Among baseball fans, "Hall of Fame" means not only the museum and facility in Cooperstown, but also the pantheon of players, managers, umpires and builders who have been named to enshrinement there. The first five men elected were superstars Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, named in 1936. As of 2004, 258 men had been elected or appointed to the Hall of Fame, including 210 players, 17 managers (many of whom also played), eight umpires, and 23 builders, executives, and organizers. Twenty-six men have also been awarded the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, while 55 have received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball writing.
Players are inducted into the Hall of Fame through election by either the Baseball Writers Association of America (or BBWAA), or the Veterans Committee, which is composed mainly of former players (specifically, Hall of Famers). Five years after retirement, any player with 10 years of major league experience, who passes a screening committee (which removes from consideration players of clearly lesser qualification) is eligible to be elected by BBWAA members with 10 years' membership or more. From a final ballot typically including 30-50 candidates, each writer may vote for up to 10 players; until the late 1950s, voters were advised to cast votes for the maximum 10 candidates. Any player named on 75% or more of all ballots cast is elected. A player who is named on fewer than 5% of ballots is dropped from future elections. In some instances, the screening committee had restored their names to later ballots, but in the mid-1990s, dropped players were made permanently ineligible for Hall of Fame consideration, even by the Veterans Committee. A 2001 change in the election procedures restored the eligibility of these dropped players; while their names will not appear on future BBWAA ballots, they may be considered by the Veterans Committee.