I was thinking people with playing careers centered between the Civil War and 1882, rather than between the Civil War and 1880 as I now understand "1870s". That is, I understand 1870s and 1980s to mean pre-1880 and post-1979. The latter includes, I'm not sure precisely whom, but Tom Henke and Kirby Puckett are barely 1980s rather than 1990s on a strict "first three digits of date" interpretation, and they have been eligible for 7 years. Will Clark's peak was his first five seasons but even they didn't fall entirely within the 1980s, and Clark played about ten seasons after that peak.
Originally Posted by jjpm74
The same is true at the the front end. Approximating careers by half-decades there is Pearce '60-74, Start '60-84, Pike '65-74, McBride '65-74
Here is the bottom line more directly.
FS, just as you can take the best 72 or 60 post-1960s candidates and split them in four equal groups chronologically, you can take the best 36 or 30 pre-1890s candidates and split them in two groups chronologically. Call the earlier one "1870s" and the later one "1880s" regardless of whether the peak seasons of the former group center all the way up to 1881. Just as your "late 1980s" group, if constructed as the latest of four roughly equal post-1960s groups, may cover careers that center 1988-1993.
How many legitimate candidates are there from pre-1871? Is there enough to justify a pre-1871 group (maybe even a 5 person ballot with 2 candidates passing on to the next round or a 10 person pre-1871 ballot with 4 players passing on) and a more standard group for players who's careers were focused in the years 1872-1882 [probably 1871-1881] or would it thin the field too much? Maybe 2 9 person ballots or a 6 person and 10 person ballot? There should be a split at least in the first round for these two periods in baseball, IMHO.
Lip Pike would still fit a little better 1871-79 than pre-1871, I think. So there would be only two Hall of Merit members, Dickey Pearce and Joe Start, with careers centered before 1871, or in the 1860s. I am certain they would win the election. Yes, we can find three or four more people who were more significant players thru 1870 than beginning 1871, and who are also just as good Hall of Fame candidates as Duke Farrell, Lonnie Frey and Lindy McDaniel.
At the same time, your instinct is sound jjpm, doing so rather than mixing those players with the truly 1870s would leave a full-size 1870s or 1871-1881 ballot skimpy. There would still be about seven Hall of Merit members on that ballot; the six who would advance by winning that election without Pearce & Start would still be better HOF candidates than the six-packs from the 1900s to 1950s. But the bottom six of any 18-player ballot from the 1870s would be quite a bit weaker as player-candidates than the bottom six from the 1960s.
There are 16 [sixteen --Edit] Hall of Merit members pre-1890. I expect that 12 of those players, or 11HOM plus Tony Mullane, will win the two early elections however they are defined; or Pearce and Start plus 12HOM or plus 11HOM+Mullane, if there are 14 winners of 2-1/2 early elections.