July 26, 1987 | COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK – Three “stars” were inducted into the Hall of Fame on this date in 1987. Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Billy Williams and Ray Dandridge didn’t lust for headlines or seek attention so you know Catfish, Billy and Ray enter the Hall of Fame because of shear talent.
Catfish Hunter was a 20-game winner five times, four with Oakland A’s and once with the New York Yankees. He was in the starting rotation for five World Series Champions, usually the ace of the staff; three with the A’s and two with the Yankees.
The Hertford, North Carolina native finished his career with 224 wins and 166 losses and an earned run average of 3.26. Sadly, James Augustus Hunter was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease later in life and died at age 53 of injuries suffered in a fall probably caused by his illness.
Billy Williams spent most of career with the Chicago Cubs. He was NL Rookie of the Year in 1961, a 6-time All-Star, set a record for consecutive games played with 1,117 (later broken by Steve Garvey with 1,207). He finished his career with a .290 career batting average and 426 home runs. “Sweet Swingin” Billy Williams had at least 20 home runs for 14 seasons and at least 84 RBI for 13.
Ray Dandridge was a star of the Negro Leagues, so unfortunately much of American didn’t see him play. He played for teams in Detroit, Nashville and Newark.
He also played in the Mexican League in 1940 with and against Major Leaguers. He led the league with a .369 batting average but it was his fielding at 3rd base that sparkled. Monte Irvin, who played against major leaguers and Negro Leaguers said Dandridge was the one of the best 3rd basemen he’d ever seen.
Dandridge was finally signed by the New York Giants in 1949 but sent to Triple-A Minneapolis. Despite being named league MVP and leading his team to the championship, Dandridge was never called up to the majors.
- Little known fact: Catfish Hunter hit .350 for the A’s in 1971 (before the DH), 36 hits in 103 at bats, 1 HR, 12 RBI.