Commentaries on the Hall of Fame Election

Gates_90By Jim Gates

Following the recent announcement by the BBWAA that there would be no additional inductees for the Class of 2013, there were a number of published commentaries regarding the Hall of Fame election process.  Many of these were produced in the days immediately following the January 9th announcement.  For me these editorials brought up the question as to whether this was something modern, or had the system been a target for commentary since the earliest days?

Accordingly, I decided to start with the first election and work my way forward, the objective being to locate and date the earliest example of an editorial piece about the Hall of Fame election process.

Editorial piece by John Kieran of the New York Times discussing the 1936 voting results. (NBHOF Library)

Editorial piece by John Kieran of the New York Times discussing the 1936 voting results. (NBHOF Library)

Using a variety of library files and online resources it was relatively easy to establish that results of the first election were publically announced on February 2, 1936.  This election established the inaugural class of inductees as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.  There are a number of Associated Press wire stories which appear in newspapers on February 3rd, all of which refer to the election results as being announced on the previous day.

So, with a firm date from which to work, I began searching for published commentaries, wondering just how long it would take for the first to appear.  Well, the answer was less than 24 hours!  It did not take an extraordinary amount of effort to find an editorial piece by John Kieran of the New York Times which discusses the voting results and system used.  Kieran was one of the leading sportswriters in America, and as can be seen in his column, he asked many of the same questions that we see in 2013.

It seems as if public debate about the election system has been part of the baseball culture since the first election.  Or, as the old saying goes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Voters and fans have always taken the process seriously and there has never been a time when public evaluation of the process was not part of the baseball world.

Jim Gates is the Librarian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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