Mobile unveils plans for ‘Hall of Fame Courtyard’ to honor Hank Aaron and four other local MLB greats
The City of Mobile announced Tuesday that it plans to put in place a “Hall of Fame Courtyard” in the heart of downtown honoring the five members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame from the Mobile area, including recently deceased legend Hank Aaron.
In addition to Aaron, the project will memorialize Satchel Paige, Billy Williams, Ozzie Smith and Willie McCovey.
“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,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement.
The courtyard would be located between the city’s convention center and cruise terminal.
The city did not provide any cost estimates for the project, but disclosed that they envision the five statues to be life-sized and made of bronze.
“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,” Stimpson noted.
Cleon Jones, a notable former Major League Baseball player himself, has been working with the city on honoring its significant place in baseball history.
In the 1969 MLB All-star game, Jones played left field, Aaron played right field and McCovey played first base, meaning one-third of the National League’s players on the field were from Mobile.
“To have three Mobilians on the same All-Star Team, that’s just unheard of,” Jones explained in a statement.
“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,” he added.
The City of Mobile passed along the following bios of each of the five men who will have a statue in the courtyard:
Satchel 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 leftfielder 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.