December 6, 2021
Negro League legend Buck O’Neil was one of six players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday night.
Also earning election from one of two committees were Chicago White Sox legend Minnie Minoso, former Minnesota Twins teammates Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, former Brooklyn Dodgers slugger Gil Hodges and Black player Bud Fowler.
Minoso was named on 14 of 16 ballots by the Golden Days Era Committee, which considered candidates whose primary contributions to the sport were from 1950 to 1969. Hodges, Kaat and Oliva all received 12 votes (75 percent), meeting the required 75 percent for election.
O’Neil (13 votes) and Fowler (12) were elected by the Early Baseball Era Committee, who considered candidates prior to 1950.
The committees met separately in Orlando, Fla. The six will be part of the 2022 class that will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 24.
The remainder of the class, determined by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, will be announced Jan. 25.
O’Neil began his Negro League career in 1937 with the Memphis Red Sox. One year later, he joined the Kansas City Monarchs and spent 16 seasons with the team. He also was player-manager for eight seasons.
His popularity soared after his playing career ended as he became a historian for the Negro Leagues. O’Neil died in 2006 at age 94.
Minoso, a Cuban, began his career in the Negro League before joining the Cleveland Indians in 1949. He played full-time in the majors for 14 seasons — including 10 with the White Sox — and earned nine All-Star selections while batting .299 with 195 homers and 1,093 RBIs.
“While bittersweet because of his passing in 2015, Hall of Fame induction is the fitting capstone to Minnie’s amazing career in baseball, a career that started in segregation and ultimately led to Cooperstown,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “Trailblazer among Afro-Latinos and Cubans, five-tool dynamo on the baseball diamond, ‘Mr. White Sox,’ ambassador for baseball and the Chicago White Sox, teammate and friend, any description of his career now ends with the words, ‘Hall of Famer.’ How right and how appropriate for someone who loved the game of baseball with every breath he took.”
Minoso famously came out of retirement in both 1976 and 1980 to play a few games with the White Sox — the latter time at age 54 — to play in five different decades. He died in 2015 at age 89.
Oliva, another Cuban who is now 83 years old, won the American League battle title three times (1964, 1965, 1971) and was an eight-time All-Star. He also was AL Rookie of the Year in 1964 and batted .304 over 15 seasons (1962-76) with the Twins.
Kaat, also 83, was a three-time All-Star and 16-time Gold Glove winner who went 283-237 with a 3.45 ERA in 898 appearances (625 starts). He spent 14 1/2 seasons with the Twins’ franchise (counting two in Washington before a relocation prior to the 1961 season) and also pitched for four other teams before retiring after the 1983 season.
“‘Tony O’ embodies what it truly means to be a Minnesota Twin and has been the greatest ambassador for this organization since his arrival in the Upper Midwest,” Twins CEO Dave St. Peter said in a statement. “In the same vein, ‘Kitty’ has made an indelible impact on our organization and our fans, from the 15 years he spent with the Twins/Senators franchise to his time in the broadcast booth.”
Hodges hit more than 20 homers in 11 straight seasons with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1949-59. An eight-time All-Star, he hit 370 homers and drove in 1,274 runs during a career that ended with the New York Mets in 1963.
Hodges spent nine seasons as a manager with the Washington Senators (1963-67) and Mets (1968-71), famously guiding the ‘Miracle Mets’ to the 1969 World Series title. He died in 1972 at age 47 after a massive heart attack.
Fowler played second base and pitched in the late 1800s for multiple barnstorming teams and was often considered to be the first Black professional player. He later became a manager. Fowler died in 1913 at age 54.
Dick Allen, the 1972 AL MVP with the White Sox, fell one vote short in balloting by the Golden Days Era Committee. Allen died in December 2020 at age 78.
Among the first-year candidates for the upcoming balloting by the BBWAA are Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. Among the holdovers are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling.
–Field Level Media