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Barons Hall of Fame

 

Since 2005, a committee of Birmingham media, historians, and current and former Barons front office executives have voted annually to elect potential inductees into the Birmingham Barons Hall of Fame. Candidates are nominated in three categories: on-field personnel (players and managers), front office staff, and media members. The criteria for induction are as follows:

 

• Has been a player, manager, coach or administrative member of the Birmingham Barons, Birmingham Black Barons, Birmingham A's and/or Birmingham Coal Barons or covered any of the above-mentioned teams for a greater Birmingham-area media entity.
• Has had a recognized outstanding athletic, coaching, administrative or journalistic ability displayed in professional baseball.
• Must be of good character and reputation.
• Has had outstanding baseball achievement as a player, manager, coach, administrator or journalist that has brought recognition to the greater Birmingham area.
• Has contributed to the success and promotion of professional baseball in the greater Birmingham area.
• Has upheld the ideals of sportsmanship.
• Has been nominated as a potential candidate and received enough votes from members of the Hall of Fame committee to be elected.

To date, 44 individuals have been selected for induction. Inductees are presented to the public each year at the Rickwood Classic.

2005 CLASS

A four-time Negro League East/West All-Star, Lorenzo "Piper" Davis played for the Birmingham Black Barons from 1942-50. In his official rookie season in 1943, he hit .386 and rebounded from a "sophomore jinx" to hit .313 in 1945. He hit .273, .272, .353, and .378 the next four seasons before being the first black player signed by the Red Sox organization. He was blocked at first base by former Birmingham Baron Walt Dropo and was assigned to the minors where he finished his career. He served as a player/manager in Birmingham from 1948-50, leading the team to a match-up against the Homestead Grays in the 1948 Negro Leagues World Series. Davis was also such a natural athlete that he was signed by the Harlem Globetrotters and played two seasons with the club from 1943-44.


One of the greatest all-around players in baseball history, Willie Mays began his career with the Black Barons, playing in Birmingham from 1948-50. Playing for player/manager "Piper" Davis, Mays picked up a pair of hits as a 17-year-old in his first game as a Black Baron in 1948. He went on to hit .262 that year with just one home run and one stolen base but helped the team to the final Negro Leagues World Series that year with his stellar outfield defense. He rebounded with a .311 average in 1949 and hit .330 (with a .547 slugging percentage) in 1950 before being signed by the Giants. The owner of 660 career HR and a .302 lifetime batting average, Mays played in a record-tying 24 All-Star Games and four World Series in the Major Leagues.


After beginning his Barons' career as an outfielder in 1906, Carlton Molesworth managed in Birmingham from 1908-22. A member of the Barons' 1906 Southern Association championship team, he was also a three-time single-season leader in hits for the squad, collecting 134 hits in 1906, 151 in 1907, and 152 hits in 1910. He was the team's co-leader in batting average in 1908 with a .302 mark. Molesworth also posted a team-high 71 runs scored in 1906 and led the league in runs (89) the following year. As a manager, Molesworth won 1,908 games and guided the Barons to two Southern Association titles (1912 & 1914).


The owner of the Barons from 1910-1937, A.H. "Rick" Woodward was the builder of historic Rickwood Field, the first concrete and steel stadium in the minor leagues. He decided to buy the team in 1910 from J. William McQueen and began his plans to construct a new stadium immediately after reaching the final terms of the agreement. He consulted Philadelphia's legendary manager Connie Mack about building the 12.7-acre park which was modeled after such parks as Philly's Shibe Park and Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. Construction of Rickwood was complete prior to the first game played there on August 18, 1910. The Barons won five championships during the Woodward era, more than those won for any other owner in team history.

2006 CLASS


After five seasons without baseball, the sport returned to the Magic City in 1981 thanks to the efforts of Art Clarkson, who engineered the move of the Montgomery Rebels back to Birmingham and Rickwood Field. He owned the team from 1981-90 and it won three League titles during his tenure: 1983, 1987, and 1989. The squad also reached the playoffs in 1990 but lost in the first round. As the Barons' owner, Clarkson provided the vision and the drive for the team's move from historic-but-outdated Rickwood Field to state-of-the-art Regions Park in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover in 1988.


Now a Major League manager, Terry Francona was one of the best managers the Barons organization has ever seen. Guiding the club from 1993-95, he was named Southern League Manager of the Year and Baseball America's Minor League Manager of the Year in 1993 when he led the team to a 78-64 overall record, the second half title, and the Southern League championship. Despite the club going just 65-74 the following season, he was named MiLB's Top Managerial Prospect by Baseball America in 1994. He followed that season up with an 80-64 mark in 1995. Francona jumped to the majors the next season as Detroit's third base coach and then became the youngest skipper (37) in MLB when he was appointed manager in Philadelphia in 1997. He would later be named the manager in Boston, leading the team to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.


Wayne Martin was the longtime beat writer for the Birmingham News who covered the Barons from 1971 through 1996. In 2006, Martin was inducted into the Alabama Sportswriter's Association Hall of Fame, its first inductee since 2003. He was one of just two journalists to cover every day of Michael Jordan's career with the Barons in 1994. In the early 1990's, Martin not only worked the Barons beat, but also served as the team's official scorekeeper.


One of the most fearsome sluggers to ever don a Barons uniform, Rondal Rollin was the Barons team MVP in 1985 and 1987. His 39 home runs during the 1987 season not only led the Southern League, but remain the Barons' single season record over 20 years later. He led the team in RBI in 1985 (108) and 1987 (106) and pounded out a team-best 28 doubles each of those seasons as well. His 90 runs scored in 1987 also paced the squad.


2007 CLASS

Joe Drake was the longest-tenured member of the Birmingham Barons' staff, having served the Barons and their fans from 1953 until his passing in 2008. He worked for free his first season, turning turnstiles to track attendance. He eventually earned a paying job as an usher and worked his way up to a supervisory position, overseeing all of the boys that would work for the team on game days. Drake was in the Barons' ticket office since the team returned to the Magic City in 1981, and he was the final member of the Barons front office to have been with the team when it called Rickwood Field home.


In 1948, his only season with the Barons, Walt Dropo led the team to a Dixie Series victory over the Forth Panthers by hitting a co-team-high .359. That mark is the 9th-highest average recorded by a Barons player in a single season. Among his many Barons highlights was one of the longest home runs in Rickwood Field history, hit in that same Dixie Series: a 467-foot blast memorialized with a permanent plaque at the field behind the left-centerfield wall. He went on to be named the American League Rookie of the Year with Boston in 1950 and enjoyed a 12-year Major League career.


Before he became "Mr. October", Reggie Jackson was a young outfielder who led the Southern League in runs (84) and triples (17) in 1967, his lone season in Birmingham. He also led the squad with 26 doubles and 17 stolen bases that year. He is one of only four Birmingham players to date to have hit for the cycle in a game. After his promotion to the Majors, Jackson went on to have a 21-year career in the big leagues, clubbing 563 home runs, receiving the AL MVP award in 1973, and earning induction into the Hall of Fame in 1993.


One of the greatest sluggers ever to play at Rickwood Field, Norm Zauchin began his professional career in 1950 with the Birmingham Barons. That year, he set a Rickwood Field record with 35 home runs, and the mark would stand until 1987, the Barons' final season at America's Oldest Ballpark. In what was his only year in a Barons jersey, Zauchin led the team in home runs, runs batted in (104) and doubles (37). While he went on to have a six-year Major League career, perhaps his greatest claim to fame in the bigs was driving in ten runs in a single game in which he played only five innings.


2008 CLASS


A member of the Birmingham A's pitching staff from 1967-68, Rollie Fingers helped the 1967 team to its first Southern League championship in nearly a decade. The following season as a 21-year-old, he led the squad in wins with a 10-4 record and added 93 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA in 108 innings of work. He debuted with Oakland later that season and embarked upon a 17-year Major League career that featured World Series titles each season from 1972-74 and included seven appearances in the All-Star Game. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.


One of the most familiar bylines in the history of Birmingham-area print journalism, Rubin E. Grant covered the Barons for 22 years as a writer for the Birmingham Post-Herald. A 1979 graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in Communications, he was the school's first black sports editor at its student newspaper and later became the state's first black sports columnist while with the Post-Herald. In his time reporting on the Barons, he chronicled the early careers of several future big-leaguers, including Bo Jackson, Frank Thomas, and Robin Ventura. After leaving the Post-Herald in 2004, Grant began covering the Barons as a freelance writer for the Birmingham News.


From 1914-16, Burleigh Grimes was one of the best pitchers in Birmingham baseball history. In his first season, he helped the team to its third Southern Association title. In 1915, he paced the team with 158 strikeouts, the ninth-highest single-season total in team history. The 1916 season was by far his most impressive in a Barons jersey, though, as he led the team in games (40), innings pitched (276, the tenth-best total in Barons history), strikeouts (86), and wins (20). He went on to produce a 19-year Major League career that featured 270 victories and two top-five finishes in the National League MVP race. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1964.


Regarded by many as the preeminent Negro Leagues legend, LeRoy "Satchel" Paige embarked upon his pro career in 1926 and joined the Birmingham Black Barons the following season. In his first year in Birmingham he posted an 8-3 mark. He amassed a 10-4 record in his final season with the team in 1930 to rebound from a 10-11 mark the year before. After a storied Negro Leagues career he became the Major Leagues' oldest rookie in history (42) in 1948 and went 6-1 for the Cleveland Indians. He became the first Negro Leagues alum inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame when he was elected in 1971.


2009 CLASS


The patriarch of the Hairston family, Sam Hairston played for the Negro Leagues from 1945-1950 and even won the league's Triple Crown in 1950. But it was his stint with the Chicago White Sox that made his career truly unique and special. Hairston made his Major League debut in July of 1951, becoming the first American-born black player to play for the Sox. He would eventually return to the Barons as a coach in 1985 and remained with the team until he passed away in 1997.


Henry Hardin "Zipp" Newman was the Dean of Southern Sportswriters. The youngest sports editor in the history of the Birmingham News at 25-years old, Newman spent 44 years as the official scorer for the Southern League. In 1969, he helped found the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.


Harold Joseph "Pie" Traynor played only one season for the Barons, but he made it a memorable one. At just 22-years of age during the 1921 season, Traynor hit .336 and stole 47 bases while playing shortstop for the Barons. Traynor would go on to hit .320 in 17 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1948, he became the first third baseman to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.


Glynn West saw baseball from every vantage point. He started out as an operator of the old manual scoreboard at Rickwood Field in 1948 and wound up serving as the Birmingham Barons' General Manager from 1964-65 before returning to the role as the Birmingham A's General Manager in 1968. As the General Manager, West oversaw the desegregation of Rickwood Field and is also famous for convincing A's manager Gus Niarhos to convert Rollie Fingers from a starting pitcher to a relief pitcher.


2010 CLASS


Frank Thomas The Big Hurt, as he came to be known during a 19-year Major League Baseball career that saw him hit .301 with 521 home runs, was one of the most feared hitters of his era. His uncanny combination of power and average helped Thomas be named to five Major League All-Star teams and win back-to-back MVP awards for the Chicago White Sox in 1993 and 1994.

A native of Columbus, GA, Thomas attended Auburn University on a football scholarship and walked-on to the baseball team. It wasn't long before he was playing baseball exclusively and working his way toward becoming the 7th selection of the 1989 First-Year Player Draft by the White Sox. He would make his way through Birmingham in the summer of 1990 where he clubbed 18 home runs while hitting .323 and was named the Minor League Baseball Player of the Year by Baseball America.


Robin Ventura Considered by many to be one of the best-hitting college players of all time after posting a record 58-game hitting streak in 1987, Ventura was selected by the Chicago White Sox with the 10th pick of the 1987 First-Year Player Draft.

The slick-fielding, smooth-swinging third baseman eventually made his way through the Magic City in 1989 as a key cog of the Run Away Train team that set a Southern League record with 51 first-half wins. He hit just .278 with two home runs and 25 doubles for the Barons that summer but would go on to enjoy a 16-year Major League Baseball career where he hit .267 with 294 home runs and 1182 RBI for the White Sox, Mets, Yankees and Dodgers. A native of Santa Maria, CA, Ventura was named to two MLB All-Star teams and won six Gold Glove Awards during his playing career.


Ray Caldwell Ray Caldwell's big league career was well behind him by the time he pitched for the Birmingham Barons. After pitching for 12 seasons with the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians, and compiling a career record of 134-120 with a 3.22 ERA, the native of Croydon, PA found himself back in the Minor Leagues in 1922.

It wouldn't be until 1929, when at the age of 41, Caldwell finally made his way to the Barons. Considered by many to be washed up, Caldwell won 20 games in 1930 and won 19 games in 1931. It was following the 1931 regular season when Caldwell outpitched future Hall of Famer, Dizzy Dean in Game 1 of the Dixie Series, a Series that the Barons eventually won 4 games to 3.


Eddie Glennon A native of Philadelpia, PA, Eddie Glennon had a way with fans, and those fans flocked to Rickwood Field from the time he took over as the Barons General Manager in 1946 until he left following the 1961 season. An innovator, Glennon made the game more fan-friendly and targeted previously untargeted sectors of fans. He created the Barons Bees, a club that allowed honor students to get in free while he also worked diligently to get more female fans to attend Barons games. Though, his most famous contribution as the Barons GM was his decision to bring in the outfield fences at Rickwood Field, a decision that would speed up the game and produce higher scores.

The fans responded to Glennon's innovations by showing up like they never had before. After not drawing more than 100,000 fans in six of the previous seven seasons before Glennon, Rickwood Field never drew less than 110,000 fans in any of Glennon's 16 seasons at the helm. His regime peaked from 1947-50 when Rickwood Field drew more than 320,000 fans in each season, including consecutive seasons drawing more than 420,000 fans.


2011 CLASS


Eliot Bigelow was a prolific outfielder for the Barons in 1927 and '28 while helping lead the team to the 1928 Southern Association Championship. In his two seasons with the club, Bigelow enjoyed great success while leading the Barons in several categories including home runs in 1927 with 19 and a .395 average in 1928. Nicknamed "Gilly", Bigelow made his Major League debut the following season with the Boston Red Sox. At the age of 29, Bigelow was the oldest rookie in the American League in 1929.


A native of Buffalo, NY, Roy Majtyka spent a lifetime dedicated to the game of baseball. Following a nine year Minor League playing career in the Cardinals organization from 1959-1967, Majtyka found his niche as a manager. He compiled a record of 1832-1747 over a 27-year managerial career including three seasons with the Barons in 1981 and 1983-84. Under his tutelage, the Barons captured the 1983 Southern League Championship after compiling a record of 91-54 during the regular season. Majtyka also spent three years as a coach for the Atlanta Braves from 1988-1990.


Known in some circles as "The Black Babe Ruth" and fondly referred to as "Mule", George Suttles was one of the most feared hitters in Negro League history. A native of Bibb County, Suttles is believed to have hit 237 home runs over 19 seasons. 25 of those home runs came during a three-year span while playing for the Birmingham Black Barons. Despite being renowned for his prodigious power, Suttles also owns a career .321 average including .428 in 1926 while with the Black Barons.


2012 CLASS


Artie Wilson played for the Birmingham Black Barons from 1942 to 1948, during which time he was considered to be one of the league's top shortstops. He was named the starting shortstop of the league All-Star team four times from 1944 to 1948. During his time with the Black Barons, the team won the league championship in 1943, 1944 and 1948, advancing to, but never winning, the Negro League World Series. In the 1948 regular season Wilson batted .402 and is credited as the last player in a top-level league to bat over .400.


One of the greatest sportswriters of all time, Alf Van Hoose covered the Barons with The Birmingham News for 43 years, including 21 as sports editor and 10 as a featured columnist. Attended the University of Alabama before he was drafted in 1942 for duty during World War II. He rose to the rank of Captain and earned a Silver Star at the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he returned to Alabama and began working for the News in 1947. During his career he covered the Birmingham Barons and Southeastern Conference football as well as other national sporting events. He was promoted to sports editor in 1969 and retired in 1990. Van Hoose was inducted into the Alabama Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame in 1989 and in 1999 was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.


It was said that just about everyone in Birmingham knew Bob Scranton. Over a 40 year period, Scranton went from traveling secretary to concession manager to part owner of the Birmingham Barons. He joined the Barons in the 1940s as the traveling secretary under GM Eddie Glennon. Scranton stayed in Birmingham as a businessman when the franchise moved to Montgomery in 1976 until resuming association with Barons as part of Art Clarkson's ownership group that was instrumental in returning the Barons to Birmingham in 1981.


2013 CLASS


Bert Campaneris hit .321 (151-for-471) over two seasons with the Barons in 1963-64 when the team was affiliated with the Kansas City A's. Known as the "Road Runner", he hit .325 with 25 stolen bases and 11 triples for the Barons during the 1964 season. A six time All-Star and three-time World Series Champion, Campaneris also led the American League in stolen bases six times and holds the A's franchise record for career games played (1795), hits (1882) and at-bats (7180).


Jimmy Piersall played outfield for the Barons in 1951-52, hitting a combined .345 (170-for-493) with 16 home runs. In 1951 he hit .346 (151-for-437) with 15 home runs, 30 doubles and 12 triples in 121 games. He enjoyed a 17-year Major League career, making two All-Star teams and winning two Gold Glove Awards. After retirement, Piersall enjoyed a broadcasting career that began with the Texas Rangers in 1974 and continued with the White Sox from 1977-81 where he was teamed with Harry Caray. Piersall was also the subject of the book and movie Fear Strikes Out.


A lifelong contributor to Birmingham baseball, Ben Cook worked as the public address announcer at Rickwood Field in the late '60s and early '70s . He later started and hosted the WJOX radio show "Triple Play", which was the only radio program dedicated solely to baseball in Birmingham from 1990-2002. Cook also served as a sports columnist for the Birmingham Post-Herald from 2002-05, founded the Triple Play Club and wrote the book "Good Wood" chronicling the history of Rickwood Field.


The longest tenured radio broadcaster in Barons history, Curt Bloom joined the organization prior to the 1992 season. 'CB' has spent 22 years (and counting) behind the mic for the Barons including 21 of the 25 seasons at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Bloom was the broadcaster during the 1993 and 2002 Championship seasons and has twice been named Southern League Broadcaster of the Year. He has been the team's broadcaster for all 18 Rickwood Classic games as well as Michael Jordan's infamous season with the Barons in 1994. He was also part of the Front Office staff in 2009 when the Barons won the Bob Freitas Award as the top Double-A organization of the year.


2014 CLASS


Joe Grzenda pitched for the Barons during five separate seasons, starting with a 17-7 record for the 1958 championship winners. He bookended his Barons career with championships, going 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA in 52 relief appearances for the Barons was during the championship year of 1967, his last with the club. He finished his Barons career with a record of 31-15 and a 3.29 ERA over 126 appearances including 53 starts. His career spanned 18 years with several stops in the majors for eight different teams. He owned a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage over eight major league seasons and pitched in 219 MLB games, all but three coming in relief.


Johnny Dobbs managed the Barons from 1925-1929, posting a record of 437-323 with three consecutive 90+ win seasons from 1927-29. That stretch included a franchise-record 99 wins in 1928 and back-to-back championships in 1928-29. After falling in their first Dixie Series appearance to Houston in 1928, Dobbs and the Barons capped off the 1929 season with a Dixie Series victory against Dallas. Dobbs is one of just two managers in franchise history to win multiple league titles joining fellow Barons Hall of Famer Carlton Molesworth.


Mike Cameron played for the Barons during portions of the 1995 and 1996 seasons. In a stellar 1996 campaign, Cameron hit .300 (142-for-473) with 28 home runs, 34 doubles, 12 triples, 77 RBI, 39 stolen bases and a team record 120 runs scored in 123 games. After the season, he was named a First Team Minor League All-Star Outfielder by Baseball America and the Chicago White Sox named him their Minor League Player of the year. Cameron retired from baseball following the 2011 season, capping a 17-year career that saw him win three Gold Glove Awards and play in the 2001 All-Star game. Cameron is one of just 16 players in Major League Baseball history to hit four home runs in one game, accomplishing the feat on May 2nd, 2002 as a member of the Seattle Mariners.


Forever known as the 'Voice of the Birmingham Barons', Gabby Bell was the team's play-by-play broadcaster during the Southern Association glory years, starting in 1948 and spanning into the late 1950s. He helped form a 38-station network in four states for Barons broadcasts and later worked in television in Kentucky and South Florida after leaving Birmingham in 1960. His booming golden tones brought Barons games to fans throughout the southeast and provided the backdrop for Barons baseball during one of the sport's iconic eras.


2015 CLASS


William Greason was a member of the Birmingham Black Barons from 1948 - 1951 and went on to pitch for St. Louis in 1954. Greason, 29-years-old at the time, was the first black pitcher to take the mound for the Cardinals. He spent six to seven weeks with the big league club and retired as a member of the Cardinals farm system in 1959. The right-hander's career spanned more than 12 seasons. Greason currently resides in Birmingham and is the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church Berney Points.


John McNamara managed the Barons in 1965 and 1967, claiming a championship under the newly-formed Southern League in his final season in Birmingham. In the Barons first season back at Rickwood Field after a two-year absence, McNamara led Birmingham to an 84-55 record, taking the championship by 3.5 games. It was Birmingham's first Southern League Championship. The manager went on to break into the majors in 1969 with Oakland and spent two seasons with the Athletics. During his 19-year career in Major League Baseball, McNamara also managed San Diego, Cincinnati, California, Boston and Cleveland.


Doug Segrest enters the Barons Hall of Fame as a member of the media. A native of Montgomery, Ala., Segrest covered the Barons for 13 consecutive seasons before leaving the Birmingham News after the 2012 season. During his tenure, he was named Southern League Sports Writer of the Year three times and Alabama Sports Writer of the Year in 2012.


Bo Landreth becomes the first bat boy elected to the Barons Hall of Fame. Landreth was a full-time bat boy from 1991 - 1995, and spent five more seasons as a part-time bat boy after the 1995 season. During his time in the dugout, Bo worked with skippers Tony Franklin and Terry Francona. Through the help of Francona, Landreth made his big-league debut with the Chicago White Sox September 17, 1995 at Comiskey Park. He would go on to make appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox while Francona was manager.


2016 CLASS


Don Heinkel named the "Most Valuable Pitcher" from the 1983 Southern League Championship winning Barons, Heinkel went 19-6 during the regular season with a 3.39 ERA and 13 complete games in 30 starts. Listed at 6'0" and 185 pounds, the right-handed Heinkel struck out 113 hitters in 207.1 innings pitched. He threw two complete games for the 1983 Barons, whose 57 wins at home remain a franchise record, and added a pair of playoff wins as Birmingham secured the SL title. With the Barons over the parts of three seasons from 1982-85, Heinkel accumulated a 25-16 record over 49 starts. He threw 18 complete games in 328.1 total innings, posting 190 strikeouts and a career 3.54 ERA representing Birmingham.


2017 CLASS

Craig Grebeck was named the "Most Valuable Position Player" from the 1989 Southern League Championship winning Barons, when he hit .287 with five home runs, 80 RBI and 85 runs scored as part of the Run Away Train team that set a Southern League record with 51 first-half wins. He was named a Southern League Post-Season All-Star following the 1989 championship season. Grebeck drove home the first run in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium history during the inaugural home opener on April 16, 1988 with a single that brought home Todd Trafton. During the 1988 campaign he hit .280 with nine home runs, 53 RBI and 57 runs scored over 133 games. During that season he became the last Baron to hit three-home runs in a single game on April 8th at Greenville.