The process for selecting inductees into the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame is somewhat shrouded in mystery.
Longtime media relations guru Jim Trdinich oversees the Hall of Fame, which was instituted last year.
While no one can legitimately argue about any of the 23 men who have been inducted so far, Pirates all-time saves leader Kent Tekulve made a joke – we think – about the committee last Saturday when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Elroy Face, Bob Friend and Dick Groat during a ceremony at PNC Park.
“It’s a very secret society. Nobody knows who’s on the selection committee. Very well-guarded,” Tekulve said. “I don’t know if they just want to be anonymous and not be criticized for guys like me that they put into the Hall of Fame.”
I made the case for five people last year after the inaugural ceremony: star pitcher Babe Adams, all-time home run king Barry Bonds, two-time World Series-winning general manager Joe L. Brown, 1979 World Series-winning manager Chuck Tanner and legendary broadcaster Bob Prince.
All five remain eligible – which shows an absolute lack of pull on my part — and I still support each of their candidacies. However, I also have five more candidates to stump for (in alphabetical order):
Candelaria compiled a 124-87 record over 12 seasons with the Pirates from 1975-83 and a farewell cameo in 1993 that ended his 19-year career. The left-hander’s ERA was a fine 3.17 and he also collected 16 saves.
What stands out about Candelaria are two great moments – his 14-strikeout game against the powerhouse Cincinnati Reds in a tough-luck no-decision in the 1975 National League Championship Series and his no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers a year later.
Candelaria also had one of the best seasons by a pitcher in franchise history in 1977 when he went 20-5 while leading the NL in ERA (2.34) and winning percentage (.800).
His first stint with the Pirates came to an ugly end in 1985 when continually referred to GM Pete Peterson as a “bozo” before finally being traded to the California Angels later that season. However, Candelaria and the Pirates long ago made peace and he attended Saturday’s ceremony.
Outstanding scouting and player development played a pivotal role in the Pirates winning six NL East titles and two World Series in 1hius 970s. No scout was more instrumental in helping build those clubs than the legendary Haak.
Haak was a pioneer when it came to scouting Latin America, one of the first scouts to travel extensively to places like Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico, Colombia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Haak signed plenty of players during his 38-year tenure with the Pirates from 1951-88, including Manny Sanguillen, Rennie Stennett and Omar Moreno. The Pirates also selected future Hall of Fame Roberto Clemente in the Rule 5 draft in 1954 from the Brooklyn Dodgers on Haak’s recommendation.
In 1960, Law became the first Pirates pitcher to ever win the Cy Young Award while helping the franchise capture the World Series. There was only one award at the time as it covered both major leagues.
The Deacon had a 20-9 record and a 3.08 ERA in 1960. His 18 complete games led the NL and came after he went the distance 20 times the previous season. Law pitched a career-high 289.2 innings in 1960 between the regular season and World Series.
Law was never the same after 1960 and finished his career at 162-147 with a 3.77 ERA over 16 seasons from 1950-67. He missed 1952 and 1953 while serving in the military.
Though his final record was just 15 games over .500, Law is considered one of the best pitchers in franchise history. He remains one of only two Pirates to win the Cy Young along with Doug Drabek in 1990.
When Leyland took over as the Pirates’ manager prior to the 1986 season, it came at one of the darkest points in franchise history. In 1985 alone, the Pirates lost 105 games, had it revealed during the infamous Pittsburgh drug trials that the Pirate Parrot and a caterer were delivering cocaine to players in the clubhouse and nearly relocated.
The public-private consortium that bought the franchise from the Galberth family hired Syd Thrift to be the general manager. Thrift, in turn, brought aboard Leyland, a little-known third base coach with the Chicago White Sox.
Leyland’s first two teams took their lumps before having a winning season in 1988 then winning three straight NL East titles from 1990-92. The franchise went from laughingstock to one of the best in the game thanks in large part to Leyland, which more than makes up for the fact that in his 11 seasons with the Pirates, his record was slightly under .500 at 851-863.
Leyland remains one of the franchise’s most popular figures 27 years after departing for the Florida Marlins with a personality that has both its fiery and sentimental sides.
Rowswell was the first person to broadcast Pirates’ games full-time on the radio, doing so from 1936 until his death in 1955 right before he was set to travel to spring training.
Rowswell was wildly popular with Pirates fans and used plenty of colorful phrases during the broadcasts. The most memorable one was for Pirates home runs when he would yell “Raise the window, Aunt Minnie. Here it comes, right into your petunia patch!”
Before becoming a broadcaster, Rowsell was a huge Pirates’ fan. He did not miss a home game at Forbes Field from 1909 until his death and often traveled to away games.
If that feat isn’t Hall of Fame worthy, what is?