|The Imortal First Five. Top: Christie Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Bottom: Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb.|
On January 29, 1938 the first “class” was elected to the still un-built National Baseball Hall of Fame. And quite a line-up it was—Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. With the standards for on field performance—not personal behavior—set so high, no subsequent class would be admitted without controversy and argument.
The perennial mystification about why Ron Santo could never make it in until he was dead or whether Pete Rose deserves to be inducted and similar arguments are the meat and potatoes to baseball fans during the Hot Stove League winter months be.
The actual museum was dedicated in Cooperstown, New York in 1939. Located in the far-away-from-everything Upstate town because of a bogus claim the Abner Doubleday invented the game there a century earlier, the Hall none the less attracts about 350,000 visitors a year.
Currently there are 295 individuals who have been inducted, including 234 players, 20 managers, 9 umpires, and 32 pioneers and executives. Santo will finally be installed in ceremonies this summer on July 22 along side Barry Larkin.
The Hall has reached out and included players from the Negro Leagues who were bared from playing in the Bigs and collectively honored the short lived All-American Girls League. One woman, Effa L. Manley, the owner and executive of a Negro League team, has been elected on her own.
Every devoted baseball fan is expected to make the pilgrimage to the shrine at least once in his or her life time. I haven’t met that holy obligation yet. Contributions to the cause will be gratefully accepted.