Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

BASEBALL HALL OF FAME ; Griffey's Hometown Holds Impressive Baseball Legacy

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

BASEBALL HALL OF FAME ; Griffey's Hometown Holds Impressive Baseball Legacy

Article excerpt

It's a most unlikely story, that two Baseball Hall of Famers should be born exactly 49 years apart in the same tiny mill town on the Monongahela River, but the story of Donora, Pa., the self- proclaimed "home of champions," always was hard to fathom. Perhaps the best place to begin is with a grainy, black-and-white photo of the 1939 Donora High School baseball team. There, in the top row, is a skinny boy named Stan Musial. Directly in front of him is Buddy Griffey, whose son and grandson would later become the only father- son tandem to hit back-to-back home runs in a major league game.

On Wednesday, Ken Griffey Jr., the sweet-swinging center fielder, was elected to the Hall of Fame in a landslide decision, as he was on a record 437 of 440 Baseball Writers Association of America ballots. Joining him in the 2016 Hall of Fame class is Mike Piazza.

Former Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds, still haunted by steroid allegations, was on 44.3 percent of ballots, well short of the 75 percent needed to gain induction. Former Pirates catcher Jason Kendall was on 0.5 percent of ballots, below the threshold of 5 percent needed to remain on next year's ballot.

Anywhere else, Ken Griffey Jr., the first overall pick by the Seattle Mariners in 1987, would be the chosen son of his hometown. A 13-time All-Star, he had 10 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers, was named the 1997 American League MVP and is sixth on the all-time home run list with 630.

But, as baseball statistician Bill James once wrote, the younger Griffey is "the second-best left-handed hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder ever born in Donora, Pennsylvania on November 21. After all, the best way over the Monongahela River in this town is by way of the Stan Musial Bridge.

Donora mayor Donald Pavelko said Wednesday he plans to issue a proclamation to make July 24, the day of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, "Junior Day in Donora.

"In this time when money is short and there's bad news here and there, it's always great to have a shot in the arm like this, Pavelko said. "For our community, it brightens everybody's day up.

Nested along a horseshoe bend in the Monongahela River, Donora has shared the economic struggles of so many Rust Belt towns. Driving down McKean Avenue, past one shuttered storefront after another, it's easy to miss the town's storied athletic legacy. There are no billboards and no murals depicting the baseball greats, nor quarterbacks Bernie and Arnold "Pope Kaliffa, four-time Pro Bowler Dan "Deacon Towler and boxer Lee Sala.

No, the town's shrine to its sporting legends is tucked away in the back corner of the Donora Smog Museum, where Griffey and Musial jerseys hang on the wall, and photographs and autographed baseballs are proudly set out in glass display cases.

The rest of the museum, however, traces through the town's industrial history, and particularly the 1948 air-pollution disaster that put Donora on the map. …

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