Results tagged ‘ Bob Feller ’

Grande delivery

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

There is one voice that lets you know you are in Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend – and it belongs to George Grande.

A crowd of thousands gathered on Main St. in Cooperstown Saturday evening for the first-ever Hall of Fame Parade of Legends. Grande, the retired announcer for the Cincinnati Reds and emcee of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Induction Ceremony announced each Hall of Famer, many with their wives and children, as they waved to fans from the back of Ford pickup trucks on their way to the Museum steps.

07-24-10-Carr-Grande.jpgGrande’s familiar voice introduced each legend with career statistics, a story from their career and even a personal greeting. As Twins legend Rod Carew was announced, Grande commented that Carew looked like he could still hit .300.

“I wish,” said Carew.

But I wouldn’t bet against the career .328 hitter, who spent 19 years in the big leagues, or any of his Hall of Fame teammates. The new parade format allowed fans to get a wave, say hello and get a photo of their heroes from the longest-tenured Hall of Famer Bob Feller to the most recent – of the Class of 2009 – Rickey Henderson.

But the final spots in the parade were reserved for the newest additions to the greatest team ever assembled, the Class of 2010.

Doug Harvey, Whitey Herzog and Andre Dawson made up the caboose of the line of legends and will be honored Sunday on stage with their Hall of Fame Plaques during the 2010 Induction Ceremony.

The ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center, and admission is free. Forty-seven Hall of Famers will take the stage to welcome the Class of 2010 as well as Ford C. Frick winner Jon Miller and J.G. Taylor Spink winner Bill Madden. The ceremony will be broadcast live on MLB Network and Sirius/XM Radio.

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Fun and games

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Seven Hall of Famers, heroes all.

They range in age from 55 to 91, but they remain kids at heart. And on Saturday – the day before the Father’s Day Hall of Fame Classic – they were all thinking about their dad.

06-19-10-Muder_VOG.jpgIn front of a capacity crowd of more than 500 fans at Cooperstown High School, the seven Hall of Famers who will appear at Sunday’s Hall of Fame Classic reminisced about their playing days and told stories about one another.

Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, Goose Gossage, Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, Phil Niekro and Gary Carter brought the house down several times with one-liners – and drew applause when remembering their fathers.

“I think all of us on this stage remember when we played catch with our dads,” Smith said. “To be here in the Mecca of baseball on this weekend is very special for me.”

Just being around their former teammates and opponents was pretty special, too. The jokes flowed quickly from the stage – much to the delight of the audience.

06-19-10-Muder_Box.jpg“Phil, you better get some rest,” said Carter to Niekro when Knucksie was told he’ll be starting in Sunday’s Classic.

“Why?” deadpanned Niekro. “I never did when I played.”

After an hour, it was over – the legends were gone. To be continued on Sunday at Doubleday Field. Where the legends live forever.

“I’ve always loved it in Cooperstown,” said Gossage. “To be elected to the Hall of Fame and to play in this game, I still can’t put into words what it means to me.”

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

Only in Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

With about 48 hours until Sunday’s Hall of Fame Classic, Cooperstown acquired a certain buzz on Friday.

06-18-10-Muder_Feller.jpgThe arrival of one of the legends of the game didn’t hurt, either.

With a backdrop of blue skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze, the man in the black polo shirt walked up Main Street. It could have been any baseball fan, any tourist, any Cooperstown resident.

But one look told you it was Bob Feller.

Eventually… inevitably, the fans recognized him. The 91-year-old Hall of Famer obligingly cut short his walk to stop and talk, spinning tales about his career. Few have ever loved the game – or their role – more than the former Cleveland Indians fireballer.

On Sunday, Feller will captain his team at the 2 p.m. Hall of Fame Classic at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field. He’ll emerge from the dugout to cheers as fervent as those he received as a player. A national treasure deserves no less.

And yet on Friday, he quietly strolled Main Street – soaking in the beauty of Central New York and this idyllic setting.

Only in Cooperstown… where history lives.

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

A pitch for Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

During a May 29 visit to Syracuse to catch a Syracuse Chiefs home game at Alliance Bank Stadium, I ran into former big league pitcher Steve Grilli. Though fireballing phenom Stephen Strasburg was pitching that night, Grilli seemed more excited about the news he had recently received.

06-17-10-Francis_Grilli.jpg“I just got my invitation to play in this year’s Hall of Fame Classic,” a smiling Grilli said. “If I didn’t, I was going to beg to go back because I had such a wonderful time with my family there last year. It’s a great weekend. I just think Cooperstown is a Norman Rockwell city. You can’t help but have a good time over there.”

Grilli, who calls Syracuse home now, pitched for the Chiefs for four seasons (1978-81) and broadcasts their games on TV and radio. A frequent visitor to Cooperstown over the years, he pitched a scoreless fifth inning to help Team Wagner to a 5-4 win over Team Collins in last year’s Hall of Fame Classic at historic Doubleday Field.  

“I can always say I relieved Bob Feller, which I did last year,” said Grilli, referring to the Hall of Fame hurler. “I was on the same team with Bob and I was one of the relievers that relieved him, so I can always say I pitched with Bob Feller.”

Grilli admits to enjoying the change in format from the previous Hall of Fame Game, in which two big league teams played.

“I think this new way of doing it is exciting because you’re getting to see the Hall of Famers, and the guys that I played with that are in the Hall of Fame had a ball, as well as some of us serviceable players like myself,” said Grilli, the father of major league pitcher Jason Grilli. “I got to ride in the parade with my grandson and rub shoulders with some of the better players who have ever come through the game.”

Grilli finished his four-year big league career (1975-77, 1979), spent mostly with the Detroit Tigers, with a record of 4-3. His claim to fame is as the losing pitcher in the longest game in professional baseball history, a 33-inning International League contest in 1981 that saw Pawtucket come away with a 3-2 win over Rochester.

06-17-10-Francis_GrilliPitch.jpgWhen asked about Strasburg, the Syracuse pitcher we were both waiting to see this night, Grilli had only high praise.

“What I’m most impressed with is his breaking stuff. There are guys in the big leagues that throw 96, 97, 98, this kid was two other really well developed pitches to go along with that 98 mile per hour fastball,” Grilli said. “He pitches at 96, 97, he’ll touch 98, 99, 100 when he has to, but his breaking ball is devastating. I was comparing it to Kerry Wood breaking ball when he struck out the 20 or the Nolan Ryan type of curveball. It’s hard and it’s sharp.”

Grilli referred to a former teammate when asked what it had been like to witness in person all of Strasburg’s Syracuse starts.

“It’s something I can only compare to one thing and that was Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. I was part of that club when Mark broke in with Detroit when he went 19-9 in his rookie season (1976),” Grilli said. “This kid’s got that same kind of electricity. And the attention he’s drawn in this town is something I’ve never seen.”

With Cooperstown only 60 miles from Syracuse, could Grilli see Strasburg with his own plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame one day?

“He has the stuff to be a Hall of Famer some day if he continues to throw as he has.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Strasburg at home in Central New York

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A half hour before the 7:05 p.m. start of Friday night’s game, traffic was backed up a mile away from the ballpark. A broadcaster on a local radio station said the game might be pushed back some 10 minutes to allow more fans to get inside. All due to a record-setting crowd on hand in anticipation of baseball’s latest phenom.

05-11-10-Francis_Strasburg.jpgThe distance between the upstate New York outposts of Syracuse and Cooperstown is about 66 miles. If projections prove true, baseball’s latest pitching sensation, Stephen Strasburg, currently learning his craft in the Salt City, might one day find himself with a plaque that short distance down the New York State Thruway at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The 6-foot-5, 225 pound Strasburg, the first overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft by the Washington Nationals, was making only his sixth professional start as well as his Triple-A debut for the Syracuse Chiefs against the visiting Gwinnett Braves on Friday night. The 21-year-old right-hander proved more than prepared, going six innings while allowing one hit and one walk in the 7-0 win. When it was all over, he had faced just 20 batters, striking out six, in his 65 pitches.

“It felt pretty good,” said Strasburg after the game to the 30-or-so assembled media that included reporters from USA Today, the Associated Press and The Washington Post. “I was just trying to keep doing what I’ve been doing, trying to build off of what I learned in Harrisburg and trying to do that up here, and I was able to do that tonight.”

Strasburg had made five starts for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators this season, in which he compiled a 3-1 record and 1.64 ERA in 22 innings.

An announced crowd of 13,766 was on hand at Alliance Bank Stadium that chilly night to see Strasburg, a record attendance for a professional baseball game in Syracuse dating back to 1876.

“It’s great to be pitching in front of a sellout crowd,” Strasburg said. “Everybody was really excited, and you can tell a lot of the players were ready to play today.”

Known for his combination of velocity and control, Strasburg was armed with a fastball that topped out at 99 miles per hour this night. Also in his arsenal are a knee-bending curve, sinker and changeup.

05-11-10-Francis_Gwynn.jpg“The bottom line is you can’t really worry about what caliber of hitter you’re facing,” Strasburg said. “You have to worry about what’s in your control and that’s executing the pitches to the best of your ability. Good pitches should get good hitters out, bottom line.

“I’ve got six starts under my belt, five in Double-A, and I’m starting to get comfortable.”

According to Strasburg’s catcher, Carlos Maldonado, he wasn’t shook off once by his new teammate.

“That’s what was fun about it. I just called the game. I put my fingers down and he executed every pitch,” Maldonado said. “He was like what I was expecting. It was fun to catch him in the bullpen; it was fun to catch him in the game. Every pitch was working for him today.”

Might Strasburg one day join his former coach at San Diego State, Tony Gwynn, as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame? He joins a long line of young fireballers that have dotted the national pastime’s history. Some have ultimately succeeded like Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan; others have flamed out for one reason or another such as Steve Dalkowski, David Clyde and Mark Prior. 

“This game is not easy,” Strasburg said. “I’m happy with where I’m at. I’ll let you guys place a timetable for that. Right now I’m happy to be in Syracuse and happy to be learning from these guys.

“Personally, I’m not going to make any expectations for myself. This is my first year. I’m just going out there to learn. A lot of these coaches and players have a lot more games under their belt than I do and I’m trying to soak it all in and just become a better player and help whatever team I’m on win some ballgames.”

Bill Francis is a library associate 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.

Tales from the Cactus League

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I am so glad Spring Training is here, even if it was warmer in Cooperstown than in the desert for a few of the days I visited Arizona last week. Boy did I miss baseball. And in my job, I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to rub elbows with so many of the game’s greats, bringing them closer to the Hall of Fame.

 
03-12-10-Idelson_KoufaxPalmer.jpgI got to see the Giants, Brewers, White Sox, Mariners, Indians, Reds, Royals and Rangers all play.

It was great to see the two reigning Cy Young award winners – Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke – pitch. I brought Tim plaque postcards of Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer. Why? They are the only Hall of Famers to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards. Perhaps they will help inspire Tim, not that he needs inspiration.

Before the Cactus League opener in Peoria, I visited my friends in the Mariners clubhouse: Head athletic trainer Rick Griffin and I talked about the health of his players; Ken Griffey Jr. told me he expected Ichiro to get twice as many regular season hits as he would – including spring training.  “I’m aiming for 150 hits,” said Junior.  “Have you seen Ichiro get hot?  You turn around, and he’s gone 15-for-25. If anyone can get 300 hits, it’s him.” I don’t doubt Griffey’s sense of logic, having seen Ichiro play so many times.

 Did you ever take an advanced or AP class in high school? I took AP Baseball last week with Professor Ryan. Nolan and I sat together for the Rangers-Royals game, where he gave me a breakdown of every player on the field. I had a similar experience a few days later with White Sox owner and Hall of Fame Board member Jerry Reinsdorf, who invited me to sit with him, his vice chairman, Eddie Einhorn, and his special assistant, Dennis Gilbert, the former agent for George Brett. I now know where the White Sox’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Bobby Brett, George’s brother, joined us.

03-12-10-Idelson_Ryan.jpgWe held our annual Cactus League Champions event in Goodyear, where the Indians and Reds train. It’s a great complex. The Indians were very generous in hosting our Champions, those who support us with an annual donation of $5,000 or more.

Team President Paul Dolan and assistant GM Chris Antonetti addressed our group and let them know what to expect from the Indians this year. After the game, we all had dinner with Bob Feller and Fergie Jenkins, where they regaled the group with stories, photos and autographs.

Speaking of dinners, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie and their wives joined me for dinner the night before. We toasted to a good 2010 Cubs team and the Williams’ 50th wedding anniversary. Quite a feat for the Williamses, a lovely couple.

On my first night in Arizona, I was joined by Mickey Morabito and Steve Vucinich from the A’s, Gary Hughes, the Cubs scout, Roland Hemond, the long-time Bill Veeck disciple who works for the Diamondbacks, and veteran writers Bob Nightengale, of USA Today, and Spink Award winner Tracy Ringolsby. We get together each spring to talk about scouting and the game today. We used to dine each year at the Pink Pony, a popular old-school steakhouse on North Scottsdale Road that finally closed its doors. We miss the Pony.

03-12-10-Idelson_CactusLeague.jpgOn my final evening, I hosted the dinner to end all dinners, at Don & Charlie’s, a popular Scottsdale hangout with great steaks and ribs. We had a large group that included Bob Uecker, Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount and his brother Larry, George Brett and his guest Joe Randa, Mike Murphy, the Giants’ clubhouse man since Day One in San Francisco, Brad Ziegler, my friend who pitches in the A’s bullpen, Jerry, Eddie and Dennis from the White Sox, and Bob Crotty, who is a generous Hall of Fame supporter and owner of Green Diamonds Gallery in Cincinnati, an exquisite baseball gallery of artifacts and art.

Just before we were getting ready to sit down to dinner, Uecker calls me from his cell phone to let me know he invited two other mutual friends – Bob Costas and Joe Torre.

We had a great dinner and talked about the Dodgers impending trip to Taiwan, told Yogi stories, heard all about the Olympics, and tried to recollect if Torre and Fingers ever faced each other. “Did I ever face you?” Joe asked? “I can’t recall,” was Rollie’s response.

So, I emailed Freddy Berowski in the Hall of Fame Library. Sorry Joe: You faced Rollie one time in the regular season, on May 1, 1977, and struck out. You also faced him in the 1973 All-Star Game and popped out in the 9th. None-the-less, you remain one the game’s greatest players, managers and ambassadors and it’s hard to imagine you won’t be in Cooperstown one day.

Jeff Idelson is president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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