Reflections On The 2022 Early Baseball Era Committee Ballot
Today, the Class of 2022 will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Congratulations to all those that will be inducted today: Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, and Buck O’Neil, Tony Oliva, and David Ortiz, as well as Tim Kurkjian (BBWAA’s Career Excellence Award} and Jack Graney (Ford C. Frick Award). For many, it’s been a long wait.
On the occasion that we had hoped we would see Doc Adams’ contributions and accomplishments finally honored in Cooperstown, I’d like to pause and reflect on how we got here and what it might be next.
First, let’s review some of Doc Adams’ contributions and accomplishments:
- Elected Vice-President of the Knickerbockers, and President in ’47-’49, ’56, ’57 and ’61, served as a director in other years.
- Created the position of shortstop and was the first to occupy it.
- Personally made the balls and oversaw the making of bats, for the Knickerbockers and later for other NYC clubs, to standardize the game’s equipment.
- Elected presiding officer of the first conventions and Rules Committees to standardize the rules of the game.
- Elected presiding officer of the first convention of New York/Brooklyn base ball clubs and Chair of the Rules Committee to standardize the rules of play.
- Authored the ‘Laws of Base Ball’ which was presented to the convention.
- 9 men per side – adopted
- 9 innings of play – adopted
- 90 feet between bases and 45 feet from pitcher’s base to home – adopted
- The ‘fly’ game: ball caught on 1st bounce no longer an ‘out’ – adopted in 1865
- No wagering by anyone involved in the match – adopted
- National Association of Base Ball Players founded. Doc presided as Chair of the Rules Committee until his retirement from the Knickerbockers and the game.
Doc Adams’ formal recognition:
- On July 31, 2014, Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams (1814 – 1899) was selected as the 19th Century Overlooked Baseball Legend by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). This recognition came in the bi-centennial of his birth.
- Doc Adams was finally named on a Hall of Fame ballot for the 2016 election. He was the top vote-getter, missing election by 2 votes. Subsequent to that election, his handwritten “Laws of Base Ball” were re-discovered and sold at auction for $3.26M.
With the recent discovery of his “Laws of Base Ball” we have tangible primary evidence of his genius. More than anyone else, he created our game of nine innings, nine men, and ninety-foot base paths.“5 Inventors“, Our Game, John Thorn (Official Historian of Major League Baseball)
The new documents may be what he needs for election.“Baseball’s History Rewritten”, AP, Andrew Dalton
So, what happened?
The composition of the selection committee (as well as the electorate) can deliver pre-conceived results (and surprising ones as well). Therefore, with a dearth of Early Baseball (e.g. National Association of Base Ball Players) expertise on the “Special” Early Baseball Overview Committee, the ballot it generated should not have been much of a surprise.
The Hall does not have a great track record with Early Baseball history so, it’s also no surprise that honoring baseball’s true pioneers does not seem to be a priority. It’s common knowledge that The Hall was built on the Doubleday Myth. To distract from that myth and its lack of evidence, another was invented. This one had a better foundation; however, it was constructed with similarly dubious ‘evidence’. Now, to embrace historical accuracy, the Hall would be required to confront the purported ‘facts’ of the second creation myth.
On the other hand, what of Doc Adams? The long-overlooked pioneer led the charge to standardize and refine the rules of the game in the mid-19th century, including nine-man lineups and nine-inning games — innovations inaccurately credited to Alexander Cartwright on his Hall of Fame plaque — as well as the 90-foot distance between the bases, the “fly rule” (eliminating balls caught on one bounce from being automatic outs), and the shortstop position (which helped to differentiate the game from rounders). On the 2016 Pre-Integration ballot, from which no candidate was elected, Adams had the highest share at 62.5%, but he was conspicuously absent from the 2022 Early Baseball ballot, and he now faces additional competition for space and attention from candidates who came along more than a century later. A cynic might wonder if the Hall simply wanted to spare itself the scrutiny of contradicting one of its existing plaques in the face of more modern research — and focus more upon drawing fans to Cooperstown to celebrate living honorees of more debatable merits.“The Hall of Fame Shakes Up its Era Committee System Yet Again“, Jay Jaffe, FanGraphs
Always tinkering with the Era Committees and rules of election for various reasons, the Hall of Fame once again changed them in 2022. Due to the changes, Doc Adams is now eligible for the Class of 2025 rather than having to wait until 2032. But its not all good news, as getting elected via the new Classic Baseball Era Committee is even more difficult than its predecessors, the Early Baseball Era and the Pre-Integration Era Committees. Jay Jaffe examines this in detail in “The Gate Could Be Closing on Future Hall of Fame Era Committee Inductees“.
In other words, there’s a new bottleneck in place for the older candidates, … For those who make it to the ballot, the math that was already very tough is undeniably tougher.“The Gate Could Be Closing on Future Hall of Fame Era Committee Inductees“, Jay Jaffe, FanGraphs
One can only wonder how a “Special” Classic Baseball Overview Committee can/will be assembled that can fairly assess all the players, managers, executives, pioneers, et al of several major leagues, over a span of 120+ years. Based on the composition of previous selection committees, various biases, cronyism, and myth-busting reluctance, it seems likely that baseball’s true foundational pioneers will continue to be overlooked,
If the Hall of Fame is truly dedicated to their mission, …
“The Hall of Fame’s mission is to preserve the sport’s history, honor excellence within the game and make a connection between the generations of people who enjoy baseball.” …
“Honoring, by enshrinement, those individuals who had exceptional careers, and recognizing others for their significant achievements.”“Mission“, National Baseball Hall of Fame
… they need to demonstrate it with real actions and not just words.
Respect and Honor the True Pioneers:
In his 2018 article, “Marvin Miller is the poster boy for a larger Baseball Hall of Fame dilemma“, Rob Neyer proposed that the Hall of Fame create a “Pioneers’ Committee” to address the Hall of Fame’s “problem with people who made enormous, perhaps revolutionary contributions to baseball, but don’t quite fit into one of the traditional boxes.” Although two of the individuals named in the article, Miller (2021) and Buck O’Neil (2022) have now been elected; Neyer’s thesis nonetheless is still valid and now is the time for a Pioneer’s Committee ballot.
The Hall of Fame should create a Pioneers Committee, which should be composed of credentialed historians with a demonstrated knowledge of baseball history, which would meet every few years with the charge to consider, well, that’s the tricky part. …
A new committee could address the Cartwright mistake by electing Doc Adams, described by MLB’s official historian John Thorn as “first among the fathers of baseball.”“Marvin Miller is the poster boy for a larger Baseball Hall of Fame dilemma“, Rob Neyer, Yahoo!Sports
Baseball and its fans relish its history and statistics, yet one of the most important pioneers of the game continues to be ignored. Hasn’t the wait been long enough? This year marks the 160th anniversary of Doc Adams resignation from the Knickerbockers.
He [Doc Adams] is baseball’s most important figure not in the Hall of Fame.“5 Inventors“, Our Game, John Thorn
However, if it does not happen this year, I will not let this rest. I will continue to work toward what I want to see: Doc’s plaque at the Hall. This quest is as much for my father and grandfather as it is for Doc, and none of those gentlemen would approve if I gave up. Imagine how baseball might be now if Doc had given up in the early years of the Knickerbockers.“Should Doc Adams Be in the Hall of Fame?” “Of course.”“Should Doc Adams Be in the Hall of Fame? Of course.”, Dazzy Vance Chronicles, Marjorie Adams
We are committed to our mission as we hope the Hall of Fame is committed to theirs. We will continue our educational campaign, spreading the word about Doc Adams, his contributions, and accomplishments. This will result in more people asking a difficult question to the Hall of Fame: “how can you continue to overlook Doc Adams and what he meant to the National Pastime’s birth and nascent survival?”
Doc Adams doesn’t need the Hall of Fame; the Hall of Fame NEEDS Doc Adams. A National Baseball Hall of Fame without Dr. Daniel Lucius Adams, just isn’t. #DocAdamsHOF2025
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