Mabus, Clark honor legacies in Cooperstown

Mabus, Clark honor legacies in Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- In addition to honoring two media members, J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Tom Gage and Ford C. Frick Award recipient Dick Enberg, the National Baseball Hall of Fame paid homage to a pair of significant anniversaries Saturday at Doubleday Field.

United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was on hand as part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, spoke movingly about the 45th anniversary of Curt Flood's challenge to baseball's reserve clause.

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Mabus made a pair of significant announcements. First, the creation of the Jerry Coleman Award, named after the decorated war hero who went on to a fine career with the Yankees and then became a popular broadcaster for the Padres.

Mabus also announced that the Navy's newest, most sophisticated ship will be named the U.S.S. Cooperstown.

Flood sat out a year contesting his trade from the Cardinals to the Phillies in 1970, with the Supreme Court ruling against Flood. Eventually, though, an arbitrator dismissed the reserve clause, opening up free agency. That ruling paved the way for Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to play out their options a few years later before hitting the open market. Flood died in 1997.

"As players, we all appreciate that we're links in a chain," Clark said. "We appreciate that we're part of a brotherhood, very select. We also appreciate that we have a responsibility as players to leave the game better than it was when we came in.

"There are very few who embodied that commitment more than Curt Flood. ... In 1994, I was knocking on the Major League door. At that point in time, I was getting information from a lot of the veterans, including a speech, a speech that Curt gave to our group and our leaders that focused on the value of solidarity. That focused in on the value of commitment to principles. So as I moved up through the ranks, I was hearing the effect that Curt Flood had had on all of us as players."

Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the Hall of Fame, noted that in December 1941, Indians pitcher Bob Feller drove from Cleveland to Norfolk, Va., to enlist the day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Ultimately, hundreds of players interrupted their careers to serve.

Coleman flew 120 combat missions in World War II and the Korean War, earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 13 Air Medals. For the Yankees, he was the American League Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1949 and World Series MVP in 1950. Coleman died in 2014.

"To honor Jerry's legacy, beginning this year and in each year following, we're going to recognize the players and Marines who best exemplify his characteristics of honor, courage and commitment," Mabus said.

According to the Hall of Fame, 64 players enshrined served in conflicts spanning from the Civil War through the Korean War.

"Cooperstown will be built with modular design incorporating mission packages that can be changed out quickly as combat needs change in a region. These mission packages are supported by detachments that deploy both manned and unmanned vehicles, and sensors in support of mine, undersea, and surface warfare missions," the Hall of Fame announced in a news release.

After announcing the naming of the new ship, Mabus explained: "To the Baseball Hall of Fame, an institution that recognizes American heroes of all sorts, on behalf of a grateful military, thank you."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.