NEW YORK -- Former Yankees and Mariners pitcher Jeff Nelson didn't play baseball expecting to be inducted into the same Hall of Fame as such a player as Nolan Ryan, but on Friday afternoon, the unexpected became a reality.
Nelson, along with six other former baseball players, managers, scouts and writers, was inducted into the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame, which is located in Foley's NY Pub & Restaurant in Manhattan.
"It's an honor," Nelson said. "Just to be on the wall with some of the baseball greats, whether it's a writer, or a former manager or players. It's still an honor and a great thing."
In addition to Nelson, the fifth class to be inducted into this Hall of Fame includes Tom Kelly, a two-time World Series champion manager in Minnesota; Gene Michael, a former scout for the Yankees; "Walpole Joe" Morgan, a former manager of the Red Sox; the late "Wee Willie" Keeler, who at 5-foot-4 and 140 pounds was one of the smallest players in history; Jimmy Breslin, who authored "Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?" about the 1962 Mets; and Mike Roarke, who was instrumental to the development of baseball in Ireland.
The criteria for induction is based on four factors: the impact the candidate had on the game, popularity on and off the field, contributions to society and connections to the Irish community.
Prior inductees include Ryan (2011), Bill James and Tim McCarver ('10), Vin Scully ('09), and Mark McGwire and Paul O'Neill ('08).
Shaun Clancy, owner of Foley's and president of the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame, said that this year's class is different from those of the past.
"This year's class is kind of special," Clancy said. "It honors a lot of different facets of the game. We have 'Wee Willie' Keeler, two managers, our first scout, a former player and Jimmy Breslin. It's a nice class. We try to balance it as best we can, and I think we did a good job."
The site of the Hall of Fame is special to Nelson, as it's located in the city where he won four World Series championships and the pub where he's tended bar.
"The city is great. It's the best sports town in all of sports," Nelson said. "And to be able to play here and have success, and to come into Foley's and get inducted into the Irish-American Hall of Fame is great."
Clancy, who has seen the Hall grow in the past five years, is surprised with how far it's come and how much the inductees seem to enjoy it.
"It's very special. When we first started, I never expected it to be like this," said Clancy. "I never expected us to have players, who I followed, who would be so anxious to be a part of this. It's always cool to have Tim McCarver show up. It's nice when you can do something which honors my two big loves -- my Irish heritage and my love of baseball."