On the customary second Tuesday in October, the sixth annual class of new inductees into the British Baseball Hall of Fame recognizes three more of the game’s greats: Alan Smith, Cody Cain, and Josh Chetwynd.
Smith is the second most successful player in the British game’s history, as assessed by national titles, and he remains the holder of several modern top-tier pitching records. Off the field, he was a key administrator for the London Warriors, one of the country’s all-time best teams, and he provided instrumental support for Team GB’s silver medal at the 2007 European Championships.
Cain was one of the truly great two-way players in modern British baseball history and featured consistently among the leaders of pitching and batting statistical categories throughout his time in the game. His 18-strike-out game in 2004 is still a modern record, and his 0.00 earned-run average in 1993 remains an unmatched top-tier feat.
Chetwynd’s contribution to the sport in Britain has comprised a unique mix: prominent media roles; deep involvement in initiatives to grow the game and chronicle its history; and consistent success as a player, both domestically and internationally. Across the first decade of wood-bat baseball in the modern era (2001-2010), Chetwynd not only had the highest batting average (.440) but was also the hardest player to strike out.
To see full biographies of the three 2014 inductees as well as the 22 other individuals enshrined in the British Baseball Hall of Fame, please visit: http://www.bbhof.org.uk/
On a personal note, having taken on the role of Secretary for the BBHoF this year I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for the amount of thought that goes into the voting process.
In Major League Baseball the Hall of Fame process is long-established and, aside from the recent ‘steroid era’ difficulties, is relatively straight forward. There are comprehensive records for every game, from stats to game reports to radio and TV footage. There is an overwhelming abundance of material and precedent to refer to as part of differentiating someone from being a person who had made a very good contribution to someone who made an exceptional contribution.
We don’t have that luxury with British Baseball. The (known) records can be patchy and even where we do have good records there is not always as much evidence as you’d like to fully assess the varying standard of play among teams, leagues and years. This year’s three inductees are from what you might call the recent era and certainly the more prevalent records around their contributions on and off the field can help to reassure a voter of their stance.
However even just a quick glance at the previous inductees will show that participants from different eras can be assessed and recognised, from a 1930s pitcher like Lefty Wilson to a Brad Thompson whose British Baseball playing days spanned from the late 1970s to 2003.
Like any Hall of Fame, debate is always part of the fun as we will all see things slightly differently. Part of the purpose of the British Baseball Hall of Fame is to generate further interest in the history of the sport on these shores so that if there are potential worthy Hall of Fame candidates out there, records can be hunted down and compiled not just for potential voters but for anyone interested in the British game.
The Hall of Fame will never tell the whole story of British Baseball, but it will tell some of them – not least now the stories of Smith, Cain and Chetwynd – and will hopefully be another incentive to encourage people to track down even more, whether to endorse a Hall of Fame candidacy, to fill in a few blanks in the record books, or to find an interesting, amusing or touching tale to add to the collective British Baseball memory bank.