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Baseball Hall Of Fame Dinner Evokes Tears, Laughter

Former major league player Al Bumbry (Baltimore Orioles) was the guest speaker.

by Gene Marrano

The Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame existed only as a roster of inductees and an annual dinner until a few years ago, before its new building finally opened adjacent to Salem Memorial Baseball Park. Filled with plaques and memorabilia from the 100 or so honored previously for their contributions to the game of baseball locally, the Hall became a bit more crowded with the induction of five more members last Sunday night, as the 20th annual banquet and induction ceremony took place.

As always a highlight of the banquet – also the main fundraising tool used to raise money for the 2500’ sq. ft. Hall building – was the guest speaker. Always a former major league player, this year ex-Orioles outfielder Al Bumbry took to the podium.

Bumbry, once the speedy centerfielder for the O’s, is no stranger to these parts – his son Stephen played in the outfield for Virginia Tech and was drafted by the Orioles. He may come through Salem this year with the Frederick Keys team in the Carolina League.

Bumbry did his best Earl Weaver impression, talking about the rocky relationship between his former fiery manager and star pitcher Jim Palmer. “They respected each other [but] you wouldn’t know it. They argued all the time. Earl knew how to push [Palmer’s] buttons.”

Bumbry was one of the few major leaguers at the time that had done a tour of duty in the Vietnam War, following a year of college.  “My shoes were clean when I went out on the field,” he recalled, “that’s the way I was, [because] of my military background.”  He originally went to Virginia State on a basketball scholarship and played just one year of baseball before being drafted.

As for the current state of the moribund Orioles franchise?  “Bear with them,” he pleaded, “It’s been a rough journey. I [hope] they turn the corner.” Bumbry, who does some public relations work for the Orioles, also praised the five new members of the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame: “it tells me … that you love baseball and want to do whatever you can to provide baseball for the kids. I’m sure [your induction] is richly deserved.”

One of the five new Hall members inducted has become friends with Bumbry: Art Price, the director of Recreation, Parks and Tourism in Christiansburg. The two became acquainted when Bumbry asked about getting some batting cage time for his son at a town facility. Price called his induction “one of the greatest things that’s happened to me. It’s a dream come true.”

Before the banquet was over Bumbry stepped to the podium to present Price with an Orioles jersey.  Price played baseball in high school and college and was instrumental in bringing amateur baseball tournaments to Christiansburg.

Also inducted was the late Harold Brown, a Franklin County native who starred in high school and college, but chose to come home and tend to the family business despite being drafted by both the Oakland A’s and the Milwaukee Brewers.

Anthony Amos played at William Byrd High School and has coached baseball at several levels, including AAU since then. “The thing I’m most proud of is the middle school movement,” said Amos, alluding to the fact that he helped revive middle school baseball in the valley.

Ervin “Budgie” Clark was one of several new Hall members who choked up at the podium when giving his acceptance speech. A former standout at Salem High School and Virginia Tech, Clark has stayed in the game as a baseball field consultant, traveling the country and the world. “I’ve had five ‘awesomes’ in my life,” said Clark, who has consulted at three Olympics games (Athens, Sydney, Beijing), “and this is one of them.”

Sam Lazzaro was a longtime minor league baseball executive, including a decade-plus with the Salem Avalanche and several years in upstate New York.  “I’ve worked with some outstanding people over the years,” said the new inductee, who is now an attorney. Many were in the room at the Salem Civic Center last Sunday, including former Avalanche owner Kelvin Bowles, a Hall of Fame of Fame board member and the master of ceremonies.

Many of the past Hall inductees were on hand Wednesday, including Ron Hodges, a Franklin County native who spent 12 years as a backup catcher with the New York Mets.  John Montgomery (Play By Play magazine) was also honored with the Wayne LaPierre Community Service Award.

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