These Black Knights were perennial MLB All-Stars and among the best at their respective positions.
Somewhere along the way, baseball writers got it wrong when they left out black ballplayers like Curt Flood, 2018 NLBM “Hall of Game”Inductee Dick Allen, Frank White, “Sweet” Lou Whitaker, Darryl Strawberry and Gary Sheffield in their balloting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame claims to immortalize the greats of the game, but all of these forgotten MLB soldiers were of the best at their positions for large stretches of their careers
That’s why the “Hall of Game” was created by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 2014. The sixth-annual ceremony is planned for June 29 in Kansas City, Mo. The HOG aims to preserve the rich baseball histories of these magnificent players who “competed with the same passion, determination, skill, and flair exhibited by the heroes of the Negro Leagues.”
Allen, James Grant, Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray and J.R. Richard were inducted into the NLBM 2018 “Hall of Game” class.
The Kansas City museum has again selected four worthy baseball legends to be inducted into its 2019 class.
In fact, all of the elected Black Knights fall into the category of being some of MLB’s best-kept secrets. They are overlooked and undervalued African-American ballers who were among the elite players in the game, but according to HOF voters, they lack some necessary ingredient to be inducted into Cooperstown.
Injuries derailed Eric Davis and Dave Parker’s career. Parker also had a drug addiction that affected his performance. Fred McGriff is one of the prolific sluggers and feared hitters in MLB history, but playing in markets like Toronto, San Diego, and Tampa Bay didn’t help his visibility or national popularity. Pitcher Dave Stewart was a late bloomer, whose brief body of work as a supreme starter is impressive and unprecedented.
Dave “The Cobra: Parker: The BluePrint
Dave Parker was a beast of a man, standing at 6-foot-5, 225-pounds with an arsenal of tools to rival his idol, the great Frank Robinson. Parker was probably the most talented 2019 Hall of Game inductee and that’s saying something. By the age of 30, Pirates fans were comparing him to Roberto Clemente.
His size, power, and speed made him the Cam Newton of MLB. When at his best, he was something the game had never seen. He was Aaron Judge before Aaron Judge.
Big Dave was generationally-great and he knew it. Parker had the entire offensive bag with an all-time great arm and serious swag to match.
“There never is another player of that caliber,” a young Parker once said. “I have my style and I play my game.”
In 1976, Parker hit .313 with 51 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases. In 1977, “The Cobra,” as he was called, won his first NL batting title, hitting .338 with an NL-leading 215 hits and 44 doubles.
Then came the 1978 season, which is considered one of the greatest one-man offensive displays of our generation. Parker won his second straight batting title with a .338 average and led the NL with a .585 slugging percentage. Parker scored 102 runs and drove in 117. He won another NL Gold Glove Award and he won the NL MVP Award.
Just as Parker’s sure-shot Hall of Fame was taking off, his career took a detour. Drugs, scandal, and injuries messed up his flow for the next four seasons before he recovered to put up some super solid seasons with Cincinnati in his mid-to-late 30s.
He put on a lot of weight. He admitted to heavily using cocaine between 1979-82, just as his play took a nosedive.
“My game was slipping,” Parker told the courts during the Pittsburgh Drug Trials. “I felt it played a part in it.”
Parker still managed to hit 339 homers and 2, 712 hits over his injury-ridden 19-year career.
Dave “Smoke” Stewart: Late Bloomer Turned All-Time Great Black Ace
“Smoke” was a three-time World Series champion, with three different teams (Dodgers, Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays) bounced around the league for the first seven years of his career before settling in with Oakland in 1987 and winning 20 or more games four seasons in a row.
During that span, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound mound master was the dominant ace on an Oakland A’s World Championship squad. In 1989 Stewart won World Series MVP.
Stewart placed in the Top Five in Cy Young voting in each of his 20-win campaigns. Although he never garnered that elusive award, it can be argued that he was baseball’s best pitcher during the latter portion of the 1980s and the most dominant and successful Black Ace of the last half-decade.
Eric “ED” Davis: Black Baseball’s Poster Child Of The Late 80s
A multi-year All-Star and Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honoree, Davis was as lethal a five-tool player that ever lived. If not for his battle with injuries, Davis’ career stats would easily elevate him to Hall of Fame status. Despite playing more than 100 games just 9 seasons out of his 17-year MLB career “ED” managed to hit 282 homers and swipe 349 bases. He was truly a lethal weapon and remains one of baseball’s best-kept secrets.
From 1986-1990 the Cincinnati Reds five-tool phenom with the unorthodox bat hitch finished in the Top 13 of NL MVP voting and in 1987 he had one of the elite all-around seasons by a player batting .293 with 37 homers, 100 RBI and swiping 50 bases while slugging, .593.
“Crime Dog” Fred McGriff: Model of Consistency
McGriff’s resume is based on durability and consistency. He had seven consecutive seasons (1988-94) of at least 30 homers and eight seasons of 100 or more RBI.
The Five-time All-Star is the proud author of 493 career homers, which ties him on the all-time list with Lou Gehrig. HOF voters have snubbed McGriff continuously and haters say that McGriff’s inability to surpass the magical 500-homer mark has hurt his Cooperstown chances.
The stats, however, speak loudly and clearly to the NLBM’s selection committee.
“Crime Dog” captured two league home-run titles in his career. He won the American League homer title with 36 for the Blue Jays in 1989 and locked the NL crown with 35 for the Padres in ’92.
The NL title made McGriff the first player in the Live Ball Era (dating back to 1920) to win a home-run crown in each league when he captured the NL title in ’92.
As his career progressed and the steroids era began skewing offensive numbers, McGriff’s honesty and consistency got lost in the shuffle, like many of his contemporaries being considered for the Hall.
McGriff’s career numbers, which would have been considered lockdown HOF worthy even a few years earlier, were matched or exceeded by a significant group that played during his generation (1986-2004) of inflated offensive numbers.