This Month In History
January 2017

This Month in NYS History – The U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame Elects its First Members – January 29, 1936

Players have to receive 75 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) gain admittance.
Players have to receive 75 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) gain admittance.
When the doors of The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum opened, the first five players inducted were: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Honus Wagner.

The first five inductees were elected on January 29, 1936 by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). In order to gain admittance, players have to receive 75 percent of the BBWAA’s vote. Ty Cobb, who still holds the record for the highest career batting average and the most career batting titles, received 98 percent of the vote. Cobb’s fellow inductees, Ruth, Mathewson, Johnson, and Wagner, all received more than 83 percent of the vote.

Around 1935, plans were made to establish a museum honoring baseball’s history and its elite players. Much of the funding was provided by The Clark Foundation, a local charitable organization established by the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Organizers believed the museum would reinvigorate the economy, which had been damaged by the Depression.

Planners capitalized on the myth that Abner Doubleday, a Union soldier, invented baseball in Cooperstown back in 1839. Even though the myth later proved false, baseball officials gave their support to the project. To coincide with what many believed was the centennial of baseball; the Hall of Fame was dedicated in 1939.

Today, less than two percent of all Major League players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Since the 1936 election, 314 members have been selected; including 217 former major league players, 30 executives, 35 Negro Leaguers, 22 managers and 10 umpires.

In its 77 year history, the museum has collected more than 38,000 baseball related items, over 250,000 photographs, and more than three million documents, including books, magazines, scrapbooks, and manuscripts. Each year, 350,000 baseball fans descend on Cooperstown to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to America’s national pastime.