of the Red Sox was likely because of his being a New England native, as well as his famous “Stay fair!” walk-off home run in Game Six of the 1975 World Series with which he is most associated.
• Sparky Anderson: In 2000, Anderson entered the Hall with a Cincinnati Reds cap on his plaque despite managing almost twice as many seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He chose the Reds to honor that team’s former general manager Bob Howsam, who gave him his first major-league managing job. Anderson won two World Series with the Reds and one with the Tigers.
• Dave Winfield: Winfield had spent the most years in his career with the Yankees and had had great success there, but chose to go into the Hall as a member of the San Diego Padres due to his feud with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
In 2001, the Hall of Fame decided to change the policy on cap logo selection, as a result of rumors that some teams were offering compensation, such as number retirement, money, or organizational jobs, in exchange for the cap designation. The Hall decided that it would no longer defer to the inductee, though the player’s wishes would be considered, when deciding on the logo to appear on the plaque.
According to the Hall of Fame, approximately 315,000 visitors enter the museum each year, and the running total has surpassed 14 million. These visitors see only a fraction of its 38,000 artifacts, 2.6 million library items (such as newspaper clippings and photos) and 130,000 baseball cards. The Bullpen Theater is the site of daily programming at the museum (trivia games, book discussions, etc.) and is decorated with pictures of famous relief pitchers.
The Halper Gallery contains rotating exhibits. Induction Row contains artifacts pertinent to the most recent inductees as well as photos of past Hall of Fame Weekends. The Perez-Steele Art Gallery features art of all media related to baseball. Dick Perez was the official baseball artist for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for 20 years, starting in 1981. The Sandlot Kids Clubhouse has various interactive displays for young children. Plus so much more and also includes an exhibit that details the All-American Girls Professional Baseball league. Sacred Ground is the newest museum section, opened after the 2003–05 renovation. It is devoted entirely to ballparks and everything about them, especially the fan experience and the business of a ballpark. The centerpiece is a computer tour of three former ballparks: Boston’s South End Grounds, Chicago’s Comisky Park and Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.
Non-induction of banned players.
Following the banning of Pete Rose from baseball, the selection rules for the Baseball Hall of Fame were modified to prevent the induction of anyone on MLB’s permanent suspension list, such as Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson. Many others have been barred from participation in MLB, but none have Hall of Fame qualifications on the level of Jackson or Rose.
Jackson and Rose were both banned from baseball for life for actions related to gambling on their own teams—Jackson was determined to have cooperated with those who conspired to lose the 1919 World Series intentionally, and Rose voluntarily accepted a permanent spot on the ineligible list in return for MLB’s promise to make no official finding in relation to alleged betting on his team the Cincinnati Red while he was their manager in the 1980s. (Rule 21, prominently posted in every clubhouse locker room, mandates permanent banishment from the sport for having a gambling interest of any sort on a game in which a player or manager is directly involved.) Rose later admitted that he bet on the Reds in his autobiography. Baseball fans are deeply split on the issue of whether these two should remain banned or have their punishment revoked. A writer named Bill James, advocates Rose eventually making it into the Hall of Fame, compared the people who want to put Jackson in the Hall of Fame to “those women who show up at murder trials wanting to marry the cute murderer”.
I remember that on one of my family’s trips over summer vacation, we went to Cooperstown to the Hall, and getting blown away by the enormity of it all. My brother and I came away from the experience with a much better understand of the game as well as a better appreciation for the background and traditions of the sport. It is truly an American game and institution. We both collected baseball cards growing up and I think that even now my nephew likes to do the same. My niece likes baseball, but not to the extent her brother and father do, and to the extent as I do).