"The myth about how good Negro League players were can now be factually supported from the research."
In 2001, the screening committee, which former Commissioner Fay Vincent served on as a non-voting chair, took a mandate from the Hall of Fame, sifted through Hall-backed research done on black baseball from 1860 to 1960, discussed the data and came up with its candidates for possible induction.
The initial research, which has drawn praise for its depth and scope, got a jump start in 2000 with a $250,000 grant from Major League Baseball, said Dale Petroskey, president of the Hall of Fame.
"It's right in our strike zone; baseball history is what we do at the Baseball Hall of Fame," Petroskey said. "We thought there was a real need to know more about the Negro Leagues and the pre-Negro Leagues.
"And once and for all, we have statistics to judge players on."
The 39 Negro Leagues and Pre-Negro Leagues candidates to be voted upon in February for Hall of Fame election:
Taylor, Candy Jim
Johnson, Home Run
With the money, the Hall of Fame assembled a 50-person research team in February 2001 that put black baseball under a microscope. The study, which will be published in the next year to 18 months, went to Vincent's screening committee earlier this year, and the committee came up with the finalists.
On its list are more than a handful of players whom Negro League historians have long argued should have been in Cooperstown when the first wave of black players was inducted.
Among players and Negro League officials who made the cut were: outfielder Minnie Minoso; second baseman Newt Allen, catcher Biz Mackey, shortstop Dick Lundy, slugger Mule Suttles and Newark Eagles owner Effa Manley, one of the first women to play a pioneering role in the sport.
Those names and 33 others appear on two ballots. Thirty of the names are on a ballot of former Negro League players, managers and executives; the other nine are on a ballot of pre-Negro League players and pioneers.
Those two ballots will now go to the 12-member committee. The committee will meet Feb. 25-27 in Tampa and discuss the merit of each candidate.
Any person on the ballot who receives nine votes (or 75 percent of the votes cast) will earn induction. Each candidate will be voted on individually.