While everyone else was going crazy trying to dissect what is going to happen during this month’s vote on modern-day players going into the Hall of Fame, the Pre-Integration Committee met quietly at baseball’s winter meetings and chose three individuals from the sport’s distant past to be enshrined next summer in Cooperstown.
Jacob Ruppert, Hank O’Day, and Deacon White, all of them deceased long ago, will enter the Hall come July even if they are overshadowed by whatever happens in the balloting involving players who were caught up in baseball’s steroids era.
Those three were chosen from a list of 10 nominees. The others who did not get in are Samuel Breadon, Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, Marty Marion, Tony Mullane, Alfred Reach, and Bucky Walters. All 10 were worthy of discussion. After reviewing the credentials of all of the nominees I felt that Ruppert and O’Day had the best chance of induction. But I also would not have been surprised if none of the 10 received the 75 percent needed for election.
When this part of the Hall of Fame process began I knew of all the others to some degree, but had never heard of Deacon White. Even after researching his background I felt he had less chance of election and was less deserving of others on the ballot. So for me his inclusion is a surprise. These are some of the qualifications the committee saw in White: he played 20 seasons, from 1871 to 1890; he batted .312 lifetime; he won two batting titles; he led his leagues in RBIs three times; he was a bare-handed catcher before moving to third base. Something tells me the image of White catching pitchers with his bare hands resonated with the 21st century voters.
White was 91 when he died in 1939. Notwithstanding living so far into the 20th century, White regularly argued with teammates that the world was flat. Just stumbled upon that tidbit today. He apparently did better with diamond shapes than round ones, and after all, this wasn’t a nomination to the Science Hall of Fame.
As for O’Day, he is the only person to play, manage and umpire in the big leagues. While that is a unique distinction it was his umpiring that carried the day in his nomination and selection to the Hall. Umpires of longstanding reputation are a rare breed and those whose reputations live on are scarcer.
O’Day umpired for 30 years, worked the second largest number of games as an arbiter, and officiated in 10 World Series. He was 72 when he died in 1935.
Ruppert and a partner purchased the New York American League franchise in 1915 when it was still the Highlanders. He ended up buying out his partner, changing the team’s name to the Yankees, acquiring Babe Ruth, building Yankee Stadium, and supervising the dynastic team in the 1920s and 1930s.
It was telling that Phil Niekro, himself a Hall of Fame pitcher who was on the committee, said that he believed Ruppert was already in the Hall for all of his achievements. Ruppert died in 1939 at 71.
Come July, this trio will likely be overshadowed by live inductees and by who is accepted into the Hall and who is left out, but for the moment Ruppert, O’Day and White are the stars of the show.