This day in baseball: The first Hall of Fame class is selected

On January 29, 1936, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and a special Veterans Committee selected Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson in the first-ever Baseball Hall of Fame elections. The enshrinement of these five greats, however, would have to wait until 1939, since the museum’s construction in Cooperstown had not yet begun.

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1936 inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame inductees: L-R: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Water Johnson (Wikimedia Commons / public domain)

This day in baseball: Dizzy Dean and Al Simmons elected to HoF

On January 21, 1953, Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean and A’s outfielder Al Simmons were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). Notably, Joe DiMaggio, who was in his first year of eligibility, was not elected and would instead have to wait until 1955, his third year on the ballot.

Al_Simmons_(1937) - Wikipedia
Al Simmons, 1937 (Wikipedia)

This day in baseball: 1945 Hall of Fame balloting

On January 10, 1945, it was announced that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) did not elect any new members for the Hall of Fame that year. The top vote-earners were Frank Chance (72.5%), Rube Waddell (62.3%), and Ed Walsh (55.5%). Though they fell short of the necessary three-fourths of the ballots to be selected, all three would become inductees when chosen by the Veterans’ committee in 1946.

To Timothy H. Murnane, by Ralph E. McMillin

Tim Murnane was a former first baseman and center fielder turned sportswriter during the late-19th to early-20th century. He was considered the leading baseball writer at The Boston Globe for about 30 years until his death. While writing, he also organized and led professional sports leagues and helped govern the baseball industry. In 1946, the Baseball Hall of Fame established the Honor Rolls of Baseball and named Murnane one of twelve writers to be honored. He was also selected by the BBWAA as a recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball journalism in 1978.

*

Pack up his bats, pick up his glove,
For him the Game is done;
At last the stars peep out above
The setting of the sun.
Once more the field, serene at night,
Is still, and hushed the shout.
The Presence chokes us as we write
Just this: “He ran it out.”

Above the plate Time held the ball:
He turned the last gray bag
With stride that weakened not at all.
His spirit did not lag,
But proudly Homeward bound he sped,
Nor feared the final rout.
High flung at last the silver’d head,
Unbowed “he ran it out.”

Video tour of Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame

Earlier this month, TheDailyWoo posted this video of his trip to Cooperstown, New York and his walk through the Baseball Hall of Fame. I had the opportunity to visit the town and the museum a few years ago, and this video was a nice reminder of the sights and the atmosphere of the Cooperstown experience. The town is full of nostalgia, the Hall of Fame museum is awe-inspiring, and this video reflects those feelings well.

Quote of the day

Don’t shed any tears. You think about this. Here I am, the grandson of a slave. And here the whole world was excited about whether I was going into the Hall of Fame or not. We’ve come a long ways.

~Buck O’Neil

Buck O'Neil
Buck O’Neil with the Kansas City Monarchs (public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Mike Schmidt’s Hall of Fame induction speech

Mike Schmidt played 18 seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, and in that time, Schmidt was a 12-time All-Star and a three-time National League MVP. Over the course of his career, Schmidt hit 548 home runs, including 40 or more home runs in three separate seasons and 30 or more home runs in ten other seasons. He also won ten Gold Glove Awards and was named The Sporting News Player of the Decade for the 1980s.

Mike Schmidt was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. In his induction speech below, I particularly like Schmidt’s discussions on positive encouragement for kids and on the need for baseball to reconnect with its fans.

Phil Rizzuto’s Hall of Fame induction speech

Philip Francis Rizzuto was born September 25, 1917, and he spent his entire 13-year major league career (1941-1956) with the New York Yankees. During that time, the Yankees won an astonishing 10 American League pennants and seven World Championships.

From 1943 to 1945, Rizzuto spent some time away from MLB for a stint in the military, serving in the United States Navy during World War II. During those two years, he played on a Navy baseball team, alongside Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese.

In 1950, Rizzuto was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. He was known as a terrific defensive player, with 1,217 career double plays and a .968 career fielding average.

After his playing career, Rizzuto enjoyed a 40-year career as a radio and television sports announcer for the Yankees. He was particularly known for his trademark expression, “Holy cow!”

Phil Rizzuto was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994. He died in his sleep on August 13, 2007.

Rizzuto’s induction speech is a hoot. Enjoy!

Baseball rituals and superstitions on Friday the 13th

A lot of people get anxious on Friday the 13th, in the same way they get anxious around black cats or freak out about a broken mirror. There’s even a name to describe this apprehension of the date: paraskevidekatriaphobia (but don’t ask me to pronounce that).

Anyone who’s ever watched Major League knows that baseball players can be particularly superstitious. And while most ballplayers likely are not offering tributes to a Voodoo shrine, major league players do find more subtle ways to try to draw good fortune to their performance.

Major League (1989)

Some of the most common rituals include kissing religious necklaces, making the sign of the cross, pointing towards the sky after a home run, eating a particular meal before a game, or even not grooming (or, perhaps, grooming a particular way) on game day. When a team is behind, the rally cap has become a popular way among players and fans both to try to help their team rally to victory.

During a winning streak, some players will refuse to wash their hats, helmets, or uniforms — and some fans will do the same. Some players will abstain from sex on game day, or, in the spirit of Bull Durham, during a winning streak. If a particular bat or glove is deemed “lucky,” it will become a popular item among the players of a team.

And, of course, if a no-hitter or a perfect game is in progress, nobody should ever, ever talk about it.

Wade Boggs was known as a particularly superstitious player, even nicknamed the “Chicken Man,” due to his routine of eating copious amounts of chicken every day. According to Boggs:

It started in ’77. I had a Minor League budget and a growing family to feed. Chicken was cheap and I really felt better eating lighter food rather than a lot of heavy meat and gravy. Then I noticed my batting average going up. Ever since I’ve been a `chicketarian.’

Sporting News

In addition, Boggs would write the Hebrew symbol for life, “Chai,” in the batter’s box before every at-bat, and he also made sure to take 117 ground balls (some places report the number was 150) during every practice. Something about Boggs’s routine definitely worked for him, considering his five batting titles, 12 All-Star Games, and induction into the Hall of Fame.

Other famous players with superstitious rituals included Joe DiMaggio, who would always run from the outfield and touch second base before going into the dugout. Pitcher Tim Wakefield would eat a pound of spaghetti before any game he started, and Justin Verlander is said to eat tacos before every start. Mark McGwire used to wear the same cup from his high school playing days — at least, until it was stolen.

There’s not much information specific to Friday the 13th superstitions among baseball players, but no doubt, they exist. When the upcoming date was brought up with Phillies manager Pete Mackanin on Thursday, May 12th, 2016, Mackanin responded, “I wish you didn’t tell me that.”

Buck O’Neil on Ty Cobb

I vaguely recall hearing a reference to Buck O’Neil’s thoughts on Ty Cobb at some point, but this might be the first time I’ve ever seen this interview. My hat’s off to Buck — I don’t think I could be nearly so forgiving and compassionate if it were me in his shoes. I’m so glad this man is finally going to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.