Year Inducted: 1937 (BBWAA, ballot #2, 165/201)
Centerfield is the glory position on the diamond. It’s where Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle played. It’s where Willie Mays was playing when he made his famous catch in the 1954 World Series. It’s the position that Ken Griffey, Jim Edmonds and Andruw Jones spent a lifetime redefining. It’s got two popular songs written about it (Talkin’ Baseball [Willie, Mickey and the Duke] and Centerfield). It’s a position that has seen so many great players that it can be difficult to determine who the best is. Many will say that Willie Mays is the best centerfielder of all-time, while some will point to Ty Cobb. Yet, one of Cobb’s contemporaries was also a fantastic center fielder. While he wasn’t as good as Cobb with the stick, Tris Speaker was a superior defender.
Year Inducted: 1937 (BBWAA, ballot #2, 168/201)
In 1901, two future Hall of Famers jumped ship from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Athletics when the new American League was formed. Both players were technically under contract with the Phillies at the time, so the team got the state of Pennsylvania to pass an injunction to prevent both players from playing baseball in the state for a team other than the Phillies. To get around this, both players were flipped in 1902 to the Indians, where both became instant successes. One player was Elmer Flick. The other was Nap Lajoie, who became a such cultural sensation that they decided to rename the team the Cleveland Naps while he was playing there.
Year Inducted: 1937 (BBWAA, ballot #2, 153/201)
Every record is meant to be broken. That’s the saying that most people in baseball live by. No matter how improbable it may have seemed at the time, Babe Ruth’s homerun records, Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak, Ty Cobb’s career hits and even Walt Johnson’s strikeout totals have all been surpassed and in some cases multiple times. Still, there are those records that just seem like too much has to happen in order for them to be broken. Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak seems pretty safe, as does Orel Hershiser’s shutout innings streak and Johnny Vander Meer’s consecutive no hitters are probably untouchable. But, perhaps no one is more associated with unapproachable records than Cy Young.
Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
Say what you will about the talent pool being better today, and the revenue coming in higher than ever before, but one thing the earliest years of baseball had that they no longer really do was personality. Granted, a lot of that came from drunken tirades and gambling allegations, but still there was a lot more extra entertainment to games back in the early 1900’s. But, for the most part, the players left a lot on the field and were very approchable and kind off the field, especially to teammates and fans. Not everyone however. There was a reason that Jesse Burkett was nicknamed “Crab”-and it didn’t have to do with how he walked either.
Year Inducted: 1962 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 150/160)
Every Hall of Famer takes immense pride in being a member of the Hall of Fame. Every single one recognizes the hard work they put into it, and respects the game to understand what the title means. Still, there are some Hall of Famers who do more with that title than others. Some will do fan events more frequently, like the Hall of Fame Classic, almost every year. The one who probably did the most, almost until his dying day, was Bob Feller.
Year Inducted: 1978 (Veterans Committee)
Many rules about Hall of Fame voting have changed over the years. Time on the ballot, number of ballots and the amount of time after retirement for a player to go on a ballot have all been modified since the first ballots were cast in 1936. And yet, one thing to stay constant over the years was the length of a career. In order for a player to be voted upon for the Hall of Fame, he must have played for 10 seasons in the Major Leagues. The Hall of Fame, for extreme circumstances (Lou Gehrig’s early retirement due to ALS, Roberto Clemente’s sudden death, etc.) has passed resolutions to bypass their voting requirements in the past due to tragedy, but that usually happens instantly. Addie Joss, however, had to wait for more than 65 years following the end of his career to be considered for induction.
Year Inducted: 1977 (Veterans Committee)
In 1920, the baseball world would feel tremendous tragedy for one of the first times in its history. Ray Chapman, a star shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, was struck in the head by a pitch from Carl Mays of the New York Yankees. Chapman died due to his injuries, becoming the first and still only player to die from a baseball injury caused on the field in a Major League game. As horrific and terrible as that was, Cleveland filled that hole in the team with a little known shortstop called up from the minors. That shortstop rode his opportunity all the way to the Hall of Fame by being a smooth fielding shortstop and a strong contact rate. That man was Joe Sewell.