Ozzie Smith, Ray Lankford and Willie McGee

Ray Lankford (center) gets help with his Cardinals Hall of Fame jacket from Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee.

Finally, the day came that should have come years ago.

Two Saturdays ago, Ray Lankford was inducted to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. I’ve stumped for Lankford’s inclusion since the modern Cards’ Hall of Fame was crafted into Ballpark Village and the introductory class was announced.

Vince Coleman, the electrifying offensive weapon from the 1980s, was also enshrined – and his speech was one that should have touched the hearts of all Cardinal fans.

Let’s stick with Lankford. Many of his teams of the late 1990s were mediocre, but he was a true star.

Lankford is the lone Cardinal to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in more than one season – doing it five times (1992, 1995 –1998.)

When his career ended, he was third in home runs (228), fifth in stolen bases (250), eighth in runs scored (928) and runs batted in (829) and fourth in walks (780).

Lankford hit more home runs at Busch Stadium II (123) than any other player, including a pinch-hit home run in his final Major League at bat on October 3, 2004.

“(Vince and I) had a conversation about who was gonna be the one to cry. We both lost that bet,” Lankford said following the ceremony before a standing room-only crowd in Ballpark Village.

“In the moment you get so emotional. It was like the old days. The place was packed. The fans were cheering for you.”

Coleman, a two-time All-Star, stole 110 bases in his rookie season of 1985 and won Rookie of the Year honors. He would lead the National League in steals six seasons and stole 549 bases as a Cardinal, which is second only to Lou Brock’s 888.

Red Schoendienst and I both led the league in steals our rookie year. I went up to him in the dugout after my first year and said ‘you only stole 26 bases? I did that in a month.’ A few years later he said, ‘you only have 13 career home runs? I did that in two weeks.’”

Coleman repeatedly thanked his manager Whitey Herzog, also a Cards Hall of Famer and Ozzie Smith. Coleman said Smith was a true father figure to him, one who bought him his first car.

But his highest praise came for Willie McGee.

“The definition of a friend is Willie McGee,” as both men fought back tears.

“After three weeks in the Major Leagues, Willie asked me to move into his home. But Willie had rules. I didn’t pay rent. We would leave for the ball park every day at 1 p.m. Curfew was 12:30.

“So, one night I came home at 12:45. I told Willie I was at the batting cage working on my strike. He didn’t go for that. The next day at lunch Willie challenged my character. He was the first person to ever show me unconditional love. Willie cared for me more as person than as a baseball player.”

Also enshrined was the late Harry Brecheen, a two-time All-Star and three-time world champion with the Cardinals in 1940 and 1943-52. He compiled a 0.83 career ERA in the World Series, third lowest in MLB history, and his career 2.91 career ERA is the second in Cardinals history.

A shout out to Cardinals fans who attended the ceremony. They were there to see two black players receive the highest honor that can be bestowed on a player from the historic franchise. Ballpark Village was filled to the brim. The “Greatest Fans in Baseball” line gets on my nerves, but St. Louis does have a special relationship with its team, and it is reflected in the number of black players in its Hall of Fame.

Of the black players I said need to be in the Cardinals Hall of Fame in January 2016, two are remaining – George Hendrick and Bill White. Hopefully, they will be on next year’s ballot.

A letter winner

Columnists could share the names of people who wrote them interesting and educational letters in years past. In these days that would only lead to the writer being attacked through social media, email, real mail or physically.

I’ll keep the person who wrote me a fascinating letter last week anonymous, but I will thank her personally for her thought-provoking correspondence.

You often mention the lack of black players in Major League Baseball and I agree – but I have a thought. As an older white lady, I’m a little concerned about voicing it … so here it is.

If you look at the history of South America, one realizes that many different cultures and races contributed to those who are now alive. For example, my niece is married to someone who is Argentinian…and is descended from Russian Jews (and) he just discovered that his great, great grandfather was a rabbi in Israel.

Many of the baseball players may be Hispanic in birth and culture, but there are definitely other ethnic groups in their background. Why do they not acknowledge it? Just wondering.

I don’t have an answer for the writer. She brought something to me that I truly had given no thought. Readers can make of it what they want, but this letter is special because it reinforces what I already know – people who read the St. Louis American are diverse, intelligent and aren’t afraid to seek knowledge and ask vital questions.

Tiger pause

Following the final round of the Northern Trust last Sunday, a reporter from another nation (you’ll understand why I included his origin in a second) asked Tiger Woods the following:

"At times, especially 2018, I think a lot of people, especially colored immigrants are threatened by him and his policy – what do you say to people who might find it interesting that you have a friendly relationship with him?"

Woods replied, “He's the President of the United States. You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office."

He has golfed with Trump several times and they have dined together, Woods said.

Of course, Trump patted Woods on his head with compliments via Twitter.

“The Fake News Media worked hard to get Tiger Woods to say something that he didn’t want to say. Tiger wouldn’t play the game – he is very smart. More importantly, he is playing great golf again!”

Woods was asked to comment on the state and discourse of race relations in the United States.

"No. I just finished 72 holes and (am) really hungry," he said.

When I see Tiger Woods, I see a black man. But Woods doesn’t see the same thing in the mirror. That’s fine with me. It doesn’t change the fact I root for him and that I had tears in my eyes during his charge at Bellerive two weeks ago.

ESPN’s bombastic Stephen A. Smith summed it up well on Monday.

“He is not black. He’s Cablinasian,” he said, referring to Woods’ description of his ethnicity.

“Clearly (you) are perceived as being a back man. People haven’t heard him speak on a plethora of issues pertaining to having a social consciousness on many, many occasions. That is something (black) people have lamented as well.”

The fact that Woods socializes with Trump demonstrates that he really could care less what black Americans thinks of him. I doubt there are many black people who didn’t know that before his latest comments.

The Reid Roundup

St. Louis has a ton of Dallas Cowboys fans, including me, and KFNS 590 AM will carry the team’s games again this season. I’m not expecting much this year, by the way… After a 5-1 road trip and four weeks of being MLB’s best team, the Cardinals are the talk of the town – and the baseball nation. … The NFL season begins in one week. League officials and the NFLPA are still negotiating on how to handle peaceful national anthem protests. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio says there won’t be compromise until Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are signed by respective franchises. … I was excited when the Pittsburgh Pirates traded for Chris Archer. He’s been a major disappointment. … Former Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant still doesn’t have a team to play for… Odell Beckham Jr., has signed a $95-million extension with the New York Giants making him the highest paid receiver in NFL history. … The New York Post reported Tuesday the Bob Costas and NBC are negotiating an immediate end to his contract, which would expire in 2021… James Miller, author of an ESPN book, first reported on Saturday that Jemele Hill and the sports network have “amicably” parted ways… Bloomberg columnist Conor Sen wrote this week that Barry Bonds signing with the San Francisco Giants in 1992 and his home run exploits in the new AT&T Stadium downtown ignited real estate development. “San Francisco essentially had a 10-year head start on most other cities in the U.S., thanks to Barry Bonds,” he wrote. What did downtown St. Louis get out of Mark McGwire’s time here?

Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.

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