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Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Announces 2019 Hall of Game Class

May 7, 2019

In its sixth induction class, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) has selected four baseball legends to be inducted into its “Hall of Game.” The announcement was made during a press conference held at the NLBM today.

This year’s class includes multi-year All-Star and Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honoree Eric Davis, five-time All-Star Fred McGriff, 1978 NL MVP Dave Parker and 1989 World Series MVP Dave Stewart. The four Major League Baseball (MLB) greats will be inducted into the NLBM Hall of Game during ceremonies at the Gem Theater on Saturday, June 29, at 8 p.m. Hy-Vee, Inc. will be the presenting sponsor for the sixth consecutive year.

Established by the NLBM in 2014, the Hall of Game annually honors former MLB greats who competed with the same passion, determination, skill and flair exhibited by the heroes of the Negro Leagues. The 2019 inductees will join baseball greats from the previous induction classes, which have included legends such as Roberto Clemente, Joe Morgan, Rickey Henderson, Ozzie Smith and more. In addition to the induction ceremony, Hall of Game honorees also will receive permanent recognition as part of the future Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center being developed by the NLBM at the site of the Paseo YMCA, the birthplace of the Negro Leagues.

“We’re thrilled to induct four former Major League Baseball greats this year into our Hall of Game,” said Bob Kendrick, who has served as the NLBM President since 2011. “These great athletes were thrlling to watch every time they took the field, and they played with the same spirit, passion and style that made the Negro Leagues so exciting.”

Known as an exciting player with a remarkable blend of speed and power, Eric Davis spent much of his career with the Cincinnati Reds, hitting .269 with 282 home runs and 934 RBIs with 349 stolen bases over 17 big-league seasons. Capturing two All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger Awards, Davis was described by then-Reds manager Pete Rose as having the greatest raw ability that he had seen since Roberto Clemente. Throughout his career, Davis achieved a number of rare feats, including becoming the first player in Major League history to hit three grand slams in one month and the first to achieve at least 30 home runs and 50 stolen bases in the same season. Facing a number of injuries over his MLB career, Davis notably battled colon cancer in 1997 and returned to the field to have one of his best seasons in 1998, batting .327—the fourth-best average in the AL—hitting 28 homers and also hitting in 30 consecutive games that season. A World Series champion with Cincinnati in 1990, Davis was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2005.

During his peak, power-hitting first baseman Fred McGriff was one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Between 1986 and 2004, he played for six teams and captured a World Series title in 1995 with the Atlanta Braves. Known as the “Crime Dog” after ESPN’s Chris Berman coined the nickname, he was a five-time All-Star and led both the AL and NL in home runs in separate years: the AL in 1989 and the NL in 1992. An incredibly durable and consistent player, McGriff had seven consecutive seasons (1988-94) of at least 30 homers and eight seasons of 100 or more RBI. Upon his retirement, McGriff was tied with Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig on the list of career home runs, finishing with 493. Owning the most career home runs of any player not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, McGriff now works as a Special Assistant, Baseball Operations for the Atlanta Braves.

The 1978 National League MVP, Dave Parker terrorized opposing pitchers, capturing two NL batting crowns and three Silver Slugger Awards in his 19-season career. Also the NL RBI leader in 1985, Parker earned seven All-Star selections and, with his powerful arm from right field, earned three consecutive Gold Gloves from 1977 to 1979. Amassing 2,712 hits, 339 home runs, 1,493 RBIs and a lifetime batting average of .290 for his career, Parker served as a trailblazer for future Major Leaguers, becoming the first pro baseball player to average more than $1 million a year in salary when he signed a five-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in advance of the 1979 season. Spending the majority of his career in Pittsburgh, Parker also spent time with the Oakland A’s, Milwaukee Brewers, California Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds, with whom he spent three productive seasons—good for an induction into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2014.

A three-time World Series champion pitcher, Dave Stewart played 16 seasons with five teams: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics. Being named an All-Star in 1989, Stewart was known for his clutch postseason performances, earning two ALCS MVP titles (1990, 1993) and the World Series MVP honor in 1989. Also known for his intimidating stare from the mound, Stewart tossed a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 29, 1990, as a member of the A’s to complete the first no-hitter by an African American since Jim Bibby in 1973. Winning 20 games in 1987 to lead the AL, Stewart retired in 1995 and went on to continue his career in baseball through coaching and front office roles, including serving a the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2014 to 2016.

“Buck O’Neil once said of the Negro Leagues that fans couldn’t go to the concession stands because they were afraid they’d miss something they’d never seen before,” said Kendrick. “Each of these honorees were great players but they brought a certain flair to the game that made them fan favorites. Each of them, in their own unique way, embody that wonderful Negro Leagues spirit, and we are delighted to welcome as our sixth induction class of our Hall of Game.”

In addition to the Hall of Game inductions, the NLBM also will be presenting the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award for “career excellence in the face of adversity” to the award namesake’s daughter, Sharon Robinson. Just 7 years old when her father retired from baseball, Robinson grew up watching the iconic barrier-breaker embrace key roles in the Civil Rights Movement. Following in his difference-making footsteps, Robinson now serves as the educational consultant for Major League Baseball and manages Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life, a baseball-themed national character education curriculum that helps empower students to face obstacles in their lives.

“With this year being the centennial of Jackie Robinson’s birth, there’s no one we would rather honor during this special anniversary year than his remarkable daughter, Sharon Robinson,” said Kendrick. “She’s been a phenomenal voice and champion for diversity in sports and is carrying on her father’s legacy in a powerful and effective way. She has continued to make a positive difference not only in the sport of baseball but also in American culture as a whole. It’s our honor to present her with this award.”

The establishment of the Hall of Game and its annual celebration event holds two purposes: 1) to provide an avenue for the NLBM to continue garnering attention for one of the greatest stories in American history, and 2) to serve as a significant fundraiser to increase the NLBM’s ability to stay relevant with technology and community programming, and to complete the Buck O’Neil Education Center.

“Hy-Vee continues to be a proud presenting sponsor of the NLBM’s Hall of Game induction ceremonies,” said Drew Holmes, senior regional vice president for Hy-Vee’s Kansas City market/southwest region. “We congratulate each of the players for this well-deserved honor.”

The June 29 induction event will include a full day of activities including a press conference, VIP meet-and-greet, reception and dinner at the NLBM followed by the Hall of Game ceremonies at the Gem Theater. The event will be produced by Kansas City-based sports agency Premier Sports Management.