24 Jan

wait till next year?

Billy Wagner, the former Jackson Generals standout, is down to his last strike. In his ninth and next-to-last year on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, the left-hander fell just short of the 75 percent threshold needed to make it to Cooperstown. With five more votes, Wagner would have been the first player from the Jackson Mets/Generals era (1975-99) to make the Hall. A first-round pick by Houston in 1993 out of NCAA Division III Ferrum College, Wagner reached the Double-A Generals in 1995. He went 2-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 12 starts, fanning 77 batters and walking 36 in 70 innings. He debuted with the Astros later that year, launching a 16-year MLB career. Pitching exclusively in relief, he was a seven-time All-Star who registered 422 saves (sixth all-time) with a 2.31 ERA. He ranks first all-time (live-ball era) in opponents batting average (.187), hits allowed per nine innings (6.0) and strikeouts per nine (11.9). Those are mighty strong credentials. P.S. Cool Papa Bell, former Negro Leagues star, is the only Mississippi native in the Hall, and fellow Negro Leagues alum William Foster, a former Alcorn State player, coach and administrator, is the only other state-connected player to be selected. Dizzy Dean, an Arkansas native, retired to Mississippi and is buried here. Red Barber, a Columbus native, is in the broadcasters wing of the Hall.

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