In the wake of the recent disputed Hall of Fame vote, it is nice to know that such controversy is not anything new. For example, it took the great Rogers Hornsby several years to be voted in because of his “obnoxious personality.” Cy Young was not elected on the very first ballot because of confusion over who should vote for him, the writers or the veterans committee. And the notorious prickly Ty Cobb showed up late to his induction because he didn’t want to be photographed with Commissioner Kenesaw Landis. These and other stories are included Dennis Corcoran’s fine book “Induction Day at Cooperstown.”
The book is organized by year, detailing every election and induction ceremony. It does not get bogged down in minor details; rather, it gives a broad overview with just enough information to suffice.
It was interesting to read about the evolution of the ballot, how it eventually got to the point where we are at now — a player having to be retired for five years, writers voting for up to 10 players, players being on the ballot for 15 years, etc. These rules have been in place for as long as most of us can remember, but it was not always that way. Did you know that at one point there used to be a runoff election if the writers did not elect anyone? That was done away with years ago.
Also fascinating was that at first, it appeared the Hall of Fame was not such a big deal. In the early days, players did not always show up for their induction. In fact, in 1947, none of the four inductees — Carl Hubbell, Frankie Frisch, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove — bothered to attend. That would never happen now.
Fans didn’t bother, either. For decades only a couple of thousand people would turn out for the festivities, as opposed to the 75,000 who came out in 2007 to see Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn enshrined.
“Induction Day at Cooperstown” is a unique work in that while we all know about the Hall of Fame and the players in it, we really do not know the backstories of the elections. Now we do. This is a must-read for any baseball fan.
By the way, you can buy the book directly from the author and save a few bucks. You can email Dennis Corcoran at firstname.lastname@example.org.