After striking out 27 batters in one minor league game in 1952, Ron Necciai was destined for the big leagues.
When he was called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August of 1952, the Bucs’ management – by way of locker selection – let Necciai know that he was ready for prime time.
“They put me between Murry Dickson, who had been in the big leagues for (11) seasons, and Ralph Kiner, who as you know is a Hall of Famer,” said Necciai at a program on Thursday at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. “Then, I went out in that first game and gave up a huge homer to Hank Sauer of the Cubs. It hit off the clock in left field in (Pittsburgh’s) Forbes Field, and I swear that clock was rocking back and forth for a few minutes.
“It was sure different from the minor leagues.”
Necciai visited the Hall of Fame on Thursday and recounted his famous outing on May 13, 1952, when he struck out 27 batters in a nine-inning no-hitter for the Bristol Twins of the Class D Appalachian League. Necciai is the only professional pitcher to record 27 strikeouts in a nine-inning game, and a ball from that 7-0 win over the Welch Miners – which Necciai donated to the Hall of Fame in 2001 – is on display in the Museum’s One for the Books exhibit.
Once in the big leagues, Necciai lasted only one season with the Pirates before a rotator cuff injury ended his career. But his amazing game during that 1952 season lives on in baseball lore.
“The doctor I saw (when he hurt his shoulder) told me that I’d never pitch again and that I should go home and buy a gas station,” said Necciai, who still lives in the Pittsburgh area. “I didn’t do that, but I’ve been married for 57 years, so I must have done something right.
“And on that day (of the no-hitter), everything went right.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
“You think that cap might be in the Hall of Fame someday?” said Charlie’s dad Bart Millard, whose band MercyMe toured the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Friday. “Wouldn’t that be something!”
Hours before a concert in nearby Utica, N.Y., Bart Millard took a break from his job as MercyMe’s lead singer and fulfilled a lifelong dream by visiting the Hall of Fame. A self-described “Rangers fan from birth,” Millard – a Greenville, Texas, native – visited the Museum with his sons Charlie and Sam and MercyMe band-mates Robby Shaffer and Michael Scheuchzer.
“This is amazing,” said Millard after viewing Josh Hamilton’s four-home run bat, which is on display in the Museum’s Today’s Game exhibit and has been since Hamilton crushed four dingers in Texas’ 10-3 win over the Orioles May 8. “It’s been a great stretch of baseball for the Rangers, even though the two World Series losses have been tough. But they have really begun to change how baseball is perceived in Dallas.
“It’s still a Cowboys town, but the Rangers are more popular than ever.”
So is MercyMe, which has produced four certified Gold Records since forming in 1994.
“All musicians want to be athletes, and I think most athletes want to be musicians,” Millard said. “To be here with all this history is incredible.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Cooperstown is home not just to the Hall of Fame, but also to several other “big league” tourist attractions, including the 37-year-old Glimmerglass Festival, which presents opera and musical theatre at the north end of Otsego Lake.
The latest collaboration between Glimmerglass and the Hall of Fame is a short musical program called “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience,” being presented Thursdays in the Bullpen Theatre here at The Hall – with the final show on Aug. 23 at 2 p.m.
The program consists of seven songs with a baseball theme, sung wonderfully by four of the Festival’s African-American singers. Unifying the songs is a script which sketches the outline of African-American baseball history, beginning in 1865 and running right up into the present day.
The Singers include baritone Amos Nomnabo, from Queensland, South Africa; tenor Chase Taylor, from Durham, N.C.; bass baritone Phillip Gay of Beaumont, Texas; and baritones Allan Washington, of Indianapolis, and Thomas Cannon, of New Orleans, who take the same part in alternate weeks. Each is costumed in a baseball uniform with “Hall of Fame” emblazoned across the front. They are ably accompanied on piano by Coach Accompanist Katherine Kozak of Cleveland, Ohio.
The show was developed by Debra Dickinson of Houston, Acting and Movement Instructor for the Young Artists Program at Glimmerglass, and Dennis Robinson, one of the Young Artists Stage Directors and an Assistant Director for “Lost In the Stars,” an opera by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson which deals with apartheid in South Africa. The baseball music program deals with our own history of legal and enforced segregation in baseball’s Negro Leagues.
As sad as that history can be, the program itself is exuberant and joyful, as these gifted singers take us through seven songs, each preceded by just enough commentary to set the scene. Dickinson and Robinson began early this summer by visiting the Hall’s Library, reviewing the hundreds of pieces of sheet music in the collection and selecting those which fit their story musically and/or thematically. After five weeks of practice, the show debuted just after Hall of Fame Weekend.
The first three songs, “Brother Noah Gave Out Checks For Rain, (1907), “Pickaninny Rose,” (1924), and “Little Puff of Smoke—Good Night,” (1910) represent the reconstruction era, when portrayals of Black culture were often cartoonish and stereotypical. Despite that potential handicap, the music is delivered with style and grace. The last song was one of several written by Guy Harris “Doc” White, a multitalented pitcher for the White Sox and Phillies from 1901-13.
The next two songs deal with the integration era, which began in 1947, with the debut of Jackie Robinson. The group delivers a brilliant version of “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit that Ball,” the 1949 song by Count Basie and Buddy Johnson. The next piece is “Move over Babe, Here Comes Henry,” written in 1974 by legendary baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell. Phillip Gay then goes into an a cappella version of the National Anthem, which brings the fans to their feet and brings goosebumps to them as well – later in the song his compatriots join in.
The 20-minute program concludes with “Heart,” by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, from the 1955 musical “Damn Yankees.”
Make sure to join us in the Bullpen Theater next Thursday!
Tim Wiles is the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
While an assortment of injuries have derailed Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch’s season, it did afford him the opportunity to accompany his father for a recent visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The connection between fathers and sons and the National Pastime is a common sight at the Cooperstown institution. And such was the case as the 27-year-old right-handed hurler, currently on the 60-day disabled list and lost for the season due to shoulder and bicep problems, talked about the motivation for Saturday’s trip with his father, Rick, to Upstate New York.
“We just wanted the whole memory,” Litsch said. “It’s something we’ve wanted to do for awhile and we had time right now so decided to shoot up here and get the whole experience.
“Obviously rehab is not what you want to be doing this time of year, but being able to bring my dad here is a special treat.”
Litsch’s only other time spent in Cooperstown came when he accompanied the Blue Jays to face the Baltimore Orioles in the 2007 Hall of Fame Game.
“That was my rookie year and I remember A.J. Burnett made me do the bucket,” Litsch recalled. “They were playing Home Run Derby out there and I had to get all the balls as the come in from the outfield.”
A Florida native, he grew up a Cincinnati Reds fan whose favorite player was inducted into the Hall of Fame last month.
“My favorite player is Barry Larkin,” Litsch said, “so it’s kind of cool to come here the year the year he gets enshrined.”
As for his own future, Litsch, who has spent his entire five-year big league career with the Blue Jays, says things look bright. Though he will miss the entire 2012 season, his career big league numbers include a 27-27 record, topped by a 13-9 mark in 2008.
“It’s been a hectic year,” Litsch said. “I had an infection that caused an emergency surgery and since then I had to have another surgery that is hopefully the key, so it’s a matter of getting through it and getting back ready for next year.
“Everything is coming along well. It’s a process. You just have to sit and wait, wait, wait and let it get better.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
A bit of Hollywood fame touched Cooperstown on Tuesday, though those not devoted to the show “Sex and the City” or USA’s “White Collar” might have recognized it.
Willie Garson doesn’t look like a typical Hollywood star – a fact he acknowledges and that is even made fun of by Lee Majors in the movie Out Cold when he’s called “short-stack.”
A baseball fan since his youth in Highland Park, N.J., Garson chose the Mets over his father’s Yankees to be different. While he fondly remembers the Mets success in 1986, he was only five years old for the 1969 Miracle Mets.
“When you’re my size, it was never going to be football,” Garson said about his connection to baseball. “And being a Mets fan, it’s bonding when you lose. Yankees fans don’t bond.”
On Tuesday, he was transferring that love of the game from his youth to his son, Nathen, whom he adopted in 2009. Joining a colleague’s son’s travel baseball team in Cooperstown, Garson hoped to show a bit a simpler time and what made him love the game.
“I loved the artistry (of baseball cards). I remember, like Rollie Fingers, with that mustache,” he said. “Baseball cards were everywhere and kids don’t do that today. It’s all internet and TV.”
A prolific actor since the mid-1980s, Garson’s filmography has numerous credits for smaller roles in noted film and TV like “Cheers,” “Mr. Belvedere,” “Quantum Leap,” the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, the short-lived TV series “A League of Their Own” based on the baseball movie by the same name, “Friends,” the Nic Cage-Sean Connery movie The Rock, “Melrose Place,” “NYPD Blue,” “Boy Meets World,” “CSI” and much more.
Baseball fans might also recognize him from his role as Kevin, the doctor and fellow Red Sox-crazed compatriot to Jimmy Fallon’s Ben in Fever Pitch. In one scene in particular, Garson’s character – dressed in a full Red Sox uniform – had to out dance the others to get Sox-Yankees tickets.
“Those dance moves were self taught, a lot of people don’t realize that,” Garson said. “It almost killed me having to be a crazed Sox fan.”
On set, Garson could revel in the Mets’ 1986 triumph over the Red Sox, but on camera it was a different story. At one point in the movie, Fallon’s character has locked himself away and is rewatching an endless loop of Bill Buckner’s error in that cost the Red Sox Game 6 of the World Series which eventually led to the Mets victory in Game 7. In the movie, Garson’s Kevin and others have to disgustedly stop the tape, destroy it and clean up their distraught friend.
His stardom has allowed him to do some special things. In 2010 after Sex and the City 2, he threw out first pitch before a Cubs game. Even after practicing with Nathen, he bounced it and 30,000 fans booed him. But his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” made up for it when those same fans cheered him.
“Baseball is so accessible, even if you’re untalented like me,” Garson said. “You can still go out and play catch with your kid.”
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Nearly one month after she captured the 9-10 year-old girls division of the National Pitch, Hit and Run finals at the All-Star Game in Kansas City back on July 9, 10-year-old Meghan Dougherty visited Cooperstown on Monday, regaling visitors to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum with stories, as the Museum hosted a special program in her honor to celebrate Central New York’s champion.
Meghan, along with her brothers, Ryan and Liam, their mom and dad and aunt made the 85-mile drive to Cooperstown Monday morning for a special program hosted by the Hall of Fame for Museum visitors – featuring the central New York champion and her tales of competing against fellow youths around the globe for the Pitch, Hit and Run title.
In Kansas City, Meghan was one of 24 youngsters, and three within the girls 9-10 year-old age-range, who advanced to national competition from more than 650,000 kids who competed at more than 4,300 Pitch, Hit and Run competitions across the country.
Following victories at East Greenbush and Saratoga, Meghan recorded a narrow victory at Yankee Stadium to secure her place in the national lineup at the All-Star Game. Once in Kansas City, she scored a perfect “six-for-six” in the pitching competition, the only one of the 24 competitors to record a perfect score in the category. She followed that up with excellent performances in the hit and run categories to capture her age division title and a spiffy trophy to call her own, which Meghan brought with her to Cooperstown on Monday.
Though she met some great friends from Texas and Massachusetts while in Kansas City, she tried the barbecue, but “didn’t necessarily like it,” Meghan told visitors on Monday. The experience also included watching the Home Run Derby from the field. She, along with the other Pitch, Hit and Run winners, were honored on field prior to the Derby.
Now that she’s back in central New York, Meghan is looking forward to returning to her softball season. She shared parting words of advice for those in the audience on Monday, as she strives to continue playing the sport she loves so dearly.
“Try your best, think you can do it, and practice hard.”
Spoken like a true champion.
Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
During a recent trip to Cooperstown, emotions were high for Stacey Beck, widow of former major league pitcher Rod Beck. Having been to the Hall of Fame once before with Rod by her side, this latest trip held a new meaning for Stacey. When examining items relating to Rod’s career, memories of her previous life as the wife of a big league player were brought to the forefront.
“The highlights [of the Hall of Fame] were personal, mostly,” said Stacey. “Seeing the photos and articles of Rod, seeing the ball from the Cubs/Giants playoff game, it all was a reminder of wonderful times for our family.”
Having made this trip to the Hall with daughter Kayla and mother Francine Kurtz, Stacey’s visit was meaningful for another reason – she was able to share the experience with her daughter. Watching Kayla put into context the place of her father’s career within the larger history of baseball was very special.
“This was an opportunity for [Kayla] to connect to her dad’s experiences; recognizing that he was a link in the baseball history chain was an awesome experience.”
And what a link in the chain Rod Beck was.
To his opponents, Beck, (1968-2007), was downright intimidating. Leaning in to glare at batters with an intense stare, his long hair blowing in the wind as his pitching arm swung like a pendulum by his side, Beck was the visual definition of a closer’s closer – a game finisher if there ever was one. Although his fastball rarely topped 88 mph, Beck made up for a lack of velocity with pitch placement and an intense competitiveness that made the nickname of “The Shooter” seem more fitting than the radar gun would suggest.
Indeed, Beck’s passion for the adrenalin rush that came with stifling opposing teams’ late inning hopes propelled him through 13 seasons in the major leagues and earned him 286 saves for the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Padres. More importantly, it earned him the respect of players, coaches and fans in every city where he played. His blue-collar attitude and friendly gruffness generated a dual-personality befitting his profession – frightening on the baseball diamond but approachable and earnest off the field. Said Padres teammate Trevor Hoffman, “It was hard to get through that exterior of what he looked like, but it took about 1 ½ minutes to realize that’s all it was. He was a teddy bear.”
Yet Beck was more than a fierce baseball player or a teddy bear. He was also an activist.
It all began in the early nineties, when the San Francisco Giants, Beck’s first team, made a call for their players to become involved with a charitable cause. Having just seen “The Ryan White Story” on TV with wife Stacey, the choice was plain for Rod Beck. Believing that “No kid should have to be ashamed to be sick,” Beck immediately threw himself into his chosen cause, not only raising funds, but taking the more personal approach of regularly visiting kids with HIV. “He stepped up and gave a face to those with AIDS,” Stacey said during her eulogy at Rod’s funeral. “He hugged and kissed children others were afraid to touch.”
Beck’s involvement did not stop there however, as he even went so far as convincing the Giants to host a pre-game AIDS awareness event. Held for the first time in 1994, “Until There’s a Cure Day” was the first AIDS awareness event ever hosted by a professional sports team. Since that first event, “Until There’s a Cure Day” has since been held annually in San Francisco and has produced more than $1.3 million for Bay area HIV/AIDS prevention education and health services.
Since Rod’s untimely passing in 2007 at the age of 38, Stacey has carried on Rod’s passion for charity work alongside Kayla and younger daughter Kelsey.
More than five years after his death, Rod Beck’s legacy lives on.
Kimberly McCray is the 2012 library-recorded media intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development