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Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1978 introduced a new system that would continue to 1994. The special committee on Negro Leagues had disbanded after its 1977 meeting. Two of its members were appointed to the Veterans Committee, as part of expanding that body from twelve to eighteen members, and its responsibilities were extended to cover the Negro Leagues. Where the special committee had elected nine people in seven years from 1971, the expanded Veterans Committee would elect two in seventeen years up to 1994, before the next reform.
The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players and elected Eddie Mathews. The Veterans Committee met in closed sessions to consider older major league players as well as managers, umpires, executives, and figures from the Negro Leagues. It selected Addie Joss and Larry MacPhail.
The BBWAA was authorized to elect players active in 1958 or later, but not after 1972; the ballot included candidates from the 1977 ballot who received at least 5% of the vote but were not elected, along with selected players, chosen by a screening committee, whose last appearance was in 1972. All 10-year members of the BBWAA were eligible to vote.
Voters were instructed to cast votes for up to 10 candidates; any candidate receiving votes on at least 75% of the ballots would be honored with induction to the Hall. The ballot consisted of 36 players; a total of 379 ballots were cast, with 285 votes required for election. Those candidates receiving less than 5% of the vote will not appear on future BBWAA ballots, but may eventually be considered by the Veterans Committee.
Candidates who were eligible for the first time are indicated here with a †. The one candidate who received at least 75% of the vote and was elected is indicated in bold italics; candidates who have since been elected in subsequent elections are indicated in italics. The 14 candidates who received less than 5% of the vote, thus becoming ineligible for future BBWAA consideration, are indicated with a *.
Roberto Clemente, who died during the 1972 season, was included on the 1973 ballot under a standard provision for players who die before the five-year waiting period has elapsed.
The newly-eligible players included 18 All-Stars, 11 of whom were not included on the ballot, representing a total of 39 All-Star selections. Among the new candidates were 7-time All-Star Bill Mazeroski and 5-time All-Stars Hoyt Wilhelm and Maury Wlls. The field included two MVPs (Wills and Denny McLain), one Cy Young Award winner (Denny McLain, who received the MVP the same year as one of his two Cy Young Awards; that same season, he was the last pitcher to win thirty games in a season) and two Rookies of the Year (Ron Hansen and Gary Peters). Bill Mazeroski also had eight Gold Gloves at Second Base, the record at the time.
Players eligible for the first time who were not included on the ballot were: Ted Abernathy, Joe Azcue, John Bateman, Wade Blasingame, Don Buford, Donn Clendenon, Tony Cloninger, Moe Drabowsky, Joe Gibbon, Tom Haller, Steve Hamilton, Ron Hansen, Joe Horlen, Julian Javier, Denny Lemaster, J. C. Martin, Don Mincher, Gary Peters, Phil Regan, Jim Roland, Ron Taylor, Stan Williams, and Bobby Wine.
- 1978 Election at www.baseballhalloffame.org
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