Results tagged ‘ Big Red Machine ’
By Trevor Hayes
We’ve had a champion for several weeks now, but with last week’s announcement of the final major BBWAA Awards, the 2010 season is complete. Now it’s time to look back a little and then move on to 2011. During the next few weeks, we should see a flurry of free agent activity, starting with the Winter Meetings, which begin this weekend in Orlando.
Less can be more: Last week, Josh Hamilton handily won the AL MVP Award. Hobbled by broken ribs and playing in 133 games, he’s only the second position player over the last 30 years to play in that few games (with the exception of strike-shortened seasons) and be named league MVP. In fact, he’s only the fifth player to ever earn the Award after playing 133 or fewer during a full 162 game season. The others are the Giants’ Barry Bonds in 2003, the Royals’ George Brett in 1980, the Pirates’ Willie Stargell in 1979 and the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle in 1962. Like Hamilton, Brett and Mantle both suffered injuries that held them out for long periods of time, while Bonds and Stargell were slowed by age.
Twice as nice: With Awards Season coming to a close, the AL champion Rangers now boast the hardware to back-up the run to their first-ever World Series appearance. Josh Hamilton’s MVP Award and Neftali Feliz’s Rookie of the Year Award, make them the 13th pair of teammates to sweep both Awards in a year – not including 1975 and 2001 when Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki won both Awards, respectively.
Of the 13 pairs, Hamilton and Feliz join eight others in reaching the World Series. The others were Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe (1949 Dodgers), Yogi Berra and Gil McDougald (1951 Yankees), Roy Campanella and Jim Gilliam (1953 Dodgers), Mickey Mantle and Tony Kubek (1957 Yankees), Mantle and Tom Tresh (1962 Yankees), Joe Morgan and Pat Zachry (1975 Reds), Willie McGee and Vince Coleman (1985 Cardinals) and Jose Canseco and Walt Weiss (1988 A’s).
It should also be noted that Lynn’s 1975 Red Sox made the World Series and Suzuki’s 2001 Mariners finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, but lost in the ALCS.
Joey joins Reds’ best: Ten different Cincinnati Reds have been honored with the National League’s MVP Award. Joey Votto became the 10th last week after he denied Albert Pujols his fourth Award, which would have put the Cardinal slugger into rarified air as only the second player to collect more than three MVPs.
Votto’s honor links his name with Reds MVPs like Hall of Famers like Johnny Bench (1970, 1972), Joe Morgan (1975-76), Frank Robinson (1961) and Ernie Lombardi (1938).
Vlad and Texas heaping it on: It’s not a major award, but some major names have been attached to it. This year’s recipient of the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award, Vladimir Guerrero, gave the Rangers yet another piece of hardware last Wednesday to celebrate 2010.
Renamed after Edgar Martinez in 2004, the list of former winners extends beyond the longtime Mariners legend. Among the Hall of Famers to take home the honor are inaugural winner Orlando Cepeda (1973), Jim Rice (1977), Dave Winfield (1992) and Paul Molitor (1993, 1996).
150 Million Dollar Man: Troy Tulowitzki will be staying in Colorado for the next 10 years and that’s just fine with the slugging shortstop. Not only did he sign a deal this week that will pay him an average of $15 million a year until 2020, but he’s now got a shot to be like his idol, Hall of Famer and Oriole legend Cal Ripken Jr., and stay with one team for his entire career. Of the 292 Hall of Famers, 47 spent their entire playing career with one team. Aside from Ripken, the only other shortstops in that group were the White Sox’s Luke Appling, the Cubs’ Ernie Banks, the New York Giants’ Travis Jackson, the Yankees’ Phil Rizzuto, the Pirates’ Honus Wagner and the Brewers’ Robin Yount.
Hall of Famers around town: Bob Costas brings three more Hall of Fame names to his show tonight on MLB Network. Big Red Machine cogs Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, will be Studio 42 tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
In other Reds news, the team’s annual winter celebration, Redsfest, will feature tributes to Sparky Anderson. More than 60 current and former Reds players will be on hand tonight and tomorrow at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati.
Tomorrow, Tigers legend Al Kaline will be at the Comerica Park Retail Shop. The Hall of Famer will be promoting and signing copies of his book “SIX: A Salute to Al Kaline.”
And as the Winter Meetinsg convene this weekend, several Hall of Famers will be in Orlando to participate in the Expansion Era Committee’s Hall of Fame Induction voting. The 16-person committee will vote on Sunday and includes Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith. Results will be announced on Monday at baseballhall.org.
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By Trevor Hayes
The last week has been a historical one in many respects and will certainly go down as an important one in the 2010 memory bank.
Tex and Lou: The Sox-Yankees feud adds a new layer each year. This year’s latest notable? Mark Teixeira’s three-homer game on Saturday matched Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig’s as the only Yankees’ three-homer effort against Boston. Gehrig’s barrage came in an 11-4 win at Fenway Park on June 23, 1927. Since 1920, Bronx Bombers have recorded 22 games with three or more homers.
Just one cycle: On May 14, 2009, the majors had already witnessed three cycles with a fourth to come in a little more than a week. This season only Milwaukee’s Jody Gerut has accomplished the feat, with his cycle last Saturday. Last season a record-tying eight cycles were hit, artifacts of which can be seen – along with Gerut’s bat from the first home run in Citi Field history – in the Today’s Game exhibit at the Hall of Fame.
Third knuckler to 2,000: With his fourth-inning K of Vernon Wells on Wednesday, Tim Wakefield achieved his 2,000th major-league strikeout. Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough are the only other knucklers above the 2,000-mark, with the Hall of Famer at 3,342 and Hough at 2,362. At the age of 43 years, 283 days, Wakefield became the second-oldest pitcher to reach the 2,000-strikeout mark. The only older pitcher to reach the milestone was Jamie Moyer at 44 years, 145 days in 2007.
Following Perfection: Dallas Braden’s media whirlwind is over and his artifacts are in Cooperstown, so what’s next after tossing the major’s 18th regular-season perfect game last Sunday? Less than a year ago, Mark Buehrle threw a perfecto against the same Tampa Bay Rays Braden faced – making it the shortest time span separating a pair of perfect games since Worcester’s Lee Richmond against Cleveland (the first perfect game) and Providence’s Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward versus Buffalo, which happened within a week in 1880 – and then retired the 17 batters he faced in his next start. Coupled with the final batter of his start prior to the perfect game, Buehrle set the record for consecutive hitters retired. Braden has his chance to keep perfection going tonight against the Angels in a 10:05 ET start in Los Angeles. “To have something of mine taking up space in that beautiful Hall is pretty nice,” said Braden, who visited Cooperstown a few years ago.
Celebrating Civil Rights: Hall of Famer Joe Morgan will be back in Cincinnati this weekend for the annual Civil Rights Game – which this year features the Cardinals and Reds. The former second baseman for the Big Red Machine is helping kick off the event with a roundtable discussion on the state of race relations. Also among the festivities held at the Freedom Center and the Reds Hall of Fame are a meet-and-greet event with former Negro leagues players and a special exhibition of Jackie Robinson artifacts, including a game-worn jerseys, a Robinson bat and a ticket stub from the April 15, 1947, game in which Robinson broke the color barrier for the Dodgers.
Trevor Hayes is editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By Trevor Hayes
There were literally no empty seats in the Grandstand Theater for the Hall of Fame Classic Voices of the Game. And this special Father’s Day edition delivered with the same impact the four Hall of Famers on stage had during their careers.
The sellout crowd listened for as Triple-Crown winner Bob Feller, 300-game winner Phil Niekro, 3,000-hit Club member Paul Molitor and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner Brooks Robinson reflected on their careers and talked about the game they love.
All four legends and fellow Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins headline the signature event of the weekend, the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day at Doubleday Field.
The theme of fathers and sons has been a principal element throughout this inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Weekend and was present during Voices of the Game. Niekro spoke vividly of his relationship. As a youngster in Ohio, he looked up to his father, who taught him the weapon that would be his bread and butter in a 24 season career.
“”If it wasn’t for the knuckleball, I probably would have ended up coal mining,” Niekro said. “I didn’t know what it was. I just had fun playing knuckle ball in the back yard. Then I was able to get Little League guys out.”
His success continued and he hitched a ride to a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves. He signed for $500. Early on, Knucksie as he became known, was unsure of his talents. When the Hall’s manager of museum programs Steve Light, who moderated the event asked Niekro how he fared against the two accomplished hitters on either side of him, Knucksie started laughing.
“I faced Brooks early on during a Spring Training game,” he recalled. “One of my 77-mph fastballs got away from me and I hit him in the head.”
Robinson countered, “Didn’t hurt a bit.”
“I thought I was going to be done the next day for hitting Brooks Robinson with a fastball,” Niekro said.
Robinson’s start wasn’t something to brag about either, though he did. He played most of the 1955 season for the York (Penn.) White Roses – a B-League team in the Piedmont League. Robinson got the call at the end of the season and got two hits in his first start.
“I called home and said, ‘This is cake. Why did I play in [the minors] all year? I should have been in the big leagues.'”
He then went 0-for-18. He recovered and became one of the cornerstones of the great Orioles teams of the 1960’s and 70’s. He appeared in four World Series, winning a pair of rings. Robinson played on a lot of great teams, but he feels one of the best didn’t achieve to the level that some of his other teams might have.
In honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Miracle Mets, Light asked Robinson about the 1969 World Series.
“I thought our ’62 team was our best,” he said. “But anything can happen in a seven-game series. We beat [Hall of Famer Tom] Seaver and lost the next four, straight.”
Baltimore was back in the Series again the next season and Robinson took the MVP honors, hitting .429 against the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati. He drove in six and hit a pair of home runs. Molitor like Robinson achieved October glory by winning the MVP Award in 1993 with the Blue Jays.
During that Fall Classic, he hit .500 with a pair of doubles, a pair of triples and a pair of homers while driving in eight against the Phillies. Molitor’s best memory of that Series however, was not one of his personal achievements.
“The ’93 Series, I was on first base when Joe Carter hit that ball over the wall,” he said. “I was thinking if it goes off the wall and I hustle, I can score and end this thing, but then it went out and it was all over anyway.”
Another highlight of Molitor’s career was reaching 3,000 hits. Pure consistency throughout his career allowed The Ignitor to retire with a career .306 batting average and 3,319 hits. In 1987, he took a run at one of the game’s longest standing records, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Molitor hit safely in 39 straight.
“Whether it’s milestones or streaks, players don’t really play for those, but numbers are big in baseball,” he said. “Falling 17 games short is still a long way away from that number and my perspective changed after that streak.
“I always tell people: The way you handle success is directly related to the way you handle failure, because 3,000 hits means 7,000 outs.”
Knucksie, a member of another elite club – the 300-game winners – applauded Molitor on the achievement. He said pitchers have help in winning games, but hitters are alone.
Niekro’s 300th came in his last start of 1985 as a Yankee. It was a special moment for him and his father, who was faltering in health. Niekro was 46 at the time and at the end of his contract.
“If I didn’t win it, I would have had to wait until the next spring and he wasn’t going to hold on that long,” he said. “So really that was a blessing for both of us.”
Feller missed 300 wins by 34. But he recorded a career-high 27 in 1940 followed by 25 in 1941 before leaving baseball for most of four seasons to serve in the Navy during World War II. Light noted that the Grandstand Theater is a replica of Chicago’s Comiskey Park where Feller authored one of his three no-hitters and the only Opening Day no-no in the history of the game.
“Well it was 69 years ago and I remember it quite well,” the Indians ace recalled. “It wasn’t my best no-hitter. I didn’t have great stuff that day. I only struck out eight and we won 1-0. I remember that my catcher, Rollie Hemsley, hit a triple with my rommmate on base to score the only run.”
At 90, Feller’s memory is as sharp as if he were reading a box score. Light asked him about his famous high-leg kick and he laughed.
“That high leg kick…You’ve seen the picture taken in Yankee Stadium in 1936 or ’37 with my leg kicked over my head and the photographer laying flat on the ground,” Feller said. “That is all for show. It was just symbolism. But it’s the most popular picture they’ve got of me and it sells well at card shows.”
Another Feller myth was confirmed, when Light asked the former fireballer about the motorcycle and his fastball. Feller said that, that also happened in Chicago. He was wearing a tie and a dress shirt during the exhibition, but when he wound up with the motorcycle ten feet behind him, the ball beat the bike to the target. Using a timer and the vehicles speedometer, it was figured that he threw the ball 104 mph. Later a similar event was held and Feller clocked in at 107 mph.
Apparently worried by this, Molitor interrupted the story, “Can I ask him how his arm is feeling, since I have to leadoff against him tomorrow? I’ve heard stories of him hitting the first batter, so I’m just curious.”
Once the laughter subsided, and it was confirmed that Molitor would be the first batter to face the Classic’s starting pitcher – the 90-year-old Feller – Light asked Robinson how he felt knowing that he’d be the first guy to dig in against Knucksie in the bottom of the first.
Recalling their Spring Training encounter, Robinson looked worried and Niekro laughed, “Put your helmet on big boy, it’s coming.”
It is coming. In less than 24 hours, the legends will take the field at Doubleday and the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic will begin with Molitor facing Feller and Robinson against Niekro. Feller’s words seemed to sum up the entire weekend.
Baseball is a game of luck and there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad,” he said, noting the rain that fell on Cooperstown for most of Saturday. “We’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow, rain or shine.”
Trevor Hayes is editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By Bill Francis
Former big league pitcher Jack Billingham, a witness to some of the game’s greatest moments of the 1970s, has been walking through the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum the past few days.
Billingham — along with his wife, Jolene, and his sister and brother-in-law — has been touring the country in a pair of RVs over the past three weeks, making stops, among other places, in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit. The brief stay in Cooperstown isn’t Billingham’s first: The 6-foot-4 right-hander, now retired and living in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., made the trip in 1969 to participate in the Hall of Fame Game as a member of the Houston Astros.
During this visit, Billingham and his group spent Monday morning getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the baseball institution from Senior Curator Tom Shieber. The 13-year veteran, who spent time with the Dodgers (1968), Astros (1969-71), Reds (1972-77), Tigers (1978-80) and Red Sox (1980), looked at both his clipping and photo files in the Library before viewing some of the Museum’s vast archives.
“Growing up, you always heard about the Hall of Fame, but I wasn’t a Hall of Fame candidate, and I knew that from the start,” Billingham said with a chuckle.
Though he might not have had the resume of some of his more celebrated teammates, the sinkerballer ended his career with 145 wins, winning at least 10 games for 10 consecutive years.
“You thought of the Hall of Fame in terms of who you were playing with,” Billingham said. “When I came up as a rookie, I was playing with Don Drysdale. I went to Spring Training with Sandy Koufax. Walter Alston was my manager in 1968, and I came up in the Minor Leagues with Tommy Lasorda when he became a manager. And then I go over to Houston, and I tell people all the time I played with Joe Morgan three years in Houston when he was an All-Star player, but when he came to Cincinnati, he became a Hall of Famer.”
After he was traded to the Reds from the Astros with Morgan prior to the 1972 campaign, Billingham became a stalwart moundsman of Cincinnati’s famed Big Red Machine of the mid-1970s, when his teammates included future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Morgan, as well as manager Sparky Anderson.
“We had Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Davey Concepcion, an All-Star lineup,” Billingham said. “You knew you were playing with special guys who would be in the Hall of Fame.”
The Big Red Machine cemented its reputation by winning consecutive World Series titles in 1975 and ’76.
“The World Series is exciting and great, and it’s a dream to be there, but you have to win to make a name for yourself. We were there in 1972 [against the Oakland A’s] and didn’t win,” Billingham said. “Then we played Boston in 1975 — it went seven games. A lot of people think it was one of the better World Series ever played. But we won. And I think the thing that really put the mark on us and really made our name is when in 1976, we played the Yankees and swept them in four games.”
Billingham’s star shined the brightest in the Fall Classic. He posted a 2-0 record and a 0.36 ERA in 25 1/3 innings pitched. Billingham still holds the record for lowest career World Series ERA with a minimum of 25 innings pitched.
“I think [the record] was just being at the right place at the right time. You go through streaks pitching. I was just on,” Billingham said. “I wasn’t a strikeout pitcher, so I needed gloves behind me. And though we were known as the Big Red Machine as far as scoring runs and hitting the ball, we also could catch the ball. Up the middle is where you make your defense, and we had guys like Davey Concepcion, Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo and Johnny Bench. We had the best at that time.”
Billingham also became the answer to a trivia question when he surrendered Hank Aaron‘s 714th career home run on April 4, 1974. The bat and ball from Aaron’s 714th home run are now on display in the Hall of Fame’s new exhibit, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.
“It was almost like being in the World Series; there was so much press there. Everybody wants to interview you — ‘How do you feel? How will you feel if you give up 714? If Hank comes up, and you’re leading by nine runs, would you throw one right down the middle so he could hit it out?’ — so I was aware of it, but it didn’t bother me,” Billingham said.
“Once the game started, you just get in your own little world. You know Hank Aaron is up there. He came up with two men on in the first inning. We’re playing at home, and there are 40,000 fans in Cincinnati booing me because they want to see Hank Aaron hit. I was 3-1, and I wasn’t going to back off, and tried to throw a fastball sinker on the outside part of the plate. And when you’re behind in the count, and you have a good hitter up there, that’s when you get in trouble. And he hit the ball, a three-run homer. But like I told everybody, I had one of the best seats in the house, and we won the ballgame when it was all over with.”
Looking back on his long professional baseball career, Billingham admitted the game meant everything to him.
“It was my life,” he said. “I started playing the day I got out of high school, and I played 20 years. I got 13 years in the big leagues. I played with some great players. I have nothing but great memories.”
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.