Like baseball fans throughout the world, the Hall of Fame means something in my household. When one of your own gets inducted, there’s an almost electric feeling of pride connected to that honor.
Every time a Yankee – Yogi, Mickey, Joe D., Whitey, the Babe and Lou, among others – goes into Cooperstown, an entire legion of fans springs into emotionally-charged action. Right? Fans from each MLB team have a connection to every Hall of Famer.
Despite its many “connections,” no one from Redlands has ever been inducted into baseball’s sacred Hall.
From my own memories, the only Hall of Famers to show up in Redlands – I know, there has to be more – were pitcher Ferguson Jenkins and hitting star Duke Snider.
Jenkins showed up at Redlands Community Field – white stretch limousine and all – in the mid 1990s. He was part of a youth baseball camp. Along with Redlands’ own Julio Cruz and former MLB outfielder Rudy Law, that trio gave a free clinic to dozens of local ball-playing youth.
Then hung around for an autograph session later. Danny, my oldest, was one of those kids who got autographs. Jenkins, Law and Cruz couldn’t have been nicer. In fact, a newspaper photo published the day after showed Danny next to Jenkins, a Cy Young Award winner.
As for Snider, the one-time legendary center fielder for the Dodgers – both in Brooklyn and Los Angeles – he showed up at the University of Redlands to watch his grandson play. Multiple times, in fact.
After one game, Bulldog coach Scott Laverty came up to me just outside Redlands’ dugout.
“I saw you sitting next to Duke,” he said.
I had no idea what he was talking about, or who he was talking about. I’d just been talking to some guy. I had no idea I was sitting next to a Hall of Famer.
“Duke Snider,” Laverty said. “I thought I saw you talking to him.”
Duke Snider? Are you kidding? THE Duke Snider?
“That’s his grandson playing for us in center.”
Jordan Snider, an all-conference outfielder in 2007, had played center field for Redlands that day. From nearby Temecula. The Duke lived just south of there, in Escondido, perhaps – San Diego County.
Neither Jenkins nor Snider were ever caught up in the PED nonsense that plagued the sport as we turned into this century. Their places in the Hall are safe and secure.
Not quite, though, for other significant ballplayers.
I interviewed both men for stories in local media. Both were fabulous.
They came from a different era, long before the sport was affected by PED use. Suddenly, guys like Jenkins and Snider were overshadowed by known PED users like Clemens and Bonds.
“It’s like they stamped out the guys I used to root for,” said my oldest son, Danny, who at one time was a rabid baseball fan. Hey, there are some guys that made it clean. Cal Ripken, Jr., Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Tony Gwynn were in his card collection.