In a year dotted with headline grabbing news events set across the globe, 1936 also proved to be an important one for the village of Cooperstown. For it was then, in those embryonic early stages, that the greats of the baseball world would first begin the process of eternal enshrinement.
It was 75 years ago that the calendar saw Franklin D. Roosevelt win a second term as president of the United States, the death of England’s King George V and the publication of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind.” But the national pastime also saw its share of big events, ranging from the big league debuts of legends Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller to the Yankees winning their first of four consecutive World Series.
But it was also in Cooperstown, where today hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world make the trek every year to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, that the results of country-wide election would first be released and forever stamp it as home to the game’s elite.
While a National Baseball Museum had been in place in Cooperstown since April 1935, plans for a Hall of Fame were first announced on August 15 of the same year. Unsure if the honorees would be recognized with busts, statues, plaques or pictures, the first election was to result in a Big Ten — five stars from the 19th century and five from 1900 onward. Membership in this exclusive fraternity was to be determined by a nationwide vote among sportswriters and editors, with final decisions resting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Later that year, on Dec. 23, 1935, a list of candidates was produced by Henry P. Edwards, secretary of both the American League’s Service Bureau and BBWAA. By this point, 10 players from the 20th century and five from pre-1900 were expected to be elected. The list of modern players were sent to each member of the BBWAA, while the stars prior to 1900 were to be selected by a committee of veteran baseball men best qualified to choose them.