Baseball

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum announces fourth annual ‘Hall of Game’ class

Clockwise, from top left, are Maury Wills, Al Oliver, Tony Perez, Lee Smith and Dave Stewart.
Clockwise, from top left, are Maury Wills, Al Oliver, Tony Perez, Lee Smith and Dave Stewart.

Al Oliver, Tony Perez, Lee Smith, Maury Wills and Dave Stewart will be honored by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in June.

Oliver, Perez, Smith and Wills will be inducted into the Kansas City museum’s fourth “Hall of Game” class, which was created by the museum in 2014 to recognize players who “competed with the same passion, determination, skill and flair exhibited by the heroes of the Negro Leagues.” Stewart, a former major-league player, coach and executive, will receive the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award for “career excellence in the face of adversity.”

Oliver, an outfielder, first baseman and designated hitter, was a seven-time All-Star who led the National League in batting and RBIs in 1972 and was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1971 World Series-championship team. He also played for the Rangers, Expos, Giants, Phillies, Dodgers and Blue Jays in an 18-year major-league career.

Perez, a third baseman who is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was also a seven-time All-Star and was a part of the Cincinnati Reds’ 1975 and 1976 World Series championships. He also was a coach on the 1990 Reds’ World Series championship team.

Smith was scouted by Buck O’Neil and drafted by the Cubs in 1975 before becoming one of the game’s best relief pitchers. He held the major-league career saves record from 1993-2006 and currently ranks third. He was a seven-time All-Star in his 18 major-league seasons, eight of which he played for the Cubs.

Wills also was a seven-time All-Star and the first All-Star Game most valuable player in 1962, when he also won the National League MVP award with the Dodgers. He also won two Gold Gloves and appeared on three Dodgers World Series championship teams in 1959, 1963 and 1965. Wills holds the Dodgers franchise records for single-season and career stolen bases.

“We’re thrilled with the Hall of Game selections this year,” museum president Bob Kendrick said in a release. “These four men played with spirit, passion and a style that captivated fans. They displayed the same heart and soul of the men who made the Negro Leagues so special.

“Buck O’Neil used to say that fans at Negro League games couldn’t go to the concession stands because they might miss something they’d never seen before. That’s how fans felt about watching guys like Al Oliver, Tony Perez, Lee Smith and Maury Wills. They embody that same spirit, and we are delighted to welcome them into our Hall of Game.”

Stewart pitched 16 seasons in the majors, winning World Series with the Dodgers in 1981, A’s in 1989 and Blue Jays in 1993. He was the MVP of the 1989 World Series and also made the All-Star team that season. He later served as a major-league pitching coach, assistant general manager and sports agent and broadcaster.

“He’s been a tireless advocate and supporter of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and a well-deserved recipient of this prestigious award,” Kendrick said.

The 2017 Hall of Game induction ceremony is scheduled for 8 p.m. June 10 at the Gem Theater. In addition to the induction ceremony, Hall of Game honorees also will be recognized in the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center at the former Paseo YMCA, the birthplace of the Negro Leagues. Tickets are available by calling 816-221-1920 or at nlbm.com.

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