I promised another column on baseball, our “national pastime,” and the Baseball Hall of Fame; so, while it’s still spring here goes:
Two weeks ago on Ruth Anne’s and my radio show, Ed Lough talked baseball. Ed is known locally for his wealth of baseball knowledge (albeit he knows too much about the “hated Yankees” and too little about our beloved Orioles). Here are some of the statistics and interesting facts we didn’t get around to, with many dealing with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and its members.
According to the current rules for election, players must have at least 10 years of major league experience to be eligible for induction. In addition, players must be retired for at least five years if living, or deceased for at least six months. Players meeting these qualifications must pass through a screening committee, and are then voted on by the BBWAA. Each writer may vote for up to 10 players. To be admitted into the hall of fame, a player must be approved by 75 percent of those casting ballots.
Players who have not been approved by the BBWAA election process within 20 years of their retirement and umpires, managers, pioneers, and executives, may be considered by the Veterans Committee in every third year, based on the era in which each individual candidate made his greatest contribution to the sport.
On a few occasions, exceptions have been made to the guidelines in place at the time. For example, Roberto Clemente was elected shortly after his death in 1972; Lou Gehrig was elected in 1939, following his diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; and Addie Joss was elected in 1978, although he completed only nine seasons before his death.
Between 1971 and 1977, nine players from the Negro Leagues were inducted by a special Negro Leagues Committee, which was given the task of identifying worthy players who played in the Negro Leagues prior to the breaking of baseball’s color line. Since 1977, players from the Negro Leagues have been considered by the Veterans Committee, and nine more individuals have been approved by that body.
In 2005, the hall announced the formation of a Committee on African-American Baseball, which held a 2006 election for eligible figures from the Negro Leagues and earlier 19th-century teams; 17 additional Negro League figures were chosen in that election, including executive Effa Manley, the first woman inducted.
All in all, I believe the hall’s methodology is fair, balanced and has taken into consideration issues concerning race, skills, cheating, age and social issues of the time.
I’m personally an advocate for admitting Pete Rose and “Shoeless Joe” Jackson to the hall. Rose, the all-time “hits leader,” and Jackson, the man who wore the glove referred to as the “place where triples die,” deserve the honor of inclusion in the hall; the greatest, not drug incused, are deserving. Amen.
In 1941, Jack Roosevelt Robinson, aka “Jackie,” became the first athlete in the history of UCLA to letter in four sports: baseball, football, basketball and track in the same year. Jackie was the first African-American in major league baseball and the first elected to the hall. He was followed in hall of fame selection by Roy Campanella, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard.
My favorite right-hand pitcher of all time (I didn’t see Christy Mathewson), Tom Seaver, is the No. 1 percentage vote-getter in hall of fame voting, coming in on 98.84 percent of the ballots cast in his selection in 1992. This was in the first year in which “Tom Terrific” was eligible.
Seaver was followed, in order of top percentages, by Nolan Ryan with 98.79 percent; Cal “Ironman” Ripken at 98.53; Ty Cobb (first class elected, in 1936) with 98.23; and George Brett with 98.19.
My favorite player of all time, “Hammering Hank” Aaron, was sixth with 97.83 percent and to close the loop on my opinions; my favorite left-hand pitcher of all time, Warren Spahn, received a mere 82.89 percent of the ballots needed to elect.
I, along with Ed Lough could fill hundreds of pages with baseball stories like “in 1963, Warren Spahn won 23 games at the age of 42, making him the oldest pitcher to be a 20-game winner.”
Or … well, maybe more next time.
Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.