Three Former Tribe Greats to be Inducted into “Hall of Game”
Bob Toth | On 07, May 2018
Grant, Lofton, and Murray will be joined by former Rookie of the Year and American League MVP Dick Allen and fireballer J.R. Richard as part of the fifth class at the Kansas City landmark. The museum, which opened in a new site in November of 1997 in Kansas City’s Historic District, will host activities throughout the day, including a news conference, a VIP meet-and-greet, and a dinner reception prior to the Hall of Game ceremonies.
“We’re thrilled to honor five former MLB greats this year in honor of our fifth Hall of Game anniversary,” said NLBM President Bob Kendrick on May 1. “These men were truly captivating to watch every time they took the field, and they played with the same spirit, passion and hustle as the men who made the Negro Leagues so special.”
The Hall of Game, established in 2014, recognizes players who “competed with the same passion, determination, skill and flair exhibited by the heroes of the Negro Leagues.”
Grant, nicknamed “Mudcat”, spent eleven seasons in the Indians organization as a promising part of the team’s starting rotation. He was an All-Star for the club in 1963, but was traded during the next season to the Minnesota Twins, where he had some of his best success in the Majors. He made his second and final All-Star team in 1965 and won a career-best and league-leading 21 games. He also made his first postseason appearance that season, making three starts in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 2-1 with two complete games. After a year with those Dodgers in 1968 and the Montreal Expos to begin 1969, he found a role in bullpens around the league with stops in St. Louis, Oakland, and Pittsburgh. He made 80 relief appearances in 1970, posting a 1.86 ERA for the year.
Lofton’s 17-year MLB career brought him through the city of Cleveland on three separate tours and for parts of ten years. After a brief 20-game debut with Houston in 1991, Lofton was traded to the Indians and his career blossomed as the former college basketball player turned into a six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner while leading his league in stolen bases in five straight years from 1992 to 1996. When his second stint in Cleveland ended in 2001, he bounced around, playing for eight different teams until returning to the Indians for the final 52 games of his big league career at the age of 40. He retired a career .299 hitter with 622 stolen bases.
Murray, a switch-hitting slugger, was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2003. His career began in Baltimore, where he would play in the World Series in 1979 and 1983 (winning the latter). He was the AL’s Rookie of the Year in 1977 and an All-Star for the first of eight times the following season. He spent 21 years playing, including from 1994 through the first half of the 1996 season with the Indians. He hit .287 in his career with 504 home runs. He remains the all-time leader in career sacrifice flies with 128.
Allen spent 15 years in the Majors during a successful career that has at times garnered some Hall of Fame considerations. He was the National League’s Rookie of the Year in his second season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964 and a three-time All-Star before traveling around via trades in three straight seasons from 1969 to 1971. He made four more All-Star teams, including one with St. Louis in 1970 and three more in his new home in Chicago with the White Sox from 1972 to 1974. He was also named the American League MVP in 1972.
Richard’s career was a tragic one. The second overall pick in the 1969 draft and giant on the mound (6’8”), he spent his entire career in the Astros organization. He debuted in 1971 and went on to win 20 games in 1976 and toppled 300 strikeouts in 1978 and 1979. He was an All-Star and off to an impressive start in 1980 (10-4, 1.90 ERA in 17 starts with four complete game shutouts) before suffering a stroke. He would pitch briefly in the minors, but never returned to a Major League mound.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum will also honor the recipient of the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony. Sharon Robinson, Major League Baseball’s educational consultant and manager of Breaking Barriers (a baseball-themed national character education curriculum), will be presented with the award, named for her father.
The quintet of players will join an impressive list of baseball legends selected over the previous four classes. (* indicates former Indians players)
2014 – Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Joe Morgan, *Dave Winfield
2015 – Rickey Henderson, Ferguson Jenkins, Ozzie Smith, *Luis Tiant
2016 – Orlando Cepeda, Andre Dawson, Tony Oliva, Tim Raines
2017 – Al Oliver, Tony Perez, Lee Smith, Maury Wills
Photo: Getty Images