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On This Date in Sports February 2, 1936: First Class

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The first inductees of the Baseball Hall of Fame are chosen. The Hall of Fame was set to open in Cooperstown on the centennial of the game’s mythological invention in 1939. The first five players chosen for induction were the players considered at the time to be the best ever. These players were Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson, and Walter Johnson. 

The Baseball Hall of Fame was the first of its kind. There soon would be similar Hall of Fames established for other sports, as the Baseball Hall of Fame had remarkable success and popularity from its beginnings. Cooperstown, New York, was chosen as the location for the Hall of Fame due to the legend that Abner Doubleday, a future Civil War General, had invented baseball a student while on a recess from the U.S. Military Academy in 1839.  

A committee of 226 baseball writers was chosen to select the first class for the Hall of Fame, which would be inducted in1939 on the 100th anniversary of the legend of Abner Doubleday inventing the sport in the pastoral central New York hamlet Cooperstown. Ty Cobb received 222 votes to lead the way in the voting for the first Hall of Fame Class. Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner each received 215 votes, the late Christy Matthewson received 205 votes, and Walter Johnson received 189 votes to get the required 75% of the vote for induction. 

The committee would hold votes in the next three years before the Hall of Fame opened with a grand induction ceremony.  The 1937 inductees were Napoleon Lajoie, Tris Speaker, and Cy Young, who were selected along with managers Connie Mack and John McGraw. Also chosen were executives Morgan Bulkeley, Ban Johnson, and George Wright. In 1938 the committee Grover Cleveland Alexander along with game founders Alexander Cartwright and Henry Chadwick.

The 1939 Hall of Fame class would be among the largest as Cap Anson, Charles Comiskey, Candy Cummings, Buck Ewing, Charles Radbourn, and Al Spalding were chosen by the Veteran’s Committee. The writers chose Eddie Collins, Wee Willie Keeler, and George Sisler. Lou Gehrig was later added to the class after the nature of his illness became public.