Shortstop Ozzie Smith, outfielder Rickey Henderson and pitchers Ferguson Jenkins and Luis Tiant will comprise the second class of inductees in the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s Hall of Game.
The museum, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, announced the selections on Friday, and the formal induction is scheduled for April 25 at 8 p.m. at the Gem Theater. All four former players are expected to attend.
The Hall of Game was established in 2014 to honor former major-league players who competed with the same passion, determination, flair and skill exhibited by the stars of the Negro Leagues.
“These men produced some of the most significant moments in baseball history,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the NLBM. “Buck O’Neill once said Negro Leagues fans couldn’t go to the concession stands because they were afraid they’d miss something they’d never seen before.
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“That’s exactly the kind of sentiment fans felt about guys like Rickey Henderson, Ozzie Smith, Fergie Jenkins and Luis Tiant.”
The four join last year’s inaugural class of Joe Morgan, Lou Brock, Dave Winfield and the late Roberto Clemente.
During his 25-year career, Henderson became the major league’s all-time stolen base leader with 1,406, shattering the previous record 938 set by Brock. Henderson, who played for World Series champions in Oakland and Toronto, is considered baseball’s greatest leadoff man. The 1990 American League MVP, he hit a record 81 career home runs to lead off games and is the major league’s all-time leader with 2,295 runs scored.
“If anybody embodied what the Negro Leagues were all about, it’s Rickey Henderson,” Kendrick said.
Smith, a 15-time National League All-Star, and 13-time Gold Glove winner, set major-league records for career assists (8,735) and double plays (1,590) for a shortstop and his 2,511 games is a National League record for a shortstop. Smith, known as The Wizard, also had 2,460 hits, stole 580 bases and helped the Cardinals to three World Series, winning the 1982 title.
“Buck O’Neil said Ozzie Smith was the greatest major-league shortstop ever,” Kendrick said. “There was nothing The Wizard could not do defensively, and he was a clutch hitter.”
Jenkins, who won 284 games in his career, was a dominant force during the 1960s and early 1970s and won the 1971 Cy Young Award. He won 20 or more games seven times — six of those consecutively as a member of the Chicago Cubs — and threw 239 complete games. Jenkins also played basketball in the off-season with the Harlem Globetrotters during 1967-69.
“I’m not sure people appreciated what Ferguson Jenkins did while playing in Wrigley Field … pitching under some of the most difficult circumstances on not the best teams and was able to win 20 games year in and year out,” Kendrick said.
Tiant, who won 20 games in 1968, 1974 and 1976, posted a 1.60 ERA in 1968, a major-league record at the time and still a Boston Red Sox record. Tiant started three games in the 1975 World Series against Cincinnati, including a five-hit shutout. His father, Luis Sr., was a two-time Negro Leagues All-Star, who in 1947, helped the New York Cubans to a Negro Leagues title.
In addition to the Hall of Game inductions, the NLBM will present the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award for “career excellence in the face of adversity” to Wendy Lewis, the Senior Vice President of Diversity and Strategic Alliances for MLB.