Last week we covered the position players of the Deadball Era. Our next stop is the Liveball Era. Although the names of the era make it obvious – the Deadball Era was characterized by low run scoring – the Liveball Era saw rise to the home run, Babe Ruth, and an offensive explosion that changed the way the game was played:
The Liveball Era players are ones I am much more familiar with. One fifth of the players in the Hall of Fame are from the Liveball era. There should be a good reason for that. The Hall of Fame was originally established in 1936. The first players inducted were people from the Liveball Era. A special committee of experts was created to select the best players on the 19th century for induction, but the whole process was botched. Initially, the voters averaged about 10 players per ballot, but the Hall of Fame folks only wanted to vote in five players. So they counted each vote as half a vote.
If you need 75% for induction, and each vote only counts for half, there isn’t much of a chance anyone will actually get inducted. So instead of getting five people in the Hall from the 19th century, none of them got in. As a result, the backlog of players that needed to be inducted made things slower in future elections. Instead of inducting a lot of the Liveball Era greats, the 19th century players took up space on the ballot, and diluted the voting. The Veterans’ Committee picked up the slack, resulting in 48 total players from this era being inducted to the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, the Hall of Merit thinks only 33 of those players were actually worthy.
The end of the Liveball Era was the start of WWII. Over 500 MLB players fought in the war, and the talent level dropped from 1941-1945, as did scoring.
Here is the first half of the Liveball Era:
And here’s the second half:
If we had to do it all over again, who would we elect from this time period? If you had a ballot, who would you vote for?
Player list (career WAR in parentheses):
- Fangraphs Career WAR Leaders