Record-setting pitcher J.R. Richard, groundbreaking Oakland Athletics executive Billy Beane and three-time Olympic gold-medal winning softball pitcher Lisa Fernandez were inducted into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals Sunday in Pasadena.
The Shrine of the Eternals differs from the Hall of Fame in that statistical accomplishment is not the principal criterion for election.
Its criteria are distinctiveness of play (good or bad), the uniqueness of character and personality and the imprint the individual has made on the baseball landscape, executive director Terry Cannon said.
Electees, both on and off the field, shall have been responsible for developing baseball through athletic and or business achievements, in terms or its larger cultural and sociological impact as mass entertainment and as an arena for the human imagination.
Sunday’s inductions increased membership in the shrine to 63.
Previous inductees include Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Yogi Berra and Roberto Clemente, two stars banned from baseball and ineligible for the Hall of Fame — Pete Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson — and such offbeat selections as eccentric 1970s pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Ted Giannoulas, baseball’s first high-profile costumed mascot, the Famous Chicken, and the “Peanuts” character Charlie Brown.
Richard topped the voting for the shrine’s 2019 class, receiving votes on 27% of the ballots returned by members of the Monrovia-based Baseball Reliquary which bills itself as a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture though the context of baseball history and exploring the sport’s unparalleled creative possibilities.
Beane was second, receiving votes on 26.5% of the ballots. Fernandez was third, receiving votes on 26% of the ballots.
The three candidates receiving the most votes are elected to the shrine.
Richard was elected in his 20th year on the ballot, Beane on his first and Fernandez on her 19th.
Runners-up included broadcaster Bob Costas, named on 25% percent of the ballots, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, the first female pitcher in the Negro Leagues, named on 24.5% of the ballots, and the late Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley, named on 24% of the ballots.
Also honored at the Pasadena Central Library were Ralph Carhart and Bob Busser.
Carhart received the Hilda Award, which recognizes distinguished service to the game by a baseball fan. The award was established in memory of Chester.
In 2010, Carhart fished a baseball from the small creek that runs next to Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York, site of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and dubbed it The Hall Ball.
Carhart began a quest in August 2010 to have the ball photographed with the living Hall of Fame members and the graves of the deceased Hall of Fame members. The ball has been photographed with 77 Hall of Fame members and the graves of all 240 deceased members. Photos are documented on The Hall Ball Project’s website, thehallball.sportspalooza.com.
“I’ve met Bobby Doerr, who played his first game in 1937, 10 years before my own father was born,” said Carhart, a production manager in the Department of Drama, Theater, and Dance at Queens College who lives in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
“And I’ve met Greg Maddux, whose rookie card was part of my own collection, with a career that began concurrent with the time when my youthful love of the game ran its hottest. I’ve met tender souls like Ernie Banks and Yogi Berra who have, since I photographed them, gone on to the other side.
“I’ve met hard men like Bob Gibson and Jim Bunning, whose pictures for the project felt more like work than fun.”
Carhart’s book on the project, “The Hall Ball: A Journey to Unite the Game’s Greatest with a Single Baseball,” is set to be published in 2020.
Busser received the Tony Salin Memorial Award, which recognizes individuals for their commitment to the preservation of baseball history. It is named in memory of a baseball author and historian.
Busser is considered one of the preeminent ballpark and arena historians, having photographed more than 900 venues, amassing an archive of more than 75,000 images. His photographs can be seen online at ballparks.smugmug.com.
Richard pitched for the Houston Astros from 1971 to 1980. He set the National League record for strikeouts by a right-handed pitcher in 1978 with 303, then broke his own record the following season, with 313. His major league career ended in 1980 after he suffered a stroke.
Richard pitched in the minor leagues in 1982 and 1983. Bad investments and two divorces led Richard to becoming destitute. In 1993 he was discovered living under a freeway overpass a few miles from Houston’s Astrodome.
The ensuing publicity helped him land part-time work and get back on his feet. In recent years Richard has been involved with several Houston area ministries, counseling at-risk youth, the homeless, and others in need.
Beane is best known for his use of analytics to build the low-revenue Athletics to a team that qualified for the playoffs from 2000-2003 and Brad Pitt’s portrayal of him in the 2011 film “Moneyball.”
Fernandez pitched the U.S. to gold medals in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games and UCLA to NCAA championships in 1990 and 1992. She has been an assistant softball coach at UCLA since 2007.
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