1939 Induction Ceremony

The first four Hall of Fame classes joined together in the first Induction Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1939.

Members from the first four Hall of Fame Induction classes joined together for the first Induction Weekend in Cooperstown in 1939. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)1936 Induction Class: In Baseball’s first Hall of Fame class, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Babe Ruth were inducted as five of the finest players of the era controlling the election ballots in 1936. 

TY COBB: Elected with the highest percentage of votes in the inaugural class with 98.2%, Cobb had a lifetime batting average of .367 amassing 4,191 hits that led him to win 12 batting titles. Over his 24 year career primarily with the Detroit Tigers, Cobb had 23 seasons in which he hit over .300 and three seasons where he hit over .400 reaching a career high of .420 in 1911.  Over his illustrious career, the “Georgia Peach” tallied 297 triples, 2,245 runs and 892 stolen bases to lead him into the Hall of Fame with the fourth highest percentage of all-time.

WALTER JOHNSON:  Elected with 83.6% on the Hall of Fame ballot, Johnson was a power pitcher with the Washington Senators for 21 seasons in which he compiled 3,508 strikeouts including 110 career shutouts more than any other pitcher in history.  With a fastball that at the time was considered in a league of its own, Johnson was able to win 417 games, second on the all-time list.  In doing so he was able to enjoy 10 seasons of 20 or more victories.

CHRISTY MATHEWSON:  Receiving 90.7% of the votes, Mathewson was elected onto the 1936 Hall of Fame ballot with a career win total of 373 wins over 17 seasons, all but one season spent with the New York Giants.  Known for his famous fadeaway pitch of the early 1900s, Mathewson was able to secure at least 22 games for 12 seasons.  Matty set the modern National League win mark with 37 wins in 1908.  He did compile three other 30 or win seasons including a World Series championship in 1905 where he threw three shutouts in six days against the Athletics.

HONUS WAGNER:  Tying Babe Ruth on the ballot with 95.1% of the votes, Honus Wagner was elected into the Hall of Fame after a 21-year career mainly with the Pittsburgh Pirtates.  However, he started his career with the Louisville Colonels in 1897 hitting .344, never dropping below a .300 average for the next 17 seasons winning eight National League batting titles.  Wagner also led the league in stolen bases on five different occasions totaling 722 thefts for his career.

BABE RUTH:  Accumulating 95.1% of the votes, Babe Ruth joined the Hall of Fame after a celebrated career where he set records at the time for home runs in a career (714) and home runs in a single-season with 60 during the 1927 season.  The Babe led the New York Yankees to seven American League pennants and four World Series title.  Teaming with Lou Gehrig from 1923-1934, the two formed baseball’s most devastating hitting tandem ever.


1937 Induction Class: The Hall of Fame inducted a class well-worthy of the second induction class in history.  Nap Lajoie grabbed the most votes on the ballot with 83.6% of the votes followed by 82.1% by center fielder Tris Speaker.  The top two managers in terms of wins all-time, Connie Mack and John McGraw join the list through the Veterans’ Committee with baseball’s all-time leader in pitching wins, Cy Young receiving 76.1% of the votes.  Morgan Bulkeley and Byron Johnson become the first two executives inducted into the Hall of Fame also through the Veterans Committee with their creations of the National League and American League respectively.  Rounding out the second Hall of Fame induction class was George Wright who starred at shortstop for the first all professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

MORGAN BULKELEY:  Elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee, Morgan Bulkeley served as the first president of the National League when it was created in 1876.  He was able to enhance the overall image of the league when he decided to target issues as illegal gambling, drinking and fan rowdiness as areas of the league atmosphere that needed to be changed.  After baseball, Bulkeley became a politician in Connecticut where he became mayor of Hartford followed by a run as Governor of Connecticut and finished with a seat in the United States Senate.

BYRON JOHNSON:  A Veterans’ Committee selection, Byron Johnson founded of the American League in 1901 in order to rival the already established National League.  Originally the president of the Western League, Johnson decided to change the name to the American League in 1900 with it gaining major league standing the following year.  Johnson secured his place in history as one of most influential members of the National Commission, baseball’s ruling body until 1920.

NAP LAJOIE:  Elected to the Hall of Fame with 83.6% of the ballot, leading the class of 1937 was Lajoie.  A second basemen for three different franchises; the Phillies, A’s, and Indians became known for his ability both in the field and at the plate where he enjoyed at least a .300 batting in 16 of his 21 major league seasons.  He hit over .350 ten times in his career with him capturing the Triple Crown in 1901 when he led the league with a .422 batting mark.  Lajoie finished his career with a .339 average at the plate.

CONNIE MACK:  Mack was elected in the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee after totaling 3,776 in which just about all of his wins came as manager of the Philadelphia A’s.  He controlled the reigns for 50 seasons as the A’s manager winning five World Series and seven pennants including four out of five from 1910-1914 and three in a row from 1929-1931.

JOHN MCGRAW:  Voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee, John McGraw found great success in 31 years as manager of the New York Giants.  McGraw compiled 2,840 wins placing him second all-time only to Connie Mack on the career wins list.  His teams throughout the years won three World Series, ten pennants, and finished second eleven different times.

TRIS SPEAKER:  Elected into the Hall of Fame receiving 82.1% of the vote, Speaker hit for a lifetime average of .345 during the 1910s.  The rival of the great, Ty Cobb during the 1910s, Speaker holds the career mark for most doubles in a career with 793 leading the league eight different times throughout his career.  Also Speaker was widely recognized the way he played the outfield.  Controlling the outfield through playing a shallow center field, Speaker sits atop of the all-time outfield assist list with 450.  After his playing days, Speaker won a World Series title with Cleveland in 1920.

GEORGE WRIGHT:  Wright was elected by the Veterans’ Committee in the Hall of Fame after starring on the first openly all-professional team at shortstop for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.  During the inaugural season for the Red Stockings, Wright hit 49 home runs in 57 games while hitting for an astonishing .633 average.  Leading Cincinnati to four National Association flags as captain from 1872-75, he later achieved more glory in winning two National League pennants with Boston in 1877 and ’78.  In his first season with his third franchise, the Providence Grays, Wright led his city’s first league championship in history.

CY YOUNG:  Boasting a career win total of 511 pitching wins placing him first all-time, Cy Young was elected into the Hall of Fame with 76.1% on the ballot.  Winning 30 games five times and 20 or more wins an incredible 15 times, Young sits atop of the list a near 100 wins more than Walter Johnson’s 417 wins.  During the first modern World Series in 1903, Young won two games en route to Boston winning the championship.


1938 Induction Class: Two baseball pioneers and one of the greatest pitchers of all-time were voted into the Hall of Fame’s third class in 1938.  Alexander Cartwright, developer of such early rules as foul territory and three-out innings joins Henry Chadwick, developer of the modern box score and statistics such as batting average and ERA as Veterans’ Committee elects to the Hall of Fame.  The only player elected, Grover Alexander, third on the all-time wins list for a pitcher totaled 80.9% of the votes.

GROVER ALEXANDER:  Collecting 80.9% of the vote, Grover Alexander is the only player elected into the class of 1938 outside of the Veterans’ Committee elects.  Sitting third all-time among the career wins total for a pitcher with 373, Alexander led the league on four different occasions in ERA, wins in six different seasons, complete games six times and shutouts during seven of his 20 year career.  Grover Alexander was also able to put a streak of three consecutive 30 win seasons during his career with the Phillies, Cardinals, and Cubs. 

ALEXANDER CARTWRIGHT:  Elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee, Cartwright was known as the Father of Modern baseball due to his roles in publicizing the game’s first set of rules.  An influential member in baseball’s first organized club, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City, Cartwright is credited in some respects for the concept of foul territory, the distance between bases and three-out innings.

HENRY CHADWICK:  Chadwick was voted by the Veterans’ Committee into the Hall of Fame through his work as prominent journalist who developed the modern box score.  Through the concept of statistics, Chadwick is credited with introducing batting average and ERA to baseball.  He was also greatly involved as a member in the baseball’s early rules committees.


1939 Induction Class: The Hall of Fame’s membership grew by ten in 1939, as  BBWAA selections Eddie Collins, Lou Gehrig, Willie Keeler, and George Sisler were inducted. The Veterans Committee elected Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Candy Cummings, Charles Radbourn along with manager/executives Charles Comiskey and Al Spalding.

CAP ANSON:  Voted in the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee, Anson was an exceptional first basemen for 27 years at the major league level with the Chicago National League squad during the late 19th Century.  During his 27 year career, 20 of those seasons Anson hit over the .300 mark while accumulating over 3,000 hits in his career.  He ended his career as the leader in games played, hits, at-bats, doubles, and runs.  After his playing days, he managed in Chicago winning over 1,200 games and five National League pennants. 

EDDIE COLLINS:  Collins was elected into the Hall of Fame receiving 77.7% of the votes, second best of the ballot.  Playing in 25 major league seasons since the age of 19, Eddie Collins was able to surpass the elusive 3,000 hit mark in career finishing with 3,315 hits while hitting for a .340 career average.  Collins was part of the famous $100,000 infield that helped the Philadelphia A’s win four American League championships in five years and three World Series titles.

CHARLES COMISKEY:  Comiskey was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee due in part to his success in all aspects of the game of baseball.  He was player-manager of St. Louis Browns where he won four consecutive pennants spanning from 1885-1888 and became widely known for how he played off and behind the bag as a first basemen making him the first player to ever do so.  After his success with the Browns, Comiskey found more success as the owner of the Chicago White Sox for 31 years winning five pennants.  His two major contributions to baseball were acting as one of the founders of the American League in 1901 and Comiskey Park, a stadium named after him that stood for 80 years. 

CANDY CUMMINGS:  Elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee, Candy Cummings is credited for pitching baseball’s first curveball as an amateur pitcher for the Brooklyn Stars in 1867.  Although playing in only a brief career, Cummings was able to collect 124 games in four seasons leading the league in twice in shutouts and once in innings pitched.  He is also well-known for being the first major league player to start, complete and win both games of a doubleheader in 1876 for the Hartford Dark Blues.

BUCK EWING:  A Veterans’ Committee selection, Buck Ewing became the first catcher ever to enter the Hall of Fame.  Hitting over the .300 mark in 10 of his 15 seasons, Ewing compiled a career average of .311.  Ewing is the first player in Major League history to hit 10 home runs in a season when he did it in 1883 for the New York Gothams.  Ewing saw success as captain of the New York Giants where he led his team to the team’s first world championships in 1888 and 1889.

LOU GEHRIG:  Teaming with Babe Ruth to form baseball’s most devastating tandem of all-time, Gehrig was elected to the Hall of Fame through a special ballot while still an active player due to his terminating illness that forced him to retire early.  Gehrig known as the “Iron Horse” for his consecutive games played streak that spanned 2,130 games, was able to both score 100 runs and drive in 100 RBIs in 13 straight seasons with the New York Yankees.  During his career, Gehrig enjoyed a lifetime batting average of .340 where he set the American League record in 1931 with 184 RBIs.  Gehrig was known for his clutch hitting as he hit .361 in seven World Series, winning six of them.  He also holds the record for career grand slams with 23.

WILLIE KEELER:  Wee Willie Keeler was elected to the Hall of Fame after a successful career with the New York Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Brooklyn Superbas and New York Highlanders where he collected eight straight seasons of 200 or more hits.  Known for his ability to place his hits, Keeler hit for a career average of .345 including 13 straight seasons above the .300 mark with his climax moment coming through a 44-game hitting streak in 1897.  Keeler also collected National League batting titles in 1897 and ’98 with the Baltimore Orioles.

CHARLES RADBOURN:  Radbourn was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee.  “Old Hoss” Radbourn holds the record for the most wins in a season by a pitcher with 60 victories coming in 1884 with the Providence Grays.  His career wins total amounts to 310 wins over just 11 seasons where winning 20 or more games in nine of those seasons.

GEORGE SISLER:  Leading the way for the 1939 Hall of Fame induction class, Sisler collected 85.8% of the votes.  Totaling a career average of .340, Sisler hit for a record 257 hits in 1920 with the St. Louis Browns, a record that stood for 84 years.  He went on to win two batting titles in his career, hitting over .400 in both instances.  Sisler finished his career hitting .300 or more in 13 of his 15 seasons.

AL SPALDING:  A player-manager primarily for the Chicago White Stockings, Spalding was elected to the Hall of Fame through the Veterans’ Committee.  As a pitcher in 1876, he compiled 47 victories en route to the White Stockings winning the first-ever National League Championship.  After finding great success in the sporting goods industry, Spalding became president of the White Stockings leading them to three pennants in ten seasons.