Babe Ruth retired in 1935, the year before the first class was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Voters at the time didn’t know about OPS or wins-above-replacement statistics and couldn’t know his 2.28 ERA would stand as 17th-best in history 80 years after Ruth retired.
But they did know Ruth had a .342 lifetime batting average, hit 714 homers and had 2,214 RBIs. He was the greatest player of his time, perhaps all time, yet 11 of the 235 voters left him off the ballot for the Hall of Fame. In fact, the Babe finished second in the initial vote behind Ty Cobb.
For generations, as a means of protecting early legends, some writers compounded mistakes of their forefathers and refused to vote for players on the first ballot. It’s the only way to explain how three didn’t vote for Ken Griffey Jr., who earned the highest percentage in history. The vote should have been unanimous.
Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr. and Hank Aaron fell fewer than 10 ballots short of unanimous, which makes you question the credibility of the voters. The answer will come in 2020, when Derek Jeter takes his place in Cooperstown.