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Committee on Baseball Veterans

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The Committee on Baseball Veterans is a voting arm of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is commonly referred to as the Veterans Committee or the Vets Committee. It has had several different constructions over the past half century.

The Veterans Committee is in place to elect any player who was not voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America. A player can not be considered by the Vets until twenty-three years after a player's retirement. They also elect non-playing personnel including managers, owners, and executives. Any player receiving 75% of the committee votes was elected.

The Veterans Committee can be traced back to 1939 when Commissioner Landis formed the Old-Timers Committee to put players from the 19th century in the Hall of Fame. In 1939, the committee selected five players. In 1944, after Landis' death, they put him in the Hall. After Landis, they put twenty-three additional players in the Hall.

In 1953, the Veterans Committee met for the first time under the name Committee on Baseball Veterans. With 11 members, they elected six players in their first vote in 1953. Starting in 1955, they would meet to elect up to two players in odd numbered years.

In 1962, they went back to annual elections to the Hall of Fame, with the continued mandate to elect up to two players a year.

The Hall of Fame suffered in the 1970s, when Frankie Frisch was a major voice on the committee. The old Hall of Famer, backed by former teammate Bill Terry and sportswriters J. Roy Stockton and Fred Lieb, who covered Frisch's teams, managed to get five of his teammates elected to the Hall by the committee. Additionally, in the three years after his death, two more teammates were elected.

Bill James was critical of this era in The Politics of Glory. He called George Kelly, an electee in 1973, "a bad joke". He said he was the equal of Wally Joyner, searching for a comparable player of the early 1990s when the book was published.

After Frisch died and Terry left the Committee, elections were normalized. In 1978, membership increased to fifteen members, five Hall of Famers, five owners and executives, and five sportswriters. The members would meet in Florida during spring training to elect a player or two every year.

The Veterans Committee mandate of up to two players was increased briefly from 1995 to 2001. In these years, the committee could elect one extra player from the Negro Leagues and one from the 19th century in addition to the two regular players.

The committee was replaced on August 6, 2001: in a sweeping reform, the Hall of Fame eliminated the fifteen member committee. The new committee was to be made of all living members of the Hall of Fame, living J. G. Taylor Spink Award winners, and the living Ford Frick Award winners.

The election, now every two years for players, is not held at a meeting but by mail. The materials are mailed in January and a winner is announced the last week of February.

Additionally, non-players, are eligible to be elected only every four years. After failing to elect anyone in a third consecutive election in 2007, the Hall nearly returned to the pre-2001 format.

After a meeting on July 28, 2007, the Hall announced that a committee of 16 electors would vote after receiving input from the living members of the Hall. These electors would include Hall of Fame players, executives, and media personnel.

The quadrennial election of managers, executives, and umpires would be moved to a biennial schedule for managers and umpires, beginning in 2008. In odd number years, all players whose careers began after 1943 and are eligible for election are considered. These players will comprise a ballot of 20 to 25 players, rather than 30. In the first election under the new format, Joe Gordon was elected to the Hall, the first player to make it through the Committee's process since 2000.

It must be said that members elected by the Veterans Committee are full members of the Hall of Fame. There is no distinction made in the Hall itself.

In 2010 the Veterans Committee announced another set of changes. The format changed to three eras: Pre-Integration (1871-1946), Golden (1947-1972) and Expansion (1973-1989 for players and 1973-Present for executives). All three eras would be made up of composite ballots of both players and off field personnel. The expansion era will have a 12 man ballot, while the two previous eras will have only 10 candidates. Each ballot will be voted on by a 16 member committee selected by the Hall of Fame’s board of directors. The committees will be made up of Hall of Fame players, major league executives and historians/media members. The eras will rotate their voting years as Expansion were voted on in 2010 for enshrinement in 2011, followed by the Golden era and then the Pre-Integration era.

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