The 1947 election to select inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame
again followed a major revision of the methods used one year earlier. The
ongoing difficulties in electing modern players led the Hall of Fame
Committee to make further changes in the ballot process of the Baseball
Writers Association of America (BBWAA), and to redefine the electoral
jurisdiction of the Old-Timers Committee.
After the January 1946 BBWAA election failed to elect any inductees,
capping a 7-year period in which only 1 player had been elected, the Hall
of Fame Committee concluded that the wide field of candidates from 1900 to
the present was making it impossible for any single candidate to gain
votes on 75% of all ballots. In response, the Committee selected at its
April 1946 meeting 11 inductees, including most of the popular candidates
from the era between 1900 and 1918; there was even some support on the
committee for removing the BBWAA from the selection process entirely.
There was a great deal of criticism regarding the committee's decision in
this regard, as they had been understood to only have the capacity to
select players from the 19th century; many observers believed the
committee was infringing upon the BBWAA's jurisdiction over players of the
20th century. However, the committee met again in December 1946, and
formally revealed its previously unannounced decision that the two groups
of candidates would no longer be separated by the year 1900 but rather by
a fixed distance in time from the present day, initially set at 25 years.
Players retired before that point would be electable by the Old-Timers
Committee, with the BBWAA retaining jurisdiction over more recently
BBWAA Eligibility Revisions
The committee also revised the 2-stage method by which the BBWAA
election had been conducted in 1946.
That year's election, which saw every candidate do less well on the
final ballot than on the nominating ballot, led to the initial vote again
becoming the main election. Whereas the 1946 system required a
second ballot before electing a candidate, now a second runoff election
featuring the top 20 candidates, with the potential to select no more than
one player, would be held only if no candidate received votes from
75% of the writers in the first election. There was also no longer any
minimum number of ballots required to make the election valid.
The Hall of Fame Committee also instituted a change in the rules
regarding eligibility of voters. Previously, all members of the BBWAA were
permitted to cast ballots; however, it would now be necessary that a
writer have been a BBWAA member for ten years before becoming eligible to
vote. This resulted in fewer than half the BBWAA members casting ballots,
and a 39% reduction in the number of ballots from the previous year.
Members of the BBWAA now had the authority to select any players active
in 1922 or later, provided they had not appeared in a major league game in
1946. Just as in the elections prior to 1946, 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. If no
candidate received votes on 75% of the ballots, the top 20 candidates
would advance to the runoff election, with the vote totals from the first
ballot not being revealed until the runoff was over.
In addition to many candidates becoming ineligible due to length of
retirement, some players who had served in World War II and who had
received votes in the 1945 and 1946 elections had now become ineligible
once again as a result of appearing in major league games in 1946. Also,
the previous year's creation of the Roll
of Honor had reduced the incentive to vote for managers, as there was
a question of whether they were to be considered for this separate honor.
The reduction of the field of eligible candidates was considerable; the
players elected by the Old-Timers Committee in 1946 had received 37% of
the vote in the last BBWAA election, and had included 4 of the top 5
candidates. Players now ineligible due to retirement prior to the cutoff
point accounted for an additional 14% of the 1946 vote, and players
returning from WWII had received another 2%. Because less than half of the
previous year's votes had been cast for those still eligible, hopes had
increased that new inductees might at last be elected.
A total of 161 ballots were cast, with 1559 individual votes for 39
specific candidates; 121 votes were required for election. The results
were announced in January 1947. For the first time in three elections and
five years, the election was successful, electing four new inductees to
the Hall; it was the largest group of inductees since the initial
selections in 1936, and no runoff was necessary. The new system was
hailed as a great success, and would be used with relatively minor
revisions in the ensuing years.
The number of players receiving votes (39) was the lowest for any
election yet, and barely half of the previous year's total (76). Very few
players received votes who had not appeared in past voting, suggesting
that with the new rules in effect, many voters focused on the previous
year's results; with only weeks to complete their ballots, there was
perhaps a limited effort to look for new candidates who had retired in the
years between 1922 and 1945. With precise historical records scarce, and
little time to seek them, there may also have been some uncertainty
regarding particular candidates as to whether they had retired before or
after 1922. Chief Bender, who received 72 votes, had played his last
regular season in 1917; he was technically still eligible due to a single
inning pitched in 1925, though it is unknown whether voters were aware of
this. Bender had been - along with Mordecai Brown, an earlier figure who
was more clearly now ineligible - one of the only two pre-1920 candidates
who received over 10% of the 1946 vote without being selected later by the
Old-Timers Committee. Besides Bender, 4 other votes in the 1947 election
also went to candidates retired slightly before 1922. With a reduced
number of eligible voters, fewer candidates were named on only 1 or 2
The trend of the past several years toward earlier players was now
completely reversed; whereas players retired for well over 20 years had
been receiving 60-70% of the vote, the 1947 election saw players retired
for less than 13 years receive 73% of the vote. The top 9 candidates were
all active in 1934 or later, and those who played their last season in the
1920s received only 16% of the vote.
The new members of the Hall were formally inducted in Cooperstown on
July 21, along with the previous year's 11 selections by the Old-Timers
Committee, with National League president Ford Frick presiding. All four
new electees were still living, as were four of the earlier choices;
however, of the eight living inductees, only Ed Walsh attended the
Source: National Baseball Hall of
Fame. Special thanks to Keith Hemmelman for compiling the data.
In the wake of the successful BBWAA election, and perhaps in deference
to those critics who believed that the 21 selections by the Old-Timers
Committee in the previous two years had been too many in such a short
time, the Hall of Fame Committee did not meet in 1947 to make further
selections from among the players of the era before 1922, or to add names
to the Roll of Honor. It was believed, with some optimism, that further
revisions in the election process were currently unnecessary.
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