McCloskey: The alternate inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1936

From Dan McCloskey at High Heat Stats on June 11, 2013:

For some inexplicable reason, I’m just now reading Bill James’ The Politics of Glory : How Baseball’s Hall of Fame Really Works for the first time. Early in the book, James claims the original Hall of Fame class of 1936 was supposed to include five stars of the 19th century, in addition to the five “modern” greats who were so honored: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner. In fact, James goes on to say that, according to the Spalding Official Base Ball Guide 1936, the 19th-century greats were intended to be the Hall’s first five inductees.

Well, things didn’t quite work out as originally planned, as the old-timers were voted on but left out of the inaugural class, mainly because the two leaders in the voting were named on only 50.6% of ballots. Of course, with 57 names—including 30 eventual Hall of Famers—receiving at least one vote on a total of 78 ballots, it’s not difficult to understand why. That’s why I’ve decided to try and determine who those five would have (or should have) been.

The distinction between would have and should have is an interesting one. Determining the former would probably be the simple exercise of looking at what five old-timers received the most votes in that 1936 election, or were the first to be elected after the first class. But, that wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun now, would it?

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Originally published: June 11, 2013. Last Updated: June 11, 2013.