The National Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members in Cooperstown, New York, on this day in history, Jan. 29, 1936.
Those chosen were five baseball greats — Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.
The first class of inductees were named in preparation for the dedication of the Hall of Fame three years later, in 1939, which was believed to be the centennial of baseball, according to History.com.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America, founded in 1908, made its picks based on the players’ legacies.
Babe Ruth was both an ace pitcher and “the greatest” home run hitter in baseball history, said History.com.
Ty Cobb was considered the “most productive” hitter in history, according to the same source, while Honus Wagner was known as a “versatile star shortstop and batting champion.”
In 1917 Honus Wagner retired from play baseball, finishing his career with a total of 3,420 hits, 643 doubles, 1,739 runs, 1,732 RBI and 723 stolen bases to go with a .328 batting average.Bettmann Archive
Christy Mathewson had more wins than any pitcher in the history of the National League, History.com reported.
Walter Johnson was considered “one of the most powerful pitchers to ever have taken the mound.”
The first induction ceremony wasn’t held until June 12, 1939.
That was after 20 more members had been elected in 1937, 1938 and 1939, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
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Inductees included Cy Young, Pete Alexander, George Sisler, Al Spalding and Lou Gehrig, among others.
The foundation created the story that U.S. Civil War hero Abner Doubleday created baseball in Cooperstown in 1839, History.com noted.
While it wasn’t true, baseball officials apparently supported the story to capitalize on the Hall of Fame’s marketing and publicity potential.
The Baseball Hall of Fame still stands as the nation’s hub for all things baseball, attracting approximately 350,000 visitors each year.