There was no regular election in 1944 to select inductees to the National
Baseball Hall of Fame; in 1939 the Baseball
Writers Association of America (BBWAA) had moved to hold elections
every three years rather than annually, and the next scheduled election
was to be in 1945. In addition, the 4-member Old-Timers Committee formed
in late 1939 to select deserving individuals from the 19th century had
still never met for that purpose, and criticism of the lack of honorees
from that period was increasing.
On August 4, 1944, baseball commissioner Kenesaw
Mountain Landis named three new members to the Hall of Fame Committee,
in addition to the four already named; he instructed them to put aside any
delay and choose at least 10 individuals from the period 1876-1900 when
they met early in 1945, in order that those
selected might be honored concurrently with any elected by the BBWAA in
their regular election in January. This was a goal the committee members
believed they would have no problem meeting, and some noted that the
number of deserving players was probably over two dozen. The previously
named committee members were: Yankees president Ed Barrow; Athletics
owner/manager Connie Mack; New York sportswriter Sid Mercer; and Braves
president Bob Quinn. The newly named members were: Hall of Fame president
Stephen C. Clark, who would chair the committee; Hall of Fame treasurer
Paul S. Kerr, who would serve as committee secretary; and Boston
sportswriter Mel Webb.
Landis died on November 25, 1944, even as plans were being made to
extend his contract for a new 7-year term. Within days, the public and
press strongly advocated his immediate election to the Hall. Two weeks
after Landis' death, the Old-Timers Committee met at baseball's winter
meetings in New York City and unanimously moved to elect Landis to
membership in the Hall of Fame; Connie Mack sent his approval of the
move by telegram from California, where he was vacationing. The members
stated that any delay in electing Landis might have been resulted in an
unfortunate increase in public pressure, possibly creating the impression
that the move was somehow forced rather than voluntary. The committee also
suggested that if the upcoming BBWAA election failed to select any players
whose careers extended into the early 20th century, some would be selected
by the committee when they met again in February 1945.
Landis was formally inducted into the Hall of Fame on June 13, 1946,
with New York Governor Thomas Dewey unveiling his plaque in Cooperstown.
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