Dedicated June 12, 1939
|Location||Cooperstown, New York, U.S.|
|Type||Professional sports hall of fame|
(average as of 2018)
|Founder||Stephen Carlton Clark|
|President||Josh Rawitch (since 2021)|
|Chairperson||Jane Forbes Clark|
(Board of Directors)
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a history museum and hall of fame in Cooperstown, New York, operated by private interests. It serves as the central point of the history of baseball in the United States and displays baseball-related artifacts and exhibits, honoring those who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport. The Hall's motto is "Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations". Cooperstown is often used as shorthand (or a metonym) for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, similar to "Canton" for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The Hall of Fame was established in 1939 by Stephen Carlton Clark, an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune. Clark sought to bring tourists to a city hurt by the Great Depression, which reduced the local tourist trade, and Prohibition, which devastated the local hops industry. Clark constructed the Hall of Fame's building, and it was dedicated on June 12, 1939. (His granddaughter, Jane Forbes Clark, is the current chairman of the board of directors.) The erroneous claim that Civil War hero Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown was instrumental in the early marketing of the Hall.
An expanded library and research facility opened in 1994. Dale Petroskey became the organization's president in 1999. In 2002, the Hall launched Baseball as America, a traveling exhibit that toured ten American museums over six years. The Hall of Fame has since also sponsored educational programming on the Internet to bring the Hall of Fame to schoolchildren who might not visit. The Hall and Museum completed a series of renovations in spring 2005. The Hall of Fame also presents an annual exhibit at FanFest at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Among baseball fans, "Hall of Fame" means not only the museum and facility in Cooperstown, New York, but the pantheon of players, managers, umpires, executives, and pioneers who have been inducted into the Hall. The first five men elected were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, chosen in 1936; roughly 20 more were selected before the entire group was inducted at the Hall's 1939 opening. As of January 2020[update], 333 people had been elected to the Hall of Fame, including 234 former Major League Baseball players, 35 Negro league baseball players and executives, 23 managers, 10 umpires, and 36 pioneers, executives, and organizers; 114 members of the Hall of Fame have been inducted posthumously, including four who died after their selection was announced. Of the 35 Negro league members, 29 were inducted posthumously, including all 24 selected since the 1990s. The Hall of Fame includes one female member, Effa Manley.
The newest members inducted on July 21, 2019, are players Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martínez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith. Rivera was the first player ever to be elected unanimously. Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, and Larry Walker were all originally scheduled to be inducted in 2020, but their induction ceremony has been postponed until July 24, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 21, 2021, it was announced that the induction ceremony for the 2020 class would be open to the public as previous years had been, due to the lifting of various COVID-19 restrictions.
Players are currently inducted into the Hall of Fame through election by either the Baseball Writers' Association of America (or BBWAA), or the Veterans Committee, which now consists of four subcommittees, each of which considers and votes for candidates from a separate era of baseball. Five years after retirement, any player with 10 years of major league experience who passes a screening committee (which removes from consideration players of clearly lesser qualification) is eligible to be elected by BBWAA members with 10 years' membership or more who also have been actively covering MLB at any time in the 10 years preceding the election (the latter requirement was added for the 2016 election). From a final ballot typically including 25–40 candidates, each writer may vote for up to 10 players; until the late 1950s, voters were advised to cast votes for the maximum 10 candidates. Any player named on 75% or more of all ballots cast is elected. A player who is named on fewer than 5% of ballots is dropped from future elections. In some instances, the screening committee had restored their names to later ballots, but in the mid-1990s, dropped players were made permanently ineligible for Hall of Fame consideration, even by the Veterans Committee. A 2001 change in the election procedures restored the eligibility of these dropped players; while their names will not appear on future BBWAA ballots, they may be considered by the Veterans Committee. Players receiving 5% or more of the votes but fewer than 75% are reconsidered annually until a maximum of ten years of eligibility (lowered from fifteen years for the 2015 election).
Under special circumstances, certain players may be deemed eligible for induction even though they have not met all requirements. Addie Joss was elected in 1978, despite only playing nine seasons before he died of meningitis. Additionally, if an otherwise eligible player dies before his fifth year of retirement, then that player may be placed on the ballot at the first election at least six months after his death. Roberto Clemente's induction in 1973 set the precedent when the writers chose to put him up for consideration after his death on New Year's Eve, 1972.
The five-year waiting period was established in 1954 after an evolutionary process. In 1936 all players were eligible, including active ones. From the 1937 election until the 1945 election, there was no waiting period, so any retired player was eligible, but writers were discouraged from voting for current major leaguers. Since there was no formal rule preventing a writer from casting a ballot for an active player, the scribes did not always comply with the informal guideline; Joe DiMaggio received a vote in 1945, for example. From the 1946 election until the 1954 election, an official one-year waiting period was in effect. (DiMaggio, for example, retired after the 1951 season and was first eligible in the 1953 election.) The modern rule establishing a wait of five years was passed in 1954, although those who had already been eligible under the old rule were grandfathered into the ballot, thus permitting Joe DiMaggio to be elected within four years of his retirement.
Contrary to popular belief, no formal exception was made for Lou Gehrig (other than to hold a special one-man election for him): there was no waiting period at that time, and Gehrig met all other qualifications, so he would have been eligible for the next regular election after he retired during the 1939 season. However, the BBWAA decided to hold a special election at the 1939 Winter Meetings in Cincinnati, specifically to elect Gehrig (most likely because it was known that he was terminally ill, making it uncertain that he would live long enough to see another election). Nobody else was on that ballot, and the numerical results have never been made public. Since no elections were held in 1940 or 1941, the special election permitted Gehrig to enter the Hall while still alive.
If a player fails to be elected by the BBWAA within 10 years of his retirement from active play, he may be selected by the Veterans Committee. Following changes to the election process for that body made in 2010 and 2016, it is now responsible for electing all otherwise eligible candidates who are not eligible for the BBWAA ballot — both long-retired players and non-playing personnel (managers, umpires, and executives). From 2011 to 2016, each candidate could be considered once every three years; now, the frequency depends on the era in which an individual made his greatest contributions. A more complete discussion of the new process is available below.
From 2008 to 2010, following changes made by the Hall in July 2007, the main Veterans Committee, then made up of living Hall of Famers, voted only on players whose careers began in 1943 or later. These changes also established three separate committees to select other figures:
Players of the Negro leagues have also been considered at various times, beginning in 1971. In 2005, the Hall completed a study on African American players between the late 19th century and the integration of the major leagues in 1947, and conducted a special election for such players in February 2006; seventeen figures from the Negro leagues were chosen in that election, in addition to the eighteen previously selected. Following the 2010 changes, Negro leagues figures were primarily considered for induction alongside other figures from the 1871–1946 era, called the "Pre-Integration Era" by the Hall; since 2016, Negro leagues figures are primarily considered alongside other figures from what the Hall calls the "Early Baseball" era (1871–1949).
Predictably, the selection process catalyzes endless debate among baseball fans over the merits of various candidates. Even players elected years ago remain the subjects of discussions as to whether they deserved election. For example, Bill James' 1994 book Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? goes into detail about who he believes does and does not belong in the Hall of Fame.
The selection rules for the Baseball Hall of Fame were modified to prevent the induction of anyone on Baseball's "permanently ineligible" list, such as Pete Rose or "Shoeless Joe" Jackson. Many others have been barred from participation in MLB, but none have Hall of Fame qualifications on the level of Jackson or Rose.
Jackson and Rose were both banned from MLB for life for actions related to gambling on their own teams—Jackson was determined to have cooperated with those who conspired to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series, and for accepting payment for losing, and Rose voluntarily accepted a permanent spot on the ineligible list in return for MLB's promise to make no official finding in relation to alleged betting on the Cincinnati Reds when he was their manager in the 1980s. (Baseball's Rule 21, prominently posted in every clubhouse locker room, mandates permanent banishment from the MLB for having a gambling interest of any sort on a game in which a player or manager is directly involved.) Rose later admitted that he bet on the Reds in his 2004 autobiography. Baseball fans are deeply split on the issue of whether these two should remain banned or have their punishment revoked. Writer Bill James, though he advocates Rose eventually making it into the Hall of Fame, compared the people who want to put Jackson in the Hall of Fame to "those women who show up at murder trials wanting to marry the cute murderer".
Main article: Veterans Committee
The actions and composition of the Veterans Committee have been at times controversial, with occasional selections of contemporaries and teammates of the committee members over seemingly more worthy candidates.
In 2001, the Veterans Committee was reformed to comprise the living Hall of Fame members and other honorees. The revamped Committee held three elections, in 2003 and 2007, for both players and non-players, and in 2005 for players only. No individual was elected in that time, sparking criticism among some observers who expressed doubt whether the new Veterans Committee would ever elect a player. The Committee members, most of whom were Hall members, were accused of being reluctant to elect new candidates in the hope of heightening the value of their own selection. After no one was selected for the third consecutive election in 2007, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt noted, "The same thing happens every year. The current members want to preserve the prestige as much as possible, and are unwilling to open the doors." In 2007, the committee and its selection processes were again reorganized; the main committee then included all living members of the Hall, and voted on a reduced number of candidates from among players whose careers began in 1943 or later. Separate committees, including sportswriters and broadcasters, would select umpires, managers and executives, as well as players from earlier eras.
In the first election to be held under the 2007 revisions, two managers and three executives were elected in December 2007 as part of the 2008 election process. The next Veterans Committee elections for players were held in December 2008 as part of the 2009 election process; the main committee did not select a player, while the panel for pre–World War II players elected Joe Gordon in its first and ultimately only vote. The main committee voted as part of the election process for inductions in odd-numbered years, while the pre-World War II panel would vote every five years, and the panel for umpires, managers, and executives voted as part of the election process for inductions in even-numbered years.
Further changes to the Veterans Committee process were announced by the Hall on July 26, 2010, effective with the 2011 election.
All individuals eligible for induction but not eligible for BBWAA consideration were considered on a single ballot, grouped by the following eras in which they made their greatest contributions:
The Hall used the BBWAA's Historical Overview Committee to formulate the ballots for each era, consisting of 12 individuals for the Expansion Era and 10 for the other eras. The Hall's board of directors selected a committee of 16 voters for each era, made up of Hall of Famers, executives, baseball historians, and media members. Each committee met and voted at the Baseball Winter Meetings once every three years. The Expansion Era committee held its first vote in 2010 for 2011 induction, with longtime general manager Pat Gillick becoming the first individual elected under the new procedure. The Golden Era committee voted in 2011 for the induction class of 2012, with Ron Santo becoming the first player elected under the new procedure. The Pre-Integration Era committee voted in 2012 for the induction class of 2013, electing three figures. Subsequent elections rotated among the three committees in that order through the 2016 election.
In July 2016, however, the Hall of Fame announced a restructuring of the timeframes to be considered, with a much greater emphasis on modern eras. Four new committees were established:
All committees' ballots now include 10 candidates. At least one committee is scheduled to convene each December as part of the election process for the following calendar year's induction ceremony. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the December 2020 meetings of the Early Baseball and Golden Days committees were postponed, apparently pushing back the rotation of all committee meetings by a year.
The eligibility criteria for Era Committee consideration differ between players, managers, and executives.
While the text on a player's or manager's plaque lists all teams for which the inductee was a member in that specific role, inductees are usually depicted wearing the cap of a specific team, though in a few cases, like umpires, they wear caps without logos. (Executives are not depicted wearing caps.) Additionally, as of 2015, inductee biographies on the Hall's website for all players and managers, and executives who were associated with specific teams, list a "primary team", which does not necessarily match the cap logo. The Hall selects the logo "based on where that player makes his most indelible mark."
Although the Hall always made the final decision on which logo was shown, until 2001 the Hall deferred to the wishes of players or managers whose careers were linked with multiple teams. Some examples of inductees associated with multiple teams are the following:
In all of the above cases, the "primary team" is the team for which the inductee spent the largest portion of his career except for Ryan, whose primary team is listed as the Angels despite playing one fewer season for that team than for the Astros.
In 2001, the Hall of Fame decided to change the policy on cap logo selection, as a result of rumors that some teams were offering compensation, such as number retirement, money, or organizational jobs, in exchange for the cap designation. (For example, though Wade Boggs denied the claims, some media reports had said that his contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays required him to request depiction in the Hall of Fame as a Devil Ray.) The Hall decided that it would no longer defer to the inductee, though the player's wishes would be considered, when deciding on the logo to appear on the plaque. Newly elected members affected by the change include the following:
Sam Crane (who had played a decade in 19th century baseball before becoming a manager and sportswriter) had first approached the idea of making a memorial to the great players of the past in what was believed to have been the birthplace of baseball: Cooperstown, New York, but the idea did not muster much momentum until after his death in 1925. In 1934, the idea for establishing a Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was devised by several individuals, such as Ford Frick (president of the National League) and Alexander Cleland, a Scottish immigrant who decided to serve as the first executive secretary for the Museum for the next seven years that worked with the interests of the Village and Major League Baseball. Stephen Carlton Clark (a Cooperstown native) paid for the construction of the museum, which was planned to open in 1939 to mark the "Centennial of Baseball", which included renovations to Doubleday Field. William Beattie served as the first curator of the museum. 
According to the Hall of Fame, approximately 260,000 visitors enter the museum each year, and the running total has surpassed 17 million. These visitors see only a fraction of its 40,000 artifacts, 3 million library items (such as newspaper clippings and photos) and 140,000 baseball cards.
The Hall has seen a noticeable decrease in attendance in recent years. A 2013 story on ESPN.com about the village of Cooperstown and its relation to the game partially linked the reduced attendance with Cooperstown Dreams Park, a youth baseball complex about 5 miles (8.0 km) away in the town of Hartwick. The 22 fields at Dreams Park currently draw 17,000 players each summer for a week of intensive play; while the complex includes housing for the players, their parents and grandparents must stay elsewhere. According to the story,
Prior to Dreams Park, a room might be filled for a week by several sets of tourists. Now, that room will be taken by just one family for the week, and that family may only go into Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame once. While there are other contributing factors (the recession and high gas prices among them), the Hall's attendance has tumbled since Dreams Park opened. The Hall drew 383,000 visitors in 1999. It drew 262,000 last year.
A controversy erupted in 1982, when it emerged that some historic items given to the Hall had been sold on the collectibles market. The items had been lent to the Baseball Commissioner's office, gotten mixed up with other property owned by the Commissioner's office and employees of the office, and moved to the garage of Joe Reichler, an assistant to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who sold the items to resolve his personal financial difficulties. Under pressure from the New York Attorney General, the Commissioner's Office made reparations, but the negative publicity damaged the Hall of Fame's reputation, and made it more difficult for it to solicit donations.
In 2012, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed a law ordering the United States Mint to produce and sell commemorative, non-circulating coins to benefit the private, non-profit Hall. The bill, H.R. 2527, was introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Rep. Richard Hanna, a Republican from New York, and passed the House on October 26, 2011. The coins, which depict baseball gloves and balls, are the first concave designs produced by the Mint. The mintage included 50,000 gold coins, 400,000 silver coins, and 750,000 clad (nickel-copper) coins. The Mint released them on March 27, 2014, and the gold and silver editions quickly sold out. The Hall receives money from surcharges included in the sale price: a total of $9.5 million if all the coins are sold.