Monday, February 27, 2006

Hall holding Negro leagues election today

Monday, Feb 27, 2006

Craig Muder

COOPERSTOWN — The Baseball Hall of Fame has been honoring Negro League stars on a regular basis for more than 30 years.

But today, the Hall will hold its most complete — and possibly final — Negro and pre-Negro League election. And, thanks to a five-year project commissioned by the Hall of Fame, the 12-person Voting Committee has at its disposal the most comprehensive set of Negro League statistics ever assembled.

The Hall will host a press conference at 2 p.m. today in Tampa to announce the results of their special election. The 39 candidates being considered will need at least 75 percent of the vote — or nine of the 12 voters — to gain election to the Hall. Any candidates elected will be enshrined with Bruce Sutter as the Class of 2006 on July 30 in Cooperstown.

No Negro League player has been elected to the Hall since Hilton Smith in 2001. Following that election, the Hall revamped the Veterans Committee — which had taken on the task of electing Negro Leaguers — and did not include Negro League candidates when the new Veterans Committee was reborn in 2003.

Instead, the Hall commissioned a study of the Negro leagues in 2000 that was completed in 2005.

"Fifty researchers have worked tirelessly for five years on this project," said Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey. "When this study started, only about 20 percent of the statistics were known for the Negro leagues. Now, we have 90 percent of those box scores and statistics."

Most of those stats came from African-American newspapers, which covered the Negro leagues with the same fervor major metro dailies covered big league teams.

But when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the African-American papers switched their focus to the major leagues.

"As a result, we really don't think we'll get the last 10 percent of the stats, because most of them are from 1947 to 1960," Petroskey said. "Those statistics just don't exist.

"But thanks to this study, we now have a very solid foundation to judge players on Hall of Fame worthiness."

In conjunction with the study, the Hall and National Geographic have produced a book called "Shades of Glory", a 100-year narrative from 1860-1960 written by Lawrence Hogan — a member of the 12-person voting committee. Ten other members of the committee will also be on hand this weekend, while Bob Peterson — author of the landmark Negro leagues book "Only The Ball Was White" — submitted his ballot in writing before passing away on Feb. 11.

Among the 39 candidates, only Buck O'Neil and Minnie Minoso are alive. The last living Negro leaguer to be elected to the Hall was Ray Dandridge in 1987.

"We didn't want to wait another day to have worthy Negro League candidates elected, inducted and have their plaque on the wall in Cooperstown," said Petroskey, who thinks that the scope of this Negro leagues election could make future elections unnecessary. "That doesn't mean we won't have more information down the road, but our goal is that this is an election where all Negro leaguers that should be in are now part of the Hall of Fame.

"I think this is one of the greatest things we've done in our history, and I think our induction class will be one of the greatest classes ever." [ full story ]


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