Heading to the Hall; Group of 17 Involved in Black Baseball to Be Enshrined

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

Heading to the Hall; Group of 17 Involved in Black Baseball to Be Enshrined


Byline: Charlie Vascellaro, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - A group of 12 former Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues players and five executives represent all but one spot in the largest induction class in the National Baseball Hall of Fame's history. None of the 17 are living, but today still will be a day of great recognition for blacks in baseball.

While 1970s and 1980s closer Bruce Sutter was voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the other inductees were elected from a pool of 39 nominees chosen by the Negro Leagues Researchers/Authors group, a body of 12 researchers and historians selected by the Hall of Fame's board of directors after Major League Baseball presented the Hall with a $250,000 grant to conduct a comprehensive study on the history of blacks in baseball from 1860 to 1960.

Among the committee members was Robert Peterson, author of the quintessential volume on Negro Leagues history, the 1970 work "Only the Ball Was White." Peterson cast his ballot two days before his death on Feb. 11 at the age of 80.

Several players and one executive who toiled for teams representing the District or Baltimore will be inducted today in Cooperstown.

One of those players is powerful left-handed slugging infielder Jud "Boojum" Wilson, nicknamed by Satchel Paige for the sound the ball made when his line drives hit outfield walls. Wilson played for championship teams in Baltimore and Washington. He was the captain of the 1931 Homestead Grays team often cited as the greatest in Negro League history.

Wilson led the league in hitting with a .373 average for the Baltimore Black Sox in 1923 and posted averages of .350 or better in nine of the next 14 seasons, never dipping below .315 and hitting for a career .345 clip. Paige considered Wilson one of the two best hitters in Negro Leagues history.

Wilson's grandniece, Sha'Ron D. Taylor, lives in Capitol Heights and works for the federal government's General Services Administration. She found out about Wilson's election to the Hall while looking through a recent issue of Jet magazine and contacted Cooperstown.

"I doubt they would have found me until I found them. I let the Hall of Fame know that he has living blood relatives," said Taylor, adding, "The more I talk about it, the colder I get. I get the little goose bumps."

In addition to Taylor, Wilson has a niece, a nephew and many relatives from generations to follow, but Taylor will be the one accepting his Hall of Fame plaque.

"I feel privileged. I feel like royalty," Taylor said, "This is history for my family. I feel happy for my grandmother. She's deceased but she idolized her brother. This is a biased statement of course because he's my uncle, but he must have really been someone of stature and greatness. When I read comments about him by someone like Satchel Paige, I know he must have meant something."

Another inductee will be catcher Biz Mackey, who played for the Baltimore Elite Giants in 1938 and 1939 and mentored Hall of Fame catcher and pioneering black major leaguer Roy Campanella while "Campy" was a teenager. Mackey, an excellent hitter and fielder, had an almost 30-year career. He led Hilldale (Philadelphia) to three straight Eastern Colored League pennants from 1923 to 1925, defeating the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League World Series of 1925.

Among the founding fathers of the organized Negro Leagues, owner Cum Posey's Homestead Grays team was one of the first successful Negro Leagues franchises both on the field and at the gate for 35 years. Fielding a team that included future Hall of Famers Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Judy Johnson, the Grays won back-to-back Negro League World Series in 1930 and 1931 and nine straight Negro National League pennants beginning in 1937. Homestead split its "home" games between the District and Pittsburgh.

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