What to do with senior finalists left behind by Centennial Class? Here's an idea

Clark Judge

The Centennial Class of 2020 was supposed to address the backlog of deserving seniors waiting for a call to Canton … and it did.

To a point.

Where once there were talks of including as many as 17 inductees – replicating the Hall’s Charter Class of 1963 – there were 10. They were chosen from a group of 20 finalists, all of whom are Hall-of-Fame worthy, but half of whom didn’t make it.

We know what happens to the 10 who did. You’ll see them in Canton this September. But what about those who didn’t cross the finish line?

I say: Let’s see them again.

Instead of returning those 10 to next year’s preliminary group of candidates, burying them in a pile so deep that it commonly is called “the abyss,” give them special dispensation. Make them automatic finalists for 2021.

Typically, the Hall’s senior committee deals with 15 finalists each year, and those finalists are drawn from an enormous backlog of qualified candidates. But because the 25-member Centennial Class committee that chose this year’s 10 senior inductees is different from the Hall’s nine-member senior committee that names the Class of 2021, I want to make sure the 10 finalists left out this year are discussed in the future.

So mandate it.

Translation: Designate them as 10 of the 15 finalists for 2021. That way, they’re not forgotten. In fact, I’d go farther and mandate them – or what was left of them – for the next three years, too, but that may be too much too soon for the Hall.

So let’s start with this.

Members of the senior committee may protest, and I get it … because seven of their nine members were on the Centennial Class committee. So those selectors already know about the 10 finalists. In fact, they voted on them.

But this gives that entire senior body a chance to discuss the finalists among themselves, not encumbered by outside voices. Remember, the Centennial Class’ “blue-ribbon panel” was a 25-person group. Nine voters comprise the senior committee, with five flying to Canton each year to make recommendations.

Which leads me to my next suggestion: I’d insist that the two senior committee members not included on the Centennial Class board – Ira Miller and our Ron Borges – be part of that five-person group. They didn’t hear the arguments. They didn’t study the cases. And they didn’t vote.

So let them be heard.

And they wouldn’t be alone. This would also give overlooked stars from the pre-modern era (prior to 1960) a chance to be heard again when, in reality, they may not have one now. All-decade players like Al Wistert and Ox Emerson weren’t elected to the Centennial Class. Neither were Packers’ stars Lavvie Dilweg, Verne Lewellen and Cecil Isbell.

The chances of all … or any … having their cases discussed again are minimal unless, of course, the Hall makes them discussed again. So make them. Include them as finalists for 2021.

Even if no one is elected, at least they are known. Their cases are brought to the attention of voters who have the unenviable task of pulling out one-to-two seniors each year. And maybe, just maybe, those same voters hear enough to bring them back in succeeding years.

And elect them.

The Centennial Class was the Hall’s opportunity to address the pre-modern era, and it did. But again … to a point. Four of the 10 inductees played the bulk of their careers prior to 1960. But that leaves far too many behind, and with each year that passes those Hall-of-Fame-caliber players aren’t just gone.

They’re forgotten.

So let’s try remember them while we can. And we can. Next year.

Follow on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF

Comments (23)
No. 1-4

Its a great idea, and one that frankly is needed as seniors committee has had years to nominate any of these ten and they have not, and going forward I for one am not optimistic that they will give these 10 a second look on their own, especially the pre 1960s candidates who after the centennial class process could be forgotten under the premise that "well they had a chance and were not elected so why should we reconsider them"


I strongly agree. This past class was supposed to take care of those old guys like Dilweg, Emerson, and the others and in my opinion it failed in its primary purpose. Due to the process's opaque nature I can't say for sure, but I wonder if including players and coaches as voters was a detriment. Baker spoke forcefully about the "impact" those guys had on the room. He was selling it as a good thing of course, but he wasn't specific. I'm wondering if those guys, not being historians for the most part, were understandably pushing the room toward guys they knew or had personally seen play. Maybe that would help account for the overly modern skew (Jim Covert?!?).

If they do adopt your plan, which would be awesome, then one of the other 5 included should be Chuck Howley.


Perhaps they should change the charge of the BRP to focus only on the pre 1960 seniors, if that was the intended goal of the panel. Which is really only the 30s and 40s (if we’re going by all-decade) as the 20s and 50s are well represented.
One thing I’ve noticed is how short some of the careers are in those two decades (the war certainly played a role) and I wonder if those short careers doesn’t keep some of the play out.


Those are some excellent thoughts, Clark! I love your thinking! Also, perhaps the Hall of Fame can classify seniors in two groups. The super seniors, who played before 1950 and then the standard seniors, those who played after 1950. Select two of them from each group, which will put four seniors in Canton. Add one coach/consultant and then the five modern era players, and the class total would be 10. Use that type of system at least until the backlog of the super seniors has been taken care of. The group which includes Ox Emerson, Al Wistert, Lavvie Dilweg, Verne Lewellen and Cecil Isbell should have been enshrined around the time the Hall was opened in 1963. If nothing else, your idea making them finalists in 2021 is a great start for getting them the recognition that they deserve.

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