Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Babe, Effa...Effa, Babe

Effa Manley, owner of the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues, may well have met Babe Ruth, but I doubt it happened in Cooperstown, New York. Yesterday, on a special Negro League slate that included 16 other execs, players and pitchers, it was announced that Mrs. Manley would be the first woman enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This special election, meant as a final blowout on special consideration for the Negro Leagues (it's uncertain whether Negro Leaguers will be eligible for the Veteran's Committee ballot in the future), nearly doubled the number of Negro Leaguers in the Hall. Sadly, the two best-known Negro Leaguers on the ballot--Buck O'Neil and Minnie Minoso--didn't make the cut, perhaps their last, best chance for enshrinement.

According to people with more knowledge than I have in this area, O'Neil's career as a player and manager were nice, but not Hall of Fame-caliber. O'Neil's big contributions came after his years in the Negro Leagues, with his work as a Major League scout and embassador of the game. Minoso's qualifications are perhaps best described by Alex Belth's recent piece for Sports Illustrated.

The saddest part--other than the personal disappointment Buck and Minnie must feel--is that, because the two of them were shut out, all of the Negro Leaguers honored by the Hall this July will be honored posthumously.

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