Rules History

Since 1936, the Baseball Writers' Association of America has held the exclusive voting privilege to consider recently retired players for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. 

In the 75-plus years of voting since, the process has evolved to reflect updated rules, most notably changes to the eligibility criteria and qualifications for earning election.The electorate has remained with the BBWAA since the beginning.

The information contained below outlines many of the notable changes to the election rules and requirements through the years.The process has continued to evolve and grow, to reflect the changing needs of consideration to earn baseball's highest honor. Recently retired players are the lone category considered exclusively by the BBWAA. Various forms of the veterans committee have considered long-retired players, managers, Negro leagues stars, executives and umpires for 75 years as well.

RULES CHANGES BY CATEGORY

Elections

Of the 78 election years (1936-2013) there have been 69 elections and nine years when no elections were held (1940, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1957, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1965).

Election Cycles

  • 1936-39: Annually.
  • 1940-45: Every three years.
  • 1946-56: Annually.
  • 1957-65: Every other year.
  • 1966-present: Every year.

Ballots

  • 1936-1945: No run-off ballot.
  • 1946: Run-off ballot where top 20 vote-getters comprise a second and final ballot, if no one elected.
  • 1947-48: No run-off ballot.
  • 1949: Run-off ballot.
  • 1950-59: No run-off ballot.
  • 1960-68: Run-off ballot where top 30 vote getters comprise second and final ballot, if no one elected . 1969-present: No run-off ballot.

Screening Committee

A screening committee was implemented in 1968 to limit ballots to 40 players. The rule limiting voters to 10 candidates per ballot was instituted in 1936.

Character, Integrity and Sportsmanship

Implemented in 1945. Rule applies to how the game was played on the field, more so than character off the field. 

Eligibility, Active

  • 1936-45: No waiting period.
  • 1946-53: A player must have been retired one year.
  • 1954: Five-year waiting period installed, though any candidate with 100 or more votes in a previous election would be grandfathered in to continue to be considered.
  • 1979: Candidates must remain on the ballot if named on at least 5% of ballots cast.

Eligibility, Retired

  • 1936-45: No rules.
  • 1946-55: A player may not be on the ballot after 25 years from retirement.
  • 1956-61: A player may not be on the ballot after 30 years from retirement.
  • 1962-present: A player may not be on the ballot after 20 years from retirement.

Eligibility, Death

  • Jan. 3, 1973: Provide immediate consideration for an eligible candidate who dies while still active or before the five-year waiting period ends.
  • August 5, 1973: Rule amended to allow consideration after six months has passed or after five years have passed, whichever comes first.

Eligibility, Ineligible Candidates

Feb. 8, 1991:  Persons on baseball’s ineligible list cannot be eligible candidates. 

RULES CHANGES

Feb. 8, 1991

Persons on baseball’s ineligible list cannot be eligible candidates.

1985

Candidates eligible for future elections if named on 5% of ballots cast in preceding election.

1980

  • Candidates eligible for future elections if named on 5% of ballots cast, in either of two preceding elections.
  • Five year rule was not waived immediately after Thurman Munson’s death. Munson appeared on 1981 ballot. From 1946-53, there was a one-year rule. From 1936-45, there was no wait. Due to WWII, it was unclear who was still active.

1979

Candidates eligible if named on 5% of ballots cast in preceding election.

1973

After Roberto Clemente dies, rule passed for immediate consideration for a candidate who dies who is still active, or before the five-year waiting period lapses. 1974:  Amended to six months.

1968

Screening committee installed, limiting ballot to 40.

1966

Hold annual elections (1966 – present).

1962

A player must have been active during a 20-year period prior to election.

1962

Screening committee starts.

1960

  • A player must have been active during a 30-year period prior to election.
  • Runoff ballot reinstated (1960-68).for top 30 vote getters. Only needed in 1964 and 1967. 

1958

Elections every other year (1958-65).

1954

Five year wait rule first implanted in 1954. Also accepting candidates who had received 100 votes in a previous election. 

1949

  • Runoff ballot required for top 20 vote getters in 1949 only.
  • No second ballot (1949-59). 

1947

Minimum of 10 years for BBWAA members to vote.

1946

  • Hold second ballot if necessary (1946-48).
  • Hold annual elections (1946-57).
  • A player must have been active during a 25-year period prior to election (1946-59).

1945

Nominating ballot in 1946 only. Top 20 vote getters comprise final ballot. Amended in Dec 1946.

1944

Elections held every three years (1945 only).

1939

Elections held every three years (1940-45).  

NOTES

Jan. 5, 1995

 BBWAA petitions Board of Directors to reconsider eligibility of Larry Bowa, Bill Madlock, Al Oliver and Ted Simmons, with the intention of restoring their names to the 1996 ballot. The four players failed to achieve 5% in their first year on the ballot (Bowa, ’91, Maddlock, ’93, Oliver, ’91 and Simmons ’94).  Board approves reinstatement.      

1984

BBWAA petitions Board of Directors to reconsider eligibility of Ken Boyer, Curt Flood and Ron Santo with the intention of restoring their names to the 1985 ballot.They failed to achieve 5% in their first years on the ballot (Boyer, 1975-79, Flood, 1977-79 and Santo, 1980). Board approves reinstatement.