Johnny Mize will be front and center at Cooperstown, N.Y., Aug. 2, a Hall of Famer at last. No, Bob Gibson won't walk alone into baseball immortality, but with Mize, 68, and with the spirit of Amdrew Foster.
The hall's veteran's committee announced yesterday the selection of Mize, a career .312 hitter with 1,337 RBI for the Cardinals, N.Y. Giants and Yankees, and of Foster, founder of the old Negro League (in 1920; he died in 1930 and it disbanded in 1932) who was outstanding as a pitcher, manager and executive. They will be inducted with Gibson, announced previously as this year's only selectee in the regular baseball writer's election.
Mize, the Big Cat from Georgia, was 40 when he stroked his last home run, No. 359, while leading the American League in pinch hits (19) as his swan song in 1953. That was the 6-foot-2, 230-pound first baseman's fifth year with the Yanks, in which span they won five world championships; he lit up the 1952 World Series triumph over Brooklyn with homers in three consecutive games. With St. Louis, 1936-41, and the New York Giants, 1942-48, he was a nine-time .300 hiter, four-time National League home run champ or cochamp (his 51 in 1947 set the NL record for left-handed hitters).
Yet, by the time the call came to Demorest, Ga., his birthplace and still home, he told the AP, "I'd already give up -- I told my wife, 'Well, that's another year gone . . . I was in the house, listening to the 12 o'clock news, and when there was no announcement I got up and went out in the yard to move some lumber." The committee had his phone number wrong.
Foster -- dubbed "Rube" by his teammates from the time he defeated the great Rube Wadell and the Philadephia Athletics in an exhibition -- was lauded by Buck O'Neil, black member of the veteran's committee, as "a stickler for character."
Fame: Ralph Sampson of Virginia is UPI's college basketball player of the year, 100-64 over De Paul's Mark Aguirre, last year's winner, in voting by 204 media members. Would sophomore Sampson now consider an NBA offer? "If I have one, I'll look. Right now, I don't have one so there's no reason to look."
Six Florida State football players, including senior pro prospests Ron Simmons, the all-America nose guard, and ofensive tackle Ken Lanier are charged with being accessories after the fact in a grand larceny, theft of about $27,000 in merchandise from Mass Brothers department store in Tallahassee. Arrest of the athletes followed that of Robert Harris, 19, a store loading-dock employe charged with stealing and trafficking in televisions, stereos, etc.
Jim Hatfield, after an 8-19 sag in his third year at Starkville, has quit as Mississippi State basketball coach . . . Dave Jacobs, the boxing coach/trainer formerly associated with Ray Leonard, now tossed it in as coach for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. . . George Ammen softpedals reports he might coach/general manage the CFL's Montreal Alouettes now that Nelson Skalbania has bought the club. "There's a possibility," Allen allows, "but, if I agreed to run the club, it would have to entail an equity."
A triple Crown candidate in trouble: Akureyri, chipped a bone in his left foreleg. The Hickory Tree Stables 3-year-old beat Lord Avie in the Fountain of Youth, finished second to him Friday in the Florida Derby -- and now work from trainer Woody Stephens at Hialeah that Akureyri either will be retired or operated on.
Bob Elson has died, and that drings us back to the baseball Hall of Fame. Detroit's Ernie Harwell is the 1981 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award that is presented to play-by-play broadcasters at the Cooperstown ceremonies -- and one of the four previous winners was Bob Elson, an institution in Chicago. He broadcast White Sox, Cubs, All-Star and World Series contests. Working on an auto-biography, he said maybe it was premature; he expected to come back from a heart ailment and resume his career. At 76, no.