Pirates induct 19 baseball legends into inaugural HOF class

September 3rd, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- The temperatures in Pittsburgh’s North Shore sat in the mid-80s. The midday sunshine blared down on PNC Park. On this afternoon, neither Steve Blass nor Dave Parker nor Bill Mazeroski held any reservations about throwing on an extra layer and donning a golden sports jacket.

The Pirates unveiled the inaugural class of the team’s Hall of Fame on Saturday, a 19-player cohort composed of some of the most influential ballplayers in Pittsburgh baseball history.

“It’s one of those things that I never expected,” Blass said. “I never saw it coming. It makes me feel like a million bucks.”

“It was time to formalize it,” said Pirates chairman Bob Nutting. “It was time to celebrate it. And I think what I’m really looking forward to is, as [team historian] Jimmy [Trdinich] transitions into a role to help curate this archive and tell these stories, this is just one of those pieces of telling an amazing story of the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

The Pirates’ first Hall of Fame class features National Baseball Hall of Famers in Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, Arky Vaughan, Ralph Kiner, Pie Traynor, Max Carey, Jake Beckley, Fred Clarke, Paul Waner and Lloyd Waner. Along with the National Hall of Famers, Pittsburgh recognized Blass, Parker and Danny Murtaugh, a trio who played invaluable roles in Pirates history.

The Pirates’ first Hall of Fame class also honors the Negro Leagues with the inclusion of Josh Gibson (Crawfords and Grays), Oscar Charleston (Crawfords and Grays), Ray Brown (Grays) and Buck Leonard (Grays), all of whom are also members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. As part of the ceremony, the organization “signed” Gibson, Charleston, Leonard and Brown to contracts. Signing the deals on behalf of Gibson and Leonard were Sean Gibson (great-grandson) and Rose Fox-Hunter (step-daughter), respectively.

Following introductions from Pirates play-by-play announcer Greg Brown and Nutting, the Pirates unveiled the 19 plaques that will pay homage to this inaugural class, which are on display in the concourse near the Roberto Clemente entrance. The families of Brown, Clarke, Carey, Clemente, Gibson, Kiner, Leonard, Murtaugh, Stargell and Paul Waner were in attendance to receive miniature versions of the plaques.

As part of the festivities, Josh Rawitch, the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, outlined the resumés of each and every player.

“We got a great group,” Parker said. “The Pirates were the most unique team I ever played for. They had unique players: Dock Ellis, Willie Stargell. Myself. I used to come into the clubhouse and tell people that there’s only three things that are going to happen today: The sun gon’ shine, the wind gon’ blow and Big Dave is gon’ go four-for-four.”

“I’m so excited to be here and be part of it,” Mazeroski said. “It’s fantastic.”

Blass, who served as a color commentator for the Pirates for three-and-a-half decades, had a couple of one-liners for the living Pittsburgh legends. Of Parker, Blass said, “All they did was ask you to replace Roberto Clemente. All you did was take ownership of right field.”

Blass characterized Mazeroski as a true professional, describing him as “one of the reasons why they call it the big leagues.” Blass wrapped up his praise of Mazeroski by lauding him for orchestrating arguably the greatest moment in Pittsburgh baseball history -- sort of.

“Nice work on that little home run you hit,” Blass said.

For the jokes, Blass expressed gratitude to be part of this inaugural class. He said he didn’t believe his plaque was supposed to be up on the wall, describing feeling “intimidated” to see his name next to so many legendary figures. Yet, his plaque is right there on the wall, and his place in the history of Pirates baseball will be forever enshrined.

“This represents a lot of guys that I played in the Minor Leagues with that didn’t make it,” Blass said. “I carried their banner, and I’m proud to do it. I don’t forget the guys that didn’t make it.”