Results tagged ‘ Baseball ’

Greenberg’s Glory

Muder_90By Craig Muder

With 40 Hall of Famers ready to come home to Cooperstown in a few weeks, there’s a wonderful spirit in the air in Central New York.

But thanks to some tireless work by author John Rosengren, the spirit of one more legend – former Tigers and Pirates star Hank Greenberg – has come to life at the home of baseball.Greenberg-Book

Rosengren’s biography “Hank Greenberg: Hero of Heroes” was published this spring by New American Library and is available at booksellers throughout the country. The 392-page work is a must-read for fans of the slugging first baseman, who later became a respected general manager.

Rosengren documents Greenberg’s entire life, which began on Jan. 1, 1911 in New York City. The son of Jewish immigrants from Romania, Hyman Greenberg was the third child of David and Sarah – his name was recorded on his birth certificate as “Henry” by mistake. By the time he reached his early 20s, “Hank” had become one of the most famous Jews in America – a symbol of pride for his race.

Rosengren meticulously documents Greenberg’s battle with prejudice and his own conscience as he established himself as one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters. He brings to life Greenberg’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in the 1938 season, when Greenberg fell just short with 58 round-trippers. And readers get an inside look at a man driven to perfection – who was his own harshest critic despite two American League Most Valuable Player Awards, four AL home run crowns and four RBI titles.

“Hank was no longer being asked to carry his team,” Rosengren wrote. “He was being prevailed upon to carry his people.”

One of the most influential Jewish athletes of all-time – and a man who inspired countless Jewish children to strive for greatness – Greenberg is often underrepresented in the analysis of baseball’s greatest sluggers. But despite losing the equivalent of more than four prime seasons during World War II, Greenberg still hit 331 home runs and drove in 1,276 runs in what amounted to nine-and-a-half full campaigns. His career slugging percentage of .605 ranks sixth all time (only Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx and Barry Bonds rank higher), as does his career on-base plus slugging (OPS) average of 1.017.

Greenberg was also the first major leaguer to re-enlist in the armed forces following the Dec. 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, having been honorably discharged from the Army after serving eight months in 1941.

Greenberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956 and called it his “greatest” thrill in baseball.

Rosengren captures all this and more in a volume that brings Hank Greenberg back to life. A fitting tribute to a man whose greatness transcended the game.

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

Remembering Edith Houghton

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

“I guess I was born with a baseball in my hand or something,”  said Edith Houghton.  “I enjoyed it more than anything.”

Edith, who died on Feb. 2, just eight days shy of her 101st birthday, lived a baseball life that would be the envy of many men. Not only did she scout for the Philadelphia Phillies beginning just after World War II, but she was a professional baseball player too.

Edith Houghton generously donated artifacts from her collection that are now on display in the Museum's Diamond Dreams exhibit. (NBHOF Museum)

Edith Houghton generously donated artifacts from her collection that are now on display in the Museum’s Diamond Dreams exhibit. (NBHOF Library)

 

Edith Houghton generously donated several artifacts from her baseball career to the Hall of Fame – many of which are on display in the Museum’s Diamond Dreams exhibit. (Craig Muder/NBHOF Library)At the tender age of 10, Edith, a natural athlete, joined the Philadelphia Bobbies, a young women’s baseball team named after their fashionable 1920s haircuts, as their shortstop, in 1922.

In 1925, the Bobbies embarked on an amazing cross-cultural baseball journey, touring Japan and playing against men’s college baseball teams.

Upon her return to the States, Edith joined first the New York Bloomer Girls and later the Hollywood Girls, two leading women’s baseball teams of the pre-AAGPBL era.  The teams toured the country playing against local men’s teams.

During World War II, Edith served in the Navy and reportedly played for the WAVES women’s baseball team, a fascinating chapter in the history of women in baseball about which little is known today.

Upon her return from the war, she approached Phillies owner Bob Carpenter and asked to become a scout.  After leafing through Edith’s remarkable scrapbook, Carpenter hired her, and she signed a number of players for the Phils, though none ended up making the major leagues.

I have had the privilege of leafing through that amazing scrapbook, as Hall of Fame Photo Archivist Pat Kelly and I had the chance to meet Edith in her Sarasota, Fla., home during the summer of 2000.  We were in West Palm Beach for the annual SABR convention, and we drove across the state to meet and conduct an oral history interview with Edith.  She was charming, gracious, and still in love with the game.

Edith donated several artifacts from her career to the Hall of Fame.  In our Diamond Dreams exhibit, visitors can see her Bobbies cap, her jersey from the Japanese tour, with U.S.A.  across the front, along with her belt.

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

Commentaries on the Hall of Fame Election

Gates_90By Jim Gates

Following the recent announcement by the BBWAA that there would be no additional inductees for the Class of 2013, there were a number of published commentaries regarding the Hall of Fame election process.  Many of these were produced in the days immediately following the January 9th announcement.  For me these editorials brought up the question as to whether this was something modern, or had the system been a target for commentary since the earliest days?

Accordingly, I decided to start with the first election and work my way forward, the objective being to locate and date the earliest example of an editorial piece about the Hall of Fame election process.

Editorial piece by John Kieran of the New York Times discussing the 1936 voting results. (NBHOF Library)

Editorial piece by John Kieran of the New York Times discussing the 1936 voting results. (NBHOF Library)

Using a variety of library files and online resources it was relatively easy to establish that results of the first election were publically announced on February 2, 1936.  This election established the inaugural class of inductees as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.  There are a number of Associated Press wire stories which appear in newspapers on February 3rd, all of which refer to the election results as being announced on the previous day.

So, with a firm date from which to work, I began searching for published commentaries, wondering just how long it would take for the first to appear.  Well, the answer was less than 24 hours!  It did not take an extraordinary amount of effort to find an editorial piece by John Kieran of the New York Times which discusses the voting results and system used.  Kieran was one of the leading sportswriters in America, and as can be seen in his column, he asked many of the same questions that we see in 2013.

It seems as if public debate about the election system has been part of the baseball culture since the first election.  Or, as the old saying goes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Voters and fans have always taken the process seriously and there has never been a time when public evaluation of the process was not part of the baseball world.

Jim Gates is the Librarian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Cooperstown’s Seamhead Notes: Stats, Beast Mode and Journeymen

By TREVOR HAYES

Last week kicked off the first Seamhead Notes of the season and we talked about Jamie Moyer’s age and artifacts which have already arrived at the Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jamie Moyer pitching for the Seattle Mariners. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

Before we get in to this week’s cliff notes, there was a stat about Moyer having faced 8.9 percent of all major league batters. So, while I’m admittedly terrible at math, let me throw some numbers at you. Moyer has faced 1,430 batters at least once (totaling 17,374 plate appearances against him). As of today, 17,751 players have played in the majors, however not all have been “major league batters” thanks mostly to relief specialists, the designated hitter rule and in some part to guys who maybe played one or two games as a pinch runner or defensive replacement only. How many players have played in the majors to never get a plate appearance? There have been 1,690. Subtract that from the total number of players, then divide Moyer’s batters faced by the result: 8.9 percent of all MLB hitters since 1871.

Couple other quick residual facts from that research: Toronto’s Jason Frasor has appeared in the most games without a plate appearance at 482 and counting, followed by Arizona’s J.J. Putz. Most plate appearances without an AB award goes to Jose Parra with four (walking twice with two sac hits). Who has Jamie Moyer faced most? Former NL West rival Garrett Anderson (112 PA), while Manny Ramirez has taken him deep most (10 times) and Bernie Williams has the most hits (35 to Anderson’s 34).

Okay, the last week in history: 

Quick Hits: The Blue Jays broke the longest active triple play drought on Friday, turning three for the first time since 1979 – the third longest in history behind the Dodgers 47 years and 50 day drought from 1949 to 1996, and the Yankees’ 41 years and 323 days, from 1968 to 2010… Josh Willingham matched but could not break a Twins franchise record, etching his name next to two Hall of Famers in the process. He hit in 15 consecutive team games to start the season, equaling Goose Goslin in 1927 and Kirby Puckett in 1994… On Tuesday, Chipper Jones belted his fifth career birthday home run – this one marking his 40th b-day celebration. He is the seventh player go deep on his 40th-or-older birthday since 1900, including Hall of Famers Joe Morgan (1983) and Wade Boggs (1998) and current Phillie Jim Thome (2011)… On Wednesday, Paul Konerko passed Andres Galarraga and Hall of Famer Al Kaline on the all-time list with his 400th home run.

Willie Mays staggering career statistics include 3,283 hits and 660 home runs. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

KeMVP?: If Matt Kemp was in Beast Mode last season when he made a run at the Triple Crown and finished second in MVP voting, he’s cranked Beast Mode up to full blast. Playing in his 14th game last Friday (April 20), he collected three hits and two RBIs, bringing him to 26 hits and 20 RBIs. In the span of 50 years, two other players reached 25 hits and 20 RBIs by their 15th game: Hall of Famer Willie Mays in 1962, who finished second in the MVP race, and 1997 MVP Larry Walker.

Furthermore, the following day Kemp and his partner Andre Ethier each drove in two more, giving them 22 and 21 respectively. The 1949 Red Sox are the only other team to boast teammates with more than 20 RBIs in their team’s first 15 games as Hall of Famer Ted Williams and Vern Stephens each had 21. Williams would win the AL MVP that season.

To go along with his 22 RBIs, Kemp had 27 hits and nine homers by the end of play on Saturday, April 21. Willie Mays in 1964 is the only man that can top those numbers through the first 15: 29 hits, 10 homers, 25 RBI.

New in Cooperstown: New this week in artifacts arriving at the Hall of Fame was the cap worn by Detroit’s Octavio Dotel on April 7 when he made his debut for the Detroit Tigers. A 19-year vet, Dotel has now pitched for a record 13 major-league teams, passing Matt Stairs, Ron Villone and Mike Morgan, who each played for 12 teams.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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