14 June 2006

Cape League welcomes nine to hall of fame

The Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame has unveiled the 2006 class of inductees. They will be inducted at a ceremony Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham. 

The new members-to-be are current major leaguers Lance Niekro of the San Francisco Giants and Josh Paul of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, former major leaguers Steve Balboni and Ross Jones and CCBL legends Rick Currier, Steve Duda, Jim Hubbard, Greg Lotzar and Allen "Buzzy" Wilcox. 

Steve Balboni, Falmouth/Y-D infielder: The Eckerd College slugger played two seasons in the Cape League and was named MVP in the 1977 All-Star Game at Fenway Park, when he clouted two home runs over the Green Monster. 

Owning one of the best nicknames in baseball history, "Bye-Bye" Balboni hit .261 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 1976 for the Falmouth Commodores. He came back in 1977 with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox to hit .271 with a league-leading 13 homers and 38 RBI and was named league MVP. 

He hit six homers and drove in 16 runs during playoff competition. He signed with the New York Yankees and enjoyed a successful major league career, hitting 181 career home runs in 11 seasons, mostly with the Kansas City Royals. 

Rick Currier, Chatham pitcher: The USC hurler enjoyed two All-Star seasons for the Chatham A’s, going 5-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 1998 and posting a perfect 7-0 mark the next year with a sparkling 1.34 ERA. He was named Co-Outstanding Pitcher of the Year in 1999. He was also selected to mid-season and final all-star teams that year and eventually signed with the New York Yankees. 

Steve Duda, Chatham pitcher: A product of Pepperdine, Duda compiled back-to-back all-star seasons in the Cape League in the early 1990s. Hurling for the Chatham A’s, Duda went 4-4 with a 2.89 ERA while throwing a no-hitter against Y-D in 1991. He came back in 1992 with a 6-1 record and a microscopic 0.90 ERA. He was selected playoff MVP in 1992 with a 2-0 record and a 0.90 ERA. 

Jim Hubbard, Yarmouth/Cotuit outfielder, Cotuit manager, Wareham GM: The Bridgewater State graduate served the Cape League in various capacities over five decades as a player, field manager, umpire and general manager. He began as a player for Yarmouth in 1958 and spent the next three years with Cotuit. He took over as field manager for the Kettleers from 1961 to 1969, posting a 196-116 record (.628) and winning four CCBL championships from 1961 to 64. After serving as an umpire from 1970-74, Hubbard returned to the league as Wareham GM from 1990 to 1996. 

Ross Jones, Hyannis outfielder: The hard-hitting outfielder from Miami led the Hyannis Mets to the 1979 CCBL title and a record 33 wins by hitting .413 with three homers, 35 RBI and 12 doubles. In addition to winning the league batting title, Jones was named to both the mid-season and final all-star teams, was MVP of the all-star game and named Outstanding Pro Prospect. 

Jones set a league record with 10 consecutive hits in two five-hit games and put together a 22-game hitting streak. He was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and played for the New York Mets, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals. 

Greg Lotzar, Cotuit outfielder: The fleet Central Michigan outfielder led the Kettleers in 1983 by winning the league batting title at .414 with a then-record 33 stolen bases and an impressive .516 on-base percentage. He also totaled 63 hits and 46 runs scored in 40 games. In addition to making the all-star team, Lotzar was named league and playoff MVP. He was signed by the Boston Red Sox. 

Lance Niekro, Orleans infielder: From Florida Southern, Niekro enjoyed a CCBL MVP season for the Cardinals in 1999, winning the league’s triple crown with a .360 batting average, 13 homers and 44 RBI. He also finished first in hits (62), slugging percentage (.640) and total bases (110). 

He was selected to both the mid-season and final all-star teams. Niekro returned to the Cape to play nine games in 2000, batting .297. A nephew of Hall of Famer Phil Niekro and son of former major league pitcher Joe Niekro, Lance was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the 2000 amateur draft. Last season with the Giants, he played in 113 games, finishing with a .252 batting average, 12 home runs and 46 RBI. 

Josh Paul, Cotuit catcher-outfielder: The Vanderbilt product enjoyed a league MVP season in 1995 for the Cotuit Kettleers. Playing catcher and in the outfield, he won the CCBL batting championship at .364 with six home runs, 26 RBI, 16 stolen bases and an impressive .652 slugging pct. 

He was named to both the mid-season and final all-star teams and was the first player in league history to capture the batting title, MVP and Outstanding Pro Prospect awards. 

He signed with the Chicago White Sox in 1996 and has a career batting average of .251 in seven-plus major league seasons with both Chicago teams, the Los Angeles Angels and currently with Tampa Bay. 

Allen "Buzzy" Wilcox, Orleans infielder: Wilcox played an amazing 17 years for the Cardinals in the CCBL during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He banged out three hits and drove in four runs to lead Orleans to a 7-6 win over Chatham for the Lower Cape League Championship. Wilcox was synonymous with the Cape League’s town team concept during the middle of the 20th century. 

The Cape League Hall of Fame is housed at the Heritage Museum & Gardens in Sandwich. For information on the Cape Cod Baseball League, visit www.capecodbaseball.org.