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Castiglione, Morgan thrill Red Sox fans at Museum

By Bill Francis

Much success has come the way of the Boston Red Sox over the last 10 years. Not only has the franchise captured three World Series titles over that span, but the fanbase, known as “Red Sox Nation,” has proven itself to be among the most fervent on the sports landscape.

So with decades of Red Sox living history scheduled to appear at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Bullpen Theater for a Voices of the Game event on Dec. 14, it came as no surprise that dozens of hearty souls braved the inclement wintery elements outside to enjoy stories from the careers of longtime Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione and onetime manager Joe Morgan.

Red Sox broadcaster Joe Castiglione (left) and former Sox manager Joe Morgan hold a Wade Boggs bat during a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Dec. 14. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Red Sox broadcaster Joe Castiglione (left) and former Sox manager Joe Morgan hold a Wade Boggs bat during a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Dec. 14. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

“I try and come here every year,” said Castiglione, in the area to attend a fundraiser for nearby ColgateUniversity, his alma mater. “But this year I didn’t know if I would make it because our season went an extra month. But any trip to Central New York I’m going to stop at the Hall of Fame.”

What made the trip even more special for Castiglione, who just completed his 31st season on Red Sox radio and was a 2014 Ford C. Frick Award finalist, was the Museum’s new Autumn Glory exhibit, documenting the Red Sox’s 2013 world championship.

“Seeing the new exhibit really hit home and brought back memories of something that was recent but also the realization that we really did do it. It was such a magical season,” Castiglione said. “At times I wake up and say, ‘Did we really win it?’ Three championships in 10 years is amazing.

“The last 10 years really makes you appreciate being with a good club. I had nothing to do with that, just being at the right place at the right time. I was with clubs that weren’t winners, so to have a chance to win you really appreciate what ownership does. This club was built to win every year and not every market can say that. And it’s a lot more than dollars and cents – it’s commitment, it’s research, it’s leadership. And I think Red Sox ownership has done a marvelous job. You can never win without good ownership.”

Accompanying Castiglione on his visit was the 83-year-old Morgan. A native New Englander who grew up outside Boston, attended Boston College and was signed by the Boston Braves in 1952, Morgan spent 16 seasons as a skipper in the minors before getting his shot managing the Red Sox in 1988.

“I’ll shorten it up by saying I was a pretty good Triple-A player,” said Morgan, noting this was his third trip to Cooperstown, which included managing the Red Sox in the 1989 Hall of Fame Game that was cancelled because the Reds’ plane malfunctioned. “Not big enough for the big boys. But I’m the only guy in the International League that won an MVP and named Manager of the Year. One person in 120 years. I’m proud of that.”

What would become a four-season stint helming the Boston team got off to a great start when, after replacing John McNamara midseason, “Morgan’s Magic” would see a 20-game home winning streak at Fenway Park and division crown.

“You look way back and the Red Sox won a lot of World Series but people don’t realize that,” Morgan said. “And then they went 100 years and didn’t do it. But now they’re doing it again, so it’s pretty good.”

As for the Hall of Fame, Morgan said he enjoys it like everybody else.

“I like to see pictures of the guys I remember growing up in the late 1930s and early 1940s,” Morgan said. “Guys like Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx.

“Foxx was my hero. He was dynamite. My dad would take us in and I saw him quite a bit.”

Castiglione joked that even when he went to Colgate he loved coming to the Hall of Fame because they had a much better library.

“I grew up loving baseball history and this is the Mecca. This is really a shrine,” he added. “It’s my favorite place, I think, over any beach or any resort. I just love to come here.”

 Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum 

Halloween Tales

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

The Red Sox may have won it all last night, but back in 1976, they suffered through a losing streak so intense that they looked outside the foul lines for some help – from an honest-to-goodness witch.

From April 29th to May 11th, the Sox, reigning American League Champs, lost 10 in a row. According to a Peter Gammons article in the Boston Globe of May 12th, a local media outlet, Channel 4, reached out to Laurie Cabot, the official witch of nearby Salem, Mass.

Cabot had been designated Salem’s official witch by Governor Mike Dukakis, in honor of her work with special needs children, according to her official website. Cabot still resides in Salem, where she operated a witchcraft shop for nearly 40 years, and also taught witchcraft at Salem State College, Wellesley College, and Harvard, according to a 2012 article on Boston.com.

Carlton Fisk's intensity and dedication resulted in his election to the Hall of Fame in 2000. (NBHOF Library)

Carlton Fisk’s intensity and dedication resulted in his election to the Hall of Fame in 2000. (NBHOF Library)

The Globe article quotes a Channel 4 source saying that Cabot “would be at the ball park for the purpose of coordinating the energy of the Sox players.” An article the next day featured a photo of Cabot, her long dark hair encased within a Red Sox cap, on the field “laying some good vibes” on Bernie Carbo’s bat.

“I hope she puts a hex on my bat that will make me go on a hot streak for six months,” said Carbo.

Carlton Fisk was not so enthusiastic, saying “It’s weak. The players don’t appreciate it. It’s making a joke of the game and it’s not funny.”

But whether or not Cabot was effective, the team quickly turned around, coming from behind to defeat Clevealnd in 12 innings, with Carbo and Fisk both contributing a hit and an RBI. The Red Sox went on to win eight of their next nine.

Carbo’s wish for a six-month hot streak did not come true, as he hit .235 that season, 29 points below his career batting average. A closer look at the numbers, though, indicates that Cabot may have been an inspiration, at least. Carbo hit .273 in May and .291 in June before suffering through a .200 July performance. He bounced back to hit .296 in August.

You can make up your own mind about whether the Sox won those eight games on their own, or whether they got an assist from the Official Witch of Salem Massachusetts. But, as Casey Stengel famously said, “You could look it up.”

Tim Wiles is the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Remembering Wally Bell

Muder_90By Craig Muder

It was a moment like many others, where you meet a new face and know – instinctively – that you’ll never see this person again.

Wally-Bell

Wally Bell joined the Major League staff in 1993.

But I could not have been more mistaken about my first-and-only lengthy encounter with former big league umpire Wally Bell. I only wish fate could have brought us together one more time.

Now, after Bell’s tragic death at age 48 on Monday, that will not happen.

I was 15 years old in the spring of 1984, and my passion for baseball was in full bloom. For a little more than a year, I had been a regular guest on a Friday night sports talk show on WKBN AM in Youngstown, Ohio. The host, Steve Hook, and I would play trivia games with the listeners and then we would chat about whatever was in the sports pages.

One Friday, I arrived at the station early to find Hook doing a segment with a local man who had just finished umpiring school and was heading for the New York-Penn League to begin his pro career. He was from nearby Austintown, and his name was Wally Bell.

As Hook chatted with Wally, I knew this: The odds against him ever making the big leagues were astronomical. With umpiring careers lasting as long as 30-plus years and only (at that time) about 52 MLB positions, young umps face a grueling test just to advance to the high minors.

The segment ended and I shook Wally’s hand, and I can remember having this very thought: “He is going to disappear into the baseball wilderness, and I’ll never know what became of him.”

Nine years later, I was working for a newspaper in Ashtabula, Ohio, about an hour north of Youngstown. As I went through the baseball wire stories one March evening, I noticed a blurb about new umpires who had been hired by MLB to fill positions created with the addition of games necessitated by the birth of the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins.

To my amazement, one of those umpires was Wally Bell.

I immediately flashed back to that day at WKBN – and marveled how Wally had beaten the odds.

Three years later, I attended a Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium where Bell happened to be the home plate umpire. Between innings – in a largely deserted park – I walked to the first row behind home plate and called out to Wally through the screen, asking if he remembered our meeting more than a decade before.

He looked bemusedly at me, shrugged, and returned his attention to the game.

As the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a dream job I landed in 2008, I always thought I might run into Wally again. With this story in my back pocket – just waiting to be told – I figured it was bound to happen.

It was not to be.

But Bell’s triumphs – his three All-Star Games, seven Division Series, four LCS and the 2006 World Series – live on in Cooperstown, where every umpire to ever don the gear is documented in a file in Museum’s Giamatti Research Center. And the next time I think something just can’t be done, I’m going to take a walk through the Plaque Gallery and into the Library for a peek at the clippings that record Wally’s professional life.

That kid from Austintown surely beat the odds. A better legacy would be hard to find.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum 

Caught on Video

Mondore_90By Scot Mondore

On Monday, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum staff members were busy shooting an ad to promote the book: Inside the Baseball Hall of Fame, published by Simon & Schuster in April 2013 – for the Holiday gift-giving season.

(Scot Mondore/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

(Scot Mondore/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Director of communications Craig Muder and Hall of Fame Staff photographer Milo Stewart Jr. discussed several artifacts from the Museum’s collection included in the work. Milo spoke to the nuances of photographing such interesting and special baseball artifacts – focusing on colors, texture and historical/cultural significance pieces that he admires most from the collection.

Also pictured in the photo, behind the camera, are Roger Lansing and Nate Owens of the Museum’s Multimedia department. These two gentlemen will take the raw footage from the shoot, work their collective magic and turn the material into the finished ad. Between the two of them, Roger and Nate have worked on many projects for the Hall of Fame, including oral histories, Hall of Fame member interviews and special event coverage.

Our staff in Cooperstown are always finding new and engaging ways to help promote the programs that are important to the organization. Look for the video to be released in early to mid-November.

Scot Mondore is the director of licensing and sales at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Fans of Flicks Flock to Cooperstown

Francis_90By Bill Francis

Just as the game’s regular season was coming to end, the Eighth Annual Baseball Film Festival was getting started with its slate of 11 movies this year.

Held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum last Friday through Sunday, fans of the genre began the weekend with a screening of the box office hit “42” at the Grandstand Theater on Friday night.

Fans at the Baseball Film Festival enjoy a screening of the acclaimed Legendary Entertainment release “42” on Friday at the Museum’s Grandstand Theater. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Fans at the Baseball Film Festival enjoy a screening of the acclaimed Legendary Entertainment release “42” on Friday at the Museum’s Grandstand Theater. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The action moved to the Bullpen Theater on Saturday and Sunday, where the fare included such wide-ranging subjects as blind athletes playing the game (“The Renegades: A Beep Ball Story”), the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card (“Holy Grail”), the unlikely success of a 1941 team from Venezuela (“La Hazana Del 41”) and the story of big league broadcasters (“The Booth”).

Returning for the third consecutive year was Nick Barnicle, who directed “Holy Grail” with his brother Colin.

“I love coming up here,” said Barnicle. “To have a film premiere here and have people come out and watch it is such a thrill. It’s something I look forward to every year, so we’re going to continue to try and make baseball movies so we can continue and try and come here.”

A relative of former big league pitcher George Barnicle, who played with the Boston Bees/Braves from 1939-41, Nick Barnicle described what has became an annual event in religious terms.

“I came up from New York today and it’s just one of those things where you leave the city and there are eight million people and you come up through the hills and there are less and less people,” he said. “And then there’s the Mecca of Baseball. This is like what the Vatican is. It’s just a holy, holy place for us.”

Accompanying “Hitting the Cycle” to Cooperstown was J. Richey Nash, as close to a five-tool filmmaker as you might find since he wrote the narrative feature, starred in it, produced it, and co-directed it.

“There’s not a lot I didn’t do,” Nash joked. “For a first feature and shooting it on an independent budget it was quite a task. But it turned out really well. It could have been a disaster given our circumstances but everything sort of fell into place with the film and it all came together really nicely. I think we were just kind of charmed in that way.”

The story of “Hitting the Cycle,” which was officially released in August, revolves around a former big leaguer’s return home to visit a dying father he hasn’t seen since he was 18 years old. As a former minor league player himself, Nash was able to use his own experiences in the game to give the final product a certain authenticity.

“If there’s a baseball movie out, inevitably I’m going to see it. And I’ve seen so many that have inaccuracies in terms of the way the game is played or how they portray this or that,” Nash said. “That was one of the big things that I really wanted to make authentic and accurate and really have a sense of, at least for the baseball parts, have a sense of what it’s really like.”

After starring at PrincetonUniversity, Nash was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 56th round of the 1991 MLB June Amateur Draft. And like Barnicle, he also has a family connection to big league baseball, as his father, Cotton Nash, not only played in the majors but also saw time in the NBA.

 Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Return Visit

By Craig Muder

Seventy-four years ago, the National Baseball Museum was just over three months old and establishing itself as one of the country’s cultural landmarks.

Arnie Certoma of West Babylon, N.Y., paid his second visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday. His first trip to Cooperstown came in 1939 -- the year the Museum opened. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Arnie Certoma of West Babylon, N.Y., paid his second visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday. His first trip to Cooperstown came in 1939 — the year the Museum opened. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Still, Arnie Certoma knew he had to see it for himself.

Then 11 years old, Certoma and some friends hitch-hiked from Bayside, Queens to Cooperstown to visit what was to become known as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum – which opened to the public for the first time on June 12, 1939.

More than seven decades later, Certoma reprised that trip on Wednesday – this time driving from his home in West Babylon, N.Y., to make his second journey to Cooperstown at the age of 85.

“I remember the building outside, and I remember the (exhibits) inside with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and – I think – Tris Speaker,” Certoma said. “It’s sure changed a lot since then.”

Dressed in a Yankees jacket, Certoma – a huge Gehrig fan – quickly searched out the Museum’s Yankees exhibits on Wednesday, including Gehrig’s locker.

“I remember them all,” Certoma said. “And it seems like it was yesterday.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Moyer’s Memories

Francis_90By Bill Francis

A big league baseball fixture for the last quarter century, Jamie Moyer is not occupying a mound this season. Instead, he found himself in Cooperstown and touring the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Friday morning.

Former big league pitcher Jamie Moyer and Hall of Fame Senior Curator Tom Shieber look through Library files on Friday during Moyer's tour at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Former big league pitcher Jamie Moyer and Hall of Fame Senior Curator Tom Shieber look through Library files on Friday during Moyer’s tour at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

“Having the opportunity to come here is always special,” said Moyer, whose only other trip came as a child. “As I was walking through, I’m thinking, ‘I have to bring my dad here,’ who is 82 years old. I think he would really enjoy it. But I also have to bring my boys here. Their generation has no idea of the history of the game. And I probably don’t either.

“But having the opportunity to come here brings back a lot of good memories. I looked at some stuff from my career but I also looked at a lot of things from the players of yesteryear. It was just fascinating.”

Among the items from the longtime left-hander’s career in the Hall of Fame archives is a baseball signed by the five starting pitchers from 2003 Seattle Mariners (Moyer, Freddy Garcia, Gil Meche, Ryan Franklin and Joel Pineiro) who didn’t miss a start all season and a cap Moyer wore when he became the oldest pitcher to win a game, the 268th of his career, on April 17, 2012 against the San Diego Padres. At 49 years and 151 days, he passed Jack Quinn, who last won a game for the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 13, 1932.

“It was an honor to have had the opportunity to play major league baseball,” Moyer said. “It was a dream of mine from my childhood years like millions of kids have had. And for that dream to come true, I don’t know if I can really comprehend or put words into what that really means.”

Moyer, now 50, had come back to pitch in last season after missing the 2011 campaign because of Tommy John surgery, which seems apropos because the reason he was in the Cooperstown area was to be the guest presenter at the Cooperstown Shoulder and Elbow Symposium sponsored by the Bassett Shoulder and Sports Medicine Research Institute at Bassett Medical Center – held at the nearby Otesaga Resort Hotel.

As it stands today, Moyer, who outdueled future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in 1986 in his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs, has spent 25 seasons in the majors and compiled a 269-209 career won-loss record with a 4.25 ERA while striking out 2,441 in 4,074 innings.

But according to Moyer, he has not officially retired from the game.

“I’m not playing,” he explained. “The way I look at it is when I came into the game nobody knew me and I can just walk away from the game. I don’t feel like I need that fanfare. I just had the good fortune to play the game, and the game isn’t about me. It’s about the game of baseball.

“It’s the first time in 42 years that I haven’t played baseball. And it’s a little different. My life is a little different. But I’ve enjoyed my time at home. I get to cook on the grill, I’m able to take kids to school, I’m able to pick them up, I can play some golf … I can do some things that I haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

The busy father of eight children not only runs The Moyer Foundation, whose mission is to provide comfort, hope and healing to children affected by loss and family addiction, but he’s also trying to start a pitching academy in California and is the co-author, along with Larry Platt, of the recently released book, “Just Tell Me I Can’t: How Jamie Moyer Defied the Radar Gun and Defeated Time.”

“If somebody comes knocking on my door with an opportunity in baseball I’ll strongly consider it,” Moyer said. “It just has to fit my life and the situation that I’m living in right now.”

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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