The Class AA Southern League has unveiled its 2018 Hall of Fame class, which features four new inductees. Comprising the 2018 class alongside current Birmingham Barons radio broadcaster Curt Bloom will be former player and manager Terry Francona as well as the 1984 Southern League Most Valuable Player, Andrés Galarraga.
Additionally, the panel of 23 voters has elected Willie Mays to the Southern League Hall of Fame via the league’s annual Special Consideration Ballot.
Bloom, a member of the Birmingham Barons Hall of Fame since 2013, is entering his 31st season broadcasting baseball and his 27th consecutive campaign behind the mic in Birmingham. Prior to joining the Barons in 1992, Bloom was the Director of Broadcasting for the Huntsville Stars during their 1991 season.
As a player Francona made his professional debut with the Southern League’s Memphis Chicks, posting a combined .321 batting average across 101 games between 1980 and 1981. Following a 10-year career in the major leagues Francona returned to the Southern League as a manager, guiding Birmingham to the title in 1993 after posting a league-best 78-64 record. That year, “Tito” was also named the Southern League Manager of the Year. He completed his three-year managerial career in the Southern League with a combined 223-202 record. This year marks Francona’s sixth straight season at the helm of the Cleveland Indians and his 18th overall as a major league manager.
Hard-hitting Andrés Galarraga made his mark on the Southern League while with the Jacksonville Suns in 1984, pacing the league with 271 total bases and tying a season-high record by appearing in 142 games at first base. Galarraga made his MLB debut the next year and finished his major league career with a batting title, two Silver Slugger awards, a pair of Gold Glove awards, and five All-Star Game selections.
The iconic Willie Mays closes the Southern League’s 2018 Hall of Fame class, earning 74 percent of all special consideration votes and easily surpassing the benchmark for induction. Mays was nominated to the Special Consideration Ballot by the Birmingham Barons.
Born in Westfield, Alabama, Mays began to display his prolific baseball talents across the Southeast at the same time Jackie Robinson was gaining notoriety for breaking baseball’s color barrier. While also attending Fairfield Industrial High School just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, Mays began playing for a Negro minor-league team called the Chattanooga Choo-Choos before soon suiting up for the Birmingham Black Barons, batting seventh and playing left field as a 17-year-old who had already reached the pinnacle of the Negro American League. Before he had even finished high school, the “Say Hey Kid” had already begun impressing crowds from Rickwood Field to Engel Stadium with his inspiring energy and dazzling defense.
Mays was inducted into the Birmingham Barons Hall of Fame as part of their inaugural 2005 class and honored in 2016 with a bronze statue outside of Regions Field. He is inducted to the Southern League Hall of Fame for his absolute personal and professional contributions to the game of baseball.
All of the inductees to this year’s Hall of Fame class will be recognized by the Southern League prior to the 2018 All-Star Game in Birmingham, Alabama.