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July 28, 2014

The HOF Rule Change

What Happens After 10 Years?

by Mike Gianella


On Saturday, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame made its most significant rule change to Hall of Fame voting rules in nearly 30 years, reducing the amount of time a candidate can spend on the ballot from 15 years to 10.

How would this change have impacted earlier Hall of Fame candidates? Would reducing the eligibility requirement from 15 years to 10 years have eliminated worthy candidates for the Hall? Is this change relevant to the Hall of Fame landscape now?

In order to examine this change, I went through every Hall of Fame election from 1949 to the present and looked at candidates who were on the ballot for 11 years or more and had received at least five percent of the vote throughout their first 10 years of eligibility. 1949 was chosen because it was the first year that any candidate had 11 or more years of eligibility (the Hall of Fame did not hold elections during most of World War II). The 5 percent minimum vote threshold was not instituted until 1979. A number of candidates prior to this time received less than 5 percent of the vote but stayed on the ballot. This change was grandfathered, so some candidates (such as Bobby Thomson) stayed on the ballot despite garnering less than 5 percent of the vote. I did not include players like Thomson in this study.

The only exception I made for the 5 percent rule was for candidates who received votes before the modern five-year eligibility standard. Hall of Fame voters used to be allowed to vote for players immediately after they retired if they wished to do so. Phil Rizutto, who received less than 5 percent of the vote the year he retired, is included in this study. Ron Santo, who received less than 5 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility and was then reinstated at a later date, is not.

On Saturday, several media outlets reported that more than 100 players stayed on the ballot for more than 10 years. This is correct, but does not account for the modern 5 percent rule. When this rule is accounted for, there were only 43 players who received 5 percent or more of the vote for 10 straight years. These players are listed in three tables below. The source for all Hall of Fame voting data and WAR is Baseball Reference.

Table 1: Elected to the Hall of Fame after 10 Tries

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Related Content:  Hall Of Fame,  Cooperstown

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