Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stellar class headed to St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame

By Dan O’Neill doneill@post-dispatch.com

Hard to believe it, but the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame is getting ready to celebrate its fifth year. Actually, “celebrate” is a soft term for the occasion. The Hall is exploding in its fifth year.

Ready to unveil its artist rendering of a projected new building in downtown, the Hall will embellish the excitement by inducting a spectacular 15-member Class of 2013 and seven Special Achievement awards on Nov. 20 at the Millennium Hotel.

“This year is as special as the very first year because we have a beautiful state-of-the-art building coming to put St. Louis in first place with the best Hall of Fame in America,” SLSHOF president Greg Marecek said.

The list of inductees would serve well for an inaugural class, highlighted by some of the most memorable figures in St. Louis sports history, and representing numerous walks of sports life.

Those to be honored include Blues stars Brett Hull and Red Berenson, Cardinals Keith Hernandez and Orlando Cepeda, Missouri and St. Louis Cardinals football standout Mel Gray, Webster High track star and “world’s fastest man” Ivory Crockett, St. Louis Univeristy soccer legend Carl Gentile and McKinley High and Boston Celtics great Jo Jo White.

In addition, women’s golf star Judy Rankin and women’s national racquetball champion Rita Hoff Scott will enter the Hall, along with Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., broadcaster Jay Randolph, Post-Dispatch sportswriter Rick Hummel and Rams standout D’Marco Farr.

In addition, CBC boys soccer coach Terry Michler and Trinity Catholic soccer coach Vince Drake will receive special achievement awards.

The Hall requires nominated athletes to attend the ceremonies to be inducted. Several athletes who have been nominated in years past but have been unable to attend, including Kurt Warner, Willie McGee, Joe Torre and Tim McCarver, still could be added to the roster.

But that’s not all. Before the annual induction ceremony, the Hall will wet the whistle of local sports fans by conducting its “Heroes and Legends Series” on Aug. 23 at Missouri Athletic Club.

The 2013 edition will recognize three distinguished managers in Major League Baseball history as “Legends of the Dugout.” The terrific trio includes Cardinals Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog, Los Angeles Dodgers HOF manager Tom Lasorda and Atlanta Braves great Bobby Cox.

The highlight of the ceremonies will be a town hall session in which the three relate tales and anecdotes from their accomplished careers. The threesome combined for four World Series titles, nine National League pennants and 29 division championships.

There will be a few autographed items commemorating the special day that will be auctioned.

Before his death in March, Hall of Famer and St. Louis native Earl Weaver was to participate in the event. With his family in attendance, Weaver will be honored posthumously with his Hall induction.

Individual tickets for the “Heroes and Legends Series” are $100, while tables of 10 can be purchased for $1,000.

Tickets for both the induction ceremonies and the “Heroes and Legends Series” can be purchased at www.stlshof.com, by calling Tim Moore at 1-888-627-3235, ext. 710, or by mailing a check to St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 190833, St. Louis, Mo. 63119.

Two Weird Ones, with the White Sox

As printed in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch "On This Date" column (page B4), the Browns were involved in two weird records on this date in baseball history. Both involved the Chicago White Sox, but separated by two decades.

On April 27, 1909, the Browns set a record for frustration by losing their third consecutive 1-0 game, all to the same team, the White Sox, at South Side Grounds. The losses were suffered April 25 by Bill Grahame, April 26 by four-time 20-game winner Jack Powell, and April 27 by future Hall of Famer, Rube Waddell. On April 27, 1930, White Sox first baseman Bud Clancy had no chances against the Browns in a nine-inning game. A team has to get 27 outs somehow. So, no chances for the first baseman means a lot of strikeouts and pop flies to the outfield (what broadcaster Mike Shannon terms cans of corn"). Not for nothing is the St. Louis Browns Historical Society's journal called Pop Flies. It is not often in baseball that the first-baseman comes off like "the Maytag repairman."

Tempting it certainly is to read a Whole Lotta Significance (to paraphrase Led Zeppelin) into the April 27, 1909 record. 1909 was a pivotal year and this setback may itself have been the pivitoal event in this pivotal year. But first a brief review of Browns history.

The Browns started their run in St. Louis in 1902 well enough. They almost took the pennant in their inaugural campaign, braced as they were by a number of "jumpers" from the National League, including two who would become Hall-of-Famers.* But the rest of the decade was spotty.

Nonetheless, owner Robert Lee Hedges stuck with the cast and crew that was "present and on roll" in 1902 ... including manager Jimmy McAleer. By 1908, McAleer's bunch had apparently righted the ship: the Browns had a .546 winning percentage, their best record since '02, giving Hedges fits in how to accommodate the crowds showing up at his door.** In the off-season, with the wind in his sails from '08, Hedges embarked on a complete rebuild of Sportsman's Park, expanding seating and fortifying it with the then-novel materials of concrete and steel.***

On April 24, the Browns completed a two-games-to-one series victory against Cleveland at League Park to climb to .500. But after the three straight 1-0 heartbreaking losses, the Browns would never climb above .500 again for '09. In fact, it would not be until 1916, after the federal court pulled the plug on the Federal League and the Browns took over the roster of the St. Louis Terriers, that the Browns would finish over .500 for a season.

After the '09 season, Hedges finally pulled the plug on inaugural manager Jimmy McAleer, whose eight-year run is topped only by St. Louisan Earl Weaver in Browns/Orioles franchise history.

The thing you can say about any 1-0 loss is its demoralizing for a team. The losers during this three game series were in order, Grahame, Powell and Waddell.

Bill Grahame was no standout. The next year, Grahame would have an 0-8 record in nine games pitched and would be sent back to the minors never to return. But with aces Powell, a former 20-game winner, and Waddell, a future Hall of Famer going to the hill and pitching that well, you expect to win.

Did losing those three games demoralize the Browns for the rest of the season? We cannot interview any of the participants so we will have to only speculate.

* Had jumping not been banned by the National Agreement, query whether Curt Flood's challenge of the reserve clause would have even been necessary.

**Sporting News, April 30, 1908 page 4, column 4

*** Technically the first concrete and steel stadium, though Philadelphia's Shibe Park