Candidates for 2018 Election of the Shrine of the Eternals

The Baseball Reliquary, Inc. has announced its list of fifty eligible candidates for the 2018 election of the Shrine of the Eternals, the membership organization’s equivalent to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This year marks the twentieth annual election of the Shrine, a major national component of the Baseball Reliquary, a Southern California-based organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history. The fifty-seven individuals previously elected to the Shrine of the Eternals are, in alphabetical order: Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Roger Angell, Emmett Ashford, Moe Berg, Sy Berger, Yogi Berra, Steve Bilko, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Charlie Brown, Bill Buckner, Glenn Burke, Roberto Clemente, Steve Dalkowski, Dizzy Dean, Rod Dedeaux, Jim Eisenreich, Dock Ellis, Eddie Feigner, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Ted Giannoulas, Josh Gibson, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Pete Gray, Arnold Hano, William “Dummy” Hoy, Bo Jackson, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Dr. Frank Jobe, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Roger Maris, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Manny Mota, Don Newcombe, Lefty O’Doul, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Rachel Robinson, Lester Rodney, Pete Rose, Vin Scully, Casey Stengel, Luis Tiant, Bob Uecker, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck, Jr., Maury Wills, Kenichi Zenimura, and Don Zimmer.

The Shrine of the Eternals is similar in concept to the annual elections held at the Baseball Hall of Fame, but differs philosophically in that statistical accomplishment is not a criterion for election. Rather, the Shrine’s annual ballot is comprised of individuals – from the obscure to the well-known – who have altered the baseball world in ways that supersede statistics.

On a procedural level, the Shrine of the Eternals differs significantly from the Baseball Hall of Fame in the manner by which electees are chosen. While the Baseball Hall of Fame’s electees are chosen in voting conducted by a select group of sportswriters or committees, the Baseball Reliquary chooses its enshrinees by a vote open to the public. A screening committee appointed by the Reliquary’s Board of Directors prepares a ballot consisting of fifty candidates, on which the membership votes annually. The three candidates receiving the highest percentage of votes gain automatic election.

Among the fifty eligible candidates for 2018, ten individuals appear on the Shrine of the Eternals ballot for the first time, and two (Jim Creighton and Mike Veeck) return after a long absence. The newcomers and newly returned, in alphabetical order, are:

Kurt Bevacqua (b. 1947) – A career utility infielder, Kurt Bevacqua toiled in obscurity for six different teams during the 1970s and ’80s. His most memorable on-field achievement occurred while with the San Diego Padres during the 1984 World Series – his two home runs and .412 batting average led a weak Padres attack, but millions remember him best as the wheezing gamer who was thrown out at third base in an ill-advised attempt to leg out a triple, thus snuffing out a promising inning. Like others whose careers were notable for those intangibles not measured by statistics – his gung-ho willingness to start or participate in a brawl, for example, or his running verbal feud with Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda (“that fat little Italian”), which his San Diego teammates and their fans found most enjoyable – Bevacqua was more valuable as a teammate than as a player. While with the Milwaukee Brewers, Dirty Kurt (the nickname referred to his perpetually dirty uniform, not a fondness for underhanded tactics) claimed some measure of fame when he was named the 1975 Joe Garagiola/Bazooka Bubble Gum Blowing Champion, an honor commemorated by his 1976 Topps baseball card.

Jim Creighton (1841-1862) – Baseball’s first professional, first hero, and first sainted martyr, Jim Creighton excelled at cricket and baseball, devising a clever pitching delivery that batters of the early 1860s found unhittable and legally suspect. Also a gifted batsman, Creighton was a young talent coveted by numerous Brooklyn baseball clubs, including the fabled Excelsiors. On October 14, 1862, in a game against the Unions of Morrisania, Creighton slugged four consecutive doubles before slamming a titanic home run in his final at bat. Four days later he was dead at the age of 21, succumbing to the effects of an inguinal hernia suffered during his mighty blast. Upon his death he immediately entered the world of baseball myth and legend.

Tommy John (b. 1943) – A southpaw hurler who amassed 288 wins over a 26-year career, Tommy John is best known among contemporary fans for being the first pitcher to undergo a radical surgical procedure that bears – unofficially – his name. Having torn away the ligaments from the elbow of his pitching arm in 1974, John was told he would never pitch again. However, Dodgers’ physician Dr. Frank Jobe convinced him that a new type of surgery – one that used ligament from another part of the body to replace the damaged elbow ligament – was his only option. Jobe’s procedure worked, and after a protracted recovery period John was able to return to the mound and resume his career by 1976. He pitched the best baseball of his career in the years immediately following. Tommy John Surgery, as it is now known, has been performed successfully on hundreds of pitchers since, the once-revolutionary procedure now routine.

Masanori Murakami (b.1944) – The first Japanese-born player in MLB history, Masanori Murakami debuted with the San Francisco Giants at the age of 20 in 1964. During the previous year, Murakami pitched the grand total of two innings with the Nankai Hawks of the Japan Pacific League. Snatched up by the Giants, perennial pennant contenders during the 1960s, the young lefty was called up late in the 1964 season and used sparingly in relief. As the Giants battled the Dodgers for NL supremacy in 1965, Murakami appeared in 45 games, all but one as a reliever, finishing the season with a promising 4-1 record, 8 saves, 3.75 ERA, and more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. In a reversal of the usual path to MLB by Japanese and Korean players, Murakami returned to Japan in 1966 and pitched the remainder of his long career with Nankai, the Hanshin Tigers, and Nippon Ham Fighters until he retired at the age of 38 in 1982.

Adolfo Phillips (b. 1941) – The mystery of Adolfo Phillips lingers still, forty-five years after his final appearance in Major League Baseball. The native Panamanian was a five-tool phenom ticketed for stardom when he debuted at age 22 in 1964 with the ill-starred Philadelphia Phillies. Unable to crack the Phils’ outfield, he was dispatched in 1966 to the Cubs with the great Ferguson Jenkins as part of a blockbuster deal now considered among the worst in Phillies history. He flourished initially under the tutelage of Cubs skipper Leo Durocher, enjoying his best seasons in 1966 and 1967, and was on the verge of becoming one of the greatest centerfielders in franchise history. And then the bottom dropped out. A combination of injuries, cultural clashes, and simmering resentments about the misuse of his talent – Durocher batted him eighth, revealing an uncharacteristic inability to understand the magnitude of the sulking young man’s abilities – soon found Phillips adrift in baseball’s hinterlands. He abandoned his MLB career early in the 1972 season, made little effort to resurrect it, and then vanished. All that is known of Phillips is that he resides in Florida.

Lenny Randle (b. 1949) – The former first-round draft choice of the Washington Senators in 1970, a team soon to become the Texas Rangers, Lenny Randle played multiple infield positions and the outfield for the perennially awful club. During spring training in 1977, Randle was displaced by rookie Bump Wills, son of Maury. After approaching manager Frank Lucchesi for an explanation, Randle suddenly punched him in the face, hard. Lucchesi was hospitalized with fractured cheekbones which required plastic surgery to repair. Randle, of course, was immediately fined and suspended, and was dealt to the Mets shortly afterwards. The cause of this violence has never been explained adequately, although it was considered out of character for Randle. His MLB career was spotty at best, but better things were to come. Toward the end of his career, Randle was involved in an incident that’s become part of baseball lore. While playing in Seattle, Randle approached a slow roller down the third base line, got down on his hands and knees, and attempted to blow the ball foul. Unfazed by the “no-blow rule,” Randle got a new lease on baseball life upon moving to Italy, where he became the first former Major Leaguer to play professional ball in that country. He is beloved by Italian fans, at least those not named Lucchesi.

Doris Sams (1927-2012) – One of the best players during the twelve-year existence of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL, 1943-1954), Doris “Sammye” Sams starred as pitcher and outfielder for the Muskegon and, later, Kalamazoo Lassies. A superb all-around athlete, the Tennessee native debuted as a pitcher in 1946, but, like Babe Ruth, was moved to the outfield because of her bat. She is the only player in the history of the AAGPBL to win a batting crown and a home run title, author a no-hitter and a perfect game, and appear on an All-Star roster (1947) as both pitcher and outfielder. The two-time Player of the Year and five-time All-Star retired to private life in 1953 and was inducted into the National Women’s Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

Janet Marie Smith (b. 1957) – For three decades, Janet Marie Smith has been one of Major League Baseball’s top female executives. A supremely gifted architect and urban planning professional, she has worked as a V.P. of Planning and Development for numerous franchises, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, her present employer. While with the Baltimore Orioles between 1989 and 1994, Smith supervised the construction of baseball’s first postmodern palace, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which instantly created a new paradigm for ballpark architecture.

George Stovey (1866-1936) – George Washington Stovey was a star pitcher and outfielder, and one of a small group of black players, including brothers Moses Fleetwood and Weldy Walker, to play in the white International League in the mid-1880s until run out of baseball by Cap Anson and his janissaries. Stovey played for many of the legendary, early black professional teams – the Cuban Giants, Cuban X Giants, and nearly every similarly named squad, “Cuban” a blanket term for dark-skinned players at the time. Considered one of the greatest pitchers in early black baseball, Stovey won innumerable contests against black competition (accurate statistics are lacking) and notched 35 victories for the 1887 Newark club of the white International League. “The brunette fellow with the sinister fin and demonic delivery,” as he was described by a journalist, posted a career mark of 60-40 with a stellar 2.17 ERA in minor league play, and an incalculable number of victories in black baseball.

Jim Thorpe (1887-1953) – Universally acknowledged as the greatest all-around American athlete during the first decades of the past century, Jim Thorpe’s life and accomplishments are known well by every sports-crazed kid aged eight and up. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, he was the first American Indian to win gold medals in Olympic competition, besting the field in the pentathlon and decathlon during the 1912 Olympics. His feats in collegiate and professional football helped secure that game’s future. Proficiency in baseball eluded him, however, adding weight to the claim that the hardest thing to do in sport is to hit a small ball thrown at speed with a round bat. When signed to a Major League contract in 1913 by the imperious and wily John McGraw, resident genius of the New York Giants who was always looking for a drawing card to boost attendance, Thorpe had already kicked around in semi-pro ball for some time. Despite his reputation as a teacher, McGraw’s best efforts failed to improve Thorpe’s play. Over parts of six seasons in the National League, Thorpe hit a mere .252 with a measly .286 OBP, no power, and surprisingly few stolen bases, this during an era of record-setting thefts. Ironically, Thorpe would be stripped of his Olympic medals by the International Olympic Committee when it was discovered that he had been paid to play semi-pro baseball, his worst sport, in violation of the strict rules of amateurism then in place.

Mike Veeck (b. 1951) – It’s hard not to like a guy who preaches the gospel, “Fun is good.” And Mike Veeck has had a lot of fun working hard to spread the word during a lifetime in baseball operations. The son of Bill Veeck – maverick owner, promotional genius, and arch-populist – Mike’s start in the family business began with a bang – literally. While working with his dad, Mike devised a promotion that has since been recognized as one of the great fiascos in baseball history: the infamous Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, Chicago, in 1979. Bring disco records for reduced admission and the promise of blowing up the detested vinyl between games of a doubleheader? What could possibly go wrong? Thus began the career of a baseball promoter whose philosophy, inventiveness, and desire to wrap his customers in fun has surpassed all others. Mike Veeck’s primary sphere of activity has been the minor leagues; he currently heads a partnership group that owns six minor league clubs, including the celebrated St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League. He and his partners have reinvigorated the moribund minors with promotions that have included locking fans out of the stadium in order to set the record for lowest attendance at a game, using groundskeepers to drag the infield in drag, playing games without umpires, having bands of nuns roam the stands to give massages, and many, many other zany ideas. “My career testifies to the value of sharing joy openly, honestly, and with a love for the absurd,” Veeck has stated. He’s done his job well.

Bill White (b. 1934) – Bill White’s sixty years in baseball as a player, broadcaster, and executive is among the longest and most varied career in the history of the game. It has also been a career of many firsts: the first baseman on the first team in MLB history, the 1964 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, to be led primarily by a core of talented and outspoken African-American players; the first African-American play-by-play baseball broadcaster (Yankees); the first black play-by-play man for a professional hockey team (Flyers); and the first to be named president of the National League (1989-1994), replacing the late A. Bartlett Giamatti after the latter was named Commissioner of Baseball. An eight-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, White hit a career .286/.351/.455 with 202 home runs over a thirteen-year career with the Giants, Cardinals, and Phillies (1956-1969). From 1971 through 1988, White was a ubiquitous radio and television voice for the Yankees and network World Series baseball broadcasts. His call of Bucky Dent’s (in)famous game-winning homer vs. the Red Sox in the 1978 AL playoff game is part of Yankee legend. In 2011, White published his autobiography, Uppity: My Untold Story of the Games People Play, an illuminating look at the life of a man who has had among the most rewarding and complicated careers in post-Integration baseball.

A complete list of all fifty candidates for the 2018 election of the Shrine of the Eternals follows. Election packets, containing ballots and biographical profiles of all candidates, will be mailed to Baseball Reliquary members on April 2, 2018. To be eligible to vote, all persons must have their minimum $25.00 annual membership dues paid as of March 31, 2018.

The three new inductees will be announced in May, with the Induction Day ceremony scheduled for Sunday, July 22, 2018 at the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California. In addition to the presentation of plaques to the 2018 inductees, this year’s ceremony will honor the recipients of the 2018 Hilda Award (named in memory of Hilda Chester and acknowledging a baseball fan’s exceptional devotion to the game) and the 2018 Tony Salin Memorial Award (presented annually to an individual dedicated to the preservation of baseball history).

For additional information on the Shrine of the Eternals, contact Terry Cannon, Executive Director of the Baseball Reliquary, at P.O. Box 1850, Monrovia, CA 91017; by phone at (626) 791-7647; or by e-mail at terymar@earthlink.net.

 

THE SHRINE OF THE ETERNALS

The number to the right of candidates’ names indicates the number of years on the Shrine of the Eternals ballot.

1. Kurt Bevacqua (New!)

2. Chet Brewer (19)     

3. Bert Campaneris (7)

4. Octavius V. Catto (6)

5. Rocky Colavito (6)

6. Charles M. Conlon (17)

7. Bob Costas (5)

8. Jim Creighton (8)

9. Mo’ne Davis (2)

10. Leo Durocher (4)

11. Luke Easter (4)

12. Nancy Faust (4)

13. Lisa Fernandez (18)

14. Charlie Finley (8)

15. Rube Foster (20)

16. Oscar Gamble (2)

17. Ernie Harwell (15)

18. Tommy John (New!)

19. Mamie Johnson (5)

20. Ted Kluszewski (3)

21. Effa Manley (20)

22. Dr. Mike Marshall (13)

23. Tug McGraw (15)

24. Denny McLain (5)                

25. Fred Merkle (12)                  

26. Masanori Murakami (New!)

27. Hideo Nomo (7)

28. Dave Parker (5)

29. Joe Pepitone (8)

30. Shorty Perez (2)

31. Adolfo Phillips (New!)

32. Phil Pote (16)

33. Vic Power (10)

34. Charley Pride (4)

35. Lenny Randle (New!)

36. Pete Reiser (6)

37. J.R. Richard (19)

38. Bing Russell (3)

39. Doris Sams (New!)

40. Annie Savoy (8)

41. Janet Marie Smith (New!)

42. Rusty Staub (13)

43. George Stovey (New!)

44. John Thorn (2)

45. Jim Thorpe (New!)

46. Mike Veeck (2)

47. Chris von der Ahe (4)

48. Rube Waddell (20)

49. Bill White (New!)

50. John Young (6)

 

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