For $25, you can put Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame … Maury Wills, too

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The “People” have spoken. Maybe.

Missing from the first 11 elections for the Shrine of the Eternals — aka, the People’s Hall of Fame for baseball imortality, Pete Rose has made it onto the 2010 ballot for exclusive entry into the Pasadena-based Baseball Reliquary’s honored class.

Rose, who has been ineligibie for Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction since commissioner Bart Giamatti banned him for gambling 20 years ago, is one of nine first-timers to be listed on the Shrine ballot, announced executive director Terry Cannon.

In explaining Rose’s credentials, Cannon wrote:

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“The inimitable “Charlie Hustle” began his assault on the record books in 1963 as the first piece of what would become the Big Red Machine; his prowess at hitting a baseball would be matched only by his penchant for generating controversy, and, in the eyes of many, his eventual placement on baseball’s ineligible list and banishment from the Hall of Fame made what he had achieved between the white lines seem irrelevant.”

If Rose is one of the top three vote-getters, he’ll make it into the Shrine of Eternals ceremony set for this July in Pasadena — and considering he’s still living in Sherman Oaks and makes many public appearances, even he would post pretty good odds of him showing up for this.

“This past year we had several Reliquary members express an interest in Rose being included on the Shrine ballot, so I guess there has been sufficient passage of time for people to mull over Rose’s transgressions, contemplate the price he’s paid for them, and realistically consider his worthiness for enshrinement,” said Cannon.

“As far as his chances for election, I really have no idea how his candidacy will be received by the Reliquary membership at large. It will certainly be interesting to see what his voting percentage is like.”

The Baseball Reliquary (linked here), dedicated to “fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history,” has already inducted 33 into the Shrine:

Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Emmett Ashford, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Bill Buckner, Roberto Clemente, Steve Dalkowski, Rod Dedeaux, Jim Eisenreich, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Josh Gibson, William “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Roger Maris, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck, Jr., and Kenichi Zenimura.

Cannon said only three others have been inducted after their first appearance on the ballot, other than the first year: Borders (’03), Brosnan (’07) and O’Neill (’08).

The Shrine’s philosophical difference from the Baseball Hall of Fame is that, according to its mission statement, “statistical accomplishment is not a criterion for election. Rather, the Shrine’s annual ballot is comprised of individuals – from the obscure to the well-known – who have altered the baseball world in ways that supersede statistics.”

Membership in The Baseball Reliquary is all that’s required to vote (with a $25 annual fee), making it a far-more transparent and public exercise. Ballots will be mailed to members on April 1.

The nine others on the ballot for the first time:

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== Maury Willis: The Dodgers shortstop singlehandedly restored the stolen base as a potent offensive weapon in the 1960s, paving the way for the even greater stardom of Hall-of-Famers Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson. Wills electrified the baseball world by stealing 104 bases in his 1962 MVP season, but his popularity and public acclaim came with a steep price, as he would eventually battle cocaine and alcohol addiction.

== Steve Blass: One of the National League’s top pitchers in the late ’60s and early ’70s who inexplicably lost his control after winning a career-high 19 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1972. He was out of baseball by 1975, and to this day pitchers who have had success and then mysteriously could not find the strike zone are referred to as having “Steve Blass disease.”

== Jay Buhner: The right-handed power hitter for the Seattle Mariners from 1988-2001 was known as much for his shaved scalp, goatee, free-spirited ways and occasional fielding miscues (hence his nickname “Bonehead,” or “Bone” for short) as for his dramatic home runs.

== Jefferson Burdick (1900-1963): He is often referred to as “the father of card collecting,” ammazzing 300,000-plus trading cards, with 30,000 of them baseball cards. He developed a system of cataloging that remains in use today. He donated his collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and remains a stellar example of the baseball card collector as researcher and scholar rather than speculator and celebrity hunter.

== Hector Espino (1939-1997): Known as “the Babe Ruth of Mexico,” Espino hit more than 450 home runs between 1962 and 1984 in the Mexican League, while steadfastly refusing to play in the United States because of the racism he encountered while playing in Florida during the Civil Rights era. Like Jackie Robinson’s No. 42, his No. 21 was retired by all Mexican professional teams.

== Eddie Grant (1883-1918): The first major league ballplayer killed in action during World War I, the Harvard-educated Grant was a light-hitting infielder for the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Giants from 1907 to 1915. His unusual academic pedigree stood out in an era when many fellow players were barely literate, and his bravery was honored by a legendary granite monument that stood for decades in New York City’s Polo Grounds.

== Conorado Marrero: The elder statesman of Cuban baseball, the diminutive 5-foot-7 Marrero was a great amateur pitcher in his homeland before joining the Washington Senators from 1950 to 1954. After returning to Cuba, where he is reportedly the last surviving major leaguer living on the island, he taught baseball to children and became a beloved goodwill ambassador for the amateur game.

== Frank O’Rourke (1916-1989): One of the greatest, albeit largely unknown, baseball fiction writers of the post-World War II era. He authored gritty, highly realistic short stories and novels that were influenced by his ballplaying experiences (he even worked out with the Philadelphia Phillies in spring training in the late 1940s) and his intimacy with the major leaguers he used for his fictional characters.

One other candidate is back on the ballot after an 11-year absence (he previously appeared on the 1999 ballot):

== Roger Angel: The self-described baseball “reporter” whose elegant and masterful prose, and remarkable power of observation, has been on display for years through his books and essays in The New Yorker magazine. He established a new standard for baseball journalism.

The other eligiblie candidates, in alphabetical order (with number of years on the ballot in parenthesis):

= Hank Aguirre (6); Eliot Asinof (7); Billy Bean (8); Chet Brewer (11); Charlie Brown 93); Helen Callaghan (7); Charles M. Conlon (9); Dizzy Dean (10); Ed Delahanty (7); Bucky Dent (2); Eddie Feigner (10); Lisa Fernandez (10); Rube Foster (12), Ted Giannoulas (8); Jim “Mudcat” Grant (6); Pete Gray (12); Ernie Harwell (7); Dr. Frank Jobe (8); Charles “Pop” Kelchner (3); Mike “King” Kelly (3); Effa Manley (12); Dr. Mike Marshall (5); Jocko Maxwell (2); Tug McGraw (7); “Nuf Ced” McGreevey (4); Fred Merkle (4); Manny Mota (3); Phil Pote (8); Vic Power (2); Dan Quisenberry (4); J.R. Richard (11); Rusty Staub (5); Casey Stengel (12); Chuck Stevens (2); Luis Tiant (8); Fay Vincent (9); Rube Waddell (12); John Montgomery Ward (4); Wally Yonamine (3) and Don Zimmer (6)

More info on the Shrine of the Eternals: contact Terry Cannon, Executive Director of the Baseball Reliquary, at P.O. Box 1850, Monrovia, CA 91017; by phone at (626) 791-7647; or by e-mail at terymar@earthlink.net.

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