Seventy-eight years ago, on January 29, 1936, baseball stars Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson became the first players elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Ruth was an ace pitcher and the greatest home-run hitter, Cobb the most productive hitter in history, Wagner a star shortstop and batting champ, Mathewson had more wins than any pitcher in National League history, and Johnson an overpowering pitcher.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was dedicated on June 12, 1939. The myth that U.S. Civil War hero Abner Doubleday invented the game in Cooperstown was instrumental in the early marketing of the hall.
By 2010, 292 people had been elected, including 203 former major league players, 35 Negro leaguers, 19 managers, nine umpires, and 26 pioneers, executives and organizers.
Players are inducted through election by either the Baseball Writers Association of America or the Veterans Committee. Five years after retirement, a player with 10 years of major league experience who passes a screening committee is eligible.
From a final ballot, each writer may vote for up to 10 players, and a player named on 75 percent or more of all ballots cast is elected. Sandy Koufax, who pitched for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, became at 36 the youngest player ever elected to the Hall of Fame.
Yogi Berra, inducted in 1972, was a clutch hitter and one of the greatest catchers of all time. He joined the New York Yankees in 1946 and stayed with the team until 1965. As a player, he holds several World Series records, including the most titles (10) and most series played (14).
As a manager, he led the Yankees to the World Series in 1964 and did the same with the Mets in 1973. He coached and managed the Yankees again from 1976-85, and ended his career as a coach with the Houston Astros from 1986-89. His cryptic comments, or Yogi-isms, such as "it ain't over 'til it's over" and "it's deja vu all over again," are legendary.
According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, about 350,000 fans visit the museum every year, with the total surpassing 14 million. The visitors see only a fraction of its 35,000 artifacts, 2.6 million newspaper clippings and photographs, and 130,000 baseball cards. Its motto is: "Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations."