Baseball Reliquary announces 2014 Shrine of the Eternals electees

From SABR member Terry Cannon at The Baseball Reliquary on May 5, 2014:

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 16th class of electees to the Shrine of the Eternals.

Dizzy Dean, Don Zimmer, and Rachel Robinson were elected upon receiving the highest number of votes in balloting conducted during the month of April 2014 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 20, 2014 at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California.

Of the 50 eligible candidates on the 2014 ballot, Dizzy Dean received the highest voting percentage, being named on 37% of the ballots returned. Following Dean were Don Zimmer with 33% and Rachel Robinson with 31%. Runners-up in this year’s election included Bo Jackson (29%), Glenn Burke (27%), Sy Berger (26%), Effa Manley (25%), Charlie Brown (24%), Bob Costas (24%), Ernie Harwell (24%), Steve Bilko (23%), and Rocky Colavito (23%).

Elected to the Shrine of the Eternals in his 14th year on the ballot, hurler, free-spirit, and malapropster extraordinaire, DIZZY DEAN (1910-1974), had a long and eventful life in baseball, both as a pitcher and a broadcaster. The rough and tumble Depression-era St. Louis Cardinals (dubbed “The Gashouse Gang”) rode Diz’s tongue and golden arm (30-7, 2.65 ERA) to the NL pennant in 1934, besting the Tigers in a memorable seven-game World Series. Between 1932 and 1936, Dean averaged 25 victories per season and seemed destined to become one of the National League’s winningest pitchers ever until struck on the toe by a line drive during the 1937 All-Star Game. The injury forced Dean to alter his pitching motion, leading to arm problems which nipped his career in the bud. After retiring in 1941, Dean immediately moved to the broadcast booth, where he earned a huge local following as the radio voice of the St. Louis Browns, peppering play-by-play with his colorful reinventions of the English language. To the dismay of English teachers everywhere, Dean became hugely popular with national audiences in the 1950s as the primary broadcaster for network television’s Game of the Week. The subject of a Hollywood bio-pic (The Pride of St. Louis) and numerous biographies, Ol’ Diz was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953.

Elected to the Shrine of the Eternals in his 10th year on the ballot, DON ZIMMER (born 1931) is part of a vanishing breed – the baseball lifer. Now in his 11th year as a senior advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays (serving as a coach/advisor during spring training and for pregame practices at home games, as well as assisting the Rays in the area of community affairs), Zimmer wears the number 66, representing his 66th year in professional baseball. He has noted often, and proudly, that every paycheck he’s ever gotten came from baseball, and has never held a job in any other profession. Zimmer was told his playing days were over after a disastrous beaning in the minor leagues in 1953, but he made it to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, beginning a twelve-year big league career as an infielder. After the Los Angeles Dodgers’ World Championship season in 1959, Zimmer bounced around with a series of truly bad teams, including the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, before retiring as a major leaguer with the Washington Senators in 1965. In 1971, he began a long tenure as a coach and manager for major league teams all over North America, including the Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Colorado Rockies. Zimmer served three coaching stints for the New York Yankees, the last one finding him dispensing his baseball wisdom as bench coach/yogi from 1996-2003, during which time the team won four World Series titles under the helm of Joe Torre. Zimmer is often remembered for his “brawl” with Pedro Martinez during the 2003 AL Championship series, when he ran at and was thrown to the ground by the Red Sox pitcher. Nicknamed “Popeye” for his facial resemblance to the cartoon character, Zimmer is still a warrior at age 83. He has written two autobiographies, Zim: A Baseball Life and The Zen of Zim, and serves as a member of the advisory board of the Baseball Assistance Team, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping former players through financial and medical difficulties.

Elected to the Shrine of the Eternals in her first year on the ballot, RACHEL ROBINSON (born 1922) is arguably the most important woman in baseball history, as the widow of baseball and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson. Rachel met Jackie while they were students at UCLA and they were married in 1946, the year before Jackie broke major league baseball’s color barrier and changed America forever. Rachel counseled, consoled, and supported Jackie throughout his career, giving him strength when his will faltered, and she endured with him countless affronts to their dignity. Jackie often attested, without his wife, he could never have withstood the intense pressures of being the first African American in the major leagues. Once described by Dodger baseball executive Branch Rickey as Jackie’s “tower to lean on,” Rachel kept her husband’s legacy alive after his premature death in 1972 by founding the New York-based Jackie Robinson Foundation, a nonprofit with the mandate of providing college scholarships and leadership training to promising and talented young people. “As a nurse [Robinson] has devoted her life to caring for others,” writes Albert Kilchesty, the Baseball Reliquary’s Archivist and Historian. “She has been honored and celebrated in and out of baseball, and has always been gracious when being acknowledged for her husband’s courage and determination. But she is more than deserving of applause and recognition on her own merits. I have never met her. I have never spoken to her. Yet I have more admiration and respect for her than nearly any other woman in public life. She has never played the game – she is the game.”

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Originally published: May 5, 2014. Last Updated: May 5, 2014.