The 1949 election to select inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame
proceeded using the same rules as the successful elections in the previous
two years, with the Baseball
Writers Association of America (BBWAA) again authorized to elect
players retired less than 25 years.
Committee, which had not met since 1946 to make further selections
from among those players retired more than 25 years, finally responded to
renewed calls for them to elect more of the game's earlier stars.
The Initial Ballot
The 10-year members of the BBWAA had the authority to select any
players active in 1924 or later, provided they had not been active in
1948. 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 a runoff election.
A total of 153 ballots were cast, with 1409 individual votes for 98
specific candidates; 115 votes were required for election. The results
were announced in February 1949. For the first time in three elections
following the most recent format change, no candidate received 75% of the
vote, and a runoff was necessary.
As had been true the previous year, a large number of players received
votes, though few players were named who had not appeared in the 1948 vote
apart from the newly eligible 1947 retirees (prominently, Mel Ott and Hank
Greenberg); every still-eligible player who received more than 2 votes in
1948 was again named. 66 of those named received votes on less than 5% of
the ballots, with 28 receiving only a single vote; every candidate had
been eligible at some point in the past - for some, the 1936 election in
which active players were eligible.
Greenberg's eligibility was questioned by some voters, as he had been
listed on the Cleveland Indians' active roster for part of the 1948 season
as a precautionary move against injuries to other players. However, he was
removed from the active roster once it became clear that his position as
an Indians executive precluded any playing role, and he did not appear in
any games; nonetheless, some voters maintained that his inclusion on the
roster made him an active player and thus ineligible for election in 1949.
Once again, the focus was now on the most recent players; those who had
retired before 1932 receded even further in the voting. Only 2 of the top
22 candidates, and none of the top 15, had retired before 1932; 12 of the
20 players reaching the runoff had been active in 1941 or later. Of the 98
players named, only 24 retired before 1930; they received only 9% of the
vote. Three players who had retired before 1924 (none earlier than 1921)
and were officially ineligible nevertheless received a single vote each;
this was a notable reduction from the previous year's total of 23 votes
for such now-ineligible candidates. Votes for those best known as managers
again appeared, though only for those who were eligible as players and not
to the same extent as in 1948, perhaps due to an expectation of more
selections from the Old-Timers Committee.
Chief Bender, who was technically eligible due to a single inning
pitched in 1925, received only 2 votes - a continued drop from his past
prominence on the ballot; as with the previous election, it seems either
that most voters were unaware of his eligibility or that they viewed it as
irrelevant to the spirit of the rules. There was also some confusion as to
the cutoff year for eligibility; some writers believed it to be 1927 or
1928 rather than 1924. Dizzy Dean, whose eligibility in 1948 had been
questioned due to a single appearance in a 1947 game, returned to the same
level he had attained in the 1947 election. Unlike the 1948 election, no
players active in the previous year received votes.
The top 20 candidates, who had each received 20 or more votes, advanced
to the runoff election.
Source: National Baseball Hall of
Fame. Special thanks to Keith Hemmelman for compiling the data.
The Runoff Election
From the 20 final candidates listed on the ballot, voters were
instructed to cast votes for five; they were aware of the totals from the
first election. Any candidates receiving votes on at least 75% of the
ballots would be elected and honored with induction to the Hall. A total
of 187 ballots were cast, with 920 individual votes for the 20 candidates;
141 votes were required for election. The results were announced on May 5;
exactly one player reached the threshold of 75% and was therefore elected.
The more recent players once again figured more prominently in the
voting, with the top 6 candidates retired less than 7 years. There was
much criticism from those who disliked the runoff process, believing it
amounted to two virtually identical elections in a row; with the
candidates finishing in roughly the same order both times, many voters
felt they were essentially being encouraged to vote for the top candidates
from the first ballot in order to ensure at least one selection. As a
result, the rules were again revised by the Hall of Fame Committee, and
the runoff procedure was eliminated after 1949; it would not be reinstated
until after the 1960 election.
The induction ceremonies were held in Cooperstown on June 13, with
Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey officiating. The two 1948
selectees being formally inducted as well; Pie Traynor was present.
Charlie Gehringer, however, was unable to attend, as he was in California
preparing for his wedding on June 18.
was the sole candidate who received at least 75% of the vote and
was elected; all the remaining candidates have since been selected in
subsequent elections, with 16 of the 20 chosen by 1956, and the last (Tony
Lazzeri) in 1991.
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