Phil Niekro was elected by the BBWAA and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame along with Veterans Committee selections Nellie Fox, Tommy Lasorda and Willie Wells on August 3, 1997. Thirty-one of the living Hall of Famers returned as Charley Feeney was awarded the J.G. Taylor Spink award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing and Jimmy Dudley received the Ford C. Frick award for broadcast excellence.
PHIL NIEKRO: Elected in his fifth year on the ballot, Niekro was named on 80.3 percent of ballots cast. The knuckle-baller pitched 24 big league seasons for the Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays, winning 318 games and posting a 3.35 career ERA. Niekro led the league in innings pitched, games started and complete games in four different seasons, as well as leading the senior circuit with 20 wins in 1974 and 21 in 1979. A five-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, Niekro threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on August 5, 1973.
TOMMY LASORDA: The manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 21 years was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Lasorda led the Dodgers to eight division titles, four National League pennants and two World Championships during his tenure. He had a brief playing career that included two years with the Dodgers in Brooklyn. Lasorda also managed team USA to a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
WILLIE WELLS: Posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, Wells was involved as player or manager in the Negro Leagues for 30 years. Wells set a single-season Negro leagues record with 27 homers in 88 recorded games for the St. Louis Stars in 1926. A scrappy, intelligent player, Wells had a prolific career in Latin America, where Mexican League fans dubbed him El Diablo. He batted .320 over seven Cuban Winter League seasons while winning two home-run titles and two MVP awards. As player-manager of the Newark Eagles in the 1940s, he became known as an extraordinary leader and teacher, and several of his young players later became stars in the Majors.