Vote: The Hall of Fame Inner Circle Project

Writing often about Cooperstown the past couple years, I’ve come to favor a large Hall of Fame. I don’t apologize for this, nor do I think there’d be anything wrong with a museum that would honor the likes of Dwight Evans, Alan Trammell, or Smoky Joe Wood. That being said, I understand one reason people decry the inductions of players like Travis Jackson, Tommy McCarthy, and Eppa Rixey. There isn’t much delineation in the players’ wing at Cooperstown, nothing to separate the Jacksons, McCarthys, and Rixeys of the museum from players like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Willie Mays. Every member gets the same plaque. By standards of Cooperstown, all enshrined players are, in effect, equal. Should this be so?

I’ve devised a new project to challenge this paradigm. As founder and editor of this site, I’m pleased to kick off voting on the Hall of Fame Inner Circle Project.

The past two offseasons, I’ve run a project through this website having people vote on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. The project that I’m kicking off today could perhaps be called the 50 best players in the Hall of Fame. This is about identifying the best of the best and giving them their due, their own special level of recognition. I don’t know if anyone’s devised an inner circle before, though I know there’s nothing like it at the Hall of Fame itself. Let’s build something together. I’ve created a ballot of the 237 men who’ve been voted into Cooperstown as players, counting Negro Leaguers, and I invite anyone who’s interested to vote for the 50 best of the best. Please vote via this Google Document.

As usual, there are few rules with voting. I welcome people using whatever system they’d like for voting, and as always, all votes count equally and rankings will be determined by number of votes. The only requirements are that people vote for 50 players and that all votes be submitted no later than Friday, July 6 at 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. I’ll unveil results on July 17, just ahead of the annual induction weekend at Cooperstown. On a related note, if anyone is interested in writing about a player for the final results post, please feel free to email me at I can also be reached for questions or feedback via this email. All this being said, thanks, and I look forward to seeing how everyone votes.

Please vote via this Google Document.

15 Replies to “Vote: The Hall of Fame Inner Circle Project”

  1. Graham: I have to tell you, if not for your efforts, I would not care about Cooperstown one iota. Your last project was the best and most inclusive recognition effort I have ever seen by an unbelievable group of folks that even I, the great cynical bastard respect and admire.

  2. A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer. The inclusion of the Eppa Rixeys and Travis Jacksons of the world was to correct for two problems: 1, players whose career ended before there was a Hall of Fame, and 2, players whose careers were more appreciated as time showed how outstanding they were. Factor in the stupidity of sportswriters who get to vote, and you understand why there’s a Veterans Committee to let players have something to say about who gets in. “The 50 Best Pl.ayers Not in the Hall of Fame” is a waste of time, there’s ALWAYS going to be such a list no matter where your cutoff point is for whether they “deserve” the honor. For a long time Ron Santo was on that last, but now he’s in the Hall of Fame because the passage of time has shown how great he was. Ron Santo should have been right alongside Brooks Robinson and George Brett long ago. New York sportswriters who hated him didn’t vote for him, while the players who voted him onto their All Star teams each summer in the 60s (before fans’ voting) were mystified why he wasn’t in the Hall. Either you’re a Hall of Famer or you’re not, but the voting system they use results in some guys having to wait years before they get enough support, and that’s another issue that needs to be dealt with directly. Special wings aqre for special exhibits. The idea behind the Hall of Fame is that maybe you’ll want to learn more about Eppa Rixey intead of just skipping past his placque. Pay the man some respect, there’s a reason his face is on that wall. Somebody decided long agin that he belongs there, what gives us any grouns to second-guess that?.

  3. Hi Phil,

    Travis Jackson got his plaque in the Hall of Fame largely because his former teammate Frankie Frisch was head of the Veterans Committee. Frisch pushed for the inductions of a bunch of his former teammates including Jesse Haines, Freddie Lindstrom, Ross Youngs, and High Pockets Kelly. Today, they’re considered some of the most suspect inductions in the history of the museum.

    I think people have every right to second-guess who is and is not in Cooperstown. Hall of Fame voters and humans in general are often quite fallible and make wrong decisions. Unworthy players sometimes get in and worthy players sometimes are left out for decades. I see nothing wrong with fostering discussion around this and encouraging people to think.

    Anyhow, thanks for your comment, and have a nice day.

    Graham Womack

  4. Phil—perhaps it is a waste of time. But gosh, it’s my favorite hobby. I love debating this stuff. And if all 50 get in, I’ll vote for Graham’s list of the next 50. These types of projects help me APPRECIATE these players. I love keeping them in the discussion, even if they retired 100 years ago.

  5. This type of discussion is the stuff of what being a fan is all about. We’ve done it since we were kids. My two older brothers and I would argue over each of our favs in those days. Today it’s just as much fun when done with a little perspective and humor.
    As far as the players from generations ago that suffered shortened careers and may have suffered a lack of induction or respect, I think there’s alot of validity in that; aside from the incidents of Frankie Frisch forcing his pals through. A number of players lost crucial years that minimized their stats and total playing time and in some cases their well-being and their lives to World War 1 and 2 especially. Also the pay and medical care was far worse then and players through to the 60’s were often forced to play through injuries who if they were paid and cared for better might have had a much better career. Roger Maris is one who I think suffered from the latter having to play for years with a broken hand that the Yanks thought was suspect. He lost his power and ability to drive in runs and that was it for him as a possible HOF’er.
    No baseball historian I, but Hank Greenberg is a great example of someone who would have been easily considered a top ten or twenty HOF player, if he’d not missed so much time from WW2.
    At any rate. Just my two cents. It’s all fun.

  6. Perhaps “waste of time” was a bit too strong in referring to the Top 50 Not in the HOF idea. My intended point was that the HOF voters have that list each year, it’s callled the Hall of Fame Ballot, and there is far too much evidence that the sportswriters don’t give a rat’s a$$ what the fans think. What needs to be done is to revise the voting system so that vote totals don’t fluctuate for some players year to year, depending on who the first-time eligible players are each year. With Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, and Sosa coming up on the ballot, it will be interesting to see how many votes they get from the same sportswriters who completely ignored the steroids issue and instead fed us gibberish about the baseballs being laced tighter during the Great Home Run Race of 1998. Steroids in sports were nothing new, but the same “journalists” who rode the bandwagon along with the fans are now in a position to deny these players HOF status. In that regard, let’s watch that list of the top 50 Not in the HOF and see who gets the votes the writers won’t give to Bonds, Sosa, et. al.

  7. Sounds like fun. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a ballot in though… I’d like to do it systematically and really look at the careers the various players had. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to pull that off. Still, I’m hoping to manage a top 50 that I’m comfortable enough with to vote for… Anyway, even if I don’t pull off a ballot I’m looking forward to the results. It should be fun.

  8. I’m in general agreement with most who replied that this is more of a fun project (as it should be!) and I’ve submitted my ballot. I have two comments. First, I generally gave preference to the ballplayers that I’ve seen. I have no feel for how good the Sam Rices’, Harry Heilmans’ or Ted Lyons’ were other than their individual stats and from what I’ve read. It’s one of the reasons I believe it’s inappropriate to have this so called veteran’s committee to vote old time players into the HOF other than the overlooked Negro league players. Second, I’ve always felt that peak performance and performance in post seasons gets inadequate consideration. Hence, I voted for, say, Sandy Koufax but left out, say, Don Sutton for the inner circle.

  9. Graham- As I posted on HHS, I think this is a wonderful idea. The only way it could be any better would be to get a couple of dozen equally deranged fanatics together to argue over it in a bar or restaurant somewhere when you didn’t have to get up for work the following morning…

  10. Graham- this was fun and I think a good idea. I just submitted my top 50, but without doing more in-depth research, I was going on my gut feeling after about number 35 or so. I mean, was Chief Bender better than Chick Hafey? I have no idea off the top of my head. Fun exercise though. I’m looking forward to see your results..

  11. Pingback: The Sports PhD
  12. IF allowed to vote only for eligbles then these are my 40
    (not in order)
    1)Willie Mays 2) Mantle 3) Dimaggio 4) Speaker 5) Cobb
    6) Ruth 7) Aaron 8)Robinson 9) Ott
    10) Musial 11)Yastremki 12) Ted Williams 40) Henderson
    13) Berra, 14) Bench 15)Cochrane 35) Ewing
    16) Gehrig, 17) Foxx, 18) Murray 33) Anson 34) Brouthers
    19) E Collins, 20) Morgan 21) Hornsby 22) Lajoie
    23) Hans Wagner, 24) Ripken
    25) Schmit, 26) Brett 36) Boggs
    27) walter Johnson, 28) Mathewson, 29) Cy Young,
    30) kid Nichols 31) Grove 38) Seaver 39) Alexander
    32) Gossage 37) Wilhelm
    If allowed to vote for those still waiting to be selected then
    replace Wilhelm Boggs Murray Yaz, Boggs & brouthers
    (rivera) (Maddux) (Clemens) (R Johnson) (Pujols) & (A-rod)

  13. I think any thoughtful discussion about the HOF is useful and enjoyable.

    The attraction baseball has for Americans is almost as longstanding as the foundations of our democracy. The pull of the game on our collective psyche is huge, and despite the technological revolution of the past hundred years the fundarmentals of the game have not changed. Nine innings, three strikes at the ball, the fascinating duel between batter and pitcher, and played on a field of dreams-both for our teams and for ourselves.

    The issue of what the HOF means to baseball fans is a topic that takes us far beyond the skills of a player. Does character matter? (Rose and Jackson.) Does longevity matter more than peak performance ? (Smoky Joe Wood) Why do we revere certain players more than others and what should the critrion of excellence be? Does that criteria change over time?

    These questions are also relevant as each of us measures our own life. Maybe that is why the game has such an attraction for us-it really is a game built on the foundations of human life. Isn’t it interesting that in baseball, just like life, what really matters most is getting home safely. Which of us in our daily lives has not arrived home after a hectic and taxing day to the relief that the trials and tribuations are again behind us?

    If it is true that human nature does not change, baseball will look the same in 500 years as it does today. There is something reassuring about that.

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