July 30, 2006

Seventeen from Negro Leagues, Pre-Negro leagues Eras inducted to the Hall of Fame

12 players, five executives, including first woman, inducted in Cooperstown

June 30
, 2006

COOPERSTOWN, NY: A committee of 12 Negro and pre-Negro leagues baseball historians elected 17 candidates to the National Baseball Hall of Fame today.  The inductess joined Bruce Sutter, the lone electee from the Baseball Writers' Association of America election announcement in January.

The inductees include seven Negro leagues players:

  • And five pre-Negro leagues players:
  • And also four Negro leagues executives:
  • And one pre-Negro leagues executive:
  • Effa Manley, an owner in the Negro leagues, becomes the first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Each of the 17 received the necessary 75% of the 12-member voting committee to earn election to the Hall of Fame. The committee reviewed the careers of 39 Negro and pre-Negro leagues candidates over a two-day meeting in Tampa.
    The list of 39 was pared from a roster of 94 candidates, narrowed by a five-member screening committee in November.

    The voting and screening committees were chaired by Fay Vincent, Major League Baseball's eighth commissioner and an Honorary Director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Vincent, the non-voting chairman, led discussions with committee members. The committee also received counsel from Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.

    The inductess join 18 Hall of Famers from the Negro leagues already enshrined in Cooperstown: Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, Ray Dandridge, Leon Day, Martin Dihigo, Bill Foster, Rube Foster, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard, Pop Lloyd, Satchel Paige, Joe Rogan, Hilton Smith, Turkey Stearnes, Willie Wells and Smokey Joe Williams.



    Negro League pioneers 'helped build bridge'


    COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - Buck O'Neil wasn't inducted into the Hall of Fame and that, certainly, is a subject that can be debated.

    Still, on a gloriously sunny day at the Clark Sports Center when 17 pioneers of black baseball were honored with plaques in baseball's shrine, it was O'Neil, the 94-year-old chairman of the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, who led off and set the tone for the day.

    "These people helped build the bridge across the chasm of prejudice, not just crossed it like people like me did," he intoned yesterday. "People say, 'I know you hate what was done to you and your folks.

    "No. I can't hate any human being because my God never made anyone ugly. I hate cancer. Cancer killed my mother. Cancer killed my wife 10 years ago. I hate AIDS. But I can't hate another human being."

    An exhaustive study produced the list of players and executives, including the first female Hall of Famer, Effa Manley. And while such recognition was no doubt overdue, that didn't lessen the enthusiasm of the surviving family members who gathered in this quaint upstate New York village.

    "It's a wonderful thing," said Arthur Foote Jr., the great great nephew of Frank Grant, who is often called the greatest black ballplayer of the 19th century. "There were many great players and, without this, they may never have gotten the recognition they deserved.

    "I knew something about the Negro Leagues but not as much as I should. I'm 42 years old and grew up more in the era of Bruce Sutter [the lone player elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America this year]."

    Grant was one of five pre-Negro League players enshrined, along with Pete Hill, Jose Mendez, Louis Santop and Ben Taylor.

    Ray Mackey is the great nephew of Biz Mackey, the great catcher who represented Negro League players along with Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Mule Suttles, Cristobal Torriente and Jud Wilson.

    "My favorite story is that Biz and my grandfather went through a lot of adversity," he said. "It was the Depression. Times were tough. They'd pick cotton all day and afterward play ball until they couldn't see anymore. He had determination. My great uncle stood up and said, 'I'm going to succeed.' He was so determined. And that's still a motivation to me."

    Manley, who was born in Philadelphia and graduated from William Penn High School, was the only woman honored among a group of executives that also included Alex Pompez, Cum Posey, J.L. Wilkinson and Sol White.

    She was represented on the dais by her niece, Connie Brooks, who a day earlier took great exception to the story - told by Manley herself in her later years - that she was white as the result of a liaison between her Caucasian mother and a white man.

    According to Brooks, Effa's mother was half German and half Native American. "So Effa was a product of that," he said. "She was a little bit of everything. She belonged to everybody and she used that to her advantage."

    Still, she was thrilled that her aunt was being recognized for her contributions running the Newark Eagles as well as her crusades for civil rights.

    "I'm very proud and honored," Brooks said. "It's been a long journey for all of us. I knew her worth, but was wondering if the world would ever find out."

    Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, called upon the nation to use yesterday's ceremony as a reminder "that it is incumbent upon us to continue to recognize the inequities in our society."

    She also offered the opinion that yesterday's tribute would not have been possible without O'Neil's contributions, which may have been a reference to the fact that he had not been included among those who were given baseball's highest honor yesterday.

    O'Neil, however, seemed happy enough to salute those who were admitted to the Hall of Fame.

    "The Negro Leagues were not like Hollywood portrayed. No," he said. "The Negro Leagues were the third-largest black business in America. Forty percent of the players were college men who, at the end of the season, would go back to teaching or coaching or classes.

    "That was Negro League baseball and I was proud to have been a Negro League player."

    Just as proud, it seemed, as the families of the 17 inductees were yesterday.

    Getting Their Due

    Hall Of Fame Inducts 17 From Negro League Era

    Jeff Goldberg
    The Hartford Courant

    July 31 2006, 1:10 AM EDT

    COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- It was 40 years ago that Ted Williams, upon his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame, set in motion the wheels of racial justice that would eventually bring integration to baseball's final frontier -- immortality.

    "Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel," Williams said during his 1966 induction speech. "Not just to be as good as anybody else, but to be better. This is the nature of man and the name of the game. I hope some day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not here, only because they weren't given the chance."

    Within six years, Gibson and Paige would be elected to the Hall. Through 2005, 18 former Negro League members had found their way onto the bronze plaques that reside in the Hall of Fame Gallery. But it was not until this year that the Negro League era finally received full due for its historic contribution to baseball, primarily its role in setting the stage for Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color barrier and the integration of the major leagues in 1947.

    Seventeen players and executives, including the first woman elected to the Hall, from the Negro League and pre-Negro League eras were inducted Sunday, along with relief pitcher Bruce Sutter, the only modern player elected in 2006.

    The 18-member class, the largest class in Hall of Fame history, was inducted under broiling sunshine during a three-hour ceremony at the Clark Sports Center, about a mile from the Hall of Fame museum. "In 2007, baseball will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the breaking of the color barrier," said Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter and designated speaker for the 17 deceased inductees. "Today, while we pause to honor the tremendous contributions made by black and brown men -- and one woman -- to professional baseball and its vast repository of the game's history, it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge and continue to struggle against the inequities in our society."

    The special electees included seven Negro League players: Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Biz Mackey, Mule Suttles, Cristobal Torriente and Jud Wilson; five pre-Negro League players: Frank Grant, Pete Hill, Jose Mendez, Louis Santop and Ben Taylor; four Negro Leagues executives: Effa Manley, Alex Pompez, Cum Posey and J.L. Wilkinson; and one pre-Negro League executive: Sol White. Their election capped a six-year effort by Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame to produce a comprehensive history of black players and executives in baseball.

    A committee chaired by former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent selected the 17 electees from a field of 39 in February.

    "I'm so happy that things have changed," said former New York Giants outfielder Monte Irvin, one of the 18 original Negro League inductees and spokesman for the 17 new ones. "I played with many of them, Biz Mackey, Willard Brown, Raymond Brown. Good men. They were so good. I'm just so sorry that they never got to know precisely how good they were. I'm so happy that they're finally getting some recognition."

    Manley, the co-owner of the Newark Eagles of the Negro League from 1936-48, became the first woman elected to the Hall.

    "Effa Manley was handsome, intelligent, assertive," said Irvin, who played for the Eagles. "She had a great impact on the early days of the Negro Leagues. Having played for her all those years, I got to admire her. I had great respect for her, and I'm so happy her relatives were here today, so they could bask in some of the glory."

    Sutter, who pitched for the Cubs (1976-80), Cardinals (1981-84) and Braves (1985-88) with his trademark shaggy beard and devastating split-finger fastball, was one of baseball's dominating, multi-inning closers, just before the age of relief specialization.

    He became the first pitcher elected to the Hall who never started a major league game. A six-time All-Star who won the 1979 National League Cy Young Award with the Cubs, Sutter had 300 career saves, pitching 1,042(1/3 innings in 661 appearances.

    Sutter was on the mound for St. Louis in Game 7 of the 1982 World Series, pitching the final two innings against the Brewers to clinch the Cardinals' most recent championship.

    "It was in the Cubs minor league system that I met a man who taught me how to throw a new pitch that would change me from being a suspect, all the way to the Hall of Fame," Sutter said. "His name was Fred Martin. He taught me to spread my fingers apart and throw it just like a fastball. Fortunately for me, it clicked right away. ... It was a pitch that didn't change how the game was played, but developed a new way to get hitters out. I would not be standing here today if it were not for that pitch."

    Others honored Sunday were longtime Houston Astros broadcaster Gene Elston, who won the Ford C. Frick Award, and baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby, who was named the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner.

    Contact Jeff Goldberg at jgoldberg@courant.com.
    Copyright 2006, Hartford Courant