Results tagged ‘ All-Star ’

Team Dawson comes to Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Vanessa Dawson watched carefully Tuesday as her husband toured the Baseball Hall of Fame, preparing herself for a hectic Induction Weekend less than three months away.

05-05-10-Muder_Dawson.jpgBut during a film retrospective of her husband’s career, the enormity of it all set in.

The stoic and regal Andre Dawson, one of the game’s leading citizens for more than three decades, took his Orientation Tour on Tuesday in preparation for his July 25 induction. Dawson, who spent 21 big league seasons with the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins, was making his fourth-ever visit to the Hall of Fame – but this time he arrived as an electee. Hall of Fame officials spent the morning preparing Andre and Vanessa for what is to come in July, then showed the Dawsons the Museum in the afternoon.

At the end of the tour, Andre and Vanessa were treated to a video summary of his career, complete with commentary from other Hall of Famers. When the lights went up, Vanessa was moved to tears – overwhelmed by the tribute to her Hall of Fame husband.

“I was driven by discipline that was instilled in me through women who were my mentors – being my mother (Mattie Brown), my grandmother (Eunice Taylor) and then my wife,” Andre Dawson said.

That discipline brought Andre Dawson the 1977 National League Rookie of the Year Award, the 1987 NL MVP Award, eight Gold Gloves for his play in the outfield and eight All-Star Game selections. And now, it has brought him to Cooperstown.

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

Ichiro, Phat Albert become Hall of Fame-eligible

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Someday – 10 to 15 years from now – Monday will be known as the day it became official. The day when the clock started ticking. The day two legends truly began their journey to Cooperstown.

04-07-10-Muder_Pujols.jpgMonday was the day that Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki first became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Now, don’t go marking calendars just yet. Phat Albert and Ichiro have a lot of baseball left to play, and their Hall of Fame eligibility doesn’t officially begin until they’ve been retired for five years. At 36, Ichiro looks like he could play for at least 10 more years. And Pujols just turned 30, leaving him with a real chance to take a crack at 700 home runs and 3,000 hits in the latter part of this decade.

But barring the totally unforeseen, Ichiro and Albert are headed for Cooperstown. And on Opening Day, they cleared their primary eligibility hurdle when they appeared in a game in their 10th season of Major League Baseball.

Both Pujols and Suzuki broke into the majors in 2001, and both became instant stars. Each won their respective league’s Rookie of the Year awards that season, and it’s been virtually a non-stop success ride from there.

04-07-10-Muder_Suzuki.jpgIchiro has been named to nine straight All-Star Games, has won nine straight Gold Gloves in right field and was the AL MVP in 2001. He set the all-time single-season hit record in 2004 with 262 base hits, and owns nine straight 200-hit seasons – another big league record.

Pujols has been named to eight All-Star Games, has won three NL MVPs (including the last two in a row), owns a Gold Glove at first base and helped the Cardinals win the 2006 World Series.

But until Monday – when Pujols led his Cardinals over the Reds with two home runs and Ichiro went 1-for-4 for the Mariners in their win against the A’s, the pair had not satisfied the Hall of Fame requirement of playing at least 10 big league seasons.

It would appear to be the last hurdle on a path that will likely take both to Cooperstown.

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

Classic stories from Paul Blair

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The gold ring on his pinkie finger sparkled in the morning sun as Paul Blair signed one autograph after another.

03-19-10-Muder_Blair.jpgSome remembered Blair as the Gold Glove centerfielder of the 1960s and 70s Baltimore Orioles. Others recalled him as the super-sub on the New York Yankees’ title teams of 1977 and 1978.

But all the fans who lined up to purchase tickets for the Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday enjoyed listening to Blair’s stories – and eagerly anticipated his appearance in the Father’s Day legends game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.

Blair, who will join Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Harmon Killebrew, Phil Niekro and Ozzie Smith at the June 20 Classic, posed for pictures and signed balls and caps for fans waiting to purchase tickets at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The four-time World Series champion was easily identifiable with his 1978 World Series ring, but admitted that the 1966 title he won as a member of the Orioles is his favorite baseball memory.

“We beat the Dodgers, not by scoring a bunch of runs but by playing winning baseball,” said Blair, an eight-time Gold Glove centerfielder. “We shut them out for the final 33 innings of that World Series because our pitchers had two goals when they went to the mound: Don’t walk anyone, and keep the ball in the ballpark. They knew if they did that, we’d make the plays behind them.”

03-22-10-Muder_Blair2.jpgBlair’s fifth-inning home run in Game 3 of the 1966 World Series provided the only run in a 1-0 Orioles’ win, putting Baltimore up 3-games-to-0 and effectively clinching the Series. He would finish his 17-year big league career with two All-Star Game appearances and more than 1,500 hits. Only seven players have ever won more Gold Gloves for their outfield play.

This summer, however, Blair expects to man the infield at the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day.

“I started as an infielder, and that’s where I’m playing now,” said the 66-year-old Blair, who today carries a six handicap on the golf course. “I’m looking forward to coming back in June.”

Participants the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program can purchase tickets for the June 20 Hall of Fame Classic exclusively through March 28 by calling 1-866-849-7770 or visiting www.baseballhall.org. For more information about becoming a Member, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org.

Any tickets remaining on March 29 will be made available to the general public.

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

50 years ago, Kirby Puckett began Hall of Fame journey

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

It should have been a milestone birthday, with friends and family gathered around Kirby Puckett to celebrate the big 5-0.

Instead, it is a reminder of what the baseball world lost with the premature death of the ebullient Puckett – and a chance to remember a player whose spirit will never die.

03-15-10-Muder_Puckett.jpgSunday marked the 50th anniversary of Puckett’s birth. The 2001 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee died in 2006 of complications from a stroke.

In between, Puckett lit up the baseball landscape with his smile, enthusiasm and all-around play in center field for the Minnesota Twins.

“He deserved the best,” said former Twins star Tony Oliva. “I know he was the best.”

Puckett was the third pick overall in the 1982 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft and became the Twins’ starting center fielder in 1984. Two years later, after four home runs in his first 1,248 big league at-bats, Puckett hit 31 home runs and drove in 96 runs while hitting .328. He won his first of six Gold Gloves that year for his defensive play.

“I was nervous when I got to the big leagues, but I was never afraid,” Puckett said. “Like every ballplayer and every human being, I failed lots of times throughout my career. But I understood how to overcome and recognize the true power of learning from failure.”

In all, Puckett played 12 major league seasons before glaucoma in his right eye forced his retirement at age 35. He led the American League in hits four times, was named to 10 All-Star teams and helped the Twins win World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.

In 2001 in his first year eligible, he was elected to the Hall of Fame after receiving 82.1 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote.

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

Career saves

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

 
03-11-10-Berowski_JohnT.jpgWill Carroll, author of the definitive book on baseball injuries Saving the Pitcher, puts it in the simplest terms: “Since the invention of the breaking ball, there has been no more significant development in baseball than Tommy John surgery.”

Pioneered by Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974, ulnar collateral ligament surgery has saved the careers of hundreds of ballplayers. More commonly known as “Tommy John surgery,” named after the first ballplayer to undergo the procedure, Tommy John himself was given full recovery odds of about one percent. The surgery was a success and added 14 seasons, and 164 more wins, to John’s career. Today, full recovery rates hover at around 90 percent.

The ulnar collateral ligament or UCL is the primary medial stabilizer of the elbow joint – in simple terms, it affects one’s ability to throw a baseball. Tommy John surgery involves removing a tendon from another body part, usually the opposite arm or knee, and using a figure 8 pattern to connect the humerus and ulna bones, replacing the ligament. 

03-11-10-Berowski_Molitor.jpgIf it weren’t for Dr. Jobe’s pioneering procedure, there might only be 291 Hall of Famers instead of 292. On March 22, 1984, in a spring training game against the Cubs, Brewers third baseman Paul Molitor suffered an injury to his right elbow. That injury resulted in Dr. Jobe performing his patented surgery on Molitor, removing a tendon from Molly’s left forearm and using it to replace the ligament in his right elbow. Thanks to the surgery, Molitor was able to add 2,410 hits to his resume over the next 14 seasons, ultimately earning enshrinement in Cooperstown in 2004.

It was revealed only days ago the Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins suffered a tear in the UCL of his throwing arm. No pitcher has recorded more saves than the Twins’ stopper over the last six seasons. But if surgery is necessary, Nathan would likely miss the entire 2010 campaign. 

Over the last decade or so a number of star players, notably late-inning relievers, have had to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery – some with potential Hall of Fame credentials.  Ace relievers John Franco, John Smoltz and Billy Wagner have all undergone the procedure and came back strong.

To date, however, no Hall of Fame pitcher has undergone Tommy John surgery during his career.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Birthday Sunday

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Jan. 31, the Hall of Fame will wish Happy Birthday to three of our own. 

Ernie Banks will turn 79. Although his beloved Cubbies, a perennial second-division team during his tenure there, never made it to the World Series, it was not because of Mr. Cub, who did everything he could year after year to try to get them there. A 12-time All-Star and two-time NL MVP, Banks hit more than 500 home runs and drove in more than 1,600 runs in his 19 seasons playing first base and shortstop with Chicago’s North-Siders.

01-29-10-Berowski_BanksRyanRobinson.jpgAlso celebrating his birthday is the all-time Major League strikeout king, and current president of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express will celebrate his 63rd birthday. Although his birthday is officially January 31, Ryan seems to have received an early birthday present when his ownership group was recently selected to purchase his home state’s AL franchise, the Texas Rangers. 

Rounding out the trio of birthday boys is Jackie Robinson. The only man with his uniform number retired across Major League Baseball, Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Although he passed away in 1972, Jackie Robinson will be remembered by many on what would have been his 91st birthday.

There are 292 Hall of Famers and 365 days in a calendar year, yet there are more than a dozen dates on the calendar that celebrate the birthday of three Hall of Famers. In fact, May 14 is the day of the year with the most Hall of Famer birthdays: Ed Walsh, Earle Combs, Tony Perez, JL Wilkinson and Alex Pompez. 

October is the month that has the most Hall of Famer birthdays – 36. And three Hall of Famers passed away on their birthday – Joe Tinker, Gabby Hartnett and Bucky Harris. 

A pair of baseball’s former home run kings will have the anniversaries of their births marked next week. Hank Aaron will turn 76 Feb, 5, and Feb. 6 will mark 115th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s birth.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Friend of the Game

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

NEW YORK — Andre Dawson never knew he had so many friends. But after becoming the newest member of the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Dawson’s cell phone never stopped ringing.

“I’ve had 90 text messages and 60 voice messages,” Dawson said. “I don’t think I know that many people.”

01-07-10-Muder_Dawson.jpgBut people know Andre Dawson. And now they know him by his new title: Hall of Famer.

Dawson arrived in New York City on Wednesday night after learning earlier in the day that he had become the 292nd member of the Hall of Fame. On his ninth try on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, Dawson crossed the magic 75-percent level necessary for Hall of Fame induction.

He’ll be enshrined July 25 in Cooperstown with Veterans Committee electees Doug Harvey and Whitey Herzog.

The 55-year-old Dawson is fit and trim — and looks like he could still mash a few balls over the fence. But the knee problems that dogged him during his playing career would make any comeback impossible.

“I got stopped in the airport, as usual, because of this knee,” said Dawson, patting the right leg that contains an artificial joint made of metal. “They won’t let me through security.”

Dawson, however, was more than happy to endure the wait in the airport. The smiles came easy on Wednesday for the eight-time All-Star outfielder — one of baseball’s most outstanding citizens — as he recalled the career path that brought him to the Hall of Fame.

In a little more than six months, that path will land Dawson on stage in the Village of Cooperstown — and once again, he’ll be recalling his career. Only this time, thousands of fans will be cheering.

One last ovation for a player who has as many friends as he does fans.

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

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