Now this might be the ultimate sacrilege. After years of extolling the virtues of the Baseball Reliquary (you know: the mysterious, quirky-but-visionary anti-organization with its "Hall of Fame for the rest of us"), we're going to turn around and "murder to dissect" the voting practices of that mystical, far-flung group with more je ne sais quoi than any random collection of a thousand Frenchmen?
Well, sure. After all, there are no sacred cows here (possibly a lone udder somewhere in the outlying precincts, but we wouldn't bet on it and would caution you against it). And, hey, what if the numbers actually told us something?
Now, some of you may already know the reason for this untrammeled (and most assuredly unpasturized) introduction: the Baseball Reliquary, heading into Year 16 of its Shrine of the Eternals voting ritual, has released the names of their newest candidates on their annual ballot. We'll discuss them in a later installment (which, yes, is why there's a "/1" in the title: we're going to drag this out for awhile).
So we are going to look at the Shrine of the Eternals voting results from something that somewhat resembles a statistical perspective. (Mark Twain's remarks might be appropriate here--or, rather, appropriately inappropriate...keep in mind those damned outlying precincts!)
Our lone chart for tonight (next time we promise a floodtide of visual aids: come to think of it, that's a threat--and a promise...) will show you just how "locked in" the Reliquary brain trust was when they first formulated the ballot for their voters. (In case you don't recall, the extraordinary twins of the Reliquary, Terry "Chang" Cannon and Buddy "Eng" Kilchesty, are the prime movers behind the fifty names that appear on the yearly Shrine of the Eternals ballot.)
As the chart shows (by listing the Shrine's inductees by the year in which they first appeared on the ballot), that first year in 1999 was one of extraordinary prescience and vision.
21 of the 45 current inductees in the Shrine of the Eternals first appeared on the ballot in that first year. That's just under half of the Shrine's total population.
The Reliquary's jolly jugglers got things off to an extraordinary start, with results that are, in fact, odds-defying.
Now it's true that things have been a bit different since that first magnificent collection of nominees in 1999. It could only be thus. We'll see more evidence of why that is when we come back for Part 2. But it's clear that the process has become more hit-and-miss since that original grand synthesis.
As you can see, the "classes" of 2001 and 2003 were extremely successful, bringing a total of eleven more Eternals into the pantheon. Since then, the 1999 class produced eight more inductees, while the ongoing new classes from 2004-2012 contributed a total of eleven. 2010 was a rallying point, with two first-year inductees for the first time since the first year, but it's a slower process now.
A couple of interesting tidbits before we sign off. Note that the irrepressible Jim Bouton is the inductee who had the lowest initial vote total of anyone who's been elected into the Shrine. He got just 4% of the vote in 1999.
And note that the amazing one-armed outfielder, Pete Gray, received 44% of the vote in that first year...but it took him twelve more ballots to finally be inducted. As they say: go figure.
We'll have a lot more detail--and by "a lot" we mean "a lot"--in part 2. Stay tuned.