As former Angel Vladimir Guerrero is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, we look at its history
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will induct six new members Sunday, July 29, bringing the total to 323. The annual ceremony, started in 1939 when the museum opened, has an odd history.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., is where the history of the game is preserved and honored. The Hall of Fame was built in Cooperstown based on a claim that Abner Doubleday invented the game in 1839 in a Cooperstown cow pasture. That story is now considered a myth.
The first artifact donated to the Hall of Fame was the “Doubleday Ball,” given by philanthropist Stephen C. Clark, who helped fund the museum. The “Doubleday Ball” was sold to Clark by Abner Graves, who said he was given the ball at age 5 after it was used by Doubleday when he created the game in Cooperstown at age 20.
The authenticity of baseball’s origin has been disputed many times. In 2004, historian John Thorn discovered a bylaw from 1791 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that prohibited playing baseball within 80 yards of the town’s new meetinghouse. That predates Doubleday by 48 years.
Doubleday was a Civil War general who has a monument honoring him at Gettysburg. He remained with the Army until 1873 and commanded troops in California and Texas. Doubleday also helped secure the city of San Francisco’s first patent for a cable car system but never claimed to have anything to do with the invention of baseball. He died in 1898 New Jersey, at age 73. He is not enshrined in Cooperstown, but the ballpark in Cooperstown is named Doubleday Field.
So who invented our national pastime? The origins are murky, but a group of men led by Alexander Joy Cartwright founded the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club in 1845. The Knickerbockers are considered the first team to use the baseball diamond, the three-strike rule and foul lines.
The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum plaques are cast in bronze by Matthews International in Pittsburgh. From 1983 to 2015, 76 plaques were sculpted by Mindy Ellis. In 2016, Tom Tsuchiya began to sculpt them.
One plaque per inductee is produced, with a miniature version for the player to keep. The plaques are mounted on a 1 1/2-inch-thick wooden frame. The descriptive text on each plaque is from 80 to 100 words. The plaques cost about $2,000 apiece. Each weighs 14.5 pounds.
The sculptor works in clay, and once the clay reliefs are approved they are sand-cast, which turns the art into a mold into which molten bronze can be poured.The plaque is bronze of different colors because of finishing and polishing.
Inductions by job
According to Baseball Reference, Major League Baseball has had 19,006 players and 683 managers since 1876. Today, six former big league heroes will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, bringing the total inductees to 323. Here’s a look at the breakdown of players by position:
First ballot acceptance
No player has been inducted with 100 percent of the ballots. Here is a list from Baseball Reference of players inducted in their first year of eligibility, and the top vive with the highest percentage of voters. Players are eligible starting five years after they retire.
1936: Ty Cobb, (5, 98.23%) Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner1951: Mel Ott1962: Jackie Robinson1966: Ted Williams1969: Stan Musial1972: Sandy Koufax1973: Roberto Clemente, Warren Spahn1974: Mickey Mantle1977: Ernie Banks1979: Willie Mays1980: Al Kaline1981: Bob Gibson1982: Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson1983: Brooks Robinson1985: Lou Brock1986: Willie McCovey1988: Willie Stargell1989: Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski1990: Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer1991: Rod Carew1992: Tom Seaver (2, 98.4%)1993: Reggie Jackson1994: Steve Carlton1995: Mike Schmidt1999: George Brett, Nolan Ryan, (3, 98.79%) Robin Yount2001: Kirby Puckett2002: Ozzie Smith2003: Eddie Murray2004: Dennis Eckersley, Paul Molitor2005: Wade Boggs2007: Cal Ripken Jr. (4, 98.53%)2009: Rickey Henderson2014: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz2016: Ken Griffey Jr. (1, 99.32%)2017: Ivan Rodriguez2018: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome