Former Durham Bulls relief pitcher Lee Gardner will be inducted into the International League Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2017, the league announced Tuesday. The right-hander, who was a member of the Bulls from 2000-2003 and 2005, was elected by a vote of living Hall of Fame members, longtime executives, broadcasters and members of the media.
Over parts of five seasons with Durham, the Michigan native recorded a franchise record 77 saves, while notching at least 15 saves on three occasions. In 2003 he set a single-season franchise record with 30 saves, while also leading the league in that category. He saved 55 games between 2002 and 2003, the franchise's first two Triple-A titles, and struck out 108 batters in 102 appearances in that span. For his Bulls career he compiled a 15-13 record in 227 games, posting a 3.06 ERA and striking out 206 batters in 259 innings.
"What an honor it is to be a part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2017," Gardner said. "I had the privilege to play with great teammates and great organizations throughout my career, but Durham has always had a special place in mine and my family's heart. We are so excited to celebrate this honor back where it all began, and I am so thankful to be selected for this prestigious honor."
In total the 42-year-old enjoyed an 11-year career, spanning four organizations. In addition to his time with the Bulls, Gardner also spent the 2006 season as a member of the Toledo Mud Hens in the Detroit Tigers' system. That season he went 5-5 with a 2.92 ERA, while compiling 30 saves in a season for the second time in his career. In his International League career Gardner finished with 107 saves and posted a 3.03 ERA in 285 games, winning three Governors' Cups (2002, 2003 and 2006) and earning three International League All-Star nods (2002, 2003, and 2006).
"The entire Durham Bulls organization could not be happier for Lee," Bulls General Manager Mike Birling said. "Lee was an integral piece of two championship teams here in Durham, but it was his relationship with the fans that made him a fan-favorite. We're looking forward to welcoming him back to the DBAP, and celebrating this tremendous honor with him and our fans."
Gardner tallied parts of four seasons at the Major League level, appearing in a combined 17 games for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2002 and 2005, before making a total of 69 relief outings for the Florida Marlins between 2007 and 2008. He finished his MLB career with a 3.01 ERA in 86 outings with two saves.
The reliever becomes the fourth Durham Bull to be elected into the league's Hall of Fame, joining former managers Charlie Montoyo (Class of 2016) and Bill Evers (Class of 2012), and pitcher Dave Eiland (Class of 2012). Gardner will be presented with 'The Curtain Call' statue during an individual enshrinement ceremony at the DBAP on a date that has yet to be scheduled.
Max Schumacher, the longtime General Manager, President and Chairman of the Indianapolis Indians, joins Gardner as a 2017 inductee. Each year the top three vote-getters who also receive a vote on the majority of ballots are elected to the Hall of Fame. In the 2017 election, Gardner and Schumacher were the only two candidates to receive a vote on the majority of ballots.