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BASEBALL HALL OF FAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 27, 2006
JANE FORBES CLARK: -- 50 researchers from 2001 to 2005, a group that included every voter that you see on the dais, and Bob Peterson, and they developed a narrative and statistical database that is really unparalleled. The raw narrative and bibliography is over 800 pages. The statistical database includes nearly three thousand day-by-day records, league leaders and all-time leaders. The research was culled from 128 newspapers of sanctioned league games from 1920 to 1954.
One of the by-products of the study is the book Shades of Glory that was authored by Larry Hogan, published by National Geographic, and it is a great history of African Americans in baseball, from the earliest days until the Negro Leagues ceased to exist. I urge all of you to read it. It is really wonderful.
Also as a result of this research project, we have put forth a number of initiatives for 2006. They include updating and rededicating our very compelling exhibit in Cooperstown, Pride and Passion. This exhibit, and I think many of you have probably seen it, traces the history of African Americans in baseball from the Civil War through integration, and we'll be rededicating Pride and Passion on April 15th, which is the date in 1947 that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
Hall of Fame weekend, we will unveil a statute dedicated to the Negro Leagues. It's a likeness of Satchel Paige in full wind-up mode which will go in our statue garden in Cooper Park. For 10 weeks this summer, the Negro Leagues baseball museum art exhibition will be in Cooperstown, and we're very much looking forward to that.
But none of these initiatives are bigger or more significant than today's election. Before I introduce Fay Vincent to announce today's results, I'd like to just walk you through the process that we've used for this election.
A screening committee, led by Fay, and comprised of Larry, Dick, Larry, along with Adrian Burgos and Jim Overmyer met in November. This committee pared down the list of 94 eligible candidates to 39, 29 from the Negro Leagues and another 10 from the pre-Negro Leagues. Starting in November, a 12-member voting committee of historians, including the five members of the screening committee, have been intently studying the careers of all of these 39 candidates.
Over the last two days, this committee, under Fay's direction as its non-voting chairman, and with some very wise counsel Sunday morning via telephone conference call from Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, they've held long discussions going into great detail, they've scrutinized all the research and statistics that are now available on these candidates, so they could determine who was going to deserve baseball's highest honor, which is a plaque on the wall in the Hall of Fame gallery in Cooperstown.
The rules of election were set by the board of directors of the Hall of Fame. They were very simple. We didn't set any quotas. The candidates would be voted upon by secret ballot. Any candidate who is named on 75% of the ballots would be elected, that would be 9 out of the 12 ballots cast. I'd like to say that the board of directors is extremely pleased about how this project has evolved over the last five years, culminating in today's vote.
I'd now like to introduce Fay Vincent, Major League Baseball's eighth commissioner, whose dedication and passion for the game and its history are unparalleled. Fay will introduce you to his committee members, give you his perspective on the committee's work, and most importantly tell you who the committee has elected and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame July 30th with the 2006 BBWAA electee Bruce Sutter.
Fay, thank you. This comes in our enormous appreciation for all of your work on this project. You were its inspiration.
COMMISSIONER FAY VINCENT: Thank you, Jane. Let me just say thank you to you and to Dale. I was very flattered to be asked to do this. I consider this a great honor and a historic moment in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I think it's important to say at the outset what a great sadness there is that we didn't do this 30 or 40 years ago. The whole history of this issue of race in our society is a topic that involves very bad timing. These people who were candidates were greatly honored by being candidates, I'm sure, but it would have been so much nicer had we been able to do this 30 or 40 years ago and have so many more alive. So I'm sorry that we're late, but I'm proud that we're doing it.
The first black member of the Hall of Fame, of course, was the great Satchel Paige, who was elected in 1971. After him came 17 other legends. The total number of Hall of Famers from the Negro Leagues now stands at 18. Remember, we have 39 candidates to be disposed of and considered today.
The committee, and it's a very distinguished committee, I'll introduce them, they really provided enormous factual and statistical basis. They really know these guys. They know what they did, what they didn't do. The committee spent considerable time talking about why they ought to be candidates, why these candidates were so outstanding. Our standard was consistent. We said we wanted to have significant, exceptional performance over a very long period of time. Nicely said; very difficult to apply, especially when the records back in the early part of the last century are so very difficult to come by.
Dale and his group helped us enormously. I think it's been a very open and inclusive process. I don't think any one of my fellow committee members would dissent from that whatsoever. We gave each candidate a fair hearing, and I think the results will speak for themselves.
Let me introduce this group. This is a very professional group. They deserve your time and your support. They're knowledgeable. They devoted their time, their energy. Think of what it meant. These are all people who have busy lives, other things to do. They came forward, helped baseball when baseball needed them. They provided insight that no one else could provide. None of us knows what they know.
Todd Bolton is one of the experts in Latin America, Latin American baseball history. He's worked for the park service for 28 years at Harper's Ferry. He's an expert, as I say, on his particular dimension of black baseball.
Greg Bond, young man, is an expert on the 19th century Negro League. He's a doctoral candidate they University of Wisconsin in American history.
Adrian Burgos was one of the original screening committee. We worked together in Vero Beach. He's also an expert on Latin American baseball. He served, as I say, on the screening committee. He's a professor of history at the University of Illinois at Champaign and is the author of a book coming out called Playing America's Game, Baseball, the Color Line and Latinos.
Dick Clark is one of our experts on the Negro Leagues. He also served on the five-person screening committee.
Dick and Larry Lester were especially instrumental in building the statistical database. You want to be impressed, ask Larry to show you some of that database. It is truly remarkable.
Ray Doswell is one of our overall experts on black baseball, a Yaley like me. He serves as a curator of the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
Leslie Heaphy's expertise is women's history and the Negro Leagues. She's an associate professor of history at Kent State. She authored the Negro Leagues, 1869 to 1960. She has two books forthcoming this year, good for her. Encyclopedia of Women in Baseball and Black Baseball in Chicago.
My old friend Larry Hogan is one of the experts on black baseball history. He served on the five-person steering committee. He's a professor of history at Union County College in New Jersey. He's the principal author and editor, as Jane said, of Shades of Glory. He also heads the very fine foundation in New Jersey that's focused on black baseball history.
Larry Lester, our old friend from Kansas City, one of the experts on the Negro Leagues. He also served on the five-person screening committee. He and Dick Clark were very instrumental in building the statistical base.
Sammy Miller, one of our experts on eastern and western teams from the Negro Leagues, as well as Negro League ball parks. He's been involved in research in Negro League baseball since 1990.
Jim Overmyer, one of our 19th century experts, expert on baseball before the turn of the 20th century. He served on the five-person screening committee, as well. He's the author of Queen of the Negro Leagues and the Newark Eagles.
Rob Ruck is an expert on eastern teams from the Negro Leagues. He's a senior lecturer in history at the University of Pittsburgh. He's authored two books and written several documentaries.
Finally, the late Bob Peterson, who of course you know, who wrote the absolutely luminous Only the Ball Was White. He was a member of our committee. He died on February 11th, but he voted in this election by mail just two days before he died. So his votes count. That is, of the 12-member committee, a successful candidate needed nine votes.
Today we've elected 12 players and five executives. The electees include seven Negro League players. I'll list the names. I'll try to speak slowly. But their names will be available. Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Biz Mackey, Mule Suttles, Cristobal Torriente, and Jud Wilson.
Five pre- Negro League players were also elected: Frank Grant, Pete Hill, Jose Mendez, Louis Santop and Ben Taylor.
Four Negro League executives, Effa Manley, Alex Pompez, Cum Posey and JL Wilkinson.
Finally, one pre- Negro League executive, Sal White.
Effa Manley, an owner in the Negro Leagues, becomes the first woman over elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Thank you very much.
JEFF IDELSON: If we have any questions for the committee members, we'll go ahead and take them now. When we're done here in Tampa, we'll take any questions we have from people dialing in. You can ask of any of the committee members or Hall of Fame staff.
Q. Do you want to explain what Effa Manley brought to the table?
LESLIE HEAPHY: Effa Manley is certainly one of the premiere owners, 1930s, 1940s Newark Eagles, who did a great deal to work with the ball team in the community. They had a very successful team with the Newark Eagles. She was a pioneer in so many ways in terms of integrating the team with the community, in terms of using her opportunities with baseball to push forward a civil rights agenda.
She's also one of the owners who pushed very hard to get recognition for Major League Baseball when they started to sign some of their players. She's one of the voices that spoke up ahead of some of the others in pushing that effort.
Q. Speak about Buck O'Neil.
FAY VINCENT: I'll deal with that.
I think we look upon the inclusion on the ballot of the 39 candidates as a really great honor. I don't think it's possible for us to speak to why an individual was elected or was not elected. Buck O'Neil has been a great credit to baseball. He's a friend of all of ours. He has credentials that are absolutely wonderful.
The committee did not elect Buck O'Neil to the Hall of Fame. There's no way that any of us -- the balloting was secret, why individual members voted as they do or they did is for them.
I will say this. The standard is very high. Less than 1% of the people who played big league baseball are in the Hall of Fame. I think, from our point of view, we obviously discussed this, the committee's focus is on what we know positively about Buck, and that is that he was a very important part of our baseball history, not just of the Negro League history, and he was honored by being a very strong candidate for election.
Q. How do you weigh contributions as a player and contributions after a career ended?
FAY VINCENT: It's not possible for any of us to speak to that. Each person evaluated the candidacy as he or she saw fit. There's no way I or anybody can answer that except to say that we consistently applied what we thought was a very high and rigorous standard. For some people, the absence of statistical data, because of early years, would have been a disability. Other people might not have focused as much on that.
So I don't think any of us can really answer the question, "What did an individual member of the committee, how did that individual view the data?" I didn't vote, but all of those who voted did it their own way.
Q. I apologize for asking another question about somebody not elected, but as somebody who didn't have a vote with the committee, did it color any of the deliberations with Minnie Minoso that he had previously been on the writer's ballot? He was the only guy that had previously been on the writer's ballot, correct?
FAY VINCENT: You know, I think I have to answer it the way I did where. I don't think we know the answer to that. You know, if you think about the process, we talked about candidates. Some people viewed some of the facts, some of the data in one way, others not. So I don't know, frankly, how the 12 members of the committee viewed any individual career. This comment isn't limited to Mr. Minoso. It is not possible for me to know the answer to that.
I think the answer is probably that people viewed those factors quite differently. The committee had some differences, they had differences in attitude, differences in the way in which committee members looked at factors. We could tell that from the discussion. But the voting was by secret ballot. I don't know whether the people who spoke one way voted that way. It's very hard for me to answer those questions.
Q. Fay, is anybody here able to speak for what Frank had to say to the committee on Sunday night or Sunday afternoon? Did you give this committee any kind of a pep talk or anything like that as far as being tough and understanding that the reason this Hall of Fame is what it is because it's so hard to get into it and that you try to vote strictly on the facts, not on maybe some personal favoritism or whatever?
FAY VINCENT: Yeah, I think without violating Frank's confidence to us, Frank stands for very high standards. You who know Frank would anticipate that his comments to us were in keeping with the way he played, lived his life, and views our game.
I think we applied a very high standard - (operator interruption) - tough standard to apply, especially in baseball. If you think about it, baseball is a game of statistics. It's the way in which we evaluate players from one generation to another. That's why records are so important.
Here you're dealing with years when there are very limited box scores, which the data is really flawed. We don't have that for a lot of these guys in the ways in which we have that data for the Major Leagues, so we are limited.
I think without acknowledging the role I played it was appropriate from time to time to remind people that we were not here to rewrite American history. We were not here to do social good. We were not here to be correctors of things that are beyond our capacity. We were here to elect individuals for very high performance to the Hall of Fame. And I think, by and large, that is exactly the standard we applied or they applied.
Q. Jane, could you speak to the significance of Effa being the first woman elected to the hall?
JANE FORBES CLARK: Of course, I think it's wonderful. Through Ted and his staff at the Hall of Fame and our traveling exhibition, Baseball in America, I think probably I've been exposed to more what other women in baseball have done, executives, et cetera, and I realized through that exhibit and through reading the research that's been done on her what a wonderful woman she was, ahead of her time. Being both black and a woman in those days was not easy. To say she was a pioneer I think is an understatement.
Q. Adrian, could you speak to Alex Pompez?
ADRIAN BURGOS: In what regard?
Q. What most stood out, in your opinion, for his election?
ADRIAN BURGOS: One of the things that his record stood for, he was involved in the Negro Leagues from its creation in 1916 through the glory years and into its demise. He successfully transitioned from the segregated era into the integrated era, bringing in his expertise to the New York Giants organization, and helping to shepherd a number of that generation of integration players into the Giants. That record captured really the story of the Negro Leagues in struggling, perservering and achieving very high standards over a long period of time.
Q. Fay, is this the culmination of the effort? Where do you go from here? Further research, perhaps other elections down the road, or is this it?
FAY VINCENT: I'm going to ask Dale to speak to that. I think he's in a better position.
DALE PETROSKEY: Well, you know, five years ago when this research project was put together, we realized there was a lack of information or suitable information about the Negro Leagues, including the statistical basis upon which you judge players. We viewed this as a one-time vote in which players who are worthy of the Hall of Fame would not have to wait another day to have a plaque in Cooperstown.
That said, we're also a serious research institution. As more information comes to light down the road, the door is always open to the possibility of perhaps further consideration.
Q. How many of the candidates are alive and how many of the inductees are, if any? What is the message to any of their surviving family members?
FAY VINCENT: I think I'm correct that there are two of the 39 alive. Buck O'Neil and Mini Minoso. Neither of them was elected.
Family members obviously will be contacted by the hall. They will be invited to the ceremonies in Cooperstown. I would expect for a family member, that would be a wonderful occasion. It's not the same as it would have been had we been able to get here 40 years ago, but it's the best we can do. If my father had been elected or were in that position, I'm sure I would have been thrilled to come and participate and recollect for his memory.
So I expect that it will be a very grand celebration in Cooperstown this summer. As Jane said, there are a number of other events around that event that are going to celebrate Negro League baseball, the art exhibition, the new statue of Satchel, refurbishing of other exhibits. I think the Hall of Fame will make a properly celebratory event out of this July.
Q. Can you tell us who of the people who were inducted were unanimous choices?
FAY VINCENT: We're not going to do that. I don't think that's appropriate. A number of these candidates were unanimous, but I don't think it should be held against others that they were not. The election speaks for itself. This is a tough group here. Getting 9 of these people to support your position took some doing. The fact that you didn't get 12 ought not to be held against you.
I think we made the decision that we wouldn't speak to the number of votes. I think you can understand that.
Q. Jane, do you have any idea yet as to how this induction process will take place next July, whether it will be one person and who that person would be accepting for all these people?
JANE FORBES CLARK: I think we do. We've spent a lot of time thinking about the ceremony and how to handle this number since we've never had this number before. Obviously, Bruce Sutter will be treated like any other living inductee. Had we had living inductees from this election, they obviously would have been treated the same way.
What we are looking to do is to have the inductee's family member be introduced, come up and read their plaque, have the appropriate pictures taken with the commissioner and with Dale and I. That's how we'll be handling it. Instead of giving each inductee family member giving a speech, they'll be reading their plaque.
Q. Can you talk about the impact this will have on your museum in Kansas City?
LARRY LESTER: This is a great day for Negro League history. With the great number of individuals who have been recognized now after so many years of not being recognized, for them to join the pantheon of other Negro League greats, it's outstanding. I expect we will be doing a lot of work in our exhibits now to extoll the exploits of these great individuals.
I won't deny that it is a bit of a bittersweet day in regards to our chairman, but I know he's going to be extremely excited as well with many of the great candidates we have been able to choose. I want to thank the Hall of Fame for having this process. I want to especially thank Commissioner Vincent for his professionalism in guiding through this. It's going to be a great summer in Kansas City at the Negro League Museum, we want people to come out and learn more about these individuals.
JEFF IDELSON: We'll go now to members of the media joining us on the telephone lines from across the country.
Q. Is there any member of the committee that is willing to discuss Spottswood Poles or Rap Dixon? I know most of their statistics, most of their case was based on anecdotal evidence. Did that hurt either one of them when it came to this process?
FAY VINCENT: As I think we said earlier on that, we're going to be very limited in comments about specific individuals. I think if you want to see the data or the underlying information with respect to players, we could help you there. But I think for this purpose, for us to discuss individual players at any length is just not going to be very helpful.
Q. I think a lot of people are going to be curious the thoughts of some of the committee members, I was hoping one of them who voted against or not for Buck O'Neil might be able to discuss some of the reasons why.
FAY VINCENT: I think I've answered that. We are not going to do that. In the first place, none of us knows who voted which way, so I wouldn't be able to direct a question.
I don't think the individuals are going to be willing to discuss their individual votes. We agreed we would not do that. So I don't know who voted negatively about any candidate, and I don't think we're going to pursue that.
We came together as a committee. We functioned as a whole. We speak as a whole. I don't think we're going to break down individual votes on individual players. Our judgment was that would not be appropriate under our circumstances.
Q. Any of these players who did not get into the Hall of Fame this time, would they have another chance, is there a possibility they would have another chance? Could you talk a little bit about some of the elements that went into deciding the consistent great play over a long period of time? What were some of the other elements that went into the decision making of the members of the panel as to why they chose a particular player?
FAY VINCENT: Well, it's a perfectly fair question, but it's impossible for me to respond for two reasons. I really don't know the answer. I think it's fair for me to talk about what the committee did. And it did, with respect to all the candidates, basically three things. It looked at the reasons why the candidate should be a member of the Hall of Fame, that is what were the positive elements in the candidacy. That included whatever information we had. Pretty rigorous look at statistics, look at anecdotal evidence, look at the regard of other players, look at the way owners treated a player, how many times did a player move from club to club, how did the clubs do. We considered things like how many players pitched on Sunday, because Sunday was considered to be the high point of the baseball week in these leagues. We considered and heard data.
What I can't do is tell you how an individual evaluated the data. For example, some may have been very rigorous on statistics. If you didn't have a statistical underpinning over a fairly long period of time or, to put it another way, if you had disabilities, if you had been out of baseball, if you had not performed well for some sort of (indiscernible), in that circumstance, there might have been committee members that would have punished you, been negative about that.
As I say to you, the difficulty I have with your question is I simply don't know how individuals handled those particular elements. It's clear, some would have focused very heavily on one dimension, and others on another. I don't know the answer and will not know the answer. We have the result.
Q. Jane, I heard you refer to Mrs. Manley as being black. I've read things that at some points in her life she said she came from a white family. Also, could somebody address how she felt about whether she was paid for the players she developed when they went to the Major Leagues.
JANE FORBES CLARK: I'm going to let Larry Lester take that one.
LARRY LESTER: That's a tough question. Effa Manley was white, but she passed for black. She was married to a black man. She was a product of an illicit affair. The bottom line is she passed as a black woman, she was treated as a black woman. That is her place in history. She did not try to pass as a white woman.
Does that answer your question?
Q. That's what I've read. I just wanted to verify. I've read very scholarly pieces on her. Your words are my understanding of it.
LARRY LESTER: You'll find this documented in Jim Overmyer's book and one of our scholars, Dr. Leslie, he will also confirm she was a white woman passing for black in a black world.
Q. Her feelings after players did get into the Major Leagues, a player she developed well, whether she felt she should have been paid more for them?
LARRY LESTER: Well, yes, she was a campaigner for equal pay for the value of her talented athletes. I mean, when you look at Monte Irvin, Larry Doby and now Biz Mackey, who is now in the Hall of Fame, were under her ownership. She campaigned to get as much money as possible for these ball players, and rightfully so, despite what Branch Rickey said about the league being in the zone of a racquet, the truth is they were a valuable enterprise and a business entity who did their best to get the best top dollar for their ball players. She was very adamant about that. That was one of the reasons why she's in the Hall of Fame today.
Q. Fay, in the discussions that preceded the voting, was there any talk about the intangibles, the guidelines for the writer's ballot including voting shall be based on character, integrity and contributions to the game? Did any of those factors discussed?
FAY VINCENT: All of them were discussed depending on the circumstance. Those three factors for sure for many of the candidates were discussed at some length. We took very seriously the character commitment. We spent a fair amount of time discussing leadership and absence of leadership. There are some of these ball players who were terrific ball players and made no effort to be a leader, but their performance got them where they are.
But the answer to your question is very definitely, yes, and with a fair amount of both time and I might say intensity were those issues discussed.
Q. Mr. Vincent, how many letters of recommendation or observance did you receive from families, organizations, cities, urging you to induct certain players? Were they in hundreds, thousands?
FAY VINCENT: I'm going to let Jeff Idelson, who I should say performed extraordinarily over the past few days, speak to that.
JEFF IDELSON: We probably had somewhere between one and two thousand different inquiries or recommendations come in from fans, Hall of Famers, school groups and historians.
Q. Was it Effa Manley's own phrase that she was a white woman that passed as black?
LARRY LESTER: No. I guess you could say she's the blackest white woman in the world, but... Effa's mother was white who had an affair with a white man, making her white. Effa's mother at that time was married to a black man. She was raised with her black siblings in a black neighborhood, so she grew up thinking she was African American or black. She carried herself as a black woman.
Q. Would she have gone to a black school?
LARRY LESTER: Yes, she would have. She carried herself well. As you know, we're talking about place-ism versus racism.
Q. How much consideration in initial discussions went to Abe Manley?
LARRY LESTER: In view of several Negro League minutes of meetings, records that are housed at the Newark public library, we found that she was the brain thrust behind the Newark Eagles. You found her name on the all the correspondence, you found her making the decisions at the board meetings, not her husband Abe. It was an easy decision to see where the power was, where the authority was placed in her behalf. Abe was just mostly a financier and had very little involvement in running the club.
JANE FORBES CLARK: My answer to the question about the inducting ceremony, Rachel and Sharon Robinson have accepted our invitations to attend the ceremony. Sharon will speak. She's agreed to speak about her father and about how her family feels about the significance of the induction of the 17 electees from today.
We feel that that really emphasizes the special significance of today's election and the men and woman who will be inducted on July 30th.
JEFF IDELSON: Thank you.
End of FastScripts