Today In History: Baseball Hall of Fame Elects First Inductees
Today in 1936, the US Baseball Hall of Fame, opened the year before, elected its first ever members. The Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, New York. The first people inducted were Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Matthewson, Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner.
The HoF was founded by a group called the Clark Foundation, who thought that a baseball museum would give Cooperstown’s ailing economy a shot in the arm with tourist dollars. Their marketing angle was an interesting one – they made up a story that baseball was actually invented in Cooperstown, by famous Civil War vet Abner Doubleday. Although baseball officials spotted the story for an obvious fiction, they still gave the new museum their stamp of approval in the hope it would bolster baseball’s profile.
The Hall of Fame was dedicated in 1939. The first inductees were nominated by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The choices were pretty obvious. Babe Ruth is arguably the most famous baseball player in the history of the sport. Ty Cobb is one of baseball’s greatest ever hitters, Honus Wagner was a spectacular shortstop and batter, Walter Johnson was a monumental pitcher and Christy Matthewson was then the winningest pitcher in history.
The plan to draw tourism worked. Today, the HoF gets about 350,000 visitors annually. 278 people have been inducted so far.