The 2013 Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals ballot: Bo, Topps’ top guy, the Wiffle Ball inventor and the first agent

Before you begin the process of separating the wheat from the shaft in determining who’s somewhat most deserving of inclusion in the 2013 class of the Baseball Hall of Fame when it is announced Wednesday, it’s easier to get your juices flowing over the list of the 50 candidates who’ve been included on the ballot for this summer’s Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals induction — and that’ll include
first-timers like Bo Jackson, Rocky Colavito, Warren Cromartie, Carlos Delgado, Pete Reiser and Wiffle Ball inventor Dave Mullany (sorry, we wish we could set it up where you could just click on the photo at the right and “add to cart.”)

This is the 15th year of voting by dues-paying members of the non-profit Reliquary (and you can be one, too — it’s open to the public). Ballots will be mailed in April. The top three vote-getters will be enshrined in a ceremony at the Pasadena Central Library on Sunday, July 21. For more information on the Reliquary, visit the website or contact executive director Terry Cannon at terymar@earthlink.net.

According to Cannon: The Shrine of the Eternals is similar in concept to the annual elections held at the Baseball Hall of Fame, but differs philosophically in that 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.

As for the 50 candidates, 11 are on the ballot for the first time, and one thankfully returns after a long absence. Those who remain on the ballot from previous elections include Steve Bilko, Glenn Burke, Jose Canseco, Lisa Fernandez, Charlie Finley, Ernie Harwell, Manny Mota, Hideo Nomo and Fay Vincent.

(Not that we have any imput with the Board of Directors who compile the ballot, but isn’t it time to include Vin Scully?)

Consider the newcomers and learn a little baseball history in the process:

Sy Berger: Frequently cited as the father of the modern baseball card, Berger, who will turn 90 this year, joined the Topps Company, manufacturer of chewing gum, as a sales promotion executive after WWII.  In 1952 he designed the template for and oversaw the production of an annual series of baseball trading cards that would quickly emerge as the most coveted pop culture artifacts of the 1950s and 1960s – the Topps baseball card – and send the fortunes of the company soaring. (Berger was on the Reliquary ballot in 2001 and ’02 and returns after an 11-year absence).

Octavius V. Catto:  African-American scholar, educator, community activist, political organizer, and baseball player, Catto (1839‒1871) founded and managed the all-black Philadelphia Pythian Baseball Club shortly after the end of the Civil War. In 1869 Catto’s Pythians played the first recorded interracial baseball game in history, taking on an all-white nine comprised of Philadelphia newspapermen.

Rocky Colavito: The most popular Cleveland Indians player during the 1950s, the Rock’s 1960 trade to the Detroit Tigers started a protracted pennant death-spiral in The Forest City.

Warren Cromartie: Dependable, fan-friendly outfielder/first baseman with the (erstwhile) Montreal Expos, he also had a 1992 autobiography, Slugging It Out in Japan.

Carlos Delgado: Puerto Rican-born slugger who modeled his career and later social activism upon the work of Roberto Clemente, he hit 473 homers with the Blue Jays, Marlins, and Mets from 1993 through 2009.
In 2004, increasingly troubled by U.S. belligerence in Iraq and Afghanistan, Delgado began silent protests by walking off the field while “God Bless America” played during the seventh inning stretch. He is currently involved in a variety of philanthropic and educational causes.

Fred Hutchinson: A Detroit Tigers pitcher who became a successful manager, leading the Cincinnati Reds to an NL pennant in 1961. His untimely death from cancer following the thrilling conclusion of the 1964 NL season galvanized the baseball community; the Hutch Award is annually presented to players exhibiting perseverance in the face of adversity.

Bo Jackson: After his 1987 Heisman Trophy-winning football career at Auburn University, he played for both the NFL’s Los Angeles Raiders (1987-1990) and the the American League’s Kansas City Royals (’86-’90). His titanic home run during the 1989 All-Star Game at Anaheim gave him the game’s MVP Award. Jackson ended up finishing his career in 1994 with the team that originally drafted him — the Angels — following five years with the Royals and three with the Chicago White Sox (’91-’93, the last of which he was named the AL Comeback Player of the Year). 

Bill Lange: Called “the Willie Mays of his day,” the centerfielder for the Chicago Colts from 1893-1899 had a .330 lifetime average, 400 steals and a 123 adjusted OPS. Lange left the game at age 28 to marry the daughter of a San Francisco insurance mogul who thought baseball an inappropriate career for his future son-in-law. The marriage soon turned sour, but Lange never played baseball again.

David N. Mullany: Former amateur pitcher and pharmaceutical company employee, Mullany invented and marketed the Wiffle Ball – friend to every kid who ever broke a window with an errant baseball. The ball celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

Pete Reiser: Brooklyn Dodger outfielder who battled with walls and was often injured was the youngest player (22) to win a NL batting title in 1941 (.343 average). His career ended in ’47.

Christy Walsh: Ambitious and enterprising lawyer turned public relations pioneer  who cashed in on America’s obsession with sports celebrities by creating a pool of writers who would “ghost” newspaper stories for ballplayers such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The Christy Walsh Syndicate would ultimately represent athletes in all fields, paying them handsomely for the use of their names and stories in ghost written columns nationwide. Walsh (1891‒1955) parlayed this success into the creation of an entirely new profession, the sports agent, a livelihood that would soon become both blessed and cursed within the culture of professional sports.

Photo: KPCC

John Young: Los Angeles-born pro baseball player and scout who responded to a lack of baseball resources for urban youth by founding Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), a program designed to attract, instruct and mentor promising schoolboy athletes. Notable RBI alumni include C.C. Sabathia, Jimmy Rollins and James Loney.

The 50 names alphabetically on the current ballot (with years appearing on the ballot):
Eliot Asinof (10), Sy Berger (3), Steve Bilko (2),  Chet Brewer (14), Charlie Brown (6), Jefferson Burdick (4), Glenn Burke (6), Bert Campaneris (2), Jose Canseco (2), Octavius V. Catto,
Rocky Colavito, Charles M. Conlon (12), Warren Cromartie, Dizzy Dean (13), Carlos Delgado, Hector Espino (4), Eddie Feigner (13), Lisa Fernandez (13), Charlie Finley (3),
Rube Foster (15), Ernie Harwell (10), Fred Hutchinson, Bo Jackson, Bill Lange, Annabelle Lee (2), Effa Manley (15), Conrado Marrero (4), Dr. Mike Marshall (8),
Tug McGraw (10), Fred Merkle (7), Manny Mota (6), David N. Mullany, Hideo Nomo (2), Lefty O’Doul (2), Joe Pepitone (3), Phil Pote (11), Vic Power (5). Curtis Pride (3),
Dan Quisenberry (7), Pete Reiser,  J.R. Richard (14), Annie Savoy (3), Rusty Staub (8), Toni Stone (2), Fay Vincent (12), Rube Waddell (15), Christy Walsh, John Montgomery Ward (7), John Young, Don Zimmer (9)

The 42 previous inductees: Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Roger Angell, 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, Ted Giannoulas, Josh Gibson, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Pete Gray, William “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Dr. Frank Jobe, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Roger Maris, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Pete Rose, Casey Stengel, Luis Tiant, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck, Jr., Maury Wills and Kenichi Zenimura.

More coverage of the ballot launch: BigBadBaseball blog.

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