The case for Kiki, and more baseball lore

Lee Curtis of the College of Charleston pumps his fist as he rounds second base after hitting the decisive two run home run against Furman in 2002. Brad Nettles/staff

Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame voting isn’t easy when diamond history dates to the Charleston Fultons, charter members of the 1886 Southern League of Colored Base Ballists. That was the very first attempt to organize a black professional baseball league. Teams were stretched from Savannah to Atlanta to Memphis, but the fun lasted only one season.

Ty Cobb, famed for batting skills and mean streaks, came to town with the Augusta Tourists in 1905 to flash spikes at Piggy Ward and his fellow Charleston Sea Gulls.

Ted Williams and Bob Feller appeared at College Park for big league exhibition games.

Hank Aaron and Derek Jeter played against Charleston minor league teams.

The 1990 Citadel Bulldogs amazingly advanced to the College World Series, just before the College of Charleston revived baseball and became a regular NCAA Tournament contender.

Charleston High School was the first Lowcountry team to win a state championship, in 1937.

Stormin’ Gorman Thomas, Willie Randolph, the 1955 Cannon Street Little League All-Stars, two Glaze brothers (Lee and Gettys) and Bryce Florie are already in the Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame.

You must exercise your right to vote to add more lore to the scrapbook.

Good news: Voting for the 2015 class online or at Riley Park is open until July 24.

Not good: Separating the seven candidates is harder than choosing between the Oreo Churros and Chicken ‘N Waffle Slider at The Joe.

The candidates (top two inducted Aug. 7):

Kiki Cuyler. Of course, he belongs — even if no living South Carolinian saw him play and everyone mispronounces his name (it’s Kigh-Kigh). An outfielder from Harrisville, Mich., Hazen Shirley Cuyler hit .309 for the 1922 Charleston Pals. He went on to hit .321 over 18 Major League seasons with four teams. Cuyler also bravely grappled with a stuttering problem that made him trip over his last name, the root of “Kiki.

Cuyler sticks out as one of just two National Baseball Hall of Famers to play for a Charleston minor league team (Roberto Alomar of the 1985 Charleston Rainbows made the Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011). If someone is good enough for Cooperstown, he should be good enough for us.

John Chalus. High school coaches are the salt of the baseball earth. They mow outfields, deal with fairly odd parents and drive the bus. Chalus, the head coach at Stratford from 1992-2014 before becoming the school’s athletic director, was one of the best. He won with first-round draft picks Matt Wieters and Justin Smoak and with less-talented teams while amassing 463 victories.

Lee Curtis. A Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame without the College of Charleston’s career batting average leader (.404) is Shem Creek without shrimp and grits. Curtis, an infielder, was Southern Conference Player of the Year in 2002 and 2003. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the eighth round in 2003.

Chris Campbell. “Soup” played four seasons (2004-2007) at the College of Charleston and ranks as the program leader in games (240), hits (355) and RBIs (290), among other things. The second baseman led the country with 1.41 RBIs per game in 2007 and was a key cog on the Cougars’ first three NCAA Tournament teams.

John Pawlowski. But how do you overlook the head coach responsible for building the College of Charleston from mediocrity into a back-to-back-back NCAA Tournament program? The Cougars made it to a Super Regional in 2006, the season after Brett Gardner was drafted by the Yankees. Now the head coach at Western Kentucky, Pawlowski pitched at Clemson and for the Chicago White Sox.

Pete Ayoub. Few Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame candidates current or former can match the range in this resume: Three-year starter at Clemson; first-team All-ACC second baseman (1963); head coach for three straight state championship teams at North Charleston High School; Executive Director of the S.C. High School League from 1986-1998.

Torre Tyson. You have to add the RiverDogs’ most successful manager, don’t you? This former minor league infielder led the RiverDogs to 80 wins in 2008, the second-highest total of any Charleston team (85 in 1988). That’s not all; Tyson is the winningest manager in RiverDogs history, going 232-186 from 2007-2009.

Two of these guys will join a Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame list including the likes of Anthony Jenkins, Drew Meyer, Ty Cline, Reese Havens, Mike Kimbrell and David Cone.

But picking a pair from this candidate list isn’t like picking Hank Aaron out of the 1953 Augusta Tourists’ team picture.

It won’t get easier, either.

The Charleston RiverDogs’ sentimental ceremonial first-pitch duo of comedian Bill Murray and Mayor Joe Riley isn’t even on the ballot yet.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff