Hall of Fame plaque variations

The bronze plaques of the Hall of Famers that hang in the gallery in Cooperstown could be considered the ultimate baseball cards, though obviously no collector (not even Keith Olbermann) can collect them. The closest we can come is by collecting the classic Hall of Fame plaque postcards – a living set (predating the Topps Living Set by several decades) that is augmented each year by the annual class of new Hall of Famers.

A subset of the Hall of Fame plaque postcards that I’ve enjoyed collecting over the years is the variations created when one of the original bronze plaques is replaced by a new, altered plaque (and that new plaque is then reproduced on a postcard).

By my count, at least 17 original plaques have been replaced over the years by altered versions (with changes to the likeness, name or text), including one that’s been changed at least twice, and another that’s been changed at least three times.  This is only an informal survey, based on my examinations of the plaques currently on display in the Hall, photographs from induction ceremonies, my collection of Hall of Fame plaque postcards, and readers’ responses to the original posting of this article (which alerted me to the Ruth, Barrow, Lemon and Fisk variations). I inquired at the Hall of Fame library about (1) any sort of official list of changed plaques and (2) any archived correspondence regarding the when and why of the changes made, but was told (1) that there was no such official list and (2) that any such internal correspondence was not available for public view.

Here’s what I’ve got as of April 2020:

BABE RUTH

As strange as it may sound, what must be the most-read plaque in the Hall and, I’m guessing, the best-selling plaque postcard every year, originally had the wrong year for Ruth’s major league debut — an error that went uncorrected for nearly 70 years! Ruth’s incorrect career span of “1915-1935” on his original plaque was changed to the correct “1914-1935” at some point in late 2005 or 2006.  (Thanks to Jimmy Seidita for pointing out the change in Ruth’s plaque and for the link in his comment below to a 2005 New York Times article about the plaques.)

ED BARROW

The likeness on Ed Barrow’s original plaque was changed sometime between 1954 and 1959 – this is the earliest change in a plaque that I’ve found. Elected by the Veterans’ Committee in late 1953, Barrow was formally inducted (and his original plaque likely made its public debut) at the following summer’s ceremony with the Class of 1954. The original plaque appears on Artvue Type 1 (no bolts) postcards (produced from 1953-1955), but I haven’t been able to find the original on an Artvue Type 2 (produced from 1956-1963), so the change may have happened prior to 1956.  I do have a Hall of Fame guidebook published in July 1959 that shows the replacement plaque.  (Thanks to Adam Penale for pointing out the change in Barrow’s plaque.)

Author’s question: Is there an Artvue Type 2 postcard showing the original Barrow plaque?

Jackie Robinson

Even given the limited space on the plaques for describing an inductee’s achievements, the Hall has made some curious editorial choices over the years when composing the text (Barry Larkin’s plaque fails to mention his 1995 NL MVP award, for example), but no omission was more glaring than the fact that Jackie Robinson’s original plaque made no mention of his integration of the major leagues. His 1962 plaque (left) was replaced in 2008 with an altered version of the text (right) that remedied that situation. There’s a discussion of the change on the Hall’s website.

Bob Feller

It appears that Feller’s plaque has been changed at least three times.  His original plaque from 1962 (top left in the photo below, on an Artvue postcard) was later replaced by a plaque with two changes: a different likeness, and his winning percentage in the last line of text erroneously changed from “P.C..621” to “P.C.,621” (top right, on a Curteichcolor green-back).  That second version was replaced by a third version that had his career years listed as “1936-1956” and maintained the “,621” error (lower left, on a Mike Roberts postcard printed in 1992).  Subsequently, that third version was itself replaced with a new plaque that shows (as the first two versions of his plaque did) his career years as “1936-1941” and “1945-1956” (reflecting the gap in his baseball career due to his military service) and corrects the “,621” to “.621” (lower right, on the current Scenic Art postcard).

Ted Williams

It appears that Teddy Ballgame’s plaque has been changed at least twice. The original plaque that was displayed at his 1966 induction ceremony was subsequently replaced by a plaque bearing a slightly different likeness (on the left in the photo below). That replacement plaque was itself later replaced by a new plaque (on the right) with a drastically different likeness. As to why the changes were made, I note the following from Thomas Boswell in The Washington Post on August 9, 1977: “Ted Williams was so incensed by his nonlikeness that he demanded a new plaque.”

A picture of Williams posing (at his 1966 induction ceremony) with his original plaque can be seen accompanying an article on the Hall’s website.

Author’s question: Was a Hall of Fame postcard produced depicting the original 1966 Ted Williams plaque?

Stan Musial

Musial’s original 1969 plaque was replaced by one with a slightly changed text, including the replacement of “SLUGGING PERCENTAGE 6 YEARS” with “AND WON SEVEN N.L. BATTING TITLES.”

Roberto Clemente

Clemente’s original 1973 plaque was replaced in 2000 in order to reflect the traditional Latin American presentation of his full name (whereby his given last name is followed by his mother’s maiden name). Juan Marichal’s original plaque was replaced to make a similar change (see below). The original Clemente plaque is on display in the kids’ section of the Museum (in the original Hall of Fame library building) – as far as I know, it is the only one of the replaced plaques on public display anywhere (though the Hall’s website says the original Jackie Robinson plaque remains “a part of the Museum’s collections and will be used for educational purposes”).

Warren Spahn

Spahn’s original 1973 plaque was replaced by one showing a corrected career strikeout total of 2,583 in the next-to-last line of the text.

BOB LEMON

Lemon’s original 1976 plaque showed his career years as “1941-1942 AND 1946-1958,” which reflected the gap in his career due to military service in WWII. His original plaque was subsequently replaced with one showing his career years as “1941-1958.” (Thanks to Rick McElvaney for pointing out the change in Lemon’s plaque.)

Robin Roberts

I’m curious as to the “why” on this one. Instead of a slight emendation to correct the erroneous reference on Roberts’s original 1976 plaque to his having led the league in shutouts twice (he actually led the league once), the replacement plaque bears a wholesale change to the text, including a new and mysterious reference to his having been “MAJOR LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR, 1952 AND 1955.” Assuming the award being referred to is The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year Award, the information on the replacement plaque is incorrect – Roberts did win that award in 1952, but Duke Snider won it in 1955 (Roberts did win The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award in 1952 and 1955).

Editor’s Note: Mr. James Roberts, the youngest son of the Hall of Fame pitcher, reached out to us to explain the reason for the plaque’s update:

“You say it is curious as to ‘why’ on Roberts. On the original it said ‘while usually playing for second division teams.’ He did not like that, he felt his teammates were being disparaged. He requested the change. Now you know why.

Juan Marichal

As with Clemente’s plaque (see above), Marichal’s original plaque was replaced to reflect the traditional Latin American presentation of his full name.

George Davis

The original 1998 plaque for Davis was later replaced to correct the years he served as player manager in the last line of the text, from “1898, 1900 and 1901” to “1895, 1900 and 1901.” The replacement plaque has not been reproduced on a postcard yet – possibly because they still haven’t sold through the original July 1998 print run! Based on how many “Date of Printing July 1998” Davis postcards were available on the rack during my most recent visit to the Hall’s gift shop in October 2019, we may be many years away from a new printing of his postcard (which would presumably show the replacement plaque).

CARLTON FISK

Fisk’s original 2000 plaque was replaced to change his number of games caught (in the second line of the text) from 2,229 to 2,226. (Thanks to Wayne McElreavy for pointing out the change in Fisk’s plaque.)

Pete Hill

Hill’s original 2006 plaque was replaced to correct his first name: “JOSEPH” was changed to “JOHN.”

Bruce Sutter

Sutter’s original 2006 plaque was replaced to correct a typographical error: in the sixth line of the text, “LEAD” was changed to “LED.”

Roberto Alomar

Alomar’s original 2011 plaque was replaced by a new one with a slightly different likeness.

Ron Santo

Santo’s original 2012 plaque was replaced by a new one with a slightly different likeness.

Bullet Rogan – possible future change

The 2019 Hall of Fame Almanac correctly lists Rogan’s full name as “Charles Wilber ‘Joe’ Rogan,” but, as of the time of this writing, his plaque (as well as the Hall of Fame’s website) shows his full name incorrectly as “Wilber Joe Rogan.” I’ve got my eye on this one…

As mentioned above, this list reflects only my personal, informal survey and is quite possibly incomplete — additional information from readers would be most welcome!

32 thoughts on “Hall of Fame plaque variations”

  1. Fantastic job, and welcome to our team of authors, Ted! I not only loved learning about all these changes, but I really liked the connection you made between the HOF postcards and the Topps Living Set. We would welcome more articles from you any day of the week!

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  2. Excellent work. I had no idea there were so many changes. Now, I need to go back and collect the original cards! Keep posting. It’s great to have new voices.

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  3. I’ve been looking for this info for a while. Thank you so much. Slightly confused by the Sutter variation. Mine says July 2006 printing (the month he was inducted) but has “led”. Was there have been an earlier July 2006 printing, that had “lead”?

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    1. I don’t know when the Sutter plaque and postcards were changed. The plaque at his induction said “lead.” I have a “lead” postcard printed in November 2008, and a “led” postcard printed in April 2014.

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      1. The Bruce Sutter plaque with “lead” was the original plaque postcard released in July 2006 and is numbered C38503. Apparently the mistake was noticed immediately and the plaque was changed to “led” and a revised postcard was released in July 2006 and is numbered C38526.

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      2. I’ve got a C38503 (“lead”) printed in November 2008 — I wonder how often that version was reprinted.

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  4. A related question: there are a handful of latin HOFers with the plaque text translated into Spanish. Does anyone here know if there are actual Spanish language plaques, or is this just something for the postcards?

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    1. I don’t have any information about this, but, given the cost of casting the bronze plaques, my guess is that the Spanish-language versions are just digital creations for the postcards. Something I’ve wondered about is why they haven’t made Spanish-language versions of any of the postcards of Spanish-speaking inductees pre-Pedro — especially Clemente, whose postcard must be a perennial best-seller.

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      1. I was there last July and they had postcards for every HOFer, except Clemente. They said so many fans from Puerto Rico came for Edgar Martinez and they bought up all the Clemente cards.

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  5. Just curious if any other players like Spahn, Musial, and Williams who like Feller lost seasons to WW II ever considered requesting that their plaques also reflect this.

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  6. Still trying to nail down the Ted Williams plaques. There’s the one you have pictured on the left, with a 75% profile, that resembles the one in the photo from his 1966 induction. Then there’s the one on the right, with him looking straight at you, that resembles the one currently being made. What’s the third plaque look like, and when was it up?

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    1. The Williams postcards pictured in the blog post are version 2 (left) and version 3 (right) of his plaque. Version 1 is the plaque displayed at his induction ceremony. If you follow the link in the post to the article on Hall’s website and then click on (to enlarge) the photo of Williams posing with his plaque at his induction ceremony, you can see the difference between the likenesses on version 1 and version 2 — note his shoulder in the lower left of the image, for example. I’m still trying to track down a postcard showing version 1.

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  7. I believe Ed Barrow’s plaque was also changed at some point. Check out this 1953-55 Artvue Type 1 postcard of Barrow:

    His image looks completely different

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    1. As for plaques that could be changed bases on incorrect biographical info, Buck Ewing’s name is listed as “WM. B “Buck” Ewing, implying that his middle initial begins with a B. Many historians assumed his middle name was “Buckingham,” but in fact he had no middle name.

      Candy Cummings’ plaque states that he “invented curve as amateur ace of Brooklyn Stars in 1867,” but he didn’t join the Stars until 1868. It also says he ended his career with Hartford in 1876, but he played for both Cincinnati of the NL and Lynn, Massachusetts of the International Association in 1877.

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  8. Bob Lemon also has two different plaques. The differences is the World War 2 years. The original plaque had “1941 – 1942 and 1946 – 1958”. The revised plaque has “1941 – 1958”

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    1. Surprising that they would revise the Bob Lemon plaque that way. The “revised” plaque is less precise than the original. Are you sure it wasn’t the other way around?

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      1. Yes – as strange as it seems, the less precise (“1941-1958”) version is the one currently hanging in the Hall.

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  9. Here are the Spanish version of the plaque postcards in my collection. There may be a few others out there. (I listed the initial issue date after the card). I would be interested in learning if others exist.

    2019 -Mariano Rivera (July 2019)
    2019 -Edgar Martinez (July 2019)
    2018 – Vladimir Guerrero Alvino (July 2018)
    2017 -Ivan Rodriguez Torres (July 2017)
    2015 – Pedro Jaime Martinez (July 2015)
    2011 -Roberto Alonar Velazquez
    (English version #C38580) (July 2011)
    (Spanish Version #C38583) (Noviembre de 2011)
    2000- Atanasio Perez Rigal
    (English version #C38357) (July 2000)
    (Spanish Version #38585) (Noviembre de 2011)
    1999 – Orlando Manuel Cepeda Pennes
    (English version #38318) (July 1999)
    (Spanish Version #38584) (Noviembre de 2011)
    1983 – Juan Antonio Marichal Sanchez
    (English version #38374)
    (Earliest version I have is September 2001)
    (Spanish Version #38600) (January 2015)
    1973 – Roberto Clemente Walker
    (English version)
    (Earliest version I have is July 2000 in the
    Legends Baseball set issued in conjunction
    with the 20 USPS stamps)
    (Spanish #1 Version #38373) (Octubre 2000)
    ( Spanish #2 Version #38586) (Noviembre de 2011)

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  10. Hi Ted –

    There was no postcard released with the Version 1 Ted Williams plaque.

    A little background on the plaque postcards is necessary here. Before 1989, the postcards with the new Inductees were not released on Induction Day. They were released sometime between October and February following the Induction.

    The numbering on the 1965 -1977 Curteichcolor postcards had a number sequence that coud be deciphered to determine the year of issue. For example, 1966 Inductee Casey Stengel’s postcard was issued late in 1966. It had a number 6DK-1453. The 6D translates as 6 and the “D” is 1960s. Thus, 6D=1966, 8D=1968 (E=1970’s). The first Ted Williams postcard (Version 2) (8DK-241) was issued with the 1967 Inductees in early 1968.

    The 1968 Inductees cards were issued in late 1968. Their numbers were 8DK-7xx.

    Apparently Ted was not fond of the likeness on Version 1 plaque and no postcard was released when Fellow inductee Casey Stengel’s plaque postcard was released.

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      1. Hi Ted

        Bill Dickey had a change from Artvue Type 1 to Artvue Type2 (and Gold Curteichcolor) postcards.

        Bill Terry’s B&W Type1Artvue plaque is also different from his later Type2 Artvue plaque.

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