Goose Gossage and Dick Williams, along with posthumous electees Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O’Malley and Billy Southworth were enshrined in front of 14,000 fans on Sunday, July 27, 2008 as a record 56 Hall of Famers returned to Cooperstown to welcome the 2008 inductees. Dave Niehaus, Seattle Mariners broadcaster, was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award and former Boston Globe baseball writer Larry Whiteside and baseball ambassador Buck O’Neil were both posthumously honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and the first-ever Buck O’Neil Award, respectively.
GOOSE GOSSAGE: Rich “Goose” Gossage earned election to the Baseball Hall of Fame after appearing on the ballot for the ninth time. One year after falling 21 votes shy of election, Gossage captured 85.8% of the vote, well above the 75% required. Gossage’s career lasted over 23 seasons and included stops with the White Sox, Pirates, Yankees (twice), Padres, Cubs, Giants, Fukuoka (Japan), Rangers, Athletics, and Mariners. Perhaps most remembered for his time with the Yankees, the nine-time All-Star pitched the final 2 and 2/3 innings of the famous 1978 playoff game against the Red Sox that sent the Yankees toward a World Series victory over the Dodgers. Gossage did not save a game in that Fall Classic, but did pitch two scoreless, hitless innings in Game 4 to earn the victory. He would retire in 1994 with the Seattle Mariners after posting a 124-107 career record with 1,502 strikeouts (nearly one per inning pitched), a 3.01 ERA and 310 saves. Gossage follows the recent string of relief pitchers who have been inducted and is the fifth primary reliever to be inducted, following Hoyt Wilhelm (1985), Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004) and Bruce Sutter (2006).
DICK WILLIAMS: Dick Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, honoring a career that included over 1,500 wins and two World Series titles. Williams’ career began in 1967 with the Boston Red Sox when he took a Red Sox team which finished ninth the previous season and led them to the World Series. The Red Sox fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games that year. After three seasons in Boston and a year as a coach in Montreal, Williams was hired by the Athletics to be their 11th manager in as many years. Williams skippered the A’s to back-to-back World Series titles in 1972 and 1973. He resigned following the 1973 World Series and moved on to the California Angels for three years. Following that, Williams returned to the Expos for five seasons and then went along to San Diego. He would lead the Padres, who finished last in the NL West the year before he arrived, to their first World Series appearance in 1984. Williams’ well-traveled career would come to an end after three seasons at the helm of the Seattle Mariners from 1986-1988.
BILLY SOUTHWORTH: Billy Southworth managed for 13 seasons with the Cardinals and Braves, winning 1,044 games and earning a spot fifth on the list of all time winning percentage by a manager. “Billy the Kid” began his managerial career as a player/manager with the Cardinals in 1929 for 88 games, going 43-45 before being relieved of his post. The Cardinals gave him another shot in 1940 after his playing days were over and he led St. Louis to three straight NL Pennants from 1942-44. He won two World Series championships during that stretch, beating the Yankees in 1942 and the Browns in 1944. Southworth left the Cardinals after the 1945 season and took over the Boston Braves in 1946. Led the Braves to five straight winning seasons, including the 1948 National League pennant. Southworth passed away on November 15, 1969.
BOWIE KUHN: Bowie Kuhn was the fifth commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1969 through 1984, leading the game through some of the most monumental growth it has ever experienced. He had his first baseball job in high school working the scoreboard at Washington Senators games at Griffith Stadium. Kuhn graduated from Princeton University and received his law degree from the University of Virginia. He served as general counsel for several baseball teams during the 1960s while working at a New York City law firm. He won an anti-trust battle which paved the way for the Braves to move from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966 before representing the National League and avoiding a work stoppage in 1968. He was elected commissioner in February of 1969, replacing William D. Eckert. During that time, the players’ union was urging its members not to sign contracts for the season to protest a pension issue and Kuhn successfully negotiated a settlement to avoid a work stoppage, earning a seven-year contract extension. Kuhn’s administration started the first drug awareness program in major professional sports in 1971. He masterfully asserted his power over the game, even after the Curt Flood Supreme Court case resulted in the transfer of much of the power in the game from owners to players. Major League Baseball also saw unprecedented expansion under Kuhn’s watch, when the Royals, Pilots (later Brewers), Padres, Expos, Mariners and Blue Jays all became Major League franchises. Kuhn was named Man of the Year by The Sporting News in 1983. That year, he would fail to get enough votes for a third term as commissioner and was succeeded by Peter Ueberroth in 1984. Kuhn passed away on March 15, 2007.
WALTER O’MALLEY: Walter O’Malley was one of the most influential owners in the history of the game, pioneering baseball’s movement to the West Coast. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he received their famous Spoon Man Award for the best academic of the senior class, O’Malley received a law degree from Fordham University and practiced law for 20 years. He gained control of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 and ran the franchise for 30 years. During his first six seasons, O’Malley would lead the Dodgers to four pennants and a World Series title while continuing Branch Rickey’s tremendous player development program. O’Malley led a decade-long attempt to find land for a suitable replacement for the aging and landlocked Ebbets Field, which he planned on privately financing, but needed cooperation from New York City to acquire enough land. After efforts were unsuccessful, O’Malley began looking for a new home for the Dodgers and moved them to Los Angeles at the conclusion of the 1957, persuading the New York Giants to move west as well. O’Malley’s contract called for the Dodgers to design, build, and privately finance a 50,000 seat stadium in Chavez Ravine, as well as pay property taxes on land that had not been on the tax rolls in years. O’Malley’s marketing genius allowed the franchise to set numerous attendance records, including becoming the first team to crack the three million mark in home attendance. The Dodgers won three World Series titles between 1958 and 1966. O’Malley remained chairman of the board of the Dodgers until his death, even after turning the president role over to his son, Peter O’Malley, in 1970. O’Malley is widely recognized for being the catalyst for Major League Baseball’s move west and expansion through the 1960s and 1970s. In 1999, O’Malley was named the 11th most powerful person in 20th century sports by The Sporting News. Walter O’Malley passed away on August 9, 1979.
BARNEY DREYFUSS: Barney Dreyfuss was one of baseball’s first power brokers as an executive. After being an accountant at his parents’ brewery, he developed an interest in baseball and purchased a share of the American Association’s Louisville Colonels, who would go on to be part of the National League. In 1900, the National League saw interest dwindling and decided to contract, so Dreyfuss merged the Colonels with the Pittsburgh Pirates...Under his ownership, the Pirates would win three-straight NL Pennants from 1901 to 1903. Dreyfuss brought former Colonels and future Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke and Rube Waddell to Pittsburgh to lead the team. He would reload the Pirates in the 1920s, with future Hall of Famers Pie Traynor, Kiki Culyer and Rabbit Maranville. He remained president of the ballclub until his 1932 death, seeing the Pirates capture six pennants and two World Series titles. Dreyfuss was a founding father of the World Series, when he challenged the American League champion Boston Americans to a series of games in 1903, seeing the Pirates fall five games to three. He also pioneered the construction of Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, baseball’s first double-deck stadium. He served as the first Vice President of the National League from 1929 until 1932 and was instrumental in the hiring of Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the game’s first commissioner. Dreyfuss died on February 5, 1932 in Pittsburgh.