The Baseball Hall of Fame

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Baseball History

The first election of players into the National Baseball Hall of Fame occurred in 1936, with the enshrinement of five of the game's all-time greats: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson.

The elections were meant to coincide with the opening of the Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, N.Y. The five players in that first year of eligibility were named on more than 75 percent of the ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. That year, writers cast a total of 226 ballots, on which appeared the names of 33 players. Many others players received a sizable number of votes, but those initial five were the only ones to receive the requisite percentage.

The placement of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, a smallish town in south-central New York, was due in large part to the efforts of Stephen Clark, a Cooperstown hotel owner who was looking to drum up business for the town. Clark helped promote the story of Civil War veteran Abner Doubleday's invention of baseball in a cow pasture in Cooperstown in 1839, and eventually enough money was found to get the Hall built in time for the centennial of this "invention." (Doubleday was a Civil War veteran, having fought, among other places, at Gettysburg; and baseball was played by Civil War soldiers, on both sides; but the story of Doubleday's invention of the game has largely been discredited.)

The Hall of Fame itself opened its doors on June 12, 1939. By that time, another three groups of players had been approved for induction.

As of January 2013, an even 300 people famous for their involvement in baseball have been elected to the Hall of Fame: 208 former Major Leaguers, 35 who played in the Negro Leagues (but not the Major Leagues), 19 managers, 10 umpires, and 28 other executives or prime contributors to the early success of the game.

Each inductee is identified by a bronze plaque, which includes a facial likeness and important stats, like which team(s) that person played for or managed during their career. Many played for or managed more than one team, but each person got to choose which team's cap would appear alongside their plaque.

Elections take place each January. To be eligible, a person must have had at least 10 years of Major League experience and have been retired for at least five years or dead for at least six months. Players who don't get the necessary 75 percent of votes after 20 years of retirement can be considered by a Veterans Committee.

The highest number of inductees in a single year was 11, in 1946. The lowest number of inductees in a single year was 0, which occurred in 1940, 1941, 1943, 1950, 1958, and 1960.

 

 

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Dave White