Mobile, Ala. – As a tribute to its deep connection to Major League Baseball, the City of Mobile plans to create a “Hall of Fame Courtyard” near the Mobile Convention Center and Cooper Riverside Park that will honor the five Mobilians who have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame so far.
This Courtyard will include life-sized bronze statues of Hall of Famers Satchel Paige, Henry “Hank” Aaron, Billy Williams, Ozzie Smith and Willie Lee McCovey. Each statue will be mounted on pedestals near the entrance to the park and the display will include unoccupied pedestals for future Hall of Famers.
“These all-stars represent the best of our City, and through this display, they can continue to inspire new generations to strive for greatness in everything they do,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “As City Councilman John Williams said, we want to always have at least one unoccupied pedestal that reads “Future Hall of Famer” so young people can stand on it, take photographs and show their aspirations to one day join the ranks of these athletic superstars. This courtyard is as much about our future as our past.”
Plans for the “Hall of Fame Courtyard” were unveiled during a ceremony with World Series Champion Cleon Jones, who is a Major League Baseball legend in his own right. Jones has worked with the City of Mobile for some time on this tribute to some of the great baseballers from our community. In fact, Jones himself once shared the field with Willie McCovey and Hank Aaron during an MLB All-Star Game.
“To have three Mobilians on the same All-Star Team, that’s just unheard of,” Jones said. “Our kids should know all of this history, and I hope it does for them what it did for me. Hank Aaron was my idol as a teenager growing up in Mobile, and that propelled me to want to be a Major League Baseball player.”
Biographies of the players represented in the City of Mobile’s “Hall of Fame Courtyard”
Satchell Paige: From Mobile, Ala., Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. His primary team was the Kansas City Monarchs and his primary position was Pitcher. He began his professional career in the Negro Leagues in the 1920s after being discharged from reform school in Alabama. The 6 foot 3 right hander quickly became the biggest drawing card in Negro baseball, able to overpower batters with a buggy-whipped fastball. In the late 1930’s, Paige developed arm problems for the first time. Kansas City Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson singed Paige to his “B” team, giving Paige time to heal. Within a year, Paige’s shoulder had recovered and his fastball returned.
Hank Aaron: From Mobile, Ala, Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. His primary team was the Milwaukee Braves and his primary position was Right Fielder. Aaron grew up in humble surroundings in Mobile, AL. He was a consistent producer both at the plate and in the field, reaching the .300 mark in batting 14 times, 30 home runs 15 times, 90 RBI (Runs Batted In) 16 times and captured 3 Gold Glove Awards en-route to 25 All-Star Game Selections. It was on April 8, 1974, that Hammerin’ Hank sent a 1-0 pitch into the left field bullpen breaking one of sport’s most cherished records: Babe Ruth’s mark of 714 home runs, giving Aaron 755 career home runs.
Billy Williams: From Whistler, Ala., Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. His primary team was the Chicago Cubs and his primary position was Left Fielder. The first line of text on Billy Williams’ National Baseball Hall of Fame plaque may sum up the longtime Chicago Cubs left fielder the best: “Soft-spoken, clutch performer was one of the most respected hitters of his day.” Over an 18-season big league career -16 spent with the Cubs- Williams had 2,711 hits, a .290 batting average, 426 home runs, hit 20 or more home runs 13 straight seasons and once held the National League record for consecutive games played with 1,117.
Ozzie Smith: From Mobile, Ala, Smith was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. His primary team was the St. Louis Cardinals and his primary position was Shortstop. Known as “The Wizard of Oz,” Ozzie Smith combined athletic ability with acrobatic skill to become one of the greatest defensive shortstops of all time. The 13-time Gold Glove Award winner redefined the position in his nearly two decades of work with the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals, setting the all-time record for assists by a shortstop. Smith’s fame increased after his trade to St. Louis Cardinals, where he helped the team to three National League pennants and the 1982 World Series title. Smith Retired in 1996, the same year the Cardinals retired his number, and in his 19 seasons was named to 15 All-Star teams.
Willie Lee McCovey: From Mobile, Ala., McCovey was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1986. His primary team was the San Francisco Giants and his primary position is 1st Baseman. Willie McCovey burst on the scene in 1959, winning National League Rookie of the Year honors despite playing in just 52 games. McCovey was a six time All-Star who led the league in intentional walks four times. McCovey played quietly most of his career with knee, hip and foot injuries. McCovey finished his career with a .270 batting average, 1,555 RBI and a .515 slugging percentage. His 45 intentional walks in 1969 set a new record that stood for more than 30 years.