Results tagged ‘ Bob Feller ’

Irvin a part of living history at Hall of Fame

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

When Monte Irvin was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, the Hall’s entire roster of members included 140 names.

Today, almost half that number – 68 – are living Hall of Famers, and the Hall’s total membership has more than doubled to 292.

02-25-10-Muder_Irvin.jpgIrvin, the fourth-oldest living Hall of Famer, celebrates his 91st birthday today. He belongs to the Hall of Fame’s Roaring 90s club along with Lee MacPhail (92), Bobby Doerr (91) and Bob Feller (91) – with Stan Musial set to turn 90 on Nov. 21 of this year.

No other point in history has seen 68 living members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, it wasn’t until the Class of 1953 – fourteen years after the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum first opened its doors in Cooperstown – that the total number of Hall of Famers even reached 68.

Election to the Hall of Fame remains sport’s most exclusive honor. Of the more than 17,000 men who have played Major League Baseball, 203 – a little more than one percent – have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame as players.

Happy Birthday Monte!

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

On the road at TwinsFest

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

I spent the last weekend of January representing the Baseball Hall of Fame at TwinsFest in the Metrodome, one of baseball’s largest fan fests. It’s great to celebrate the National Pastime in the dead of winter as the baseball world turns its attention from hot stove planning to spring training.

02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest.jpgTwinsFest, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Twins Community Fund begun in 1989, has raised millions of dollars for local organizations. Many fans stopped by our spot in right field to see the artifacts we brought and to say hello, weigh Bert Blyleven’s chances for election to the Hall next year, talk about trips to Cooperstown and sign up for our membership program.

Many Twins fans, young and old, enjoyed over 50 artifacts from the Hall’s collection, like Ty Cobb’s small glove, Lou Gehrig’s jersey from his final season in pinstripes and a tunic from a 1940s Michigan team in the women’s pro league, the AAGPBL. But the most popular items were from Twins history, including the ball Dave Kingman hit into the Dome’s roof in 1984, the ball Gene Larkin knocked into left-center to win the 1991 World Series, hometown hero Joe Mauer’s bats from each of the three seasons he won the AL batting crown and the Hall of Fame plaque of Harmon Killebrew.

Many current Twins were on hand such as Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and new Twin Jim Thome, as well as former greats Blyleven, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Tony Oliva. Bob Feller had Frank Howard and Denny McLain at his booth, while Fergie Jenkins led Rollie Fingers and other players raising money for Haitian relief.
 
02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest2.jpgThough the Twins have hosted the Hall at TwinsFest for many years, it was my first trip to the Twin Cities. I was impressed by the friendly folks and fantastic food. I only got lost a few times in the downtown skyways and enjoyed a tour of the Twins new outdoor home, Target Field, which looks like a great place to see a game.

After a thrilling season last year and a new ballpark in 2010, I sensed a lot of excitement from the Twins and their fans. It turned out to be one of the biggest TwinsFests they’ve ever had.

Our thanks to Jackie Hoff and the team from the Science Museum of Minnesota, who installed the exhibit and showed me the ropes. The Twins’ staff was great, especially Heidi Sammon, Glo Westerdahl, and their new curator, Clyde Doepner. I hope the Twins and their fans have a great 2010.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator for new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Nov. 18, 1966: Koufax calls it quits

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

When Sandy Koufax called it quits 43 years ago today — Nov. 18, 1966 — he ended a six-year run that scouts only dream about.

It was a six-year run good enough for a place in Cooperstown.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Koufax.jpgKoufax, who grew up in Brooklyn playing in the city’s “Ice Cream Leagues,” debuted with his hometown Dodgers in 1955. He posted five wins and a 3.02 ERA in his rookie year. The powerful lefty averaged only six wins per year for the first half of his career, but in 1961 Koufax began quite possibly the most impressive six-year span for a pitcher.

Koufax led the bigs in wins in 1963 (25), 1965 (26) and 1966 (27). His average ERA during his tyranny on National League hitters was an exceptional 1.99.

“I can see how he won 25 games,” said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra of Koufax’s 1963 season. “What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”

In 1963, Koufax also became just the second pitcher to ever take home an MVP and a Cy Young in the same season – after Don Newcombe did it with Brooklyn in the first year of the Cy Young award of 1956. Only six have earned that dual honor since (Vida Blue, Roger Clemens, Willie Hernndez, Denny McLain and Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Bob Gibson).

And it wasn’t just soft-hitting utility men that had trouble with the mighty southpaw. Try a Hall of Famer with 475 career home runs.

“Hitting against Sandy Koufax is like drinking coffee with a fork,” said Pirates’ slugger Willie Stargell.

11-18-09-Lawrence_KoufaxNoHitters.jpgHarry Hooper, a four-time champion with the early 20th century Red Sox, echoed Stargell’s sentiments.

“You name a better left-hander in the history of baseball and I’ll eat my hat,” he said, referring to Koufax.

Koufax also became the first pitcher to reach four career no-hitters on Sept. 25, 1965, surpassing Larry Corcoran, Cy Young and Bob Feller. He is also one of only six pitchers to toss a perfect game and a regular no-hitter, along with Young, Jim Bunning, Addie Joss, Randy Johnson and the newest member Mark Buehrle.

It was severe arthritis in the once-in-a-generation left arm of Koufax that led to the demise of his young career. In fact, in April of 1966 Koufax was told that he couldn’t go another season, but he did – winning a career high 27 games with a career-best 1.73 ERA.

“Sandy pitches in extreme pain that can only be overcome by his motivational urge,” said team physician Dr. Robert Kerlan, according to an article in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgAnd despite this mental resolve that allowed the vaunted ace to pitch through immense pain, he was a gentleman of the highest order.

“There is hardly a strong enough word for the way the other players feel about Koufax,” said Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. “It almost goes beyond affection… for a man so gentle he seems misplaced in a jock shop.”

Koufax was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, just the 10th player (at the time) to be inducted in his first year of eligibility.

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Feller joins Club 91

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

11-2-09-Muder_Feller.jpgAt little more than four months ago, Bob Feller was standing on the mound at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown – preparing to throw the first pitch of the Baseball Hall of Fame Classic.

Today, Feller will celebrate his 91st birthday. And the man who has been a Hall of Famer longer than any other shows no signs of slowing down.

Feller, born Nov. 3, 1918, in Van Meter, Iowa, becomes the 12th Hall of Famer to reach his 91st birthday. He is the third-oldest living Hall of Famer – behind 92-year-old Lee MacPhail and 91-year-old Bobby Doerr, who is a little more than six months older than Feller

11-2-09-Muder_Chart.jpgA little perspective: Feller was born eight days before the end of World War I. And at the June 21 Hall of Fame Classic, Feller faced Hall of Famer Paul Molitor – who was born in 1956, Feller’s final year in the major leagues.

Feller, MacPhail, Doerr and Monte Irvin are the only living Hall of Famers who have reached their 90th birthday (Irvin turned 90 on Feb, 25, 2009). Stan Musial will be the next Hall of Famer to turn 90 when he celebrates his birthday on Nov. 21, 2010.

Al Lopez remains the oldest Hall of Famer, having reached the age of 97 before passing away on Oct. 30, 2005.

Feller was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, meaning he has lived more years as a Hall of Famer (47) than not (44). No one has worn the title of “Hall of Famer” with more pride.

Happy birthday, Bob Feller!

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

Baseball, U.S. Naval history intersect in Alabama

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I woke up Oct. 1 in Mobile, Ala. and looked at my itinerary. A morning meeting with the Mobile Baybears, the Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, followed by lunch. After that, about five hours to kill until my flight home.

10-5-09-Idelson_Feller.jpgErik Strohl, our senior director of exhibits and collections, and I, decided to take a tour of the battleship Alabama, a massive Navy ship that saw extensive action during World War II. I had wished to see the ship for many years, specifically because Hall of Famer Bob Feller served on it. It is now a museum of sorts, docked in Mobile Bay

Feller left the Cleveland Indians for the Navy, enlisting just two days after Pearl Harbor in 1941.He spent four years in the prime of his career as an anti-aircraft gun captain on the USS Alabama, part of a well-trained fleet that never lost one man to combat. Feller was decorated eight times with five battle stars.

As we boarded the ship, I had the chills. Walking the ship’s deck, I imagined a young Bob doing his part to make the team a success, just as so many other major leaguers had during World War II.

Erik and I walked the entire ship, on every level and were awestruck how it resembled a small town. Mess hall, post office, store, laundry, barber shop… it had everything. The battleship was home to more than 2,500 sailors, more than the population of Cooperstown. I know I would have been claustrophobic, bunking well below the ship’s surface.

10-5-09-Idelson_Alabama.jpgWe could also imagine how unsettling it must have been to be constantly on guard with the potential for attack. The battleship was painted several times, depending on the mission, to match the color of the sky and water.

We saw many photos of the soldiers. We even saw one of the baseball team, each player with a giant “A” on the front of his uniform, akin to the old Philadelphia A’s logo. No Bob in the photos, though he did play.

The Alabama would play other ships and was renowned for having the best team in the Pacific, playing in places like New Hebrides, the Fijis, Ulithi, Kwadulane, Eniwetok. I pictured Feller, between practicing combat exercises, playing catch on the ship’s massive deck.

I know how proud Bob is of his military service and touring the Alabama made me realize just how hard his job was, helping to protect America when a team effort was needed most. It also made me realize how fortunate we are to have the freedoms we do, because of soldiers like him who put his country first

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

Rookies of the Year

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder
 
Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice are rookies all over again.

7-25-09-Muder_HendersonRice.jpgHenderson and Rice, members of the Class of 2009 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, met the media on Saturday afternoon for the last time before Sunday’s Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown. Neither seemed nervous about their induction speeches, and both have enjoyed every minute of their time in the limelight.

Even — it seems — when their soon-to-be fellow Hall of Famers are reminding them of their non-veteran status in Cooperstown.

“They told us we were going to have to sing Sunday night at dinner,” Henderson said. “I can’t sing. Are you singing, Jim?”

Rice, accustomed to vocal exhibitions in his announcing job with NESN, wanted no part of a sing-along.

“We’re not doing that,” said Rice while exchanging a solidarity handshake with his fellow Class of 2009 electee. “If that’s the tradition, then we’re starting a new one.”

However, the returning Hall of Famers — including Bob Feller, who has been an enshrined Hall of Famer for more than half of his 90 years — can be very persuasive.

“The big thing everyone told us about Sunday is not to go long,” Rice said of his Hall of Fame speech. “I think we’ll both be keeping it short.”

7-25-09-Muder_Gordon.jpgHowever, everyone wanted to hear what Rice and Henderson had to say on Saturday — as national media ranging from the New York Times to ESPN came to Cooperstown. Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. Induction Ceremony — carried live by MLB Network, simulcast at www.baseballhall.org and open to the public for free at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown — also promises to be a must-see.

“Being in front of all those Hall of Famers on that stage — with your family and friends in the audience — that’s even more pressure than coming to the plate with a runner on second with two outs,” Rice said. “But everything here has been great all weekend. There’s no reason to expect it will change tomorrow.”

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

Fans, players share the fun at Hall of Fame Classic

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Their smiles were so big, you’d have thought they’d all just won the lottery.

Mike Timlin, bending over near home plate so players could sign his jersey. Jeff Kent, drilling homer after homer to win the pregame Hitting Contest. Lee Smith, signing autographs until every fan was happy at Doubleday Field.

6-21-09-Muder_Timlin.jpgIt was the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday in Cooperstown, and the fans cheered lustily at every opportunity — thrilled to have their heroes back on the playing field. But it was the players who seemed to be the most grateful.

“Thank you for having us here,” said Kent, who was playing in the major leagues this time last year. “It’s really a thrill to be in Cooperstown.”

The day’s longest ovation was reserved for Bob Feller, who started the game and revved up his legendary fastball one more time at 90 years of age. When he left in the middle of the first inning, the crowd of 7,069 fans at Doubleday Field gave him a standing ovation. When he received his first standing-O on the baseball mound, Franklin Roosevelt was president.

“Thank you for coming,” Feller said the the crowd after his Team Wagner defeated Team Collins 5-4.

No, Bob.. Thank you for coming.

It could only happen in Cooperstown, the home of baseball dreams — for fans and players.

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

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