Sutter Closes Out Historic Day in
Ace reliever and 17 Others Inducted into
National Baseball Hall of Fame
July 30, 2006 | Barry Bloom
|Hall of Fame President
Dale Petroskey, Inductee Bruce Sutter, and Hall of Fame
Chairman Jane Forbes Clark. (Dan Holmes)
Induction Weekend home page
Class of 2006
Frank Grant, Pete
Effa Manley, José
Pompez, Cum Posey, Louis
Ben Taylor, Cristóbal
Sol White, J.L.
Audio, Photos, Blogs
Hall of Fame Speech
Negro League legend Buck
Spink Award Honoree Tracy
Frick Award Honoree Gene
Transcript of Sutter Press Conference
Gallery: Plaques A to P
Photo Gallery: Plaques S to Z
Gallery: Induction Ceremony
Gallery: Sunday pre-Ceremony
Photo Gallery: Friday
Dale Petroskey's Hall of Fame Weekend Blog
Weekend Photo Gallery
Sutter Receives Hero's
Welcome Day After
Sutter Closes Out
Historic Induction Ceremony
Effa Manley First Woman Inducted
of "Black Baseball" Inducted
Baseball Journey Ends in Cooperstown
Career Heads Home
Expects Emotions to Flow on Stage
O'Neil proud to represent Negro Leaguers
Linda Paige Shelby's Speech at Statue Dedication
Andy Cooper Jr. remembers
his HOF Father
Ozzie, Brett, Sandberg,
Play Ball for Charity
Fans Play Ball and Support Education Program
How Hall of Famers fared against Bruce Sutter
Induction Weekend home page
COOPERSTOWN, NY: The incomparable
Buck O'Neil led off the annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on
Sunday under clear blue skies by looking out at the gathered crowd
of an estimated 11,000 behind the Clark Sports Center. Without
missing a beat, he opened his remarks with these three words:
"This is outstanding."
And so the keynote had been struck for another magnificent
afternoon, one in which the single largest Hall of Fame class was
Reliever extraordinaire Bruce Sutter was the only former Major
Leaguer gaining entrance this year into the hallowed Hall. But
O'Neil struck a cord for 17 of his Negro League and pre-Negro League
brethren, 12 players and five executives. Among them, the first
woman ever to have a plaque hung in the Hall -- Effa Manley, the
co-owner and business manager of the Newark Eagles.
Sutter, who saved 300 games for the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis
Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, finally made it in on his 13th try
when he was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America
this past January. The 53-year-old right-hander was nervous before
the speech and had to catch himself several times from choking up
during the course of it, particularly at the point when he referred
to his wife, Jamye, who is scheduled to have surgery to remove a
cancerous kidney on Aug. 15.
"I haven't played baseball for 18 years now and I'm getting
more sentimental as I get older," Sutter said afterwards.
"You start losing family members and you start losing friends.
There are teammates who have passed on. You start thinking of them
as you put together a speech.
"I'm not usually an emotional guy. My kids said the first
time they ever saw me cry was when I got that phone call [telling
him that he was elected]. Now today. I guess a lot of people have
seen me crying now."
A pair of his fellow Hall of Famers tried to ease the mood a
little. Sutter long ago sported a thick brown beard that has now
grown gray with age. So Ozzie Smith, his former Cards teammate, and
Cincinnati great Johnny Bench donned long gray decorative beards to
spoof the occasion.
"I think Ozzie saw that the big guy needed some help,"
Sutter said about the former shortstop. "It was like one of his
diving plays and him jumping up and throwing the guy out at first.
I'm so thankful for those two guys to get a little humor out there.
I thought it was great. It did relax me."
The Negro League inductees included such great names as George
"Mule" Suttles, Cumberland "Cum" Posey Jr.,
James Raleigh "Biz" Mackey, Ernest "Jud" Wilson
and Ulysses F. "Frank" Grant.
O'Neil, who played and managed among most of them, said he was
"proud" to have been a ballplayer in the Negro Leagues
"which was nothing like Hollywood makes it out to be
Those leagues existed from the early 1920s and into the 1950s
because Major League Baseball refused to allow African-Americans to
play until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 with the
Brooklyn Dodgers. All 16 MLB teams at the time didn't integrate
"I never learned to hate," O'Neil said. "I hate
cancer. Cancer killed my mother. Ten years ago, cancer also took my
wife. I hate AIDS. I had a friend who recently died of AIDS. But I
can't hate a human being."
The induction of the Negro Leaguers was the result of an
exhaustive five-year study and special election of a 12-man panel
chaired by former Commissioner Faye Vincent that now is expected to
close the book on that part of baseball history. Robinson's widow,
Rachael, and daughter, Sharon, were both on hand for the ceremony.
"It's an awesome responsibility to stand up here and try to
express how important this day is for us," Sharon said in her
Commissioner Bud Selig and various family members read the
inscriptions on all 17 of the Negro League plaques. Selig, as he
always does, also read the inscription on the plaque for the
incoming former Major Leaguer.
"What happened today is something I never thought would
happen," said Monte Irvin, the former Negro Leaguer who was a
Hall of Famer in his own right for his eight seasons with the New
York Giants and Chicago Cubs. "But it did happen. A lot of
people should be given credit for this."
The day was rounded out by the media awards.
Gene Elston, the former voice of the Houston Astros, who won the
Ford C. Frick Award,
introduced his speech by saying: "Yes, I am in Cooperstown.
This is the place where dreams come true."
Tracy Ringolsby, the long-time Rockies beat writer for Denver's
Rocky Mountain News, won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.
"I find it amazing to be up here," Ringolsby said as he
opened his remarks.
The selection of Sutter also made it a big year for the reliever.
Sutter mastered and popularized the split-finger fastball during a
career that spanned 13 years from 1976 to 1988 and ended when he
irrevocably hurt his right shoulder. He became the first pure
reliever ever elected. Sutter joins a trio of other pitchers in the
Hall, whose claim to fame may have been closing games -- Hoyt
Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley. But each was a starter
at one time or another.
In his speech, Sutter thanked his fellow relievers and praised
the fans for their support. He opened by saying, "I wish we
could turn back the clock and play one more game," and closed
by admitting that he'd like to hear the chants of "Bruuuccce"
again like those days gone by when he came into the game in a tight
situation with victory very much on the line.
"I wish I could trot out there and get that feeling again,
but Father Time has caught up with me," he said. "First he
took my arm. Then he took my hair. Then he took the color from my
beard. But he did not take the great friendships and memories I have
from being a baseball player."
Sutter's among the immortals now. The 278 of them -- players,
managers, umpires and executives -- whose plaques will long endure
in the red-bricked Hall.
As O'Neil so apply said, it was an "outstanding" and
historic day. Sutter couldn't have described it any better.
Barry Bloom is national reporter for
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