The Hall was founded at the instigation of Ford Frick[?], then president of the National League, in 1936 in order to honour the greatest players of the past. The first inductees were announced on January 29. Cooperstown was chosen as its site due to the commonly held idea that the game was devised and first played there, helped by the success of a small local museum of baseball. The Hall was inaugurated by the induction of five legendary players, although the physical buildings that house the Hall and museum were not opened until 1939.
Players and executives are elected to the Hall by the Baseball Writers of America. A player must be retired for five years and must have played ten or more seasons in order to be eligible. A voter may place up to ten such players on his or her ballot each year. To be elected, a player must be named on 75% of the ballots cast.
In 2001, the Hall of Fame instituted rule changes governing the Veterans Committee. Players are removed from the BBWAA ballot after 15 years, or after failing to obtain 5% of the vote in a given year. Any such player, after having been retired from the major leagues for 22 years, is eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee. The VC will vote on players every other year, instead of every year, starting in 2003. The Veterans Committee was expanded to include all living Hall of Famers and all living winners of the Ford Frick and Spink awards. They will consider old-time players every two years, and will hold elections for managers, umpires, and executives every four years. The Veterans Committee is also responsible for consideration of Negro League players, but rules for that consideration are being held off temporarily while a study of African-American baseball is conducted.
Excluded from consideration for membership in the Hall, in addition to players not meeting the requirements given above, are people who have been declared ineligible by Major League Baseball. The most notable names on the list are Pete Rose, who was declared ineligible for matters related to allegations that Rose gambled on baseball, and the eight players implicated in the Black Sox scandal of 1919.
On January 7, 2003, the BBWAA elected Gary Carter[?] and Eddie Murray[?] to Cooperstown. Eddie became the 38th member of the 256 elected to date to be elected in his first year of eligibility. The new Veteran's Committee failed to induct anybody.
The J.G. Taylor Spink Award is a lifetime achievement award given to print journalists, and the Ford Frick Award is similarly given to broadcast journalists. (When someone is described as a "Hall-of-Fame broadcaster" or a "member of the sportswriters' wing of the Hall of Fame", what is meant is that this person is a recipient of one of these awards. There is no separate "wing" for awardees, and winners do not receive a plaque as do elected players. Both awards are, however, considered high honors.)
There are 256 members of the Hall of Fame, including 191 former major league players, 23 executives or pioneers, 18 Negro leaguers, 16 managers, and 8 umpires.
The first players elected to the Hall of Fame, in 1936, were the following:
The original intent had been to elect ten players the first year, five from the 19th century and five from the 20th century. The Old-Timers Committee was unable to agree on five candidates, however, leaving the 19th century greats out.
Only two people uninvolved in playing, managing or developing the game of baseball have are featured in the Hall of Fame museum: Abbott and Costello, in honor of their famous Who's On First? comedy routine.
The following is a list of all Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, along with the year in which they were inducted.