Collier’s Weekly: Amid a Hot Streak, the Pirates Make an Unforced Error

The Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame started strong last year. With its sophomore class, however, the team has made an unnecessary error.

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When the Pittsburgh Pirates announced the inaugural class for an in-house Hall of Fame, the team made a strong gesture toward inclusion.

That statement is front and center on the website for the Pirates’ Hall: “Included are members of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords.”

The team made good on that statement with last year’s lineup, inducting Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston and Buck Leonard alongside the likes of Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner and Willie Stargell.

Now, with the sophomore class … no Crawfords. No Grays.

Perhaps the statement on the website should be amended: “Included are members of the Pittsburgh Pirates and, when we remember to get around to it, the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords.”

Four names will be added to the Pirates’ Hall this season: Pioneering reliever Elroy Face, stalwart ’50s starter Bob Friend, hometown hero Dick Groat and “Fam-a-Lee” closer Kent Tekulve.

All are worthy of inclusion in the team’s roster of all-timers. I also have no problem with limiting classes to four members per year, lest we run out of worthy inductees by 2028.

At the risk of comparing players from different eras and different leagues, however: Bob Friend was a great pitcher. He was no Satchel Paige.

The list of players who had stints with the Crawfords and Grays is a who’s-who of greats: In addition to last year’s inductees, Cool Papa Bell, Ray Brown, Judy Johnson, “Smokey” Joe Williams, Grays owner/founder Cumberland Posey and Paige are some of the local names already enshrined in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

I’m sure that the Pirates will get around to inducting some of those players into their own Hall. I have no idea why no room could be made for at least one of them this year.

The Pirates’ desire to get Face and Groat, who are both in their mid-’90s, into the Hall during their lifetimes is admirable. There was no such rush, however, to induct Friend, who died in 2019. And while Tekulve is undoubtedly worthy of induction, his quick selection speaks more to the ongoing nostalgia for the ’70s Buccos; one imagines that the Pirates will never come up with a Hall of Fame class that does not allow for footage of pillbox hats and the playing of Sister Sledge.

It’s like the Rock Hall: No matter how far we get from the classic-rock era, there’s always at least one inductee that dominated A.M. radio in the ’70s.

It’s an unforced error by the team in the midst of an on-field resurgence. If you’re going to declare, loudly and proudly, that your Hall of Fame will represent not only the Pirates but also the Crawfords and Grays, then you need to stick to that, beyond a trio of inductees in year one. The team set the rules; let them follow them.

That Satchel Paige was pretty good, ya know.

Note: This article was published prior to Groat’s death.

Categories: Collier’s Weekly