Presents in Cooperstown for Ryan Howard

By Craig Muder

As birthday gifts go, this one is going to be hard to top.

Philadelphia Phillies’ slugging first baseman Ryan Howard got a terrific surprise Nov. 19 when his fiancé Krystle Campbell arranged a trip to Cooperstown for his 33rd birthday.

Howard experienced his first visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Monday, making a five-hour trip from Philadelphia to Central New York that Campbell had arranged weeks in advance. Monday was Howard’s 33rd birthday, and it was clear that his future wife had a special day planned.

Ryan Howard and his fiance Krystle Campbell smile during a tour of the Hall of Fame archive on Monday. The “Bustin’ Babes” was worn by Babe Ruth on a barnstorming tour during the 1920s. (Craig Muder/NBHOF Library)

Howard, however, had no idea where they were going.

“I’m riding along and all of a sudden I saw signs for Oneonta,” said Howard of the city located about 30 minutes south of Cooperstown. “I had played there in the New York-Penn League (for Batavia) in 2001 when I was in the minors, so I knew about where we were. But I had no idea we were so close to the Hall of Fame.”

But Howard has been close to the Hall of Fame – inside the walls, actually – for some time. He has generously donated several artifacts to the Museum over the years, including a Phillies road jersey he wore during his 2006 National League Most Valuable Player season and a bat he used to hit two home runs in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series.

Both artifacts are currently on display in the Phillies’ exhibit in Today’s Game, the Museum’s showcase for current players and teams.

“Every kid wants to grow up to play baseball, then to win the World Series and some day make the Hall of Fame,” Howard said. “Just to see my bat and jersey – to see all the history here – it’s awesome.”

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

A Fond ‘Adieu’ to Jacques Barzun

By Tim Wiles

It is perhaps baseball’s most familiar quotation:  “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”

So said Jacques Barzun, the eminent French-born sociologist, historian, and critic. Barzun moved to the United States at age 13, and stayed until his death last week at age 104.  He authored more than 40 books on subjects as diverse as opera, science, art, the research process, and education, including biographical and critical works on Lincoln, Berlioz, Darwin, Marx, William James, and Lord Byron.

Historian Jacques Barzun (left) stands with Hall of Fame director of research Tim Wiles beneath an image bearing his famous quote about baseball in this 2003 photo taken at the Hall of Fame. (NBHOF Library)

As you might expect, Barzun was a frequent visitor to Cooperstown, but not for the reason you might think. Yes, he loved baseball, and wrote very perceptively of it in his 1954 book “God’s Country and Mine,” the source of his great baseball quotation. But the reason for his repeat visits to Cooperstown was the excellent opera company at the other end of Otsego Lake from the Hall of Fame, The Gimmerglass Festival.

I first was able to meet him in 1998, when he lectured on Tosca at the opera’s annual Gala Weekend. Then in 2003, I was honored to give him a tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame while he was in town to take in some more opera. We posed for the attached photo in front of a giant photo of Fenway’s Park’s Green Monster that hung for several years just inside our front door – emblazoned with his famous quotation.

Though the quote itself is very familiar to baseball fans, I think it is truncated too soon.  Here’s the whole sentence:

“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game – and do it by watching first some high school or small town teams.”

While Barzun lived in New York City for decades and was reportedly a Yankees fan, the full quote hints at the rural, small-town core of baseball as played by generations of American kids. In the movie “The Baseball Experience” that is shown daily in the Museum’s Grandstand Theater, there is a series of photos of baseball, ranging from youth leagues to sandlots to a big league stadium, while the narrator intones “baseball is played here, and here, and here…” emphasizing Barzun’s contention that some thing in the “small ball” of small town baseball expresses the essence of the game.

Here are a couple of other intriguing quotes, from the same essay:

“Baseball is Greek in being national, heroic, and broken up in the rivalries of city-states.  How sad that Europe knows nothing like it!”

“We also find our American innocence in calling ‘World Series’ the annual games between the winners in each big league. The world doesn’t know or care and couldn’t compete if it wanted to, but since it’s us children having fun, why, the world is our stage.”

“But being spread out, baseball has something sociable and friendly about it that I especially love. It is graphic and choreographic.”

“Baseball is a kind of collective chess with arms and legs in full play under sunlight.”

“And the next day in the paper: Learned comment, statistical summaries, and the verbal imagery of meta-euphoric experts.”

Barzun received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, the same year that he toured the Hall of Fame. Fittingly, one of his fellow recipients that year was Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

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

Ghost Stories in Cooperstown

By Tim Wiles

“After I sent the email to the Hall of Fame,” says Samantha Tengelitsch, “I said to my husband Chris: ‘We’ll never hear from them now.’”

However, Samantha’s summer email was responded to by library intern Cassidy Lent, and has sparked research which still continues – and produced a pretty good ghost story for Halloween.

Samantha was very interested in a career minor leaguer named Edward Matt, who played from 1909-1913 for seven different minor league teams in the upper Midwest, including Traverse City, Mich., where Samantha and her family now live. But Ed Matt is not a distant relative, so why the interest?

The Hall of Fame’s research department handles thousands of inquiries per year, like this one about former minor league baseball player Edward Matt.

“Edward Matt is a ghost in our house,” Samantha wrote.

The family moved into the house in the summer of 2011, and by the fall, they realized they were not alone.

“I knew nothing about baseball before this.” Samantha notes. “I was coming up the stairs, and there was this man, with baggy pants, horizontally striped socks, and a baseball cap that looked very old-fashioned, with a shorter brim than they have today.”

Eventually, through multiple sightings, Samantha and Chris were able to converse with the ghost, and learned his name was Edward Matt, and that he had lived in their home when he played for the Traverse City Resorters of the Michigan State League in 1912. The Resorters’ ballpark was a block away.

After the first sighting, the couple went to the historical society and the library, and learned that Matt had signed a contract in December of 1913 with the Chicago White Stockings, but was released in February the following year. When they asked him why he was released, he responded “I fell.”

Where had he fallen, they asked? “Freemont Freesoil,” came the response. Later they learned that the towns of Freemont and Freesoil were consecutive stops on the train line from Manistee, Michigan to Chicago, where Matt may have been headed to report to the White Stockings.

The couple decided not to mention the ghost to their 10-year-old daughter, Ava, in order to not frighten her. But then she saw him too.

“I feel like Edward Matt wants us to tell his story,” Samantha wrote in her initial email. The story continues to unfold, though details of Matt’s playing career, his injury, and even his obituary remain sketchy and incomplete.

Samantha, Chris, and the library staff are continuing to check into Ed Matt’s career, and hopefully more details will emerge.

“It’s not our role to judge people’s motives for wanting baseball information,” said Hall of Fame Librarian Jim Gates, “It’s our job to help them.”

Anyone with any leads on Edward Matt is encouraged to contact the research department at research@baseballhall.org.

Whether the mystery is ever fully solved, there has been a happy result for Samantha and her family already.

“I was one of those people who thought baseball was really boring,” she says. “But now we love the game. We started playing as a family, and we love coming home from work and relaxing by watching a baseball game.

“It took an act of God or a supernatural experience to get me to watch a baseball game, but I am coming to understand what a wonderful, great experience baseball is.”

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

Batting Among Champions

By Tim Wiles

This year’s World Series matchup between the Giants and the Tigers marks the first time in 58 years, and fifth time overall, that both league batting champions have played in the Fall Classic.

The Detroit Tigers Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera will be on baseball’s biggest stage facing the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series. (NBHOF Library)

Giants catcher Buster Posey led the National League with a .336 mark, and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers led the junior circuit at .330.

Fifty-eight seasons ago, this statistical rarity also involved the Giants, as center fielder Willie Mays hit .345 to win his only batting title, while Cleveland second baseman Bobby Avila hit. 341 to lead the American League.

The 1931 World Series pitted the Cardinals against the Philadelphia Athletics.  Cardinals left fielder Chick Hafey batted .349 to lead the NL, and his counterpart Al Simmons paced the AL with .390, improving his average by nine points over the previous season, when he also took home the laurels.

In 1909, two of the greatest hitters ever squared off in the World Series. Ty Cobb represented the Tigers with .377, and Honus Wagner led the Pirates and the NL with a mark of .339.

The 1887 World Series – a precursor to the modern World Series – pitted the Detroit Wolverines of the NL against the St. Louis Browns of the American Association, a major league at the time. Both league batting titles were won by outfielders, Sam Thompson of the NL led with .372, and Tip O’Neill led the AA with a whopping .435.  This was the season where walks were counted as hits for the purposes of calculating batting averages.

Interestingly, the National League has won all four previous matchups where this has taken place.

The five matchups have involved the Giants twice, the Tigers twice, and the city of Detroit three times. Of the 10 players involved, six are members of the Hall of Fame (Cobb, Hafey, Mays, Simmons, Thompson and Wagner), while two are not yet eligible (Cabrera and Posey).

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

Sandberg’s Voice Trumpets Character and Courage

By Craig Muder

Ryne Sandberg came to Cooperstownthis weekend to recount how his personal belief in character and courage led him to the Hall of Fame.

Thousands of fans apparently support those beliefs, as a large crowd gathered at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Saturday to celebrate Character and Courage Weekend.

Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg talks to a group of students during the Museum’s Fitness First Clinic on Saturday in Cooperstown. The Clinic was part of Character and Courage Weekend at the Hall of Fame. (Milo Stewart, Jr./NBHOF Library)

In front of a packed house at the Museum’s Grandstand Theater, Sandberg – a 2005 Hall of Fame inductee – shared his personal convictions and how they mesh with the Hall of Fame’s new Be A Superior Example program. Throughout his three-day stop in Cooperstown, Sandberg talked to children and adults about the BASE message of healthy choices and the ability to lead a life free of performance-enhancing substances.

“This is something I believe in, but I never need a reason to return to Cooperstown,” Sandberg said. “I love coming here.

“This is the first time I’ve been here in the fall, and the colors outside are beautiful and the (Museum) is buzzing with people.”

Sandberg helped launch the Museum’s online BASE registry during the fifth-annual Character and Courage Weekend, which celebrates the timeless values ofAmerica’s National Pastime. The BASE registry allows participants – especially youngsters – to learn about healthy choices through a 15-minute online multimedia program, and then pledge to Be A Superior Example through the registry, which lives online and is searchable at the Museum’s BASE exhibit.

For more information or to participate in the BASE program, please visit www.beasuperiorexample.org.

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

Rare Air for Cabrera

By Craig Muder

The magic of the annual Hall of Fame election process is that there is no “automatic in.”

No season statistic, no career achievement, no postseason marvel qualifies a candidate for induction. It is a body of work – compiled over time – which voters must subjectively consider.

And yet, Miguel Cabrera’s 2012 season comes as close as it gets to a ticket to Cooperstown.

Cabrera revived a dinosaur Wednesday, wrapping up something many thought might never be repeated: The batting Triple Crown. For the first time since Carl Yastrzemski’s legendary 1967 season, an MLB hitter led his league in batting average, home runs and RBI in the same year.

Since the dawn of big league baseball in the 1870s until this season, 13 men had produced 15 Triple Crowns – with Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams achieving the milestone twice each. Of those 15 seasons, 13 came in baseball’s modern era – when the American League and National League were both operating as major leagues starting in 1901.

The 11 authors of those 13 seasons are each enshrined in Cooperstown:

Nap Lajoie 1901 AL Triple Crown 1937 Elected to Hall of Fame
Ty Cobb 1909 AL Triple Crown 1936 Elected to Hall of Fame
Rogers Hornsby 1922 NL Triple Crown 1942 Elected to Hall of Fame
Rogers Hornsby 1925 NL Triple Crown 1942 Elected to Hall of Fame
Jimmie Foxx 1933 AL Triple Crown 1951 Elected to Hall of Fame
Chuck Klein 1933 NL Triple Crown 1980 Elected to Hall of Fame
Lou Gehrig 1934 AL Triple Crown 1939 Elected to Hall of Fame
Joe Medwick 1937 NL Triple Crown 1968 Elected to Hall of Fame
Ted Williams 1942 AL Triple Crown 1966 Elected to Hall of Fame
Ted Williams 1947 AL Triple Crown 1966 Elected to Hall of Fame
Mickey Mantle 1956 AL Triple Crown 1974 Elected to Hall of Fame
Frank Robinson 1966 AL Triple Crown 1982 Elected to Hall of Fame
Carl Yastrzemski 1967 AL Triple Crown 1989 Elected to Hall of Fame

The Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera won the 2012 AL batting Triple Crown, the first time in 45 years. (NBHOF Library)

Cabrera flew under the radar for most of the 2012 season, mostly avoiding the pressure build-up that comes with any major achievement. But from this day forward, Cabrera will be on everyone’s radar.

After 10 big league seasons – including his rookie year of 2003 when he appeared in 87 games after his mid-season call-up from the minors to help the Marlins win their second World Series title – Cabrera has 321 home runs, 1,123 RBI and a .318 batting average. He has driven in at least 100 runs in nine seasons and scored better than 100 runs six times.

Only two other players in the game’s history have put together those kind of numbers in the first 10 seasons of their career: Ted Williams and Albert Pujols. And only Williams also had a Triple Crown on his resume.

The Hall of Fame archive contains several artifacts from Triple Crown seasons, including the Triple Crown Awards won by Yastrzemski and Robinson and a bat used by Mantle during the 1956 season. They will all be preserved forever in Cooperstown.

Twelve years ago, Cooperstown-area baseball fans had the chance to watch Cabrera as he played eight games with the Class A Utica Blue Sox of the New York-Penn League – a team located about 45 minutes up the road from baseball’s Mecca that became the Aberdeen IronBirds in 2002.

A decade or so from now, Cabrera is on track return to Central New York – this time as a Hall of Famer.

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

Bob Horner Visits Hall of Fame

By Craig Muder

You never know who’s going to show up in Cooperstown. Today, it was part of my childhood.

Bob Horner, who played 10 big league seasons with the Braves and Cardinals between 1978 and 1988, visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday with his wife Chris.

When the call came that Horner was arriving, I immediately flashed back to the day big league baseball became real for me: Sept. 3, 1978 – my first time at an MLB game.

Former big leaguer Bob Horner (right) holds one of his bats during a visit to the Museum on Wednesday. Horner used the bat during his four-home run game on July 6, 1986 and later donated it to the Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame curator of history and research John Odell gave Horner a tour of the Museum archive. (Milo Stewart Jr./NBHOF Library)

I was nine, and my father took me to Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh to see the Pirates play the Braves on a Sunday afternoon. Horner was the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft that year, and Horner was so good that he went straight from Arizona State to the majors – debuting with the Braves just 10 days after he was drafted.

I can remember debating with my dad about whether Horner might need minor league seasoning. Turns out, he didn’t – Horner hit 23 home runs that year in 89 games, quickly establishing himself as one of the game’s top young third basemen en route to winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

Eight years later, Horner tied a record that still stands. On July 6, 1986, Horner hit four home runs in one game for the Braves against the Montreal Expos. He later donated the bat he used for the first three of those home runs to the Hall of Fame (it broke before he could hit his fourth), and on Wednesday he got to hold it again.

Horner is one of only 16 players to ever hit four home runs in a big league game.

Horner got a tour of the archive Wednesday, and expressed genuine wonder while looking at a ball used during the 1927 World Series.

“Incredible… really incredible,” said Horner.

Horner and his wife now live in Dallas, and were passing through Central New York while on a family visit.

“We always try to stop when we’re here,” Horner said. “The history here is amazing.”

For me, it was living history – my own.

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

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