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"I don't want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it."
--Rogers Hornsby


1939 Hall of Fame Results

George Sisler, Eddie Collins and Willie Keeler were voted in by the writers for 1939. Lou Gehrig was also voted unanimously to add Lou Gehrig in December of 1939 "to commemorate the year in which he achieved his record." The record in question was the 2130 consecutive games played streak that ended earlier that year. No more elections were held until 1942.

Voting by Year

The 1939 elections to select inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame were the last ones conducted prior to the Hall's opening that year. Needing just one addition to complete the initial goal of 10 inductees from the 20th century, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) were once again given authority to select any players active in the 20th century, excepting active players. Difficulties in convening the Centennial Commission of the previous two years led to an even smaller Old-Timers Committee selecting inductees from the 19th century - a cause of particular urgency to many who had been anticipating the five promised but unfulfilled selections in that area for over three years.

The "Old-Timers Committee" elected Cap Anson, Charlie Comiskey, Candy Cummings, Buck Ewing, Old Hoss Radbourn and Al Spalding (see below.)

In the BBWAA election, voters were instructed to cast votes for 10 candidates; any candidate receiving votes on at least 75% of the ballots would be honored with induction to the Hall upon its opening in Cooperstown, New York on June 12 of that year. After the Hall's opening, a special election was also held in December. Because the initial goal for the Hall's opening of selecting 10 players from the 20th century had now been met, it was further decided to delay the next election until 1942, even though observers widely believed that electing three players per year (12 had been elected in four regular BBWAA elections) had turned out to be an ideal rate.

A total of 274 ballots were cast, with 2710 individual votes for 108 specific candidates; 206 votes were required for election. Although three stars of the 1920s did very well, the balloting was otherwise dominated by players of the 1900s and 1910s, who many voters felt should be given priority. Players who had been retired over 20 years received 60% of the votes, and accounted for 14 of the top 20 in the balloting. Due to frustration over the fact that no 19th century players had yet been selected, a number of players from that era whose careers extended into the 20th century only briefly (or not at all) even received some votes, as did some managers. The results were announced in January 1939.

Votes by members of the BBWAA were tabulated by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. At least 206 votes were needed to be elected. (Winners in bold.)

George Sisler 235 85.8% P 4th
Eddie Collins 213 77.7% P 4th
Willie Keeler 207 75.5% P 5th
Rube Waddell 179 65.3% P 4th
Rogers Hornsby 176 64.2% P 4th
Frank Chance 158 57.7% P 4th
Ed Delahanty 145 52.9% P 5th
Ed Walsh 132 48.2% P 4th
Johnny Evers 107 39.1% P 4th
Miller Huggins 97 35.4% M 3rd
Rabbit Maranville 82 29.9% P 3rd
Jimmy Collins 72 26.3% P 5th
Roger Bresnahan 67 24.5% P 4th
Fred Clarke 59 21.5% P 5th
Mordecai Brown 54 19.7% P 4th
Wilbert Robinson 46 16.8% M 4th
Chief Bender 40 14.6% P 4th
Herb Pennock 40 14.6% P 3rd
Ray Schalk 35 12.8% P 4th
Hugh Duffy 34 12.4% P 4th
Ross Youngs 34 12.4% P 4th
Hughie Jennings 33 12.0% P 4th
Joe McGinnity 32 11.7% P 3rd
Frank Baker 30 10.9% P 4th
Mickey Cochrane 28 10.2% P 2nd
Addie Joss 28 10.2% P 3rd
Eddie Plank 28 10.2% P 3rd
Frankie Frisch 26 9.5% P 2nd
Clark Griffith 20 7.3% P/E 3rd
Bill Terry 16 5.8% P 3rd
Dazzy Vance 15 5.5% P 4th
Johnny Kling 14 5.1% P 4th
Nap Rucker 13 4.7% P 4th
Joe Tinker 12 4.4% P 3rd
Babe Adams 11 4.0% P 3rd
Pie Traynor 10 3.6% P 3rd
Harry Heilmann 8 2.9% P 3rd
Edd Roush 8 2.9% P 4th
Max Carey 7 2.6% P 3rd
Bill Dineen 7 2.6% P 2nd
Kid Nichols 7 2.6% P 3rd
Nick Altrock 6 2.2% P 3rd
Jack Chesbro 6 2.2% P 3rd
Sam Crawford 6 2.2% P 4th
Duffy Lewis 6 2.2% P 3rd
Amos Rusie 6 2.2% P 4th
Casey Stengel 6 2.2% M 2nd
Mike Donlin 5 1.8% P 3rd
Harry Hooper 5 1.8% P 3rd
Dickie Kerr 5 1.8% P 3rd
Bobby Wallace 5 1.8% P 4th
Hank Gowdy 4 1.5% P 3rd
Rube Marquard 4 1.5% P 4th
Stuffy McInnis 4 1.5% P 3rd
Zack Wheat 4 1.5% P 3rd
Jimmy Archer 3 1.1% P 3rd
Earle Combs 3 1.1% P 3rd
Red Faber 3 1.1% P 3rd
Joe McCarthy 3 1.1% M 1st
Fred Tenney 3 1.1% P 4th
Donie Bush 2 0.7% P 2nd
Bill Carrigan 2 0.7% P 3rd
Gavvy Cravath 2 0.7% P 3rd
Lou Criger 2 0.7% P 5th
Bill Donovan 2 0.7% P 3rd
Buck Ewing 2 0.7% P 2nd
Eddie Grant 2 0.7% P 2nd
Hans Lobert 2 0.7% P 3rd
Ossee Schreckengost 2 0.7% P 3rd
Joe Wood 2 0.7% P 3rd
Dave Bancroft 1 0.4% P 3rd
Jack Barry 1 0.4% P 2nd
Marty Bergen 1 0.4% P 3rd
Bill Bradley 1 0.4% P 4th
George Burns 1 0.4% P 3rd
Wilbur Cooper 1 0.4% P 2nd
Lave Cross 1 0.4% P 1st
Jake Daubert 1 0.4% P 5th
Larry Doyle 1 0.4% P 3rd
Art Fletcher 1 0.4% P 3rd
Chick Fraser 1 0.4% P 1st
Kid Gleason 1 0.4% P 3rd
Burleigh Grimes 1 0.4% P 3rd
Charlie Grimm 1 0.4% P 1st
Noodles Hahn 1 0.4% P 1st
Jesse Haines 1 0.4% P 1st
Bucky Harris 1 0.4% M 2nd
Waite Hoyt 1 0.4% P 1st
Charlie Irwin 1 0.4% P 2nd
Sam Jones 1 0.4% P 1st
Joe Kelley 1 0.4% P 1st
Otto Knabe 1 0.4% P 1st
Tommy Leach 1 0.4% P 2nd
Herman Long 1 0.4% P 4th
Dolf Luque 1 0.4% P 3rd
Sherry Magee 1 0.4% P 3rd
Pat Moran 1 0.4% P 3rd
Art Nehf 1 0.4% P 3rd
Roger Peckinpaugh 1 0.4% P 3rd
Heinie Peitz 1 0.4% P 1st
Hub Perdue 1 0.4% P 2nd
Deacon Phillippe 1 0.4% P 1st
Al Schacht 1 0.4% P 1st
Everett Scott 1 0.4% P 3rd
Urban Shocker 1 0.4% P 2nd
Jake Stahl 1 0.4% P 2nd
Harry Steinfeldt 1 0.4% P 2nd
Hack Wilson 1 0.4% P 2nd

Source: National Baseball Hall of Fame. Special thanks to Keith Hemmelman for compiling the data.

Old Timers Committee

As the opening of the Hall approached, criticism mounted that no 19th century figures who were known primarily as players had yet been selected, when basic plans nearly four years earlier had promised five as an ideal initial number. In addition, the 6-member Centennial Commission which had selected honorees in the previous two years never had an opportunity to meet. As a result, a smaller committee of only three members - Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, National League president Ford Frick, and American League president Will Harridge - was formed to choose appropriate honorees; their selections were announced on May 2, less than 6 weeks before the Hall's opening. They chose six inductees, all of whom were deceased; of the 13 committee selections between 1937 and 1939, only Connie Mack was still living at the time of the Hall's opening (his Athletics played in the inaugural Hall of Fame game). The committee's choices included the two players who had tied for first in the failed 1936 Veterans vote (the 3rd- and 4th-place finishers had by this time been selected by the BBWAA; the 6th-place choice had been selected by an earlier committee):

  • Cap Anson, a star first baseman and racist from the 1870s through the late 1890s, and also a successful manager, who is now widely recognized as the first player to collect 3000 hits in the topmost professional leagues; and
  • Buck Ewing, the game's premier catcher in the 1880s and early 1890s.

The remaining inductees were:

  • Old Hoss Radbourn, who won 309 games in an 11-year career in the 1880s, including a record 60 wins in 1884; he had finished 7th in the 1936 vote
  • Al Spalding, the game's best pitcher in the 1870s (252 wins from 1871 to 1876), who managed Chicago to the first NL pennant and later became not only part owner of the team and the club president, but also the founder of a major sporting goods company
  • Charlie Comiskey, a defensive standout at first base in the 1880s who also managed his team to four consecutive pennants and later became the longtime owner of the Chicago White Sox
  • Candy Cummings, who the committee members decided had the strongest claim to having invented the curveball, though some evidence now shows that it predates Cummings.

Hall of Fame References

Baseball's Hall of Fame: Cooperstown--Where the Legends Live Forever by Lowell Reidenbaugh
A Legend for the Legendary: The Origin of the Baseball Hall of Fame by James A. Vlasich
The Politics Of Glory, How Baseball Hall Of Fame Really Works by Bill James
Whatever Happened To The Hall Of Fame? by Bill James

Out by a Step: The 100 Best Players Not in the Baseball Hall of Fame
by Mike Shalin
Total Baseball: The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopedia
by John Thorn, et al.
2006 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia by Gary Gillette (Editor), Pete Palmer (Editor).

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George Sisler

Photo Courtesy Library of Congress

Total ballots cast: 274

Ballots necessary for election: 206

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