Last week the trustees of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame gathered to vote on the nominees for the local HOF’s new class of inductees. I saw the New Orleans hall as another opportunity to push for greater local recognition of the Negro League greats who are from the NOLA area or have connections to this fantastic city and its environs.
Unfortunately, I inquired about this year’s induction process at the very last minute — a situation that’s admittedly a common theme with me — so I had to scramble to throw together spur-of-the-moment nominations for three of the more overlooked blackball luminaries from NOLA: third baseman Oliver “Ghost” Marcell, player/manager/scholar “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher and owner/executive Allen Page.
My reasoning for putting forth those names are thus … Marcell, despite his cantankerous and volatile personality, is considered one of the greatest third basemen in Negro Leagues history, especially with the leather … Malarcher — in addition to being a college graduate, epic poet and a gentleman on and off the field — inherited the managerial reigns of the powerhouse 1920s Chicago American Giants from Rube Foster and guided them to multiple NNL and Negro World Series titles … Page is, quite simply, the most important behind-the-scenes mover-and-shaker this city ever witnessed in the blackball world; only Fred Caulfield comes close to him.
Unfortunately, none of my nominees were selected by the GNOSHOF board when it handed down its vote April 27. I’m not sure which athletes and other local sports legends were chosen — it doesn’t look like it’s been made public yet. The news of my trio’s rejection was delivered to me by Allstate Sugar Bowl media relations head John Sudsbury.
Whether or not the figures who were selected for the new induction class are worthy or not is beyond the purview of this blog post; for one thing, to be honest I really don’t know much about any of them. Plus I admittedly submitted my three nominees perhaps way too late for them to receive adequate consideration from the local board.
And, perhaps, it’s hard for me to judge the induction worthiness of Negro Leagues players and executive because I’m probably biased in favor of their election because I write about, study and thoroughly enjoy blackball history.
But it was naturally still very disappointing to see that neither Marcell, Malarcher nor Page squeaked into this year’s group of honorees. It was another blow to the effort to garner long-overdue recognition for Louisiana’s great segregation-era hardball luminaries.
To get another side to this story, I inquired about receiving comments from a GNOSHOF representing about this year’s induction vote, why no Negro Leaguers were selected, and whether local Negro Leaguers might have a chance of being ushered into the prestigious local organization in the future.
In response to my inquiry, Greater New Orleans Sports Award Committee Chairman Will Peneguy offered these thoughts:
“Thank you for your continued interest in the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame. There is a surplus of outstanding candidates for the Hall of Fame, and every year it is very challenging for the committee to select the new class of inductees. The process takes weeks and discussions are thorough.
“There are three players from the Negro Leagues now honored in the Hall of Fame (Walter Wright, Herman Roth and Milfred Laurent). That said, it would not be surprising to see additional candidates with backgrounds in the Negro Leagues join the three former players that have already been inducted.”
The only quibble I’d have with that statement are the Negro Leaguers who are already in the GNOSHOF. While Wright is certainly deserving — although he wasn’t a star on the national level, for decades he was the omnipresent leading advocate for honoring and preserving the legacies of local Negro Leaguers — both Roth and Laurent didn’t have as much impact on the top levels of blackball as my three suggestions were.
But, though, on the other hand, both Roth and Laurent were huge figures on the NOLA-area sandlot and semipro scene for two decades or more, so I can see why they have been inducted into the Hall.
Overall, though, the statement was pretty encouraging; it intimated that Negro Leaguers definitely have a good chance at being ushered into the local Hall’s prestigious confines down the road.
So, although the GNOSHOF’s 2016 induction vote was disappointing — no Negro Leaguers were selected — the future looks bright.
So I’ll keep plugging away at getting more much deserved recognition for NOLA-area blackball players.
I do also want to note that Malarcher will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, which has also included Marcell for some time now.
The LSHOF induction ceremonies are next month.
Addendum: In earlier drafts of this post, I neglected to ask for suggestions from y’all about potential nominees for the future GNOSHOF inductions. I can think of J.B. Spencer, Johnny Wright, Black Diamond Pipkin (who was suggested by Evin Demirel, Fred Caulfield, Herb Simpson, John Bissant, Winfield Welch … Thoughts?