NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jacob Ruppert, the New York Yankees owner who established the foundation of a franchise that has become the most heralded brand in professional sports history, was one of three elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday.
Ruppert was joined by turn-of-the-20th-century umpire Hank O'Day and 19th-century catcher Deacon White, who were candidates on the Pre-Integration Committee ballot, which included six players, three executives and O'Day. The three men, all deceased, are the first members of the Hall's Class of 2013.
A 16-person committee reviewed the accomplishments of those who were Major League Baseball's best and brightest prior to Jackie Robinson shattering the color barrier in 1947.
Ruppert, who owned the Yankees from 1915-39, purchased Babe Ruth from the Red Sox, signed Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio and had the foresight to erect the first Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923. Ruppert sent the Yankees on a path toward a stunning record of 27 World Series titles, a run that has extended nearly a century into an era when the club is held by the Steinbrenner family.
"[Ruppert} did a lot for the game," said Bob Watson, a former Yankees player and general manager who recently retired as an MLB executive and was a member of the committee. "And the House that Ruth Built, he actually built it."
There are 45 players, managers and executives in the Hall with some sort of Yankees pedigree, but Ruppert is the first to have been an owner.
O'Day, an umpire from 1888-1927, worked in a record-tying 10 World Series, and White, who hit .312 from 1871-90, caught without the luxury of a glove or a mask, and was known for playing all nine positions.
Ruppert and O'Day received 15 of the 16 votes from the committee members, and White was named on 14 of the ballots. As in any Hall of Fame election, a candidate must be named on at least 75 percent of the ballots cast to be inducted. Each member could vote for four of the 10 on this particular ballot.
The trio elected by the Pre-Integration Committee will be inducted posthumously into the Hall on July 28 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Included in that day's ceremonies will be anyone elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on the annual writers ballot.
That ballot, released last week, includes newcomers such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling, as well as Jack Morris, who is back for a 14th try. The results of that vote will be revealed on Jan. 9.
The winners of the Ford C. Frick Award for meritorious contributions to baseball announcing and the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball writing will be honored on July 27 at Doubleday Field. The Spink Award winner is to be announced on Tuesday and the Frick winner on Wednesday.
The Pre-Integration Ballot included two other executives: St. Louis Cardinals owner Sam Breadon, whose Gashouse Gang club went to the World Series four times between 1942-46, winning three of them, and Al Reach, a former player and executive for the Philadelphia Phillies. Reach ultimately established his own sporting goods company that produced the official baseball for the American League.
The five other players included shortstops Marty Marion and Bill Dahlen, and pitchers Wes Ferrell, Tony Mullane and Bucky Walters. Ferrell's brother, Rick, was a catcher who was elected to the Hall by a Veterans Committee in 1984.
The Cardinals were well-represented on the ballot with Breadon and Marion, the shortstop on those World Series-winning teams of the 1940s. The club's current chairman, Bill DeWitt Jr., was a member of the committee. Marion and Breadon received fewer than three votes this time around.
"Breadon was an owner of the club during an incredible era of success," said DeWitt, whose father was a long-time executive for the Browns and Cardinals and worked in baseball for more than 50 years. "Obviously, he was a strong candidate. Marty was a great player and great leader on the club."
Executives, umpires and managers can only be selected by variations of the Veterans Committee and there are ample examples of owners who have been elected, although long after their lives have ended. The most recent were Barney Dreyfuss of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Walter O'Malley of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, who were both inducted in 2008. Dreyfuss died in 1932 and O'Malley in 1979.
Ruppert passed away in 1939 at age 71.
"The standard for ownership has always been a difficult issue," said Peter Morris, a baseball historian who was on the committee. "The Hall of Fame started by putting builders in and it took a while to recognize owners. One of the things we discussed is that many people believed that Jacob Ruppert was already in because his credentials were so outstanding. Then when we looked at his record afresh, we realized he'd done an incredible amount for the game."
Actually, it was Ed Barrow, the Yanks' general manager from that era, who is in the Hall, elected in 1953. Barrow, whose career started with the Red Sox, was the one who seemingly masterminded paying then-Boston owner Harry Frazee $100,000 for Ruth after the 1919 season, thus changing the course of baseball history.
Who deserves more credit for that, Ruppert or Barrow?
"Ruppert had to write the check, but Barrow clearly came from the Red Sox, where he had been what we call today the GM," said John Thorn, MLB's official historian. "It was Barrow who transformed Ruth from a pitcher to a batter. And it was Barrow who saw the opportunity to acquire a disaffected Ruth from a financially pinched Frazee."
Ruth's greatest success in Boston was as a pitcher, but he quickly became baseball's most heralded slugger after he came to the Yankees, hitting 54 home runs in 1920 and 59 more in 1921. His Major League record of 714 career homers stood for 39 years.
Ruth was in the first group elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936. Now the owner who brought him to New York is in there with him.