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On Sunday, July 25, 1999, 125 people attended the 1999 Induction Day ceremony of the Shrine of the Eternals, held at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California.

The festivities began at 2:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time) with a ceremonial bell ringing in memory of Hilda Chester, the raucous Brooklyn Dodgers fan of the 1940s and ‘50s, often called the "First Lady of Flatbush." The bell that was rung is from the collections of the Baseball Reliquary and is one of the original cowbells which Hilda used to clang in the bleachers at Ebbets Field. Hilda was affectionately remembered by the Reliquary’s founder and Executive Director Terry Cannon, who also served as Master of Ceremonies for the Induction Day festivities, as "a master of the art of cacophony" and one of baseball’s "greatest percussionists."

It was appropriate that the ceremony commenced with a dedication to one of the game’s legendary fans, because the notion of baseball history as the province of its fans was a motif which appeared, both directly and indirectly, throughout the day’s speeches.

First off was Richard Amromin, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Baseball Reliquary, who provided brief sketches of the people behind the organization. He asked the audience to note that nine of the ten Board members and officers of the Reliquary have backgrounds in the arts. (The lone exception is 89-year-old Wendy Brougalman, a self-described baseball spinster who, Amromin remarked, "still bemoans the passing of her beloved Hollywood Stars, for whom she held season tickets for many years.")

Amromin further illustrated the affinity between baseball and art: "This is especially true of the avant-garde, where art is not pre-defined, where the freedom to make aesthetic, social, and moral decisions, and face the consequences of those decisions, is the essence of art. And this is where today’s honorees are all true artists. Like the greats of almost any field, they have transcended their chosen craft and exercised the freedom to make the same kinds of aesthetic, social, and moral decisions made by the greatest artists. Their courageous actions, along with their skills in the game, whether as players or administrators, have altered both the perception and the reality of the game and enriched our lives."

Albert Kilchesty

Albert Kilchesty, Archivist/Historian of the Baseball Reliquary, delivers keynote address at the Induction Day ceremony of the Shrine of the Eternals, July 25, 1999.

The keynote address was delivered by the Baseball Reliquary’s Historian, Albert Kilchesty, who is employed as an archivist at the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at the University of Georgia in Athens. Kilchesty described the Baseball Reliquary as "about as grassroots a form of cultural expression as there is. And while the Reliquary will always be difficult to define and thus will always represent different things to different people, it is for me primarily an entity that has been created by baseball fans for the delight of baseball fans in order to provide, through thought-provoking exhibits and artifacts, a version of baseball history as filtered through the imagination of the fan."

Kilchesty explained that the present Major League Baseball ownership has mistreated its fans: "The individual and collective imagination have helped make baseball the most endearing and enduring sport in the Americas. How unfortunate it is, then, that professional baseball — with all its millions, its copyrighted-this and officially licensed-that, its fabulously storied history and supremely talented players — currently suffers from such a severe lack of the very quality which has made the game so popular. Imagination. Vision. A sense of joy. Fun. These are all qualities missing from professional baseball today. It is the Baseball Reliquary’s mission to return imagination to the game and to the people who support it: the fans. The fans who support it through strikes and lockouts; who support it despite the rampant greed which surrounds the game; who support it despite having been manipulated — ruthlessly and systematically — by the owners of the game; and who continue to support it despite being excluded from input into rules changes, Hall of Fame elections, divisional realignment, the playoff structure, and that old bugbear, the DH."

The keynote address was followed by the introduction of the historic first class of inductees to the Shrine of the Eternals and the presentation of the inductee plaques. Two identical plaques, designed by Reliquary board member William Scaff and made of multi-colored acrylic plastics, were created in honor of each inductee. One plaque was presented to the inductee and/or the inductee’s family, while the other becomes part of the permanent collections of the Baseball Reliquary. The plaques were displayed on a table next to the speaker’s podium, and each was dramatically unveiled as the inductees approached the stage to deliver their acceptance speeches.

The first plaque was presented to Dock Ellis. The former Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander attended the ceremony from his home in Fort Worth, Texas, where he is currently employed as the Director of Communications and Manager of Human Resources for a manufacturing firm. Ellis was introduced by Terry Cannon as one of a group of players in the 1960s and ‘70s, including Dick Allen and Curt Flood, who "had shattered the complacency of the baseball establishment and were willing to publicly discuss racial slights and slurs, while confronting management with charges of discrimination, especially with regard to the lack of black managers and front office personnel."

"Dock Ellis was no mere footnote to this transitional period in baseball history," Cannon added. "Rather, his insistence on speaking his mind without regard to consequence and his commitment to conscience over salary made him one of that era’s most important advocates for change in our National Pastime."

During an emotional acceptance speech, which saw him on the verge of tears several times, Ellis recalled receiving a letter from Jackie Robinson, urging him to continue advocating for change in professional baseball. Ellis remarked, "Jackie Robinson might have said it all. He said, ‘You might want to give up.’ But I never did, and I never will."

Ellis thanked his mother, who was in the audience, for giving him the stubbornness and courage to speak his mind without regard to consequence. "Life is not a bundle of joy," Ellis said. "Especially if you care about people. You can get hurt because a lot of people take that for a weakness."

Despite being told by Jackie Robinson that his courage and honesty would result in honors bypassing him that should rightfully be his, Ellis said he had always hoped to be recognized for his contributions to the game and thanked the Baseball Reliquary for doing exactly that.

In the spirit of the Reliquary’s collections of baseball curiosities, Ellis concluded by announcing that he would donate to the organization the hair curlers which he wore on the ballfield in 1973 after Ebony magazine ran a feature on his "Superfly" hairstyle. Ellis would later receive a letter from Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordering him to cease and desist wearing curlers on the field.

Dock Ellis

Dock Ellis accepts his induction into the Shrine of the Eternals, July 25, 1999.

A brief biographical profile of the next inductee, the late Curt Flood, was presented by Albert Kilchesty. A lifelong fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, Kilchesty reminisced about how in 1969 he was devastated when his boyhood idol, Dick Allen, was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Curt Flood. Of course, Flood refused to report to Philadelphia and it was that deal that would change the economic structure of the game.

Mrs. Judy Pace Flood

Mrs. Judy Pace Flood accepts the induction of her late husband, Curt Flood, into the Shrine of the Eternals, July 25, 1999.

Kilchesty further noted that Flood was 31 years of age at the time of the trade, and his historic legal challenge of baseball’s reserve clause caused him to forfeit the remainder of his playing career and the opportunity to continue compiling the statistics that probably would have resulted in his admission to the Hall of Fame.

Flood’s widow, Mrs. Judy Pace Flood, accepted the induction plaque on behalf of her husband and described him as a man of "great vision." Mrs. Flood commented, "He changed the way they do business in the world of sports. He freed everyone."Although the honors are belated, Mrs. Flood said her husband is finally being recognized for his pioneering efforts on behalf of baseball reform. She cited as examples his induction today into the Shrine of the Eternals and last year’s unanimous Congressional approval of the Curt Flood Act, a law which overturned part of baseball’s 70-year-old antitrust exemption, putting baseball on a par with other professional sports on labor matters.

Mrs. Flood announced that her husband had recently been named one of the ten most influential athletes of the 20th century by Time magazine (June 14, 1999 issue), and concluded her acceptance by reading a very moving poem dedicated to Curt Flood and written by his brother-in-law, Oscar Brown, Jr.

The day’s third, and final, inductee was the late Bill Veeck, Jr. In his introduction, Terry Cannon spoke about how the Baseball Reliquary is imbued with the spirit of adventure and nonconformity, and at times irreverence, which were the hallmarks of the career of Bill Veeck. Some of the Reliquary’s most honored artifacts came directly from Veeck’s legendary promotions, and Cannon speculated that "if Bill Veeck were still with us, and had the crazy notion to start a baseball museum, it would be similar in concept to the Reliquary."

Mike Veeck, Bill’s son and former Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, was unable to attend the ceremony; however, in the week prior on a television broadcast on the Fox network, he announced that his family intends to donate one of his father’s prosthetic devices — a wooden leg — to the Baseball Reliquary.

The Veeck family asked James D. Loebl to accept the induction of Bill Veeck into the Shrine of the Eternals on their behalf. Loebl was formerly Deputy Attorney General of the State of California from 1953-58 and Director of the California Department of Professional and Vocational Standards (now known as the Department of Consumer Affairs) from 1961-63. He has practiced law in Ventura County, California since 1963.

Loebl was a close personal friend of Veeck’s since 1941, and was one of his first customers when Veeck bought the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association. Veeck used this minor league franchise as a proving ground for his promotional genius. Loebl entertained the audience with wonderful stories and anecdotes about Veeck, and noted that he was the only baseball owner to testify on behalf of Curt Flood’s effort to overturn the infamous reserve clause.

"Veeck would have been delighted to be here," Loebl concluded. "It was the fans for whom Bill worked."

The ceremony ended with a whimsical baseball benediction, "How Does God Fit In To Baseball?," written for the occasion and read by William Scaff (aka Chef Guillaume). An informal reception followed with hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jack courtesy of Chef Guillaume, and the audience was able to obtain autographs from the inductees and their families. Dock Ellis was a particularly gracious signer, autographing photos and baseballs as well as commemorative programs and envelopes.

Unlike the Hall of Fame’s ceremony, held earlier in the day in Cooperstown, New York, the Shrine of the Eternals induction had no corporate sponsorship and received little media coverage. But it was nonetheless a successful event for the Baseball Reliquary, and it showcased the unique mix of artistry and scholarship that has become the hallmark of the organization in its formative years.

Furthermore, as Albert Kilchesty noted in his keynote address, the Induction Day ceremony was an important step in fulfilling one of the Reliquary’s missions: "Major League Baseball has always been a game for the owners, for the privileged. We at the Baseball Reliquary would like to change that. We want to return the game to the fans."

(Induction Day photos courtesy of Larry Goren)

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