Baseball’s History and Its Future
by James Vlietstra
The very first professional baseball game took place on May 4, 1871 when the Fort Wayne Kekiongas defeated the Cleveland Forest Citys 2-0. It’s been over 149 years since those 18 men took the field. When Michael King of the New York Yankees made his debut on September 27, 2019, he became the 19,683rd player to do so.
In 1936, five players were voted to be the first Hall Of Fame class. Of all the players that have played, only an additional 230 have joined them in receiving this honor. The 2020 induction class was supposed to take place on July 26 in the sleepy upstate New York village of Cooperstown. It was to feature newly elected players Ted Simmons, Larry Walker, and Derek Jeter.
Going to this village is like stepping back in time. The museum, opened in 1939, is visited annually by 260,000 people. It contains 250,000 photos and 14,000 hours of video. There are over 40,000 artifacts, many of which are locked in the basement in a controlled environment to preserve them. The history contained there truly is amazing.
However, because of its location, the sport of baseball is doing itself a disservice by leaving it there. I am the biggest baseball fan of anyone I know. I live a three hours drive away and I have only been there twice in my life. It’s not really near anything nor easy to get to.
Here is my proposal of how baseball should change its museum to promote its history along with its future. After that, I’m going to include some interesting facts I discovered while doing the research.
First off, the Hall of Fame induction should coincide with the All-Star Game, at the site of the Mid-Summer Classic. Allow today’s stars to celebrate along with the players who paved the way. Professional wrestling’s biggest brand, WWE, does just that by having their celebration the night before Wrestlemania. Have the Home Run derby Monday, Hall Of Fame Tuesday, All-Star game Wednesday, off day Thursday and back to playing on Friday.
As far as the building, it should be erected at baseball’s holiest site, the original Yankees Stadium. Build it to allow for all the artifacts to be able to be safely displayed. Make it modern and interactive. Include video games. Invite HOFers to regularly be present. Televise lectures and discussions.
Instead of 260,000 visitors, there would be millions annually. I personally would buy lifetime passes for myself and my family and would go several times a year. It would no longer be out of sight and mind but would be a living museum right here in the greatest city on earth.
The new Yankees Stadium has not yet hosted an All-Star game. Coordinate the construction to be completed so the opening, induction ceremony, and All-Star game can all occur during one grand celebration.
At this celebration, there’s a list of people I would like to see inducted into the Hall. Maybe their stats as a player aren’t quite enough, but add to it their contributions as a manager, coach, announcer, executive, or some other aspect is enough to give them the boost.
This is my (probably incomplete) list of ELIGIBLE players that were not enshrined by the Baseball Writers Association Of America (BBWAA) that I feel are worthy candidates (Jackson, Rose, and players still on the ballot not included):
Dick Allen Albert Belle Bruce Bochy Larry Bowa John Davidson Curt Flood Keith Hernandez Gil Hodges Elston Howard Tommy John Jim Kaat Don Mattingly Minnie Minoso Thurman Munson Buck O’Neill George Steinbrenner Bill White Don Zimmer
These players were inducted into the Hall in less than the customary 5 year waiting period: Babe Ruth Lou Gehrig Mel Ott Carl Hubbell Joe DiMaggio Roberto Clemente
Of the 81 living members these are the oldest: Tommy Lasorda Whitey Ford Willie Mays Whitey Herzog Hank Aaron Luis Aparício Bud Selig Bob Gibson Sandy Koufax Bill Mazeroski
Longest active length of membership: Sandy Koufax (elected in 1972) Whitey Ford 1974 Willie Mays 1979 Bob Gibson 1981 Hank Aaron 1982 Juan Marichal 1983 Brooks Robinson 1983 Luis Aparício 1984 Lou Brock 1985 Billy Williams 1987 Johnny Bench 1989 Carl Yastrzemski 1989 Joe Morgan 1990 Jim Palmer 1990
Years most players elected: 2006-18 1945-11 1946-11 1939-10 1953-8 1971-8 1972-8 1937-7 2017-7
Years when no players were elected: 1940 1941 1943 1950 1958 1960
Players that passed away the youngest: Ross Youngs 30-195 Addie Joss 31-002 Josh Gibson 35-030 Ed Delahanty 35-245 King Kelly 36-312 Rube Waddell 37-170 Lou Gehrig 37-348 Roberto Clemente 38-135 Arky Vaughn 40-174 Roy Halladay 40-177 Old Hoss Radbourn 42-056 Tony Lazzeri 42-243 Andy Cooper 43-040 Jose Méndez 43-309 Cristobal Torriente 44-146 Christy Mathewson 45-056 Pud Gavin 45-072 Kirby Puckett 45-357