Collier’s Weekly: The Hall of Fame Selection the Pirates Didn’t Make
An odd number of inaugural inductees in the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame leads to speculation about who was left out.
On the exact sort of late-summer evening that seems made for the ballpark, the Pittsburgh Pirates opened their Hall of Fame by inaugurating 19 greats.
Not a nice, round 20 — nor 21, as some have suggested, which would’ve made for a neat numerological tribute to inductee Roberto Clemente. 19.
Each member of the list was undeniable. The Pirates also quite correctly expanded eligibility to players whose achievements came with the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays, inducting Oscar Charleston, Ray Brown, Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson — the latter quite possibly the greatest player to suit up for a Pittsburgh team. The team even signed those four players to posthumous one-day contracts, a recognition of their legacy to the city.
Still, though: 19.
The pre-game ceremony Saturday recognizing the players was lovely, with the three surviving members of the first class — Bill Mazerowski, Steve Blass and Dave Parker — attending in person, and family members from many of the others standing in. Four-year-old Roberto Clemente III gleefully declared “Play Ball!” over the loudspeakers at the beginning of the evening’s game.
I’m stuck, however, on that 19. Did someone on the selection committee insist on a prime number?
Quite naturally, much of the speculation on the missing 20th inductee has centered on Barry Bonds, the supernaturally gifted slugger whose achievements in Pittsburgh likely warrant inclusion on their own, unenhanced, merits. Perhaps Barry was in the initial lineup, then pulled back to avoid a cloud of controversy over the first class of Hall of Famers. (The Pirates, naturally, have made no comment on the matter, or the number selected.)
Others have argued that Dick Groat — who is both a Wilkinsburg native and, unlike 16 of the 19, still alive — should’ve made the inaugural cut, having led the Pirates to the 1960 World Series with an MVP season.
Certainly, Groat will be a future inductee; hopefully next year. I’ll bet Bonds will, too; considering his scandals came well after his departure from Pittsburgh (and, just as importantly, because the team is making up rules for inclusion, so there’s no nettlesome integrity clause to worry about), I’m sure Barry will get a plaque on the PNC Park wall sooner or later.
I wouldn’t call either man the most egregious omission, though. There’s another player whose achievements as a Pirate warranted immediate, inaugural inclusion — and he certainly could’ve appeared in person to accept his laurels.
Admittedly, he was busy Saturday night. He was in Phoenix, leading off for the Brewers.
He went 2-for-6.
The only moments of joy in the past 30 years of Pirates baseball occurred with Andrew McCutchen on the field. On teams built around his abilities, the hard-luck Bucs scraped together enough young sluggers and spare parts to claw their way to three straight Wild Card games. The first of those, an explosive 6-2 defeat of the Cincinnati Reds in 2013, represents the brightest moment most Pirates fans have enjoyed in their lifetimes.
McCutchen no longer suits up for the Pirates, a result of a continued team policy whereby dollars in the savings account matter far more than fans in the stadium. He remains popular here, however; other former stars (hi again, Barry) have received boos when appearing in opposing dugouts. Cutch still gets cheered regardless of uniform.
It may be odd to consider putting an active player in a Hall of Fame, but the brief and limited glory days of the early ’10s are firmly in the rear view. More importantly, that era represents more to the team and its fans than yet another reflection on the Fam-a-lee; it reminds us that, no matter how many obstacles are put in the way, any given group of baseball players could perhaps fight their way to the postseason.
That’s the legacy of Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh — and by whatever the standards of this brand-new honor roll are, he makes the grade.