Tomorrow afternoon the latest class of baseball’s greats – former owner Jacob Ruppert, former umpire Hank O’Day, and former catcher Deacon White – will join their counterparts in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. While this year’s class may be a little less heralded than others in the past – due mainly to the absence of a modern era player, given the BBWAA’s inability to select anyone in this past winter’s balloting – but the group still features three members who’ll rightfully take their place among the greatest individuals who’ve ever impacted the game.
Ceremonies will begin right around 1:30 PM EST and will be broadcast on MLB Network, but will be unlike any other in recent years. Typically a highlight of the weekend’s festivities are the speeches given by each inductee, but in this case each will be represented by their heirs who’ll give speeches in their honors.
The rare situation without a living honoree has allowed the Hall to bring some creativity into this year’s ceremonies. Twelve inductees – including Rogers Hornsby and Lou Gehrig – will be honored, as they weren’t at the time of their enshrinement. This includes the entire 1945 class, as they weren’t celebrated at the time of their respective inductions due to wartime travel restrictions. Gehrig is an even more unique case, as he passed away before his induction ceremony actually took place.
Additionally the Hall will honor Tom Cheek with the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, Paul Hagan with the A.G. Spink Award for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing”, and will present a pair of special awards to Dr. Frank Jobe and producer Thomas Tull. The awards presentation will take place today at 4:30 PM EST.
Cheek served as the play-by-play broadcaster for the Toronto Blue Jays for the first 4,306 regular season games (and 41 playoff games) of the organization’s existence. Hagan spent 25 years as the Phillies beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and currently writes for MLB.com. Tull produced this past Spring’s feature film, “42”, which chronicled the impact that Jackie Robinson had on the game during his rookie season in 1947. Jobe, meanwhile, was a pioneering doctor who first developed the renown Tommy John Surgery that has become so commonplace in the game today.
With the BBWAA failing to elect any players into this year’s class, inductees will only include the trio of Ruppert, O’Day, and White. All were selected by the Pre-Integration Committee.
Ruppert becomes the first owner of the New York Yankees to earn his place in Cooperstown (presumably not the last, as George Steinbrenner should eventually join him) despite there being 45 players with Yankee ties already enshrined. Ruppert owned the Yankees from 1915-1939 and was responsible for the signings of Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio, the purchase of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox, and the construction of the original Yankee Stadium in 1923. It’s surprising that he wasn’t already in the Hall of Fame given what he brought to the game.
O’Day was an umpire from 1888-1927, working a record 10 World Series during that stretch. He was working a game in late September 1908 between the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs that has since been known as “Merkle’s Boner”. The two teams were tied up at a run apiece heading into the bottom of the 9th inning. The Giants hit what appeared to be a game (and pennant) winning single. Fred Merkle had been on base, but as the crowds emptied onto the field he failed to touch second base. The Cubs noticed, tossed the ball to second, and O’Day called him out – thus negating the run and causing the game to result in a 1-1 tie. They’d replay it the following day and the Cubs would win, all before winning the World Series (which they haven’t won since).
White spent the entirety of his career behind the plate, playing from 1871-1890 without the benefit of a glove, shinguards, a mask, or a chest protector. He hit .312/.346/.393 for his career.