This afternoon, the Red Sox announced those members of the Red Sox family who will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in September.
The organization named OF Jimmy Piersall, OF Tommy Harper, INF John Valentin, manager Don Zimmer and executive Eddie Kasko as the newest alumni to be so honored. The team also announced that OF Tom Brunansky’s memorable catch from October, 1990, would be enshrined as the memorable moment from team history to be formally recognized in its HOF.
The selections were made by a 14-member panel of team executives, media members, booster club representatives and historians.
At today’s announcement, Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry said: “On behalf of our entire ownership and organization, I would like to congratulate the stellar Red Sox Hall of Fame Class of 2010. This year’s class represents some of the very best talent to grace our field and our front office, and represents a broad expanse of Red Sox history spanning from the 1950s until the end of the 20th century.”
Piersall, the center fielder who is now 80, played for the Sox from 1950-58. He is best remembered for the mental health issues he battled during and after his playing days, but he was honored for his speed, his glove, and his rifle arm. After the announcement, he said: “One of my greatest thrills was putting on that Red Sox uniform for the first time. As a kid growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut, I was a big Red Sox fan. I got three hits against the White Sox in my first game. I was honored when I heard I was elected into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. I really enjoyed my playing days in Boston and have a lot of great memories there. It’s one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.”
Outfielder Tommy Harper (pictured), whose club stolen base record of 54 (achieved in 1973) stood until Jacoby Ellsbury broke it last year, was also elected: “In 1973, I got off to one of the worst starts of my career. I was in a slump for about a month and a half. (Manager) Eddie Kasko… came up to me and said, ‘I gotta take you out of the lineup’. So, I didn’t steal much during the first part of the season. I practically played myself out of the lineup. Then, in June or July, Reggie Smith got hurt and he had to put me back in. From that point on, I found a swing I liked in batting practice, something clicked and I was on fire. I ended up winning the Red Sox MVP award that season.”
Shortstop/3B John Valentin, who played on three Red Sox postseason teams in the 1990s, may be best remembered for turning an unassisted triple play in ‘97, but he played a crucial role in Boston’s American League Division Series comeback from an 0-2 deficit to the Indians in ‘99. Today, he said: “It is an unbelievable honor to be recognized (with induction). It means so much to me, because I was a part of the Red Sox organization for so long. To be included with all those great players made it all feel worthwhile.”
Zimmer, a well-known baseball lifer with numerous organizations, was elected as manager-coach. He managed some memorable clubs from 1976-80, but is best remembered for skippering the 1978 team that blew a 14.5 game lead to the NY Yankees and then losing in a one-game playoff (on Bucky Dent’s home run). He’s also remembered for being tossed to the ground by Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez in Game Three of the 2003 ALCS. After being told of the honor, Zim said: “I managed in San Diego before Boston, and as a manager in Boston, you learn pretty quickly that you have to be thick-skinned. (The City of) Boston has knowledgeable fans and they’re fanatic about the Red Sox. If the club’s losing, they’ll let you know. You get a real education coaching and managing at Fenway Park. When Dick Bresciani (head of the Red Sox Hall of Fame voting committee) called me and told me I was in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, it was a total surprise and a great honor. As much as I took as manager there, I love Boston and have many great memories from my days there.”
Kasko, who served as a manager and scout and in various front office capacities, was chosen as the non-uniformed inductee of this year’s class. Of the honor, he said: “Getting elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame is unbelievable. I had a lot of time with the Red Sox, but all different jobs—from player to front office executive. When I got the call, I was flabbergasted. It’s a great honor.”
Tom Brunansky’s diving catch in the right-field corner clinched the AL East title in 1990. He was asked about the recognition his play will receive: “I’m a West Coast guy and if you’ve never played for the Red Sox, you’ll never really understand what a baseball fan is. With all the history in Boston, it’s an honor to have even a small part of my career included in the Red Sox Hall of Fame.”