I’ll never forget May 20th and 21st of 2011.
I embarked on a 24-hour journey for an aspect of my job that is never comfortable and always sad: Attending a funeral.
Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew had passed away in Arizona. After lunch with Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and their wives, as well as Bob Nightengale, my friend with USA Today, I headed back to the airport to take a redeye flight home.
As I sat on the flight and drifted off, I wondered what else could happen. Harmon’s passing was the last of six Hall of Famers who had passed away in the last year: Robin Roberts, Sparky Anderson, Bob Feller, Duke Snider and Dick Williams.
As I de-boarded my flight in Newark to change planes that next morning, May 21st, my phone began to ring. It was The Kid, and I smiled. I always looked forward to conversations with Gary Carter because he was so positive, so uplifting and had a zest for life.
This time, the call was different.
Gary explained that he had been inventorying equipment with his coaches for Palm Beach Community College, where he was the head baseball coach. He told me he had lost count a few times and even snapped at some of his colleagues, and he did not know why. Very uncharacteristic of the most positive person I had come to know in Baseball.
I immediately thought about what I had been reading, about the recent rash of concussions in football. “I bet you have a concussion from all of those collisions you took,” I quickly blurted out, as if I could solve the problem. Gary waited patiently for me to finish and said, “No, it’s actually four tumors wrapped around my brain.” And then he quickly added, “But I am not scared, because I have my family around me and I am going to beat this.”
He fought gallantly with his family by his side, at every step. He went to Duke Medical Center to learn more. It was actually one tumor with four tentacles. And he could not have surgery: His cancer was inoperable.
Gary called the next day.
“It’s inoperable, which is going to make this a little bit tougher, but I’ll beat this,” he told me confidently. “I have my family and my faith and with that, we’ll get through this, Jeffrey,” he said. “I plan to be at Hall of Fame Weekend to see everyone.”
It never happened.
Gary was so generous of time and spirit. He traveled to Cooperstown for the 2010 Hall of Fame Classic over Father’s Day Weekend and then to Cooperstown a month later for the induction of Andre Dawson, Doug Harvey and Whitey Herzog. That would be his last visit to the place he adored so much and the Classic was the final time he participated in a baseball game. The fans adored him.
“Gary was so proud to be a Hall of Famer,” his widow Sandy told me on the phone yesterday afternoon after letting me know of Gary’s peaceful passing.
And “proud” sums up the Kid so well. He was proud of wearing a major league uniform for 19 seasons, of being a Hall of Famer, of his family and his friends.
We lost a good one yesterday. Rest in Peace #8. We miss you.
Jeff Idelson is the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) celebrated its annual National SABR Day on Saturday, Jan. 28, with local chapters holding meetings throughout North America. The Baseball Hall of Fame recognized the work of this organization by hosting a meeting of the Cliff Kachline Chapter in the Hall of Fame’s Bullpen Theater.
Chapter president Jeff Katz opened the meeting with some general business items, including a discussion of how to promote the summer meeting which occurs every year on the Sunday evening of Induction Weekend. The chapter will try to set up a tent to hand out information that weekend. The meeting is open to all, and interested parties should drop by the tent to learn more. Research presentations were then delivered by chapter members.
The presentations included one from Professor Jon Arakaki of the State University of New York-Oneonta, who has been conducting research on the appearance of baseball on the covers of Sports Illustrated from 1954 to date. He has examined 3,299 covers for which 605 or 18.3 percent are baseball related, only five of which do not concern the major leagues. Of all the baseball covers, appearances were broken down by person, team, race and gender. The most revealing numbers relate to the breakdown by race.
During the 1950s, 88% of Sports Illustrated covers were related to Caucasians, 9% to African-Americans, and 3% to Hispanics. By the 1990s these figures had changed to 55% for Caucasians, 28% for African-American, and 16% for Hispanics. This data served to support Arakaki’s general conclusions that these magazine covers mirror our culture and represent what is a hot topic, and that they also serve to suggest who wields cultural influence at any time.
Anyone seeking additional information on the Society of American Baseball Research can check out their web site, www.sabr.org, and anyone interested in becoming involved in baseball research should consider becoming a member. The next meeting of the Cliff Kachline Chapter will be Sunday evening, July 22nd.
Jim Gates is the Librarian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
On Sunday, World Wrestling Entertainment will air the 25th annual Royal Rumble on pay-per-view. Millions of fans all over the world are expected to tune in to see John Cena, Zach Ryder, C.M. Punk, Mick Foley and all the top WWE superstars battle for a chance to be in the main event at WrestleMania: The World Series of professional wrestling.
Professional Wrestling and baseball have a storied history. Major Leaguers like baseball’s all-time hit king Pete Rose and long-time White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski have participated in numerous major professional wrestling events. Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets from 1964-2009, hosted a series of WWE wrestling events featuring Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Bruno Sammartino, from 1972 to 1980.
WWE Legend “Macho Man” Randy Savage was a professional baseball player in the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds minor league systems before turning his sights to a career in sports entertainment. Hall of Fame third baseman Pie Traynor was a wrestling announcer for Pittsburgh’s Studio Wrestling program in the 1960s. And current WWE star Mick Foley came to Cooperstown in 2006 to give a talk at the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the baseball book he authored, Scooter.
On April 23, 1914, at the Polo Grounds in New York City, the prodigal son returned. Star outfielder Mike Donlin, owner of a career .334 batting average at the time, came back to the New York Giants after being sold to the Boston Braves three years earlier. In honor of his return, prominent New York Giants supporters, among them politicians, actors, song writers and theatre owners, got together and presented “Turkey Mike” with a specially made trophy bat during pre-game ceremonies, honoring him as the most popular Giants player.
The Master of Ceremonies for this event was prominent New York wrestling and boxing ring announcer Joe Humphreys. Among the team boosters who had this trophy bat made for presentation to Donlin was Jess McMahon.
Jess McMahon, a prominent wrestling and boxing promoter in his own right, is the grandfather of the “Babe Ruth” of wrestling promoters, Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon is the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, the organization that revolutionized professional wrestling from the local, regionalized exhibitions of the pre-1980s, to the world-wide, multi-million dollar phenomenon that it is today.
This bat was donated to the Hall of Fame in 1963 by Mike Donlin’s widow, Rita.
Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
This Saturday, some of baseballs best minds will meet in cities across the country to celebrate the third annual SABR Day.
More than 30 chapters of The Society for American Baseball Research are scheduled to meet on Jan. 28, 2012 from Washington State all the way to Puerto Rico and internationally. Some chapters choose to get together and talk baseball, some play catch out in the snow and some hold research presentations with knowledgeable speakers.
“Chapters all over the country will be celebrating on Saturday,” said Hall of Fame Librarian Jim Gates. “And we will be part of that here in Cooperstown.”
SABR’s chapter in Cooperstown, the Cliff Kachline Chapter, will gather at 1 p.m. Saturday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The meeting will convene in the Bullpen Theater and feature special guest speakers whose topics range from Sports Illustrated covers and their relation to the times to the rise of NL President Harry Pulliam and pitching.
SABR has nearly 7,000 members world-wide and was formed in August of 1971 in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame Library. Hall of Fame members and fans are encouraged to attend and participate in the celebration.
“SABR was born in Cooperstown and now we are helping SABR celebrate its birthday,” said Gates.
Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Barry Larkin discovered exactly what it means to be a Hall of Famer Monday afternoon.
“I got the call to say I had been elected,” Larkin said. “And the next thing I knew I had 400 text messages to respond to. I’m down to 298 now.”
It will take Larkin weeks to respond to all the congratulatory notes he received after becoming the 24th shortstop elected to the Hall of Fame. His phone was filled with messages from ESPN co-workers like Karl Ravech and former teammates like Hall of Famer Tony Perez.
But the one message that almost didn’t get through belonged to a special fan.
“My daughter told me someone had called for me… She said it was Ben or Bub…,” Larkin said. “I said: ‘You mean Bud? Bud Selig?’ I couldn’t believe the Commissioner took time to call.
“It’s wonderful how many people have called or sent messages. You just can’t believe the outpouring of support.”
The incredibly humble Larkin is a favorite throughout the baseball community for his skill on the field and character off it. Few generate the universally positive reaction he draws, and it seems all of Cincinnati is celebrating the election of their hometown hero.
The Class of 2012 couldn’t be classier.
Craig Muder is the director of communications of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
It all started with the December 2006 issue of Memories and Dreams, the official magazine of the Baseball Hall of Fame .
Curator Lenny DiFranza’s article on the first artifacts donated to the Museum featured a 1938 photo of the Honolulu Conservatory of Music building on Main Street in Cooperstown, which was demolished to make way for the Hall of Fame and Museum. Being that I was born and raised in Hawaii, I wondered how in the world a conservatory from back home ended up in Cooperstown, let alone on the site of the Hall.
Recently, with the assistance of local historians in Cooperstown, and Museum and library staffs in Flint, Michigan and Cleveland, I was able to piece together a part of the story – although a few mysteries remain.
The Oahu Publishing Company/Honolulu Conservatory of Music was established in Flint, Michigan in the mid-1920s by half brothers Harry G. Stanley and George A. Bronson. Why Flint? Because of the auto industry, Flint attracted workers from across the U.S., including Hawaii (a territory at the time). By all indications, the Hawaiians brought their music with them, and this provided the impetus for the brothers to capitalize on the nationwide craze for this music by publishing sheet music and providing guitar instruction. Eventually, they opened 1,200 studios across the U.S., Canada, and other foreign countries.
Interestingly, one of these studios found its way to Cooperstown. In the Feb. 11, 1938 issue of The Otsego Farmer, an ad announced that Philip J. Colwell opened a Honolulu Conservatory of Music location on 29 Pioneer Street. It also invited residents to learn the “slides, slurs, variations and trick playing that puts the Hawaiian guitar in first place today.”
Business must have been brisk – on April 20, 1938, an article in The Freeman’s Journal stated that Colwell moved to a larger location at 33 Main Street, the site of the current Museum. This takes us back to the photo in Lenny’s article. By the time of the Museum’s dedication on June 12, 1939, the Conservatory building was long gone. Colwell’s business was listed in the 1938 Cooperstown Village Directory, but was nowhere to be found when the next directory was published in 1940.
So what happened? There are no indications that Colwell moved to a new location, or opened other studios in the area. Why did he fold up a business that seemed to be thriving and riding the wave of Hawaiian music’s popularity? These are questions I will continue to pursue.
Ultimately, while there wasn’t the direct connection between Cooperstown and my home state that I had hoped for, I was glad to learn about the spread of the islands’ music across the country. And I know that once Hawaiian natives Sid Fernandez, Benny Agbayani and Shane Victorino are inducted into the Hall – or so I hope – the Hawaiian connection will truly be complete!
Jon Arakaki is a Library volunteer at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and a professor at SUNY Oneonta.
The gray-haired gentlemen emerged from the entrance foyer at the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday – and no introductions were necessary.
Bob Feller, their father, could be seen in their faces. And even though it’s been more than a year since Bob passed away, the visit of his sons Steve and Bruce brought the memories to life in Cooperstown.
Steve and Bruce stopped by the Hall of Fame on Wednesday to donate two documents to the Museum’s Library. One was an original scorecard from their father’s legendary Opening Day no-hitter on April 16, 1940. The other: Bob Feller’s original contract with the Indians, hand-written on the back of stationery from a Des Moines, Iowa, hotel and signed by Feller and scout Cy Slapnicka.
The scorecard documents the only game in big league history where all players on one team started and finished the game with the same batting average: All White Sox batters were hitting .000 after the game.
But the contract is equally fascinating. The deal gave Feller a $1 bonus, and provided that he would visit his “folks” anytime he wanted during the 1936 season, plus provided that he could play basketball in his off hours. The deal indicated that Feller would start the season playing for a team in Fargo, N.D., but the fireballing phenom went right to the majors to begin his career.
During their stop in the Museum, the Feller brothers took a look at their Dad’s Hall of Fame plaque as well as others located nearby.
“Elmer Flick – he used to come to my baseball games in Solon (Ohio),” said Steve Feller of his youth baseball days. “And Hank Greenberg – we played with his sons.”
It was all part of a unique childhood with an iconic father.
“These belong here – in Cooperstown,” said Bruce Feller of his father’s documents. “Dad would have wanted it that way, and so do we.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.