Released by SABR member Terry Cannon on May 4:
The Board of Directors of the Baseball Reliquary, Inc., a Southern California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history, is pleased to announce the 2011 class of electees to the Shrine of the Eternals. The Shrine of the Eternals is the national organization’s equivalent to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Maury Wills, Pete Gray, and Ted Giannoulas were elected upon receiving the highest number of votes in balloting conducted during the month of April 2011 by the membership of the Baseball Reliquary. The three electees will be formally inducted into the Shrine of the Eternals in a public ceremony on Sunday, July 17, 2011 at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California.
Of the fifty eligible candidates on the 2011 ballot, Maury Wills received the highest voting percentage, being named on 37% of the ballots returned. Following Wills were Pete Gray with 35% and Ted Giannoulas with 34%. Runners-up in this year’s election included Dizzy Dean (33%), Jim “Mudcat” Grant (30%), Luis Tiant (30%), Don Zimmer (27%), Glenn Burke (26%), Rube Foster (26%), and Charlie Brown (24%).
Elected to the Shrine of the Eternals in only his second year on the ballot (he was named on 29% of the ballots in 2010), MAURY WILLS is universally credited with returning the stolen base as an offensive weapon to the National League in the 1960s and setting the table for future speedsters Lou Brock, Tim Raines, and Rickey Henderson. Born in 1932, the Washington, D.C. native spent nearly ten years in the minor leagues before he got his shot as a rookie with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959. The fleet, switch-hitting shortstop pilfered 50 bases in 1960, the most ever by an NL player since Max Carey in 1923. The run-starved Dodgers of the 1960s turned Wills loose at every opportunity. Between 1960 and 1965, Wills led the NL in thefts in six consecutive seasons, including a then-record 104 stolen bases in 1962 on his way to copping the NL’s Most Valuable Player Award. Wills’s legs led the Dodgers to three World Series appearances in 1963, 1965, and 1966. He also received many other kudos, including Gold Gloves, All-Star Game nominations, and an All-Star Game MVP.
Elected to the Shrine of the Eternals in his thirteenth appearance on the ballot (Rube Foster, Effa Manley, and Rube Waddell are the only other candidates to have appeared on every ballot since 1999), PETE GRAY (1915-2002) remains the lasting symbol of baseball and World War II. The one-armed outfielder (he lost his right arm in a childhood accident) was a semi-pro star in the coal towns of his native Pennsylvania and with the famed Brooklyn Bushwicks. Gray entered professional baseball in 1942, garnering national attention in 1944 when he batted .333 for the Memphis Chicks, hit five home runs, tied a league record by stealing 68 bases, and was named the Southern Association’s Most Valuable Player. This extraordinary season earned Gray a shot with the St. Louis Browns in 1945. Even with the quality of major league play at an all-time low due to the World War II player shortage, Gray was clearly overmatched at this level, hitting .218 with no home runs in 77 games. Nonetheless, Gray was a wonder to watch, and was a study in agility and dexterity as an outfielder.
Elected to the Shrine of the Eternals in his ninth year on the ballot, TED GIANNOULAS is one of baseball’s greatest entertainers as The San Diego Chicken (or The Famous Chicken), the most popular and iconic of the mascots that became staples of major league baseball teams in the 1970s. In 1974, while a student at San Diego State University, Giannoulas took a $2-an-hour job during spring break, wearing a rented chicken suit for local radio station KGB-FM and passing out promotional eggs at the San Diego Zoo. That gig was so successful that he decided to give the act a try at home games of the San Diego Padres, who were so woeful that they were willing to consider just about anything to boost attendance. In no time at all, the Chicken was running circles around the Padres’ then-mascot, the pudgy and balding Swinging Friar.
For more information on the Baseball Reliquary and the Shrine of the Eternals, visit http://www.baseballreliquary.org.
Originally published: May 4, 2011. Last Updated: May 4, 2011.