Baseball Hall Of Fame Prepares To Welcome Its Newest Members From The Today’s Game Era Committee – Forbes
The 115th annual Baseball Winter Meetings are finally upon us and for five days this week the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland will be the temporary home for the business of baseball. One of the most intriguing aspects of the Baseball Winter Meetings occurs at its outset when the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announces its annual Eras Committees election results. While the construction of the various committees has undergone significant revisions, name changes, and iterations since 1937, it has been well documented that some versions of the committees have been subjected to intense scrutiny and even occasional controversy.
In truth, some of the various committees’ selections of ball players, umpires, and executives are highly questionable due to the obvious presence of cronyism. For instance, baseball historians have focused in on the period of time in which “The Fordham Flash” and Class of 1947 Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch (1967-1973) was an influential member and eventual chairman of the Committee of Baseball Veterans. A laundry list of former teammates from his days with the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals eventually found their way into the hallowed plaque gallery in Cooperstown. According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the various Eras Committees throughout the years have elected 165 individuals while the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has only elected 121 ball players. Two special Negro Leagues committees (1971-1977 and 2006) elected 26 individuals. In total, there are only 312 elected members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
One must not forget the true essence and spirit of the Eras Committees. Each of the committees has the enormous responsibility to seriously reconsider ball players who are no longer eligible for election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Also, it is an extraordinary opportunity to bestow upon managers, executives, and umpires with the sport’s greatest honor for meritorious service and contributions of profound significance. For some, it’s viewed as a second chance at baseball immortality while others view it as a back door into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum since the ball player failed to garner at least 75 percent of support on any ballot from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. In some cases, the ball players never received double digit support during their time on the ballots for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The recently formed Eras Committees now represent four distinct eras in baseball’s vast history: Today’s Game (1988-Present), Modern Baseball (1970-1987), Golden Days (1950-1969), and Early Baseball (1871-1949). In an attempt to inject the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum with a much needed shot of adrenaline over the next four years, the Today’s Game Committee will consider candidates for election in 2017 and 2019 and the Modern Baseball Committee will consider candidates for election in 2018 and 2020. In other words, two of the new Eras Committees have been presented with a unique opportunity to elect individuals who are relevant to today’s baseball fans and are likely to strike an emotional chord. Everyone learned an extremely valuable lesson from the Class of 2013 where the Baseball Writers’ Association of America failed to elect a single ball player and the Pre-Integration Era Committee selected three individuals who hadn’t walked the face of earth since 1939. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum cannot exist in its current structure where ball players from previous generations of long ago are represented in great abundance while there isn’t a deep and meaningful connection to ball players, managers, and executives whose impact has been felt within the latter part of the twentieth century.
A robust induction class with relevance to today’s baseball fans is of paramount importance to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as well as the village of Cooperstown. Over an eight year period beginning in 2007 and ending in 2014, the museum’s estimated average yearly attendance was 287,032. A significant portion of fans visit during the summer months, especially during Hall of Fame Weekend. Since the unfortunate circumstances regarding the 2013 Hall of Fame Weekend where an estimated 2,500 people attended the ceremony at the Clark Sports Center, an explosion of visitors have descended upon Cooperstown over the past three years to participate in the festivities. It is estimated that an average of 47,667 fans per year have attended the Hall of Fame Weekend due to the highly popular and extremely relevant induction classes.
The members of the Today’s Game Committee have several serious decisions to make that go well beyond the candidacies of Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner. While both men have undoubtedly made monumental contributions to the business of baseball and have been transformative figures within the sport, controversy also clouds their candidacies. Selig will be eternally remembered for presiding over the sport during a period of rampant abuse of performance enhancing substances as well as several iconic and beloved records being shattered by cheaters and liars. Steinbrenner’s multiple indiscretions, conflicts, and adversaries are legendary.
Steinbrenner has already appeared on the Expansion Era Committee twice (2010 and 2013) and has fared quite poorly. In 2010, he received fewer than eight votes from the committee and in 2013 he received less than six votes. In both cases, twelve votes were required of the sixteen member committee. Instead of the eleven American League pennants, seven World Series titles, and restoring the New York Yankees to global prominence, Steinbrenner’s numerous flaws and blatant disregard for just about anything non-Yankees related have greatly overshadowed his candidacy.
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