The day after inducting four new members, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced a major change in the way some players and all non-playing personnel will be selected for admission.
The board of directors of the Hall of Fame announced yesterday that it had disbanded the veterans committee that had the power to induct players bypassed in the annual balloting of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).
The old veterans committee - which also was charged with choosing managers, umpires, Negro leagues players and executives - will be replaced with a new committee composed of Hall of Fame members (61 are living), three members of the old committee and media members who have been inducted into the writing and broadcasting wings at Cooperstown (26). The previous committee consisted of 15 former players, executives and media members.
The change puts the power to elect new members squarely in the hands of former players, who would make up two-thirds of what would be a 90-member committee if it convened today. The committee will vote on bypassed players every other year, starting in 2003, and will hold an election for non-playing personnel every four years.
BBWAA voting for the Hall of Fame is unaffected.
"We didn't do this because we're unhappy with the people the veterans committee selected," Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, vice chairman of the board, told Bloomberg News. "The rules have changed a lot of times, and we may change them again if we think something is better.
"Who knows what it takes to get here better than the guys who are here? That's part of their thinking."
Since 1953, the veterans committee had met annually to elect candidates - most recently electing 2001 inductees Bill Mazeroski and Hilton Smith at its March meeting in Tampa, Fla.
Minnesota Twins outfielder Kirby Puckett and six-team star Dave Winfield were inducted Sunday after being chosen in the BBWAA election, the results of which were announced in January.
The Hall of Fame also altered the selection criteria to reinstate the eligibility of about 1,700 former players who had been dropped from consideration because they were named on less than 5 percent of the ballots sent out to voting members of the BBWAA.
Candidates for veterans committee consideration will be selected by a panel of 60 baseball writers - who will nominate 25 candidates for the players ballot - and six Hall of Fame players, who will add five names to the ballot. The writers also will choose the 15 names that will go on the composite ballot of managers, umpires and executives.
There will be one other major difference in future veterans committee elections. Voting will be made public, perhaps as a nod to those who felt there was an element of cronyism in the old veterans committee selection process.
As a winner of the Ford C. Frick award, longtime Orioles announcer Chuck Thompson becomes a member of the new veterans committee. He expressed support for the change.
"Basically, I think it's a heck of a good idea," Thompson said. "Every year, when we look at a group of candidates that are eligible, and you know that only one or two of them are going to get in, we - and I know I've done this - look at the group and say, `Jeepers, where do you start?' Probably all of them are eligible, but we can't take all of them in one year."
"It's going to get more players that deserve to be in that Hall of Fame in that Hall of Fame. Right now, I can't see why it's not a good idea."
In the short term, the changes could mean fewer Hall of Fame inductees next year, because the next veterans committee election will not be held until 2003. In fact, it is possible there will be no induction ceremony next year if voters fail to name any player on 75 percent of the ballots in December's BBWAA election.
It's possible but unlikely, however, because defensive wizard Ozzie Smith is expected to get the necessary votes to gain entrance to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility. Detroit Tigers great Alan Trammell and multi-team star Andre Dawson also will be on the ballot for the first time, along with 2001 near-misses Gary Carter and Jim Rice.
In the long term, the new rules should mean more former players will be inducted, because the veterans committee will no longer be limited to the induction of one player a year. Every player who is named on 75 percent of the veterans committee ballots will gain admission.
Sun staff writer James Giza, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this article.
Members of the newly expanded 90-member Hall of Fame veterans committee:
Hall of Famers (61): Hank Aaron, Sparky Anderson, Luis Aparicio, Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Lou Boudreau, George Brett, Lou Brock, Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Steve Carlton, Orlando Cepeda, Larry Doby, Bobby Doerr, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson.