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August 1, 2013

Small crowd sees induction of O'Day, Ruppert, White

(Continued)

“In my heart, I never believed this day would come,” he said from the podium, “the day that we would stand here together and honor my great grandfather, James ‘Deacon’ White, as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But you’ve got remember: Cubs fans are really good at waiting.”

White, a bare-handed catcher, played from 1871 to 1890.

Watkins explained in those days, batters received five strikes and eight balls, foul balls didn’t count as strikes, and if a foul ball was caught, it wasn’t an out.

“The batter even got to tell the pitcher where he wanted the pitch delivered,” he said. “So to compare (players of White’s era) to modern-day players is pretty much meaningless.”

Watkins, 66, then said White — born in Canton — could only be compared to players of his era and “by that standard, James White was outstanding.”

With a career batting average of .312, White played for seven teams. During a five-year span from 1873-77, he played on five straight title-winners with three different teams.

“If I had more time (during my speech), I would have emphasized his character and commitment to religion,” McNamara said of White, who earned the nickname “Deacon” from teammates because of his strong faith.

White died in 1939 at 91.

When Ruppert died at the age of 71 in 1939, Babe Ruth said, “We lost the best man baseball ever had.”

Five years after buying a struggling Yankees franchise in 1915 for $460,000, Ruppert acquired Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for $100,000.

He also oversaw the building of Yankee Stadium, which was completed in 1923. With Ruth and Lou Gehrig leading the way, the Yankees won 10 pennants and seven World Series while Ruppert owned the team.

“I’m sure uncle Ruppert would be extremely proud and thrilled to know he was about to become a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Vernon said during her speech.

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