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Today in Sports History: 1/29 | First Baseball Hall of Fame Class Inducted

Today in sports history (1936), the first Baseball Hall of Fame class was inducted. The five players selected were Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson.

If I were to ask you who had the highest percentage of votes, who would you guess? Babe Ruth, probably. The correct answer is Ty Cobb. Many people believe that this is the best Baseball Hall of Fame class in history, as it contains five of the best players ever. All five players played a part in growing and popularizing the sport.

One player who many cite should have been included is Cy Young, who finished eighth in the voting.

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Credit: Detroit Free Press Archives

Reviewing the First Baseball Hall of Fame Class

Order of Baseball Hall of Fame players determined by vote percentage.

Ty Cobb

In a league that has been around for over 100 years, many of Ty Cobb’s records still stand to this day. Among those still standing are his career batting average (.366), combined total runs and runs batted in (4,065) and batting titles (11). While Cobb did never win a title, he did win the MVP and the Triple Crown.

Cobb’s impact on the game went much further than just the numbers he put up. While stories of Cobb’s racial intolerance were told throughout the years, they were later found to be falsified and embellished. Ty Cobb was one of the first baseball players to publicly support the integration of baseball and the breaking of the color barrier. Following his death, he was praised in many obituaries for being in favor of racial freedom in baseball. Cobb was the highest receiving vote-getter for the first Baseball Hall of Fame class.

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth in considered by many to be the greatest player in baseball history. More than just his play, Ruth became the face of baseball in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s.

Ruth spent his first six seasons with the Red Sox and won three World Series titles in those early years. He was a solid player for Boston and was still young at the time of the trade, at just 24 years old. After his move to New York, he truly blossomed. Ruth hit 24 home runs in his last season with the Red Sox. Babe Ruth proceeded to hit 40 or more home runs in 11 of his next 13 seasons with the Yankees.

Ruth spent a total of 15 seasons with the Yankees. In total, Ruth won four more World Series titles during his tenure in New York, taking his amount of World Series titles to seven. He was also named the American League MVP in 1923 and left many career records behind.

At the time of his retirement, Ruth was easily the most accomplished baseball player of all time. He set 15 records during his playing career. While 11 of them have since been broken, Ruth still holds the records for career slugging percentage, career on-base plus slugging percentage, longest recorded home run and most times hitting two or more home runs in a game in a career. Ruth went into the Hall of Fame with 714 home runs.

today in sports history first baseball hall of fame class
Credit: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Honus Wagner

By many accounts, Honus Wagner is the best shortstop in baseball history. That is saying something, considering shortstop is thought of to be one of the most important positions on the field. Wagner was one of the first true superstars in the game, as well as one of the game’s first five-tool players. He won eight batting titles, which was the record until Tony Gwynn in the ’90s. Fellow class member, Ty Cobb called Wagner “maybe the greatest star to ever take the diamond.” Also, fellow member and legendary pitcher Christy Mathewson said the best way to pitch to him was not to pitch to him. Wagner will probably be known for being the face of the highest-selling sports card of all time.

Christy Mathewson

Christy Mathewson was one of the first pitchers to control the game. His devastating screwball stifled hitters in the early part of the game. In Mathewson’s first season in professional baseball, he recorded 21 wins and two losses. Mathewson went on to win 373 games. None of those were won on Sunday, as he did not pitch on that day, due to religious beliefs. ESPN ranked his 1905 World Series performance as the greatest pitching performance of all time. He threw three shutouts in this run.

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Walter Johnson

Many baseball fans and historians call Walter Johnson the hardest thrower of all time. Johnson holds a record that may never be broken, 110 career shutouts. He is also second in wins (417) and fourth in complete games (531). Before his record for most strikeouts was broken, he held it for 56 years. He led the league in strikeouts 12 times, including a run of eight straight seasons. Johnson is the only player in baseball history to record 400 wins and strike out 3,500 batters. Johnson’s sidearm delivery just added to the difficulty in trying to get a hit off of him. Another unlikely record for Johnson is throwing the most three-pitch innings in history with four.

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