Archive for the ‘Veterans Committee’ Category

The Veterans Committee

March 10, 2009
Exhibit A for the defense.

In 1939, the opening of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown was approaching quickly. The early elections had been successful, and the players elected were popular and outstanding ballplayers, but there was one qualm. Where were the 19th-century players?

Commissioner Kenesaw Landis decided to do something about this. He started a small three-person committee consisting of himself, American League president Will Harridge, and National League president Ford Frick. Less than 6 weeks before the opening of the Hall, the committee announced their 6 honorees from the 19th-century — Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Charles Radbourn, Albert Spalding, Charles Comiskey, and Candy Cummings. Although originally constructed to honor the earliest players in baseball history, the committee decided it would be a good idea to continue voting in order to elect those who had somehow gotten past the BBWAA. Landis called this the Old-Timers Committee.

Instead of the presidents and commissioner voting, 11 people were selected to vote, and six of them would be the screening committee looking at four categories — players, managers, umpires, and executives/pioneers. No player could be considered until 23 years after his retirement from baseball. The top person in each category would be elected if he received 75% of the vote.

The Veterans Committee has undergone a number of transitions. In 1953, the Old-Timers Committee changed its name to the Committee on Baseball Veterans, and they elected six players. Two years later, they decided to elect up to two people every odd-numbered year. Seven years later in 1962, they went back to annual elections. Until 2003, the Veterans Committee would not release the results of their voting, just the names.

In the 1970’s, the Veterans Committee endured its most controversial era. Frankie Frisch took over as the chairman, and during his tenure, six of his teammates were elected. The list includes Jesse Haines, Dave Bancroft, Rube Marquard, George Kelley, Chick Hafey, and Ross Youngs. Bill James is one of the strongest critics of Frisch’s decisions, calling the election of George Kelley “a bad joke”.

In 1978, the committee was officially a fifteen-member commitee, made up of five players in the Hall, owners, and five writers. In 2001, there was a major overhaul of the Veterans Committee. All living members of the Hall of Fame, the Ford Frick Award winners, and JG Spink Award winners are now members of the Veterans Commitee. Non-players were then only eligible every four years, but after not having anyone elected for three years, they almost decided to go back to everyone, every two years. In 2007, a whole new set of new changes were made, and because I want to preserve your sanity, I’ll just link the rule changes (it’s Wikipedia, but it’s simpler than other sites with the information).

Just to be sure we are all on the same page, anyone elected by the Veterans Committee is a full member in the Hall of Fame, and they are treated no differently than BBWAA-elected members. The Veterans Committee continues to be a source of frustration and controversy.