COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — One created baseball's foremost dynasty, one transformed the role of the men in blue, and one notched the first hit in the first professional game.
That's the impressive legacy of baseball pioneers Jacob Ruppert, Hank O'Day and James “Deacon” White, who are finally about to receive the recognition they deserve — induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The three men represent the Class of 2013 and they've all been dead for more than 70 years, making today's festivities something out of the ordinary. For only the second time in 42 years, baseball writers failed to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame, sending a firm signal that stars of the Steroids Era — including Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens, who didn't even come close in their first year of eligibility — will be judged in a different light.
“When December rolled around and the ballots were out for completion, it started to dawn on us that there was a better-than-likely chance that the writers might not come to a 75 percent vote on anyone this year,” said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson. “Disappointed? Yes, because we feel there are candidates on the ballot who certainly deserved consideration. But surprised? No.”
Approval on 75 percent of returned ballots is needed for induction, and with pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and slugger Frank Thomas eligible for the first time next year, Bonds, Sosa and Clemens figure to be on the outside looking in for a long while.
“I believe that this past year was an aberration — the first real ballot with some uncertainty among how the voters feel about some of the candidates on it,” Idelson said. “But looking forward, we don't believe that this is the norm.”
One thing remains constant — the awards for those who have chronicled the game. Longtime Philadelphia Daily News writer Paul Hagen will be honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and the family of late Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek will be given the Ford C. Frick Award in a ceremony on Saturday at Doubleday Field. Dr. Frank Jobe, whose groundbreaking surgery on pitcher Tommy John has evolved into a game-changing medical procedure, also will be honored.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America last failed to elect a player in 1971, when former New York Yankees great Yogi Berra fell just short.