“They started something here and the kids are keeping the ball rolling. I hope some of you kids will be in the Hall of Fame. I’m very glad that in my day I was able to earn my place. And I hope youngsters today have the same opportunity to experience such feeling.”
Those were the words of baseball legend Babe Ruth as he gave his acceptance speech upon his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on June 12, 1939. At the time, future hall of famer Yogi Berra was 11, Duke Snider and Robin Roberts were 12, Ernie Banks, 8, and Henry Aaron, only 4.
Hall of Fame records show about 15,000 people came to Main Street to watch the first ceremony, which was held across the street from the post office on the museum’s original front steps.
The stage was set up in front of the Hall of Fame on Main Street at what is now the office entrance to the building.The ceremony included members from the 1936-39 induction classes.
Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson has said the weekend celebration has evolved from four hours of events in 1939 to a “four-day baseball extravaganza today.” The Induction itself has changed locations twice over the decades as more and more fans have chosen to be in Cooperstown to honor their heroes, according to Idelson.
Festivities were moved to Cooper Park in 1968. In 1992, they were moved to the grounds of the Clark Sports Center to accommodate larger crowds.
According to its website, The Hall of Fame is composed of 300 elected members, including those elected by the Pre-Integration Era Committee in December. Included are 208 former major league players, 28 executives, 35 Negro Leaguers, 19 managers and 10 umpires. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America has elected 112 candidates to the Hall while the Committees on managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players (in all of its forms) has chosen 162 candidates (96 major leaguers, 28 executives, 19 managers, nine Negro Leaguers and 10 umpires). The defunct “Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues” selected nine men between 1971 and 1977 and the Special Committee on Negro Leagues in 2006, elected 17 Negro Leaguers.