Andre Dawson, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Oliva and Tim Raines will all travel to Kansas City in June as new inductees to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s “Hall of Game” class.
Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark also will be honored with the museum’s Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award.
The museum, which announced the inductees Tuesday, began the Hall of Game in 2014 to honor baseball players who exhibited the same “passion, determination, skill and flair” as Negro League players.
Cepeda, the 1967 National League MVP, was a “legacy” inductee, NLBM president Bob Kendrick said, because his father played against Negro League players in Puerto Rico.
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The connection between the Negro Leagues and Spanish-speaking countries was further honored with Oliva’s induction. “Tony O,” from Cuba, led the American League in hits five times during his 15-year career with the Twins.
“We just certainly believe he should be in the (National) Hall of Fame,” Kendrick said of Oliva. “It’s an opportunity to again pay tribute to that cultural bond that was shared between the Negro Leagues and Spanish-speaking countries, but also to recognize a guy who we believe should be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, so we kind of killed two birds with one stone.”
Dawson, already in the Baseball Hall of Fame, exhibited similar athleticism in the modern day as those who kept Negro League fans riveted in a different era. The 1977 National League Rookie of the Year and league MVP in 1987, Dawson collected eight Gold Gloves and four Silver Slugger awards in his 21-year career. In three separate seasons, Dawson stole at least 30 bases.
“He was an athlete that could have played anything,” Kendrick said. “He just happened to play baseball. And that really was kind of the athlete that played in the Negro Leagues. Most of these guys would have excelled in any sport.”
Raines — nicknamed “Rock” — exhibited the flair the Hall of Game looks for in inductees. He had four league stolen-base titles, and broke the rookie record for steals in a season, with 71 in 1981.
“He did so many things that statistics don’t always bring to the forefront,” Kendrick said. “What he did defensively, what he did on the bases, how he got in the minds of opposing pitchers when he got on base. … He had that swagger. He is a perfect choice.”
Clark will be honored for his time with Major League Baseball Players Association, the “most powerful sports union in all of sports,” according to Kendrick. Clark was the first African American to lead the organization.
The Hall of Game induction ceremony, which all five honorees are scheduled to attend, is June 11 at 8 p.m. at the Gem Theater.