Southern League Hall of Fame
In 2013, the Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs announced the creation of the Southern League Hall of Fame, sharing its inaugural Class of 2014 with the 50th anniversary of the "modern era" of the League, which began in 1964. The purpose of the Southern League Hall of Fame is to honor individuals for their accomplishments and/or contributions to the League on the field of play or in an administrative role. This shall include but not necessarily be limited to: players, managers, coaches, umpires, League and team executives, owners, and media members.
Billy Hitchcock played all four infield positions during a nine-year American League active career. He broke in with the 1942 Detroit Tigers, spent three years in the Army Air Force in the Pacific during World War II, and resumed his major league career from 1946-53. Hitchcock spent the next several years as a manager and coach with the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. His career managing record was 274 wins, 261 losses (.514). Hitchcock then scouted for the Montreal Expos from 1968-71. In 1980 he was presented with the "King of Baseball" award given by Minor League Baseball. With Hitchcock as league president, the Southern League added teams, expanded the playoffs and introduced split-season play. Hitchcock led a rejuvenation of the league that included stadium refurbishments and a concerted effort to make the league more family-friendly. The league's attendance figures rose dramatically during his tenure, from 333,500 in 1971 to over 1.7 million in 1980.
Jimmy Bragan was an infielder, manager and league president in Minor League Baseball, a scout and coach at the Major League level, and a college baseball coach during a 40-plus year career in the game. He was the brother of Major League catcher, shortstop, manager and Coach Bobby Bragan. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Jimmy Bragan attended Mississippi State University and played baseball in the Brooklyn Dodgers farm system from 1950-1957. After his playing career ended, he was a coach and manager in the Dodgers, Reds and Expos organizations. He became head baseball coach of Mississippi State University in 1975, and a coach with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976-1977. In 1980, he succeeded Billy Hitchcock as President of the Southern League. He presided over a host of new stadiums in the league, including fields in Greenville, Huntsville, Birmingham and Charlotte. Southern League attendance steadily climbed toward two million in the 1980s. In 1994 he was presented with the "King of Baseball" award given by Minor League Baseball.
Don Mincher assumed the Interim President title in February 2000 when the league's former president (Arnold Fielkow) resigned, and was subsequently elected president later that year. Before becoming Southern League President, Don Mincher was General Manager of the Southern League's Huntsville Stars from 1984 until he assembled a group of local owners who purchased the team in 1994. He sold his interest in the club when he was elected president of the League in 2000. Mincher brought a wealth of baseball knowledge to the Stars and the Southern League as a former major leaguer, having played 13 seasons with different teams, capped off by a World Series win in 1972 as a member of the Oakland Athletics. A success on and off the field, Mincher was enshrined in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, as well as being presented with the Warren Giles Award for Minor League Baseball's most outstanding service as a league president that same year. In 2010, Mincher was named "King of Baseball" -- the highest honor bestowed by Minor League Baseball.
Mr. Bragan was part of a baseball family that included MLB player, coach and manager Bobby Bragan and former Southern League President Jimmy Bragan. A successful car dealer in Birmingham, Alabama, Mr. Bragan purchased the Jacksonville Suns in 1984 and as president and owner for over 25 years, he oversaw many years of financial and athletic success for the franchise, never afraid to pursue unique marketing and promotional initiatives. He successfully guided the completion of The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville which opened in 2003, and the field was named for him after his passing in 2012. Known for his larger-than-life personality and as a friend of the fans, his legacy was passed on to his son and former president/owner, Peter Bragan, Jr.
After several years of working in sports radio production, Frank Burke and his partners bought the Lookouts franchise in 1995. In 1999 they announced plans to build a new privately funded ballpark in downtown Chattanooga. The year 2000 saw the opening of AT&T Field, which replaced Historic Engel Stadium. As general manager, Burke introduced several marketing innovations and promotions that helped ensure the long term success of the franchise. He was awarded Southern League Executive of the Year in 2001 and 2011 as well as the Double-A Bob Frietas Award from Baseball America in 2002. Burke also served as the Southern League's representative on the National Association Board of Trustees and was the chair of the league's Advisory and Finance Committee. Over the years, Burke served on the Board of Trustees for several local businesses, representing the Lookouts' mission to be productive corporate citizens of Chattanooga.
Mike Darr, a Corona, California native, was a key player in the championship-winning 1998 Mobile BayBears season. He helped to lead the BayBears to an 85-54 record as an outfielder and switch-hitter. Darr posted a .310 batting average with 6 homeruns, 90 RBI and 28 stolen bases. At the time, his 90 RBI set a franchise record. Darr was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 1994 but went on to work his way up through the San Diego Padres system after being traded in 1997. He played for the Triple-A Las Vegas Stars in 1999 and 2000 and then for the Padres in 2000 and 2001. He passed away in 2002 in an automobile accident during Spring Training.
A lifelong baseball fan, Rosemary Hovatter was hired as an administrative assistant by future Southern League President and then Huntsville Stars owner Don Mincher in 1985. She was there as Joe Davis Stadium was built and is still dedicated and working in the Huntsville stadium in its final year. She has worked at the stadium for 30 years in numerous capacities including box office work, accounting and staffing. Rosemary is known well by fans as a "team mom" and was chosen by fans as Huntsville's inductee to the Hall of Fame through a social media campaign.
Reggie Jackson (nicknamed "Mr. October") was born in Cheltenham Township in Pennsylvania. He was recruited by Arizona State University to play football but soon began playing baseball as well, as he had done in high school. He was recruited by the Kansas City A's and would go on to a remarkable career in both the Minor and Major leagues as an outfielder with several All-Star appearances, AL MVP awards and two Silver Sluggers. His 1967 season with the championship-winning Birmingham A's was no exception. In addition to a .293 batting average with 17 home runs and 58 RBI, he led the league in three batting categories that year: Most Runs (84), Most Triples (17) and Most Total Bases (232). Jackson is also a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He played with several Major League teams during a 21-year career in which he helped win six pennants and five World Series. Today, he serves as a special advisor for the New York Yankees.
A two-sport superstar, Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson is a Bessemer, Alabama native. He turned down being drafted by the New York Yankees in 1982 to attend Auburn University where he excelled in both baseball and football. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1986. He had a remarkable season with the Memphis Chicks as an outfielder. He had a .277 batting average, 7 homeruns and 25 RBI in 212 plate appearances before he was called up to Kansas City in September of that year. Jackson went on to play in the NFL for four years and an 8-year MLB career that included being awarded as the MVP of the 1989 All-Star Game.
Dale Murphy was a legendary outfielder, first baseman and catcher for the Atlanta Braves, originally from Portland, Oregon. His 1976 season with the Savannah Braves was a successful one. Murphy had a .267 batting average, 12 home runs and 55 RBI in 104 games. He was also chosen as the catcher for the Official All-Star Team. He retired in 1994 after an 18-season Major League run that saw a lifetime .267 batting average, five All-Star Game starting appearances, two NL MVP awards, a Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, Roberto Clemente Award, five Golden Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. Since retiring from the game, Murphy has spent much of his time active in religious and charitable organizations and still frequents many Minor League Baseball events as a special guest for fans. He has authored three books, including an autobiography, on the subjects of both professional and youth sports.
Hall of Famer and Spokane, Washington native Ryne Sandberg came to the Southern League as a manager in 2009. In that season, he was able to uplift the Smokies from their position of last in the Southern League North Division in 2008 to first in the division in 2009. His team went all the way to the Southern League Championship series but was not quite able to hold off Jacksonville. Cumulatively, the 2009 Smokies batters had a .268 batting average, 1246 hits for 591 runs, 257 doubles, 27 triples 89 homeruns and 536 RBI. The pitchers had a cumulative 3.99 ERA and a combined 900 strikeouts in 1215.2 innings pitched. Overall the team had a .507 winning percentage. Six players from that team are on the Chicago Cubs current 40-Man roster. Sandberg is a ten-time All-Star, nine-time Golden Glove winner and seven-time Silver Slugger recipient. The second- baseman spent fifteen seasons playing for the Cubs before managing the Philadelphia Phillies from 2013-2015.
A native of Garden Grove, California, Alan Trammell spent his entire professional playing career with the Detroit Tigers after being drafted in 1976. Trammell was famous for his double-play work with long-time teammate Lou Whitaker, whom he first met playing with the Montgomery Rebels. The two played 19 seasons together. He was a part of two historic Montgomery teams that won back-to-back Southern League Championships in both 1976 and 1977. 1977 was Montgomery's best year to this day with 86 wins. With only 64 plate appearances in 1976, he didn't leave his mark, but came back the next year with 516 and earned a .291 batting average and knocked 50 RBI, 19 triples and, 9 doubles and 78 runs. He still holds the league record for triples. Trammel played 20 seasons with the Detroit Tigers as a shortstop and posted a lifetime .285 batting average. He was chosen for six All-Star Teams and won the World Series MVP award in 1984. He has held various managerial and coaching positions since retiring from playing in 1996. Trammell is currently working in the front office of the Detroit Tigers as Special Assistant to the General Manager.
Tim Wakefield was a right-handed pitcher from Melbourne, Florida. He is known mostly for his 17-year tenure with the Boston Red Sox, but spent most of his minor league years pitching through the Pittsburgh Pirates system. His year spent with the Carolina Mudcats in the Southern League was memorable. He pitched for a 15-8 record in 26 games. He tied for Complete Games that season on a league level with 8. In the Mudcats inaugural season, Wakefield set some club records that still hold up today. He has the record for Wins in a Single Season (15), Complete Games in a Single Season (8) and Innings Pitched in a Single Season (183). Wakefield was also the club leader that year in ERA (.293) and Strikeouts (123). After two seasons with the Pirates, Wakefield signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in 1995. He was an All-Star in 2009 and the recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award in 2010. After the 2011 season, Wakefield retired with a career 200 wins and 2,156 strikeouts.
Class of 2015
A three-time World Series champion and the 1998 World Series MVP, Scott Brosius was born in Hillsboro, Oregon, and grew up in nearby Milwaukie, Oregon. After a successful college career at Linfield, the Oakland A's selected Brosius with their 20th round pick of the 1987 Draft. Breaking into the Southern League during the 1989 season, the infielder posted a respectable debut season with 125 hits, 22 doubles to add to his seven homeruns and 60 RBIs. One season later, he continued his strong momentum in a Stars uniform when he led the circuit with 162 hits, 274 total bases and 39 doubles, one short of the league record at the time, capped by his selection to the 1990 Post-Season All-Star team. Brosius earned attention on the national stage when he helped carry the Yankees through one of its most successful runs in franchise history, winning the American League pennant all four years he donned the pinstripes from 1998 through 2001.
With more home runs (473) and RBIs (1,512) than any other Puerto Rican slugger, Carlos Delgado is perhaps the greatest power-hitter from the proud Caribbean island that has produced a number of Hall of Famers. The Toronto Blue Jays signed Delgado out of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, in October of 1988. After producing pedestrian numbers over his first three professional seasons, Delgado broke through in 1992, as he was named USA Today Minor League Player of the Year before receiving his promotion to Double-A Knoxville one season later. Over the 1993 season, Delgado amassed 25 homeruns and 102 RBIs with 91 runs, 28 doubles and a .324 batting average. Playing in all 140 games that season, the left-handed slugger was named Southern League Most Valuable Player. Later that year, Delgado received the call to Toronto, where he earned a World Series ring. With his name dotting the Blue Jays record book, Delgado was inducted into Toronto's prestigious Level of Excellence during the 2013 season.
Known for both his versatility on the mound and iconic handlebar mustache, Roland "Rollie" Fingers set the early precedent as a pioneer of the closer's role. The son of a former professional baseball player, Fingers signed with the Kansas City A's as an amateur free agent in 1964. After a little over two years in the minors, the Steubenville, Ohio, native made his Southern League debut with the Birmingham A's in 1967. Fingers posted a 2.21 ERA in 102 innings with a miniscule WHIP of 1.09 in '67. Returning to Birmingham a year later, Fingers produced a 10-4 record with 93 strikeouts in only 108 innings before making his major league debut later in the '68 season with the re-located Oakland A's. A member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Fingers was selected to seven All-Star games and earned three World Series trophies, a World Series MVP, and both the 1981 AL MVP and Cy Young Award. His uniform number, 34, was retired by both the Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland Athletics organizations.
The first major leaguer to save more than 600 games, Trevor Hoffman was a mainstay at the closer's position in the National League during the 1990s and 2000s. Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of the University of Arizona in 1989, Hoffman began his career as a shortstop before his conversion to the mound prior to the 1991 season. The move paid immediate dividends, as Hoffman tossed 14 innings of sub-2.00 ERA baseball with the Chattanooga Lookouts in 1991. One year later, the righty started six games in the Scenic City, earning a 3-0 record with a 1.52 ERA, while striking out 31 in just 29.2 innings. After the the 1992 season, the Florida Marlins signed Hoffman in the '92 Expansion draft before moving him to San Diego in a blockbuster trade one year later. Hoffman would go on to save 601 games throughout his career, establishing a major league record. A seven-time All-Star and two-time Relief Pitcher of the Year, the Padres retired Hoffman's uniform number 51.
In 2001, Randy Johnson was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year after earning World Series' MVP honors and his eighth of ten All-Star selections and fourth of five career Cy Young awards. Johnson's accolades on the mound are seemingly endless. Sitting second on the all-time strikeouts list, the man known as the "Big Unit" fanned more batters per nine innings than any pitcher in history. Selected by the Montreal Expos in the second round of the 1985 Draft out of the University of Southern California, Johnson imposed a dominating presence on the mound, standing six feet and ten inches. In 1987, his third season in professional baseball, the Expos sent Johnson to Jacksonville, where he compiled an 11-8 record with a 3.73 ERA. More impressively, though, the left-hander from Walnut Creek, California struck out 163 batters in only 140 innings. One year later, Johnson made his major league debut, where he would embark on a 22-year Hall of Fame career with six different clubs.
Throughout his Major League career, all with the Braves, Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones became as iconic in the city of Atlanta as Coca-Cola and scorching summer weather. Selected by the Braves with the top overall pick in the 1990 draft, Chipper marched through Atlanta's farm system before becoming one of the greatest third baseman and switch-hitters in major league history. Jones earned his promotion to the Double-A Greenville Braves near the mid-point of the 1992 season. As part of the winningest team in Southern League history, Chipper helped guide the G-Braves to 100 wins and the '92 League championship. In just 67 games, the DeLand, Florida, native collected 92 hits with 17 doubles, 11 triples and nine homeruns to add to his 42 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. His .346 average while with Greenville would be a precursor to his dominant and patient form at the plate in the National League. One season later, Chipper made his major league debut and in 1995, his first full season in the Senior Circuit, sparked the Braves to their first World Series title in Atlanta. After his retirement in 2012, the Braves retired Chipper's uniform number 10.
Over a 15-year major league career, Jason Kendall became one of the game's most consistent catchers. With a career .288 batting average and 2,195 hits, Kendall was known as both an incredibly competitive batter and dependable backstop. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Kendall with their first round pick of the 1992 draft out of Torrance (CA) High School in the Los Angeles suburb. In his third season in the minors, the Pirates sent the catcher to Carolina, where he played in the Mudcats final 13 games of the 1994 season. One year later, Kendall produced his most complete professional season yet. Earning Southern League All-Star game and Post-Season All-Star team honors, the right-handed slugger recorded 140 hits, 26 doubles, eight homeruns and 71 RBIs with a .326 batting average. More importantly, Kendall led the Mudcats to the Southern League Championship and was named 1995 Southern League MVP. In 1996, the Pirates called the catcher's name to Pittsburgh, where he became the starter in his rookie season and was chosen to his first of three All-Star games.
With 13 All-Star selections and 573 homeruns, Harmon Killebrew is a baseball legend. No list of the greatest power hitters in baseball history can be complete without including the Hall of Famer's name. Having once hit a 520-foot homerun with the Minnesota Twins, Killebrew broke many American League records over his 22-year career. Signed by the Washington Senators in 1954 out of his native Idaho, "The Killer" made his major league debut four days later. After spending two years with Washington, Killebrew played three years in the minor leagues, two with the Southern Association's Chattanooga Lookouts. Playing in 142 games during the 1957 season, Killebrew batted .279 with 90 runs scored, 145 hits, 30 doubles, seven triples, 29 homeruns and 101 RBIs. One year later, he returned to the Scenic City for 86 games, where he produced a .308 batting average with 17 homeruns and 54 RBIs. The right-handed slugger returned to the majors in 1959 on a permanent basis, earning 1969 American League MVP honors. A member of Cooperstown, the Twins retired Killebrew's uniform number 3 in 1975, while he was the designated hitter for the visiting Kansas City Royals.
A consistent face in the Southern League over three different decades, Razor Shines made his first appearance in the loop as a utility man in the 1980s with the Memphis Chicks. Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, the Montreal Expos took Shines with their 18th round pick of the 1978 Draft. After three seasons in the Minor Leagues, Shines received the call to the Double-A Southern League with the '81 Chicks. Over the next three seasons, Shines was a force in the league, scoring 189 runs and collecting 311 hits with 52 doubles, eight triples, 46 homeruns, and 171 RBIs. Shines was selected to the 1983 Southern League Post-Season All-Star team before making his MLB debut the same year. He returned to the Southern League in 2004 as the manager of the Birmingham Barons. In two seasons at the helm, Shines guided the Barons to consecutive postseason trips, while earning the 2005 Southern League Manager of the Year award. His most recent appearance came in 2014 as the manager of the Chattanooga Lookouts, again earning a postseason berth while winning the North Division pennant.
The man some consider the greatest designated hitter of all-time, Frank Thomas paved the way for future sluggers at the DH position. A native of Columbus, Georgia, the Chicago White Sox selected Thomas with their first round pick of the 1989 Draft out of Auburn University, where he was a two-sport star in baseball and football. Before embarking on a 19-year MLB career, the "Big Hurt" rose quickly through Minor League Baseball, but not before leaving his mark on the Southern League. Playing in 109 games with the 1990 Birmingham Barons, Thomas batted .323 at the plate with 18 homeruns and an unbelievable .487 on-base percentage, earning Baseball America's 1990 Minor League Baseball Player of the Year award and SL Post-Season All-Star honors. Thomas was selected to five consecutive MLB All-Star games from 1993-1997, also winning the AL batting title for the '97 season. A two-time AL MVP in 1993 and 1994, Thomas was honored as a first-ballot National Baseball Hall of Famer in 2014. His uniform number, 35, was retired by the Chicago White Sox.
Mobile native and the 2011 Southern League Manager of the Year, Turner Ward spent five years on the coaching staff of the BayBears, three as hitting coach and the final two as manager. Winning 143 games over his two-year tenure at the helm, Ward guided the BayBears to consecutive Southern League championships in both seasons. After clinching a postseason berth with the second half title in 2011, Ward carried that momentum into the 2012 season where he guided Mobile to the South Division's first half title. After the 2012 season, Ward received his well-earned promotion to Phoenix as the hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ward's accomplishments in the game do not rest solely from the dugout, as the former outfielder also won consecutive World Series rings with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993. In '93, while in the Jays organization, Ward spent a week with the Southern League's Knoxville Smokies, where he batted .261 with six hits in seven games. The New York Yankees selected Ward with their 18th round pick of the 1986 draft, before he began a 12-year MLB career. In 2007, the city of Mobile inducted Turner Ward into its Sports Hall of Fame.
As part of one of, if not the greatest double play combos in baseball history, Lou Whitaker was a mainstay as the second baseman for the Detroit Tigers for 19 seasons from 1977 to 1995. Nicknamed "Sweet Lou," Whitaker and his partner at shortstop, fellow Southern League Hall of Famer Alan Trammell played together for the first time during the 1977 season in Montgomery with the Southern League's Rebels. Selected by the Tigers with their 5th round pick of the 1975 draft out of Martinsville, Virginia, Whitaker made his Double-A debut in '77 in Alabama's Capital City. Helping to guide the Rebels to the Southern League Championship, Whitaker hit for a .280 batting average with 111 base hits, 81 runs, 13 doubles and 38 stolen bases to match his quick feet and smooth glove. After turning 52 double plays, Whitaker joined his combo partner Trammell in Detroit later that season. In his first full season, the well rounded second baseman earned 1978 American League Rookie of the Year honors. His most productive years came in the mid-1980s, earning five straight All-Star selections from '83 to '87 with four Silver Slugger awards and three Gold Gloves, in addition to a 1984 World Series title.
Class of 2016
A member of "baseball royalty," Peter Bragan, Jr. or "Pedro" as he is affectionately known, served 31 years in the front office of the Jacksonville Suns as General Manager, President and after his father, SL Hall of Famer Peter Bragan, Sr.'s passing in 2012, primary owner. As a leader of one of the most successful brands in league history, Bragan helped revitalize the Jacksonville Expos and Wolfson Park in the mid-1980s before his instrumental role in the development and opening of Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in 2003. The Suns led the League in attendance over the first nine years of the park's existence and captured six total Southern League Championships in his 31 years on board. Serving on the League's Board of Directors and Rules and Competition Committee, Pedro was recently named the Southern League Vice President-Emeritus.
Selected by Baseball America as one of the top-25 people that helped shape MiLB, Larry Schmittou shattered Southern League attendance records as operator of the Nashville Sounds. After a run as the head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores baseball team, Schmittou turned his sights in Nashville to affiliated baseball. In 1978, working with country music singers including Conway Twitty, he oversaw the construction of Herschel Greer Stadium in the Music City. The Sounds were an immediate success, drawing a then-Southern League record 380,159 fans, over 200,000 more fans than the next highest total. Schmittou did not stop there, drawing more than 500,000 fans every year from 1979-1982 season, including 575,676 in 1980, still a League record. His biggest draw came on August 18, 1982 when Schmittou saw 22,315 fans pass through the turnstiles, also a Southern League high. Schmittou's time with the league continued well after his Sounds moved to Triple-A baseball, when he founded and operated the Huntsville Stars from 1985 through 1993. Schmittou continued to serve the league when he saw the Nashville Xpress play at Herschel Greer for two years in 1993 and 1994 before procurement of a permanent stadium.
The two-time Southern League Champion manager and 2015 Mike Coolbaugh Award recipient, John Shoemaker has made his name both on and off the field of play as a skipper and leader of men. His first season in Jacksonville saw Shoemaker guide the Suns to a league-best 83-56 record and a share of the 2001 Southern League title before he was named SL Manager of the Year. In 2005, after three years away from the loop, Shoemaker made his return to Jacksonville and the Southern League, where he would win his second title in two seasons at the helm, also claiming the Baseball America MiLB Team of the Year. Shoemaker again led his club to the circuit's best record in 2006, also his third and final playoff appearance. After two more seasons in Jacksonville, Shoemaker finished with 396 total wins in the League. Spending 22 years with the Dodgers organization, he continues to work passionately with players as a highly respected member of the game.
Known simply as the "The Voice," Chattanooga's long-time radio broadcaster Larry Ward completed his 28th season calling Lookouts action in 2016. Notably, his 27th season in Chattanooga brought with it his first Southern League Championship. The last time the Lookouts won the SL title came in 1988, the last season a broadcaster not named Larry Ward was the active man in the radio booth. The longest-employed radio broadcaster with the same team in the Southern League, Ward was elected to the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. Prior to his time in Chattanooga, Ward manned the booth in Portland, Tucson, and Charleston (SC), as well as a stint with Jacksonville in the 1980s. During the offseason, Ward serves as voice of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Lady Mocs basketball program.
Class of 2017
A first-ballot Hall of Famer and two-time Cy-Young winner, Tom Glavine was one of the craftiest lefthanders in Major League history. The Massachusetts native was drafted by the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and MLB's Atlanta Braves in 1984, but chose to continue his career on the diamond. Before his time in the Big Leagues, though, Glavine posted an 11-6 record with a 3.41 ERA in 22 starts with the 1986 Greenville Braves. Tossing two complete games for the G-Braves that season, the ten-time All-Star fanned 114 batters, while walking just 70 in over 145.1 innings pitched. One season later, the southpaw would make his MLB debut, where he won 305 games in 22 seasons, while striking out 2,607 batters. His number 47 was retired by the Atlanta Braves on August 6, 2010, 15 years after his World Series MVP performance delivered the city of Atlanta its lone championship to date.
The 1998 USA Today and Sporting News MiLB Player of the Year, Gabe Kapler pieced together one of the finest seasons in Southern League history on his way to the Most Valuable Player award. Setting SL records with 146 RBI, 81 extra-base hits and 319 total bases, in addition to a share of the lead with 47 doubles, Kapler's name continues to dot the league books. During his award-winning season, the slugger also paced the league with 28 homeruns, 113 runs scored, and 176 hits, just eleven short of the league-record. Chosen to both the Double-A and Southern League All-Star Games, he was recognized as the circuit's midsummer classic MVP as well as a Postseason All-Star. Later that year, Kapler received his well-earned promotion to Detroit before embarking on a World Series-winning, 12-year MLB career. The right fielder for Boston's legendary 2004 title team, Kapler served in the Los Angeles Dodgers front office before being named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies ahead of the 2018 season.
A Southern League Champion as a player and manager, Tony La Russa's time in the loop served notice to baseball of the title-winning pedigree he would exhibit as a three-time World Series champion skipper and eventual Hall-of-Famer. Drafted by the Athletics, La Russa's first season in the League came in 1965 with the Birmingham Barons. One season later, and a move to Mobile, he played in 51 games with the SL pennant-winning Athletics. His final year as a player in the circuit came in 1967 with a return to the then-named Birmingham A's, where he was again a part of a Southern League title-winning team. La Russa retired from playing in 1977, but one year later he was selected by the White Sox to command their Double-A affiliate in Knoxville. La Russa guided the Knoxville Sox to a 72-63 record and Western Division crown where they would defeat Jacksonville three games to two in the SLCS. In 1979, La Russa finished the season as Chicago's manager, beginning his stellar 33-year MLB managerial run. The St. Louis Cardinals retired La Russa's #10 in 2012, one year after ending his career with a World Series title.
Class of 2018
In 2018, Bloom enters his 31st season in broadcasting and his 27th in the Barons radio booth. "CB" is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro with a degree in broadcasting communications. His previous stops include Bakersfield, CA, Prince William County, VA, and Huntsville, AL before arriving in the "Magic City" prior to the 1992 season. CB is the longest-tenured radio broadcaster in the 130-year history of the Birmingham Barons.
Bloom, now 54 years-old, has called Major League Baseball games for both the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays and College Football and Women's Basketball for Samford University. In addition, he has called Alabama High School State Championship games for both basketball and football for CBS-42. In May of 2013, Bloom was inducted into the Birmingham Barons Hall of Fame. In 2015 Bloom taught two classes in broadcasting at Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama.
The two-time Southern League Broadcaster of the Year, lives in Pelham with his wife, Dr. Laura Bloom, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama and their two daughters, Chloe (22), and Alexis (20). He is a native of North Salem, NY.
Prior to his time managing in the Southern League Terry "Tito" Francona spent parts of the 1980 and 1981 seasons as an outfielder with the Southern League's Memphis Chicks, where he produced a .321 batting average over 101 total games.
Before leading the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles, including the title that ended their 86-year drought in 2004, Francona produced three unforgettable seasons at the helm of the Birmingham Barons. In his first season at the Hoover Met, Francona led the Barons to a 78-64 record and a Southern League title. He was named the 1993 SL Manager of the Year as well as Baseball America's MiLB Manager of the Year.
One year later in 1994, Tito guided his club, highlighted by Michael Jordan, through the wild media frenzy that followed the NBA great. In 1995, Francona finished his managerial time in the Southern League with his best record yet, a mark of 80-64 before making his way up the ladder to an eventual 16-plus year MLB career.
In 2016, Francona earned his third American League pennant when he guided the Cleveland Indians through the 2016 ALCS and to the World Series.
In a 19-year MLB career from 1985 to 2004, Galarraga was a five-time All-Star with two Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards. He amassed 2,333 hits, a .288 career batting average and 399 home runs in the major leagues. He qualified with a .300 batting average eight times, including a .370 average to win the 1993 NL batting title. In 1988, he led the NL in hits (184), extra-base hits (79) and total bases (329). He hit 40 home runs in three straight seasons from 1996 to 1998, including an NL-best 47 in 1996. He also led the NL in RBIs in 1996 (150) and 1997 (140). He won MLB Comeback Player of the Year in 2000 after missing a season for cancer treatment. He reached the postseason five times, appearing for the Rockies (1995), Braves (1998, 2000), and Giants (2003).
For Jacksonville in 1984, he led the team in runs, hits, home runs, RBI, batting average and slugging percentage (among qualifiers), with a league-best 271 total bases to be named Southern League MVP. He would make his major league debut the next season.
The iconic Willie Mays closes the Southern League's 2018 Hall of Fame class, earning 74 percent of all special consideration votes and easily surpassing the benchmark for induction. Mays was nominated to the Special Consideration Ballot by the Birmingham Barons.
Born in Westfield, Alabama, Mays began to display his prolific baseball talents across the Southeast at the same time Jackie Robinson was gaining notoriety for breaking baseball's color barrier. While also attending Fairfield Industrial High School just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, Mays began playing for a Negro minor-league team called the Chattanooga Choo-Choos before soon suiting up for the Birmingham Black Barons, batting seventh and playing left field as a 17-year-old who had already reached the pinnacle of the Negro American League.
Before he had even finished high school, the "Say Hey Kid" had already begun impressing crowds from Rickwood Field to Engel Stadium with his inspiring energy and dazzling defense.
Mays was inducted into the Birmingham Barons Hall of Fame as part of their inaugural 2005 class and honored in 2016 with a bronze statue outside of Regions Field. He is inducted to the Southern League Hall of Fame for his absolute personal and professional contributions to the game of baseball.
Class of 2019
Joe Engel earns entry into the 2019 SL Hall of Fame class via the Special Consideration ballot, and is recognized for his tenure as President of the Chattanooga Lookouts. The former scout and promoter became known for his publicity stunts which included giving away a house and trading a player for a turkey.
In 1960, Minor League Baseball named Engel that year's "King of Baseball" in recognition of his long-time dedication and service to the Chattanooga area.
Roy Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and an eight-time MLB All-Star, pitched for the Knoxville Smokies in 1997 and again for the Tennessee club during their 2001 campaign. Through his two Southern League stints, the Colorado native combined to post a 4-4 record alongside a 3.82 ERA (30 ER/70.2 IP). With the Smokies in 2001 Halladay continued to make the adjustments that transformed his career. In five starts that season the 24-year-old logged a 2-1 record with a stellar 2.12 ERA (8 ER/34.0), registering three complete games and striking out 29 batters while allowing six walks.
On January 23, 2019 Halladay was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Halladay is the sixth player elected to the baseball Hall of Fame posthumously by the BBWAA.
Sal Rende joins this year's Hall of Fame class after seven total years in the Southern League. The Illinois native spent parts of the 1978-82 seasons with Chattanooga, combining to log 540 games, 87 home runs, 328 RBIs, and a career .251 batting average with the Lookouts. His 1978 season remains one for the record books, as across 141 games Rende posted the most putouts (1,292) and total chances (1,386) for a first baseman in league history. Rende rejoined the Lookouts as field manager in 1987 before moving on to the Memphis Chicks in the same role and advancing to the 1988 Southern League playoffs.
After four seasons managing the Florida Marlins Triple-A affiliate from 1993-1996, Rende began working as a hitting coach and coordinator within the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
He was the hitting coach for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs from 2011-18.
Larry Walker, a 1987 Southern League All-Star, spent a single season in Jacksonville but paced the Expos in doubles (25), triples (7), and home runs (26) that year, helping the club secure a berth in the Southern League playoffs.
In addition to being named the 1997 NL MVP, Walker secured seven Gold Glove honors, five MLB All-Star appearances, and three Silver Slugger awards across a 17-year major league career.