NASHVILLE -- Unless you can't get enough of James Loney, the big news coming out of the Winter Meetings this morning came from Jane Forbes Clark, whose grandfather founded the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum nearly 80 years ago. Monday, Clark announced the results of the deliberations and balloting of the Hall's committee on the Pre-Integration Era.
Upon stepping to the dais in the press room at the Gaylord Opryland resort, Clark said, "I'm very happy to tell you the committee has elected three new members to the Hall of Fame."
With that, Clark announced that longtime National League umpire Hank O'Day, longtime Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, and 19th-century catcher Deacon White will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next summer in Cooperstown, New York. O'Day and Ruppert both received votes from 15 of the 16 committee members -- 12 were necessary for election -- and White received 14 votes. Turn-of-the-century shortstop Bill Dahlen fell just short with 10 votes, while none of the other six candidates received more than three votes.
O'Day umpired for 30 years in the National League. He also won 73 games as a major-league pitcher and managed for two seasons, in one-year stints with two different clubs. But it's O'Day's time as an umpire that got him elected, and now we can only wonder what took so long. He umpired in 10 World Series, and made what's perhaps the most famous umpiring decision in major-league history.
Ruppert was such a great candidate that, according to committeeman Peter Morris, some members of the committee were surprised to learn that Ruppert wasn't already in the Hall of Fame. He owned or co-owned the Yankees from 1915 through '39, during which time the club a) acquired Babe Ruth, b) built Yankee Stadium, and c) became the most powerful franchise in American professional sports. The delay in electing Ruppert can probably be attributed to the Hall's general slugglishness when it comes to electing owners; by my count, Ruppert is just the sixth or seventh Hall of Famer inducted largely on the strength of owning a major-league franchise.
Here's what I wrote about Deacon White, when his inclusion on the ballot was announced last month:
Deacon White - 19th-century catcher, and it's always hard to know what to do with 19th-century catchers, because the demands of the position at that time -- no real mitt, no shin guards, no mask -- meant that catchers didn't play many games, or last many seasons. In fact, White shifted to other positions (mostly third base) in the latter half of his career. At 42, he was still playing every day, which probably says as much about baseball at that time than about his talents. No
After I wrote that, somebody in the comments made a pretty good case for White as an outstanding player, in his time.
This result does leave us to wonder how many more of these elections are in order. Of course it's possible that new information will be discovered about the great figures of yesteryear. But White and Dahlen were really the only good candidates among the players, and Sam Breadon (Cardinals) is probably the only pre-World War II owner with a good case.
One wonders if, at some point, the Hall of Fame will discontinue the pre-Integration part of the process. Because if there's one thing we know, it's that if you get 16 people in a room together and get them talking about Hall of Fame candidates, at the end of the day they'll probably agree on somebody.
This committee's work is largely done, though. Let's get Dahlen and Breadon in there next time, and then call it quits.