Lasorda, Fox, Wells earned place in Class of 1997

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

Once Tommy Lasorda officially walked away from the manager’s office, a trip to Cooperstown was soon on the agenda.

On March 5, 1997, the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee elected Lasorda to the Hall of Fame along with Nellie Fox and Negro League standout Willie Wells.

The three legends joined Phil Niekro, elected two months earlier by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, as the Class of 1997.

“I cried,” Lasorda told the Associated Press when he learned of his election while watching his former team, the Dodgers, play an exhibition game in Vero Beach, Fla.

“They were tears of joy.

“When they announced it at the game, I got chills. I couldn’t believe it.”

Lasorda retired midway through the 1996 season after having led the Dodgers for parts of 21 seasons.

At the time of his retirement, Lasorda was one of only four managers to lead the same team for at least 20 seasons, compiling a total of 1,599 victories that ranked 13th all-time at that point.

Lasorda, who had spent 47 seasons with the Dodgers organization, led Los Angeles to four National League pennants and two World Series titles during his managerial tenure.

Fox passed away in 1975 following a 19-year big league career where he totaled a .288 batting average, 2,663 hits, 15 All-Star Game selections and the 1959 American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Fox missed Hall of Fame election in his final year on the BBWAA ballot in 1975 by two votes, then fell just short again in Veterans Committee balloting in 1996.

“I told my daughter to go down to the store and get your daddy’s favorite little cheddar fishes,” Fox’s widow, Joanne, told the Associated Press after she was notified of the Hall of Fame election.

“There hasn’t been any of that in the house in 15 or 20 years… Nellie’s here too.

“It’s great news. It’s wonderful news.”

Wells was a star shortstop in the Negro Leagues and Mexican leagues from 1924-48 who served as a player/manager for the Newark Eagles.

Over more than 2,800 at-bats in official Negro Leagues games, Wells is credited with a .320 batting average and 100 home runs.


Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series