A record 18 inductees made up the largest single class in history, as Bruce Sutter along with 17 electees from the Negro leagues and pre-Negro leagues eras were inducted in front of 11,000 fans and 39 of the 60 living Hall of Famers on July 30, 2006. The Hall of Fame recognized longtime voice of the Houston Astros Gene Elston with the Ford C. Frick award and Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News with J.G. Taylor Spink award. Buck O’Neil and Sharon Robinson, daughter of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, spoke on behalf of the 17 Negro league players and executives: Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Frank Grant, Pete Hill, Biz Mackey, Effa Manley, Jose Mendez, Alex Pompez, Cum Posey, Louis Santop, Mule Suttles, Ben Taylor, Cristobal Torriente, Sol White, J.L. Wilkinson and Jud Wilson.
BRUCE SUTTER: After finishing 43 votes shy of election in 2005, Sutter was voted into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA in his 13th year on the ballot. It was the longest a player had been on the ballot before being elected since Bill Terry received the necessary votes after 14 years in 1954. Ralph Kiner was elected after 13 years in 1975. Sutter played 12 major league seasons with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. A six-time All-Star and the 1979 National League Cy Young Award winner, Sutter recorded the last six outs of the Cardinals’ 1982 World Series Championship. The first pitcher to earn election to the Hall of Fame without starting a game, Sutter finished his career with a 68-71 record, a 2.83 ERA and 300 saves. He saved at least 20 games in nine consecutive seasons and set an NL record with 45 in 1984.
RAY BROWN: Elected by the Negro Leagues Committee, Brown was the ace pitcher of the Homestead Grays in the 1930s and 1940s. He also played the outfield and switch-hit for the Grays, who won eight Negro National League pennants from 1937-45. A two-time All-Star, Brown threw a one-hitter in the 1944 Negro League World Series.
WILLARD BROWN: Elected by the Negro Leagues Committee, the Kansas City Monarchs’ outfielder helped the team win six pennants from 1937-46. This resulted in regular World Series contests with Ray Brown’s Grays. Willard Brown regularly posted batting averages above .300 and played in eight East-West All-Star Games, despite losing two years of his career to army service during World War II. He played briefly with the Major Leagues’ St. Louis Browns and played five minor league seasons in the Texas League, bashing 35 home runs in 1954.
ANDY COOPER: Considered one of the top left-handers in Negro leagues history, Cooper was elected by the Negro Leagues Committee. He pitched for the Detroit Stars from 1920-27, before the Kansas City Monarchs traded five players to get him. Kansas City won the 1929 National Negro League pennant behind Cooper, before winning three more league titles with Cooper as manager between 1937 and 1940.
FRANK GRANT: Grant was widely recognized as the best black ballplayer of the 19th century and played in the integrated minor leagues before racism forced him to the Negro leagues. The second baseman stood just 5-foot-7, but hit over .300 each year in the minor leagues. In the minors he played with Meriden, Buffalo and Harrisburg before retiring 1903 following stints with the Cuban Giants and Philadelphia Giants.
PETE HILL: The captain of a legendary Leland Giants team that featured Rube Foster and Pop Loyd and was credited with a record of 123-6, Hill was elected by the Negro Leagues Committee. He was player-manager of the Detroit Stars in the early days of the Negro National League.
BIZ MACKEY: With a career that spanned 31 years, the best years of which came with the Philadelphia Stars, Mackey was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee. He was a five-time All-Star and in a 1954 poll conducted by the Pittsburgh Courier was voted the top Negro leagues catcher, ahead of Josh Gibson. Mackey was a player-manager for just under half of his career.
EFFA MANLEY: Elected by the Negro Leagues Committee, Manley established the precedent that major league teams should respect the contracts of the Negro leagues when she sold Monte Irvin to the New York Giants. Manley was known for running one the most professional organizations in the Negro leagues as co-owner and business manager of the Newark Eagles. The Eagles regularly competed for division titles and won the Negro League World Series in 1946.
JOSE MENDEZ: Likely the first internationally known Cuban baseball player, Mendez was elected by the Negro Leagues Committee. The author of a 10-inning perfect game as a member of the Cuban Stars in 1909, his career spanned from 1908-26. As a player-manager with the Kansas City Monarchs, he led the Negro National League team to three consecutive pennants.
ALEX POMPEZ: Pompez owned the Cuban Stars of the Eastern Colored League, and later the New York Cubans of the Negro National League and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee. As a scout for the New York and San Francisco Giants after color barrier fell, Pompez helped sign Caribbean born players like Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal.
CUM POSEY: First as a player and then later as manager and team owner, Posey was for 35 years the driving force behind the Homestead Grays. Elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee, Posey's team won eight of nine Negro National League pennants from 1937 to 1945, including three world titles. He also had a keen eye for picking and developing talent, with more than 10 Negro league Hall of Famers playing for Posey's Homestead squad.
LOUIS SANTOP: Tall by a catcher’s standards, Santop caught for some of the Negro league’s greatest teams. Elected by the Negro Leagues Committee, Santop was a powerful left-handed hitter and was the starting catcher for the Hilldale Daises when they won three straight Eastern Colored League pennants in the 1920s.
MULE SUTTLES: A hard-hitting first baseman and outfielder whose career spanned both World War I and II, George Mule Suttles was one of the most feared sluggers in Negro league history. Suttles starred on a number of prominent teams, including the Birmingham Black Barons, St. Louis Stars, Chicago American Giants and Newark Eagles. He played in five East-West all-star contests and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee.
BEN TAYLOR: One of the best defensive first basemen in the Negro leagues, Taylor also regularly batted over .300 and was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee. He became a highly regarded player-manager at the end of his career and played a key role in the development of Hall of Famer Buck Leonard.
CRISTOBAL TORRIENTE: A left-handed power hitter who excelled in both his native Cuba as well as the Negro leagues, Torriente starred as a center fielder for the Chicago American Giants from 1918 to 1925. Elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee, he led the club to three consecutive Negro National League titles. Perhaps Torriente's greatest acclaim came in Cuba during the winter of 1920, when, as a member of the Almendares club, he outplayed Babe Ruth, barnstorming with the New York Giants, in a nine-game series.
SOL WHITE: After starting his career in the integrated minor leagues, White was one of the pioneers of black baseball as a player, manager and executive. He helped found the powerhouse Philadelphia Giants in 1902 and was the team’s player-manager through the 1909 season. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee.
J.L. WILKINSON: The founder and owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, the longest running franchise in Negro National League history, Wilkinson was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee. His Monarchs won 17 league pennants and two colored World Series on the way to supplying the white major leagues with more black players than any other black team.
JUD WILSON: Called the game’s best hitter by Josh Gibson, Wilson was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee. He played for the Baltimore Black Sox for most of the 1920s, and had stints with the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords and Philadelphia Stars throughout his career. He helped the Grays to numerous titles in the early 1940s, hitting .288 at the age of 51.