Baseball Hall of Fame question

I was thinking about Jose Rijo’s renewed Major League career and came up with a question.

Under the rules rules for election, a player must be retired for five years to be eligible to be voted upon by the Baseball Writers Association of America. In order to stay on the ballot the next year, a player must get 5% of the vote.

Jose Rijo was eligible for the Hall in the 2001 election. In that election, he received one vote and was dropped from the ballot.

My questions are as follows:

  1. Will he be eligible again for BBWAA election five years after he re-retires? If so, could any player renew his eligibility by playing a minor league game (since minor league play counts. You must be retired for five years from all Organized Baseball play)?

  2. If he had gotten 5% of the vote, could he have remained on the ballot anyway?

  3. If he had been elected, would he have to surrender his position in the Hall, since only retired players are eligible?

My guess is no on #2 and #3. I really, however, don’t know about #1. Where it really comes into play is with Pete Rose. Rose last played in 1986. That means that in order to be elected by the BBWAA, he must be reinstated by 2006, or else his eligibility will pass to the newly reformed Veterans Committee. However, suppose he is not reinstated until 2010 and he really wants to be elected by the BBWAA (which, to me anyway, was a more “honorable” way of getting into the Hall). Could he simply convince the Reds’ management to allow him to play in one minor league game (or even a meaningless at bat in a major league game) and thereby renew his eligibility in five years?

Zev Steinhardt

  1. The ballots gives to BBWAA voters are made up by a selections committee. Under normal circumstances, the committee (or it might just be one guy; in any case, it’s an official HoF body) puts 5-years-retired players on the ballot but doesn’t put on anyone who wasn’t a regular player for at least most of ten years.

The HoF does have the option of putting him back on the ballot. I do not believe they would do so unless his comeback merited it. If he goes and wins a Cy Young Award, they’ll put him back on. If he pitches 19 games, goes 2-1 and blows his arm out, they won’t. Either way it’s the HoF’s call.

  1. Interesting question. Originally, you had to be retired for five years, PERIOD; you weren’t eligible if you were retired as a player but still managing or coaching. That was changed when they decided they wanted to elect Casey Stengel. There’s no particular rule for this, but I believe he would have been removed from the ballot had he still been on it.

  2. If you get elected to the Hall, you’re elected forever. If Kirby Puckett came back and played for the Twins he’d still be elected, although I guess they’d have to change his plaque. The rules for BBWAA ELECTION say you have to be retired for five years; as I am sure you are aware, there are other ways to get elected, and even the five-year rule has been waived at times. There’s no rule that says you can’t be in the Hall of Fame if you’re playing.

As to Pete Rose;

  1. Maybe it’s my faulty memory but I seem to recall that the rule if that you can only be on the BBWAA ballot for fifteen years, and that it didn’t say WHAT fifteen years. Rose has never been on the ballot. If he gets reinstated in 2010, maybe he starts fresh with the BBWAA.

  2. This has happened before; Minnie Minoso retired in 1964, but played three games in 1976 and two games in 1980. It had no impact on his HoF standing or his place in line.

  3. Playing in a minor league game isn’t of any relevance.


I’m afraid you’re wrong on this. The rules explicitly state:

So, he would not start fresh in 2010.


True. But was he still on the ballot in 1976? I’ll have to check my copy of Total Baseball when I get home

I can’t find it anywhere in the rules, but I’m pretty sure you’re wrong on this one too. Tom Seaver went to spring training with the Mets in '87 or '88 (maybe even '89?) to attempt a comeback. There was talk about it affecting his upcoming Hall eligibility. I remember it being stated that as long as he played exhibition games he would still be eligible, but if he played a minor (or major) league game, he’d have to wait five years.

Zev Steinhardt

Playing in the minor leagues does affect your eligibility. After he retired from the majors, Warren Spahn pitched briefly down in Mexico. He wasn’t chosen for the HOF until 1973. Spahn’s last year in the majors was 1965.
I’m almost certain that Spahn was elected in his first year of eligibility. He was going to be the only choice of the BBWAA in 1973 until they had the special election for Roberto Clemente.

Goes to show you what I know.