Vizquel and Pinson Entering Cal League Hall of Fame
Bob Toth | On 25, Jan 2016
Beloved Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel will add another Hall of Fame entry to his long list of baseball accolades in June as he and 14 others enter the California League Hall of Fame.
Vizquel, the acrobatic and flashy sure-handed middle infielder, is joined in the class by another former Indians player, outfielder Vada Pinson, who spent a pair of seasons with the club in the early 1970’s.
The Cal League announced on January 20th the creation of their Hall of Fame as part of their diamond anniversary this season. Joining Vizquel and Pinson in induction will be George Brett, Jose Cruz Jr., Don Drysdale, new MLB Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Bakersfield resident Sam Lynn, Pedro Martinez, Xavier Nady, Gary Sheffield, Bob Talbot, and Fernando Valenzuela.
Entering its 75th season, the Cal League looks to honor its lengthy history by remembering some of the greats who have suited up for its minor league squads over the years. In part of this celebration, each team in the league was allowed to choose one former member of its organization, no longer an active player, for induction as the first class for the Cal League Hall of Fame. League leadership also selected four members for induction and a 15th member will be decided via an online fan voting process during spring training. Those eligible for that vote include ten former Cal League members and Major Leaguers, including Don Baylor, Bruce Bochy, Darin Erstad, Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Joe Morgan, Bill Mueller, Mike Piazza, Kirby Puckett, and Brandon Webb.
The Hall itself will be visible on the website for the league, californialeague.com, and will be available beginning on opening day of the Cal League season on April 7th. The actual celebration for the Hall class will occur on June 21st in Lake Elsinore prior to the All-Star Game between the California League and the Carolina League, home to the Indians’ High-A Lynchburg affiliate.
For Vizquel, it marks another honor that will hopefully culminate in an enshrinement in Cooperstown, New York, as part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in a few years. In recent years, his on-the-field accomplishments have earned him additional recognition while working as a first base coach with the Detroit Tigers.
This offseason alone, Vizquel was selected in early December as part of the 2016 Latino Baseball Hall of Fame class in LaRomana, Dominican Republic, joining Ivan Rodriguez, Orlando Hernandez, Edgar Renteria, Sammy Sosa, and former Indians reliever Jesse Orosco as part of the “modern era” class of inductees.
Previously, Vizquel joined the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in the summer of 2014.
Vizquel signed with the Seattle Mariners in 1984 and worked his way up their farm system before making his Major League debut in 1989. He played for Salinas in the California League in 1987, hitting .263 with 25 stolen bases.
The Indians later fleeced the Mariners for the light-hitting shortstop following the 1993 season, when he won his first of eleven career Gold Glove Awards over a 24-year MLB career. He spent eleven of those seasons in Cleveland, making three All-Star teams during his time there.
Pinson was heading towards the tail end of his career when he became a member of the Cleveland Indians. He signed with the Cincinnati Redlegs as a free agent in 1956 and played in the Cal League for Visalia as an 18-year-old in 1957, hitting 40 doubles, 20 triples, and 20 homers. He was in the lineup on Opening Day for the Reds to start the next season as a 19-year-old outfielder under the leadership of former Indians catcher (as well as their future manager) Birdie Tebbetts.
Pinson was an All-Star in back-to-back seasons in 1959 and 1960, leading the league both years in plate appearances, at bats, and doubles and runs in ’59. He won his lone Gold Glove award in 1961.
After eleven seasons in Cincinnati, he played 1969 in St. Louis before he was dealt to the Indians. He spent two seasons in Cleveland, hitting .286 in his first season with the club with a career-high 24 homers and 82 RBI before settling into a .263 season with eleven homers and 35 homers in 1971. Following the season, he was dealt to the California Angels and, after two seasons there, spent his final two of 18 MLB seasons in Kansas City with the Royals.
He passed away in 1995 at the age of 57 after suffering a stroke.
According to a press release, the California League has produced 19 Hall of Famers, 16 Most Valuable Player award winners, 19 Cy Young winners, and 32 different Rookie of the Years.
Teams making up the ten-team Cal League today include the Bakersfield Blaze, High Desert Mavericks, Inland Empire 66ers, Lake Elsinore Storm, Lancaster JetHawks, Modesto Nuts, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, San Jose Giants, Stockton Ports, and Visalia Rawhide.
Photo (Vizquel): Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer