Doerr, Lombardi highlighted Class of 1986

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Janey Murray

On March 10, 1986, Bobby Doerr received a phone call at his home in Junction City, Ore.

The emotions he felt upon learning the reason for the call could only be compared to one thing.

“It’s like the first day you go to Spring Training in the major leagues,” Doerr told the Associated Press. “It’s something you live for all your life…It’s just one of the great things of your life.”

On that day, the 67-year-old Doerr learned that he and the late Ernie Lombardi had both been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, which met in Tampa, Fla., to determine who would round out the Class of 1986.

The longtime Red Sox second baseman had been anticipating that good news from Cooperstown might be on the horizon – but it was still a surprise for him to learn that the day had finally come.

“The last couple of years my name has been mentioned so I thought I might have a chance,” Doerr told the Tampa Tribune. “It’s something you wonder about and hope might happen.”

In Cooperstown, Doerr would be joining his longtime teammate Ted Williams, who also played a part in his election. Williams was in his first year as a voting member of the Veterans Committee in 1986, having taken the place of Burleigh Grimes, who had passed away just a few months earlier.

“I couldn’t be happier for Bobby,” Williams said. “It’s a well-deserved honor. He was the silent captain on our team. He absolutely was a consistent fielder and he never booted many balls.”

Doerr began his big league career with the Red Sox in 1937, and ultimately spent every one of his 14 seasons in Boston. A nine-time All-Star, Doerr batted .288 for his career and was renowned for his defensive prowess, as he led the AL in fielding percentage four times and double plays five times. At one time, he held the AL record for most consecutive chances at second base without an error (414).

Williams knew there was no doubt Doerr had long been worthy of election to the Hall of Fame.

“I’m sure some will read into this choice my new place on the Hall of Fame committee,” Williams said. “Truth is, Bobby was close to election last year. He’s a class guy and a great player. I’m happy for him.”

Lombardi, who passed away in 1977, was an eight-time All-Star catcher who spent the majority of his 17-year career with the Reds. After opening his big league career with one year in Brooklyn, in 1932, he was dealt to Cincinnati, with whom he would capture the NL MVP Award in 1938 and a World Series title in 1940.

Following a one-year stint with the Boston Braves, Lombardi closed out his career by playing five seasons with the New York Giants. He batted .306 for his career, won two NL batting titles and batted over .300 in 10 different seasons.

“I played against Ernie in the early 40s. He was a terrific hitter,” Williams said. “When he hit .300, it was all .300. He wasn’t all that speedy. He also was a good handler of pitchers. He had an outstanding career.”

The pair would be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Aug. 3, 1986, in Cooperstown, along with Willie McCovey, who had been elected by the BBWAA.

Janey Murray is the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series