Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Negro Leaguers Enter Hall of Fame (but not O'Neil)

ManleySeventeen deceased former members of baseball's Negro League and pre-Negro Leagues were elected by special committee today into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

From the Hall of Fame site:

The electees include seven Negro leagues players: Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Biz Mackey, Mule Suttles, Cristobal Torriente, and Jud Wilson; five pre-Negro leagues players: Frank Grant, Pete Hill, José Méndez, Louis Santop, and Ben Taylor; four Negro leagues executives Effa Manley, Alex Pompez, Cum Posey, and J.L. Wilkinson; and one pre-Negro leagues executive Sol White. Manley, an owner in the Negro leagues, becomes the first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

(The AP File photo above is from ABC News, and shows inductee Effa Manley, at left, who co-owned the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. She's reviewing a scrapbook with one of her former players, Don Newcombe, later one of the Brooklyn Dodgers' star pitchers, at her home in Los Angeles in August 7, 1973. An interesting aspect of Manley's story is that although she was White, she was married to a Black man and passed as Black.)

Shades of GloryIn addition to the election of these individuals, the Baseball Hall of Fame conducted an extensive study of the history of Blacks in baseball, going from 1860 (that's right, before the Civil War) up to 1960, at which point there were Blacks on nearly every team in the major leagues (since Jackie Robinson had broken the color line in 1947, permitting Blacks and Latinos of visible African ancestry to participate, ushering in the era of some of the greatest players of all time, including Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Lou Brock, Ernie Banks, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Luis Tiant, and many others). National Geographic, in conjunction with the Hall of Fame, published a book entitled Shades of Glory this month based on some of the research. (I will be getting this ASAP.)

O'NeilThere was considerable controversy, however, because one of the chief figures behind the honoring of former Negro League players and affiliates, and a notable player and manager himself, former Kansas City Monarchs player and the Black coach in the major leagues, with the Chicago Cubs, Buck O'Neil (at right) was, unconscionably, not inducted. Nor did the special committee elect another fomer Negro Leaguer and one of the first great Black Latino MLB stars, the Cuban player Minnie Minoso, who actually made comebacks with the Chicago White Sox at the ages of 53 and 57!)

O'Neil led the Monarchs to five pennants and two Black World Series, and later played a key role in advancing the careers of "Mr. Cub" himself, the great Ernie Banks, and Elston Howard. (But for whatever reason, he wasn't elected.)

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann (one of the few journalists still appearing regularly on TV) interviews Buck O'Neil here.

The San Jose Mercury News features on article on the controversy here.

Sports Illustrated reports that the 94-year-old baseball veteran "is keeping his spirits up."

Even some members of Congress are upset about O'Neil's snub.

On a related note, Bernie Tarver of Bejata will be in the Hall permanently as well, because he's lent his mellifluous vocals to the exhibition narration for the 18th admittee this year, former St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Bruce Sutter, as well as to spots for other inductees and exhibits at the museum! Congratulations again, Bernie. This is yet another good reason for me to finally get my ass up there and visit the place.

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