Winter Meetings interview with Jane Forbes Clark, Jeff Idelson, Fergie Jenkins, Pat Gillick, Steve Hirdt

BRAD HORN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2014 Golden Era Committee announcement. My name is Brad Horn, I'm Vice President of Communications and Education for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Following today's announcement, we'll have a moderated Q & A with members of the media with instructions to follow with our dais members. Following the press conference, dais members and committee members will be available. Details of today's announcement can be found at baseballhall.org, the website for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

You'll meet our full dais shortly, but at this time I'd like to introduce the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, to your left, Jeff Idelson. Now I'd like to welcome to the stage the Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Jane Forbes Clark.

JANE FORBES CLARK: Thank you, Brad. Thank all of you for being here today with us. The Baseball Hall of Fame's 16 member Golden Era Committee met here yesterday to consider ten candidates whose greatest contribution to the game were realized during the period of 1947 to 1972, for Hall of Fame election. The ballot selected by an 11 member historical overview committee of the Baseball Writers Association of America was comprised of nine former players and one executive. The 16 members of the Golden Era Committee, some of whom are with us today and are seated in the front row and on the dais, and as I introduce them, I'd like to ask them to stand and to remain standing are Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, David Dombrowski, Jim Frey, Pat Gillick, David Glass, Roland Hemond, Steve Hirdt, Ferguson Jenkins, Dick Kaegel, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Phil Pepe, Tracy Ringolsby, Ozzie Smith, and Don Sutton.

The discussions yesterday of the ten candidates were extensive. They were extremely thorough. Each candidate received a very thorough review before the candidates were voted on, the ballots were cast in this election. Twelve votes were needed to reach the 75% necessary to earn election to the Hall of Fame. No candidate received that 75%.

The vote totals are as follows: Dick Allen and Tony Oliva, 11 votes; Jim Kaat, 10 votes; Maury Wills, 9 votes; Minnie Minoso, 8 votes; with Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Billy Pierce, and Luis Tiant each received three or fewer votes.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame, I would like to once again thank the committee for their work. The results today are a reminder that election to the Hall of Fame is incredibly difficult and the highest honor an individual can receive in baseball.

As you all know, on Tuesday, January 6th, Baseball Writers Association of America and the Hall of Fame will announce the results of the 2015 BBWA election, and we're looking forward to our induction ceremony in Cooperstown on July 26th. Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen of the media, at this time we'll conduct a moderated Q & A. Please raise your hand and wait to be called on.

Q. What were the deliberations like? And I'll open this for any of you guys that were in the room. What were the deliberations like, and how close did it come to either of those two guys getting the one extra vote that he needed to get into the hall?

FERGIE JENKINS: Well, each player was discussed an intense time. I think the number one thing is we brought up each player. We brought up his stats, playing time, teams he played for, and the individual personal accounts. So I think each individual had that opportunity to understand, and everybody on the council had an opportunity to understand each guy's individual performance, and who he was and where he played.

STEVE HIRDT: That's a good summary.

Q. I wonder, you guys have done such a good job of handling all these different eras, but with the age of some of these players and the significance of making the Hall of Fame, have you talked internally about going back to voting on all the years every year and not waiting three years for each era?

JANE FORBES CLARK: As you can imagine, our voting processes and systems procedures are always under review by the Board of Directors with our senior staff. We're always talking about it. We never think that we have it right going forward into the future.

Q. For the three guys over here to the right, was this a secret ballot when you guys found out that nobody got in? Were you a little bit disappointed especially since a couple of guys got so close?

STEVE HIRDT: Disappointed would be a good word, because after all, those of us who voted, voted with the belief that the people we voted for are worthy of the Hall of Fame. But the fact is that that disappointment is mitigated to some degree by the fact that there will be another day for the candidates, and the overriding issue of who represents a Hall of Famer in the 75% qualification is absolute. The integrity of the process and the integrity of the institution demands that at a time there will be near misses, and near misses can be disappointing. But there have been near misses who have gotten in, Mr. Bunning is a good example of that. But we hope that candidates will again get a full airing next time they're eligible.

PAT GILLICK: I want to thank the BBWA for the job that they did. The original pool from 1947 through 1972 was over 200 people that had to be examined, looked at, and they narrowed it down to the 10 candidates that our committee reviewed yesterday. BBWA did a great job, because it was a very, very difficult decision for I think each and every member of the committee in this process.

As Fergie said, I think there was a very, very healthy conversation on each candidate, the pros and cons. And most of the conversation yesterday was on the very, very positive side of these candidates. It's just unfortunate that one or two didn't get in. I am disappointed.

But, again, it points out how very, very difficult it is to earn a plaque in Cooperstown.

Q. Would it be fair to say that longevity was an issue with the guys who came close with Oliva and Allen, that maybe they were great but not great for quite long enough?

If you could sort of summarize maybe why they didn't get in.

STEVE HIRDT: I don't know that any of us really knows the answer to that since everyone voted according to their own conscience. So for the people who didn't vote for a particular person, I'm not quite sure what the consensus reason might be.

Q. Do you have your own thoughts you could share at all?

STEVE HIRDT: The people I voted for were the people who I thought were most worthy of election. Clearly every candidate who ever comes down the pike has some strong points or weaker points. I don't want to identify one particular thing about one candidate as a reason why I didn't vote for him.

Q. I wondered if you could be a little bit more specific. You said that you're constantly looking at the voting procedures. Following up on Bruce's question, what would it take to change the vote to the point where you could have virtually this same election next year in the next two years, as opposed to three years down the road. What would be some of the circumstances that you'd look at to say, hey, maybe we should look at this a little bit differently?

JANE FORBES CLARK: I think that's very difficult to answer. I think we need to take the results of not only this year but the past elections under this format and go back and have time to look at it and see if it still addresses the purpose of the Veterans Committee as it's laid out by era, by how the ballot is composed of players, managers, umpires, and see if it's still viable. I think my point earlier was that the Board never takes for granted that our procedures are perfect going forward in the future. We are always looking, we are always trying to make it better, and we are always trying, most importantly, to uphold the standard of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the difficulty of election. And I don't need to remind you that only 1% of all men to have ever played the game are in Cooperstown. So we have a very high standard, and we are determined to keep it.

Q. I just want to be clear. The Board will definitely address this or will address when it feels the need to go over the procedures?

JANE FORBES CLARK: Jeff and his staff and the Board of Directors always looks at what we're doing, whether it's how we're running induction weekend, whether it's how we're setting up the election for the Veterans Committee or the BBWA, we're always looking to make sure that we're doing it correctly. So it's not a matter of a trigger or something like that. It's a matter of just our general operating procedure is to always keep looking and be very open to input from others about what they think is the good, the bad, needs to be changed. It's a very open discussion always within our groups.

Q. Question for the voters, when looking at statistics, to what extent did you use advanced stats for instance, did you adjust the stats to era and ballpark?

STEVE HIRDT: Well, the exact nature of the deliberations is always kept confidential so a discussion of what the particular methods were necessarily would have to remain somewhat confidential. But I would say this, there was a wide ranging discussion of all of the statistics of a particular player, including some that may not have existed when that player was playing. I think having been on a couple of these panels, I think this was as thorough of a discussion as any that I've ever been involved with. I think the depth of the candidates who were on this ballot that was put before us necessitated that type of approach. So that's about the best I can say.

THE MODERATOR: We have time for a couple more questions here.

Q. You talked about this needed to be confidential and secrecy, why? Why is that needed?

JEFF IDELSON: We feel that the salient points of the voting are transparent. We talk about who is on the ballot, we give vote totals. But when you have a committee of only 16 to specifically say how someone voted really doesn't accomplish a lot. It's a small enough committee. The results speak for themselves, and by making the results public, we feel there is a great deal of transparency. To Steve's point, the deliberations themselves are confidential, but to his point also, all statistical metrics were used. So we feel we are being transparent in what we're providing.

Q. This is also a BBWAA thing. You may not have the complete answer to this, but when you have people like Hodges now I think has gone through 15 votes on the BBWAA ballot and six different Veterans Committees, and now he's at like the lowest point. When do you get to a point where somebody like him is no longer on the next ballot and gets replaced by somebody else?

STEVE HIRDT: Well, there is an historical overview committee that puts together the ballot. As Pat mentioned, the ballot is generated from a pool of over 200 possibilities.

On the Overview Committee, the point is to come up with the strongest possible ballot. The 10 people, in the case of this era, who are the most worthy candidates of induction from whose greatest impact was in that particular era. There is no limit on how many times a player can be nominated for an individual can be nominated anymore than there is any limit on how many times you can be nominated for an Academy Award.

Q. Just to be clear, unlike the BBWAA ballot that has a 5% threshold, there is no threshold for the Veterans Committee ballots?

STEVE HIRDT: No, the discussion starts anew each cycle.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time this morning. Members of the dais, as well as committee members will be available here to briefly follow up. Thank you for your time and we'll see you in Cooperstown.