Outside Waiting

“Cannonball” Dick Redding

Back in 2006 the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown decided to right a wrong. They’d already begun making strides towards that goal in the 1970s, but made a big splash in 2006. What did they do? They created a special Negro Leagues committee to look over all the information available and decide on a long list (about 100) of Negro League players, managers, and executives to be enshrined at Cooperstown. They had people comb through all the info they could find to prepare a set of statistics and other pertinent facts (and not a few legends) to lay before the select committee. They got, in Shade of Glory, a pretty fair book out of it too.

So the committee met, whittled the list down to about 30 and then made one final vote. Sixteen players, managers, executives, and whatnot got in. It was a heck of a list. It is, at least in my opinion, one of the best jobs the Hall of Fame has done over the years. And you know there’s a “but” coming. “But” they also announced, sort of announced (they never actually said it officially), that they were now through with the Negro Leagues. They done what they could. They’d found the best people (including Effa Manley, the only woman in the Hall), gotten the best available stats, gotten the best experts, so they could now say that the Hall had the Negro Leagues taken care of, period.

In the years since 2006, there has not been one player who was primarily a Negro Leaguer who has appeared on any ballot in any of the versions of the Veteran’s Committee. Not a single one. Minnie Minoso showed up, but he could be excused because he had an excellent (and possibly Hall of Fame) career, but he was being looked at as a Major Leaguer. For 10 years that standard has held.

And they are wrong. There are a number of good choices for enshrinement in Cooperstown among Negro Leagues who are currently outside waiting for their chance. Not a one has even been considered by a Veteran’s Committee. Maybe none of them are of the quality necessary for the honor, but they ought to at least be considered. Take a look at the pre-1950 players showing up on the recent ballots and tell me that no outside Negro Leaguer was better (or at least as good) as the people on the list. Frankly, I don’t think you can do it.

This is a plea for the Hall of Fame to begin again to consider Negro League players for inclusion on the early Veteran’s Committee ballot. Don’t say “we have all we need” or “we have all there is.” Look harder, people.

And to give you some sense of who’s left out, here’s a pretty fair team of Negro Leaguers who currently aren’t in the Hall of Fame:

Pitchers: “Cannonball” Dick Redding, Bill Gatewood, Rube Currie, Phil Cockrell, Nip Winters, Bill Holland

Infielders: Lemuel Hawkins, Frank Warfield, Bud Fowler, Newt Allen, Bingo DeMoss, John Beckwith, Dobie Moore

Outfield: Heavy Johnson, Steel Arm Davis, Spottswood Poles, Hurley McNair

Cacher: Bill Pettus, Bruce Petway, Double Duty Radcliffe

Manager: Buck O’Neill, “Candy” Jim Taylor

That’s 20 of a 25 man roster (plus the managers). I left a few holes for you to fill in with your own favorites that I left out (like a Dave Malarcher or a Terris McDuffy).

I’m not saying all of them are Hall of Fame quality. What I’m saying is that all of them deserve a look.

BTW got the above picture from a blog called “The Negro Leagues Up Close.” Definitely a site worth looking at if you’re interested in the Negro Leagues. Type it in on Google.


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6 Responses to “Outside Waiting”

  1. Sean Thornton Says:

    I was always upset they asked Buck O’Neil for input yet didn’t do anything for him until AFTER he passed away. The statue is there, but they should have honored him before his death.

  2. Miller Says:

    “I’m not saying all of them are Hall of Fame quality. What I’m saying is that all of them deserve a look.”

    Absolutely 100% correct!

    I think the Hall tends to get things right eventually. But looking deeper into the Negro Leagues is overdue.

  3. Jackie, The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    I’m with you 100%! I’ve been doing a lot of research into Pete Hill — who is from around here, but whose HOF bio and plaque was botched by that 2006 group. I’ve seen and read several interviews with many of the committee members and I was left with this thought: They all basically said it wasn’t their fault that Pete Hill’s info was wrong — it’s what they were given and they didn’t have time to give it much thought or additional review. They just needed to get a group of Negro League names ready to go.

    This leads me to believe that many more worthy Negro Leaguers have not been considered fairly. The committee relied on what info they could lay their hands on, but it was done very quickly. (One person sort of implied that she was relieved that Pete Hill was the only mistake they made.)

    You are absolutely right … many of these players and managers deserve a fair look. And, because of the challenges of Negro League records and history, it’s not something that can be done quickly … but it should be done anyway.

    An excellent reminder … thanks for this, v.

  4. Precious Sanders Says:

    It’s a classic case of we-gave-you-something-now-leave-us-alone. What a shame. Thanks for the post and for the blog recommendation, I’m definitely taking a look at that one.

    • verdun2 Says:

      You know, I never thought of it quite that baldly, but I’d have trouble disputing it. Thanks for the comment.

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