SABR Surveys

The first SABR survey, to decide which old-timers deserved to be in the Hall of Fame, appeared in the 1972 Baseball Research Journal. None of the 42 ballots submitted named George Kelly, the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee choice that year. All ten of the top vote-getters; Sam Thompson, Chuck Klein, Roger Connor, Mickey Welch, Arky Vaughan, Earl Averill, Amos Rusie, Ernie Lombardi, Jim Bottomley, and Hack Wilson, are now in the Hall of Fame.

Other SABR surveys included (in 1973) Best fielders (the winners were Sisler, Collins, Brooks Robinson, Wagner, Cochrane, Speaker, Mays, DiMaggio, and Shantz); Non-players who made valuable contributions and Best foreign-born players (1974); Best players by state and Best state all-star teams (1975); Best individual games ever played (1976); More on Best old-timers not in the Hall of Fame (1977); Best switch-hitters (Mantle, 1979), and Best minor leaguers (1983).

The Society also conducted surveys to determine retroactive pre-1967 Cy Young Awards in 1988. A similar survey to choose retroactive pre-1949 Rookie of the Year winners appeared as an article by Lyle Spatz in the 1986 Baseball Research Journal.

For more than 30 years, the Society conducted a Centennial Celebrity Survey to elect the most famous baseball figure born 100 years ago. Mordecai Brown was the first winner in 1976 and the Society later held retroactive voting back to the year of 1871 when Iron Man Joe McGinnity came out with top honors. Winners have included the obvious players like John McGraw, Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Tris Speaker, but also produced a few unexpected ones such as Art Fletcher and Ray Schalk. Here is the list of winners:

SABR Centennial Celebrity survey winners

2002    Al Simmons
2001    Heine Manush
2000    Lefty Grove
1999    Pie Traynor
1998    Frankie Frisch
1997    Lefty O’Doul
1996    Rogers Hornsby
1995    Babe Ruth
1994    Harry Heilmann
1993    George Sisler
1992    Ray Schalk
1991    Dazzy Vance
1990    Casey Stengel
1989    Joe Jackson
1988    Tris Speaker
1987    Walter Johnson
1986    Ty Cobb
1985    Art Fletcher
1984    Ed Cicotte
1983    “Chief” Bender
1982    Ed Reulbach
1981    Branch Rickey
1980    Christy Mathewson
1979    Miller Huggins
1978    Mike Donlin
1977    Frank Chance
1976    Mordecai Brown
1975    Napoleon Lajoie
1974    Honus Wagner

(Editor's note: Subsequent research by SABR Biographical Research Committee members has revealed that some years of birth were found to be in error. Napoleon Lajoie is now shown as born in 1874, Frank Chance in 1876, Chief Bender in 1884 and Pie Traynor in 1898. The list above shows the survey winners as they were chosen at the time.)

Another Society survey was conducted in 1999 by Steve Nadel and Gene Sunnen. It determined SABR's choices for the greatest 100 players of the 20th century. The choices were the subject of Baseball Weekly's June 23-29 cover story. SABR's Century Surveys in 1999 also chose the Top 50 Contributors to Baseball, the top 19th-century players and contributors, and the Best Umpire. (Click here to see the results of SABR's Century Surveys from the May-June 1999 SABR Bulletin.)

In 2000, SABR conducted a Current Year Player Awards survey, to determine SABR members’ picks for Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Non-Pitcher of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Reliever of the Year, and Comeback Player of the Year.

In preparation for SABR’s 40th Anniversary, a survey was conducted among members to identify the Top 40 Baseball Storylines from 1971-2011. (Click here to see the results.)

Beginning in 2009, SABR's Nineteenth Century Research Committee has selected an annual Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend — a 19th century player, manager, executive or other baseball personality not yet inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The project has helped raise awareness of early baseball stars and pioneers who might have been otherwise forgotten. The 2010 Overlooked Legend, James "Deacon" White, was elected to the Hall of Fame just three years later in 2013. Click here to learn more about the Overlooked 19th Century Legends Project.

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