Cooperstown seems an unlikely seat of power for America’s second sport, but the sleepy village buried deep in New York State is home to the baseball fan’s mecca, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Hall of Fame has been a fixed part of the baseball landscape since its inception in 1936, when five players – including Babe Ruth – were inducted following a vote by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), and this 105-year-old organisation is still responsible for the selection of new ‘Hall of Famers’.
The election process has been subject to considerable amendment and alteration over the years, with everything from the eligibility criteria to the frequency of the vote reviewed and revisited. Currently, a potential candidate must have been retired from Major League Baseball for at least five years, but must have played at that level in the past twenty years – thus for the 2013 vote, players must have played at least part of their career between 1993 and 2008.
They are also required to have completed ten or more Championship seasons, some part of which must fall within the twenty-year window, while being on baseball’s ineligible list (a blacklist of players indefinitely or permanently banned from Major or Minor League baseball) unsurprisingly removes you from the running.
To date, no player has ever been removed from the Hall of Fame, despite it hosting some less-than angelic types. Indeed, one of its inaugural members, Ty Cobb, was a heavily divisive character even at the time, with a record of racism, violence and nastiness.
Yet he remains a 'Famer', alongside Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, who courted controversy by working as greeters for Atlantic City casinos. Both were put on baseball’s ineligible list; both are still in pride of place in Cooperstown.
To be able to vote, BBWAA members must have been active in the organisation and active baseball writers for at least ten years, and it falls to this group to vote on a ballot compiled by a Screening Committee.
They nominate up to ten candidates, and candidates with at least 75% of the vote go on to be inducted into the pantheon of baseball’s brightest stars. Candidates receiving less than 5% of the vote are dropped from future BBWAA ballots, but may be saved by the Veterans Committee, which is made up of all living Hall of Famers. This is itself divided into three smaller, more specialised, committees, which deal with non-playing personnel and long-retired players, and are called the Expansion Era Committee, the Golden Era Committee and the Pre-Integration Era Committee, the latter of which is responsible for the induction of Hank O’Day, Jacob Ruppert and Deacon White this year.