Results tagged ‘ Boston Braves ’

Baseball hits the mat

By Freddy Berowski

On Sunday, World Wrestling Entertainment will air the 25th annual Royal Rumble on pay-per-view. Millions of fans all over the world are expected to tune in to see John Cena, Zach Ryder, C.M. Punk, Mick Foley and all the top WWE superstars battle for a chance to be in the main event at WrestleMania: The World Series of professional wrestling.

Professional Wrestling and baseball have a storied history. Major Leaguers like baseball’s all-time hit king Pete Rose and long-time White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski have participated in numerous major professional wrestling events. Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets from 1964-2009, hosted a series of WWE wrestling events featuring Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Bruno Sammartino, from 1972 to 1980.

WWE Legend “Macho Man” Randy Savage was a professional baseball player in the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds minor league systems before turning his sights to a career in sports entertainment. Hall of Fame third baseman Pie Traynor was a wrestling announcer for Pittsburgh’s Studio Wrestling program in the 1960s. And current WWE star Mick Foley came to Cooperstown in 2006 to give a talk at the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the baseball book he authored, Scooter.

Professional wrestling’s connection to baseball, specifically the National Baseball Hall of Fame, goes back farther than that. It goes back nearly a century – to 1914.

On April 23, 1914, at the Polo Grounds in New York City, the prodigal son returned. Star outfielder Mike Donlin, owner of a career .334 batting average at the time, came back to the New York Giants after being sold to the Boston Braves three years earlier. In honor of his return, prominent New York Giants supporters, among them politicians, actors, song writers and theatre owners, got together and presented “Turkey Mike” with a specially made trophy bat during pre-game ceremonies, honoring him as the most popular Giants player.

The Master of Ceremonies for this event was prominent New York wrestling and boxing ring announcer Joe Humphreys. Among the team boosters who had this trophy bat made for presentation to Donlin was Jess McMahon.

Jess McMahon, a prominent wrestling and boxing promoter in his own right, is the grandfather of the “Babe Ruth” of wrestling promoters, Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon is the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, the organization that revolutionized professional wrestling from the local, regionalized exhibitions of the pre-1980s, to the world-wide, multi-million dollar phenomenon that it is today.

This bat was donated to the Hall of Fame in 1963 by Mike Donlin’s widow, Rita.

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

Hall Monitor: Cys, Fourths, Hitters and Winners

By Trevor Hayes

Here we are, basically at the halfway point. Many point to the All-Star break as the halfway mark, though that’s not entirely true this season. Seventeen teams are slated to play their 90th game tonight. Baltimore has the fewest games played and tonight will be the Orioles’ 86th contest. Plenty of storylines are swirling with Albert Pujols’ injury, Derek Jeter’s quest for 3,000 and much more. Here’s how the last week has gone.

The Cy Young Returns: On Sunday, the Blue Jays 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay started in Toronto, wearing a Phillies uniform. The outcome was a complete game victory for Doc in his first start as an opposing pitcher since leaving the Jays. Halladay is the sixth former Cy Young to notch a complete game “W” in his first road start against the team for which he won the Cy Young Award. The others include: Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter as a Yankee a season after leaving Oakland in 1975; Tom Seaver after being traded by the Mets to the Reds in 1977; and 300-game winner Randy Johnson in 1999 as a Diamondback against the Mariners.

First-year Oriole mashers: Before this season, Frank Robinson was the only player to collect 20 home runs by the All-Star break in his first season in Baltimore. He had 21 in 1966, the same year he won the AL MVP Award and the Triple Crown. Robinson now has company as Mark Reynolds hit two home runs on Monday, giving him 20 before the break in his first season in Birdland.

Independence Day Fun: Vance Worley led the red-white-and-blue clad Phillies to a 1-0 victory on the Fourth of July. For fans in the city that is home to the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin, they can now claim a .500 record on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. With Hall of Famers from Chuck Klein and Mike Schmidt to Pete Alexander and Steve Carlton, in 201 July 4th games since 1883, Philadelphia’s record is now 101-100.

A fellow N.L. East red-white-and-blue team, the Nationals, also won on Monday. The team in the Nation’s Capital now sports a .633 winning percentage on the Fourth of July. At 31 wins and 18 losses, it’s the best mark for any team with at least 20 Independence Day tilts. Of course, the majority of the franchise’s wins came while playing in another country powered by Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Dick Williams – though as Les Expos de Montreal, they still wore red-white-and-blue uniforms.

Verlander matching Newhouser: Tiger All-Star Justin Verlander, who’s scheduled to throw again this weekend, has been dominant this season, especially so in his last eight starts. After Tuesday, he’s thrown at least seven innings and given up two-or-fewer runs in each of his last eight. It’s rarified air for Detroit pitchers. In 1945, future Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser put together the only other streak like Verlander’s – a nine-game string en route to one of his two MVP Awards.

Youngsters walkin’ off: Mike Stanton became the third youngest player to hit a walk-off  home run when he went yard in the bottom of the 10th on Wednesday. At 21, Stanton’s game-winner gave Florida a 7-6 win over the Phillies. Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews is the youngest, when at 20-years-old he decided a game for the Boston Braves in 1952, also beating the Phillies. Fellow Marlin Alex Gonzalez hit a walk-off homer in 1998 – also 21, but slightly younger than Stanton.

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

A different kind of hit record

By Samantha Carr

Baseball and music have a rich history together. The Hall of Fame honored that history at the 2010 Induction Ceremony by celebrating John Fogerty’s classic baseball song “Centerfield.”

That tradition will continue this year when Terry Cashman’s hit “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey and the Duke)” will be honored during Hall of Fame Weekend 2011. On Friday, a musical group a little newer to the scene got their first taste of Cooperstown.

The Baseball Project is a musical group that formed in 2007 to perform songs about baseball. The group is made up of Steve Wynn (also of Dream Syndicate), his wife Linda Pitmon, Scott McCaughey (also of The Minus 5) and Mike Mills of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee R.E.M.

“The song ideas are flowing,” said Wynn during their visit to the Hall of Fame.

The Baseball Project will be performing tonight at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown and had to make a stop at baseball heaven as part of the trip. The group and some of their crew received a “backstage” tour of the Hall of Fame and were able to go into the Museum’s collections storage to see some artifacts not currently on display.

“I feel like I could really hit something with this,” said Mills when he felt the weight of the bat Ted Williams used to record his last hit.

The group got to see the trombone case from the baseball classic, “The Natural,” as well as items like a ball signed by astronauts.

“Baseball is all weaved in with American culture, so there are all kinds of items that relate,” said Mills.

McCoughey’s favorite artifact was a Babe Ruth jersey he got to hold and be photographed with.

“My dad’s favorite player was Ruth, so this is pretty cool,” he said.

The group, who released their second album Volume 2: High and Inside in March, checked out artifacts like a jersey worn by the Braves manager Billy Southworth made of satin to show up better under lighting during night games and even some snare drums used by the Brooklyn Dodgers Symphony Band.

One thing is for sure – the band finally got the official answer to a lyrical question they have had for years about the baseball classic “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” when they got to view the original sheet music in the Hall of Fame’s collection.

“Now we know the real lyrics – it’s never get back, not ever.”

Don’t be surprised if the group is inspired by their trip to Cooperstown to write a hit that is honored at a Hall of Fame Weekend in the near future.

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

Worth watching

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

A familiar face from PBS’s popular show Antiques Roadshow for 14 years made a non-televised but nonetheless enlightening appearance at the 22nd annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture this week.

Leila “Lee” Dunbar can often be seen appraising sports memorabilia on the long-running television show – she has provided more than 2,000 verbal appraisals on more than 50 segments – but Thursday afternoon in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Bullpen Theater she presented a talk titled “Stories in Hand – Baseball History Told Through its Memorabilia.” Before a full house, Dunbar talked of her life and the road she traveled to become a professional appraiser of pop culture memorabilia, including sports. Interspersed was the detective work often involved as well as stories of intriguing baseball items she has been involved with over the years.

06-04-10-Francis_Dunbar.jpg“The Cooperstown Symposium is great because it gives a lot of different viewpoints, a lot of different nuances of history, a lot of stories that you don’t get to hear in the mainstream,” Dunbar said after her presentation. “One of the things about baseball is that no matter how much you know, there’s a lot more that you don’t know. And I’ve learned so much just in a day. It’s been just fantastic, and you meet a great group of people.

“People with different viewpoints is fantastic because in my world, normally, I’m either meeting people who have items, so they are what I would call ‘civilians,’ or I know other appraisers, and we discuss things from a slightly different point of view,” she added. “So the people that I meet here are not looking at this as a business, they’re looking at it as a purely historical exercise of deepening knowledge and understanding and I appreciate that, I appreciate that passion.”

Besides her work on TV, Dunbar’s company, Leila Dunbar LLC, provides all types of written appraisals for insurance, donation, estate tax, divorce, etc. Prior to opening her own business in July 2008, she served as senior vice president and director of Sotheby’s Collectibles department.

“One of the great things about the Symposium is that it has scholars, it has journalists, it has curators, and it has collectors. Me as an appraiser and having been in the business of actually buying and selling memorabilia, auctioning memorabilia, I look at objects in a variety of ways,” Dunbar said. “One, I look at is what’s the price, what’s the value? Be it a replacement value, be it value for estate tax or donation. So I have to think in that regard. But the only way you can get to that number is to do many of the same things that the others do, which is to do your research and then be able to think quantitatively about that research.”

According to Dunbar, she had very little choice when it came to her affection for the national pastime. While admitting to loving all sports, baseball’s her favorite because it’s what she grew up while being exposed to the most intense rivalry in the game.

“I was very lucky. I grew up with a love a baseball on both sides of my family,” she said. “My grandfather is an Episcopalian minister in New York who had tickets to Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium and idolized all the Yankees. And my mother, a big baseball fan, was actually a member of the knothole gang for the Boston Braves, and to this day I have all these aunts in their 70s, 80s and 90s who all watch, curse or cheer on the Red Sox depending on how well they’re doing.”

As for the institution that was hosting the Symposium, Dunbar had only high praise.

“I think the Baseball Hall of Fame is the ultimate repository of baseball memorabilia, and one that’s able to continually play a role in deepening the understanding of baseball and its history.”

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

Sept. 16, 1960: Warren Spahn tosses no-hitter

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

Warren Spahn had earned many accolades by the start of the 1960 season – the 16th of his career. He had won a Cy Young award, a World Series championship and was an 11-time all-star. He had 10 20-win seasons under his belt and a slew of other awards in his trophy case.

9-16-09-Bielefeld_Spahn.jpgYet one thing was still missing from his illustrious rsum – a no-hitter.

That void would be filled 49 years ago today: Sept. 16, 1960, when Spahn, at 39 years old, achieved baseball immortality against the Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Spahn, a crafty southpaw with a high leg kick, had been making quick work of the Phillies all evening. Coming into the top of the ninth inning, in a game that was barely two hours old, Spahn had only allowed two base runners – both of whom reached on walks.

With four runs of support from his Braves, Spahn was in a position to make history.

No. 9 hitter Bobby Gene Smith was the first to bat for the Phils in the ninth. Spahn promptly struck him out for his 14th K of the game – and proceeded to do the same to leadoff man Bobby Del Greco, elevating his total to 15 on the night.

Only one man now stood between Spahn and an accomplishment which few men achieve in a lifetime. Second baseman Bobby Malkmus stepped into the batter’s box, and just as quickly as the game had progressed up to that point, it ended – with a groundout to shortstop Johnny Logan.

9-16-09-Bielefeld_SpahnColor.jpg“He’s beyond comparison with any modern left-hander,” Hall of Famer Casey Stengel said “He has beaten every handicap – the live ball, second division teams. No one can ever say anything to deny his greatness.”

With the win, Spahn improved to 20-9 and lowered his ERA to 3.46.  He finished the season 21-10 and placed second in Cy Young award voting behind Vern Law of the Pirates.

Spahn would go on to throw his second no hitter April 28 of the following year – at 40 years old.

“I don’t think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame,” Stan Musial once said.  “He’ll never stop pitching.”

After the 1960 season, Spahn would spend four more years with the Braves before joining the New York Mets and then San Francisco Giants in 1965 — the year he played his final big league game.

Spahn finished his career with 363 wins (a record for left-handers) and remains sixth on the all-time wins list. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 in his first year of eligibility. Only 10 other pitchers have accomplished that feat.

Just add it to his rsum.

Bridget Bielefeld was the 2009 public relations intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers visit Cooperstown

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

One of the great strengths of the Baseball Hall of Fame is its universal appeal. Even though we are a Museum dedicated to baseball, fans of American history will invariably visit because one can’t begin to fully appreciate Americana without seeing baseball’s imprint. 

Those who travel to Cooperstown do so as a pilgrimage – we’re not exactly a place you can stumble upon. Once in a great while, visitors will “just happen to be in town for other reasons” and a Museum visit becomes a secondary undertaking. 

6-15-09-Idelson_CSN.jpgSuch was the case Friday when music icons and 1997 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Crosby, Stills and Nash came to town to play a concert at legendary Doubleday Field, the fifth concert ever at the famed venue. Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson got the ball rolling in 2004. Others to have performed include Paul Simon, The Beach Boys with Herman’s Hermits and Dylan, a second time.

Prior to the show, led by three decade-long tour manager Mike “Coach” Sexton, the entire band sans David Crosby, came to visit the Museum. Arriving in golf carts two hours before sound check were Graham Nash and Stephen Stills, along with drummer Joe Vitale, base player Bob Glaub, their newly-anointed organist, and pianist James Raymond — David Crosby’s son.

They spent 90 minutes touring the exhibits and 30 minutes in archival collections. The tour ended with a trip to the photo library so Nash, a well-known photography collector, could have a look at the Library’s famed collection. “Too short of a visit,” lamented Stills after the tour. 

While touring, I learned that Vitale was born in Canton, Ohio, and went to high school with Thurman Munson. “Is he in the Hall?” asked Vitale. When told he wasn’t, he responded: “He should be.”

Stills and Nash loved the Museum and were fascinated with its history. “Ahhh, Mickey Mantle – my first hero,” recalled Stills in the Yankees of 1950s exhibit on the Museum’s second floor. “I loved the Mick, but I am a Red Sox fan. I threw out the first pitch during their run to their first championship and that baseball is one of my prized possessions.”

 In archives, Nash, who played cricket in Blackpool, England as a youngster, picked up one of Hall of Famer George Wright‘s cricket bats, circa 1890. He was intrigued to learn of Wright, the only person in history to play Major League Baseball (Boston and Providence) and First Class Cricket (Longwood Cricket Club of Chestnut Hill, Mass.).

6-15-09-Idelson_Paige.jpgCricket matches are renowned for being seemingly-endless, as they can last for days. I asked Nash if cricket reminded him of acoustic Grateful Dead concerts, which were could also last for hours. “You may have a point there,” he said laughing.

I explained to both musicians the definition of a five-tool player (hit for average, hit for power, run, throw and field) and asked if music had any. “Prince. Definitely Prince,” said Nash. “He can probably play five instruments.”

When I asked Stills if he could go back in time which player he would meet, he answered without hesitation, Satchel Paige. “B.B. King told me that watching Satchel Paige pitch was like watching Jimi Hendrix play guitar. They were both legendary.”

The band thanked Hall of Fame curators Erik Strohl and Tom Shieber for arranging the tour and then headed back to Doubleday Field. After the sound check at 4:30 p.m., the three rock legends posed in Hall of Fame jerseys – as one Hall of Fame honored legends from another: Crosby, Stills and Nash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and are about to enter the Songwriters Hall of Fame (the three are also in the Harmony Hall of Fame). Nash was so appreciative, he opened the show wearing his new garb.

For the photo shoot, to tie music and baseball together even more closely, we brought the bats of three players with which the three musicians posed: Crosby with a Babe Ruth bat, Stills with a Lou Gehrig bat and Nash with a Joe DiMaggio one.

“What a thrill,” said Nash. “What a thrill.”

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

Culture Clubs

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

If baseball and cricket aren’t brothers, they are probably distant cousins. And sometimes visiting relatives, when they get together, are not always readily accepted.

Such was the point made by Beth Hise, a guest curator for the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum in London, England, during a presentation on Wednesday afternoon in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Education Gallery. Hise’s work, entitled The Crowd Began to Shout “Atta Boy” With a Lancashire Accent: The English Response to Baseball Exhibition Games in the Early 20th Century, was one of many presentations that took place on the first day of the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.

6-6-09-Francis_Wright.jpgHise, who lives in Australia but was raised in Cleveland as an Indians fan, is currently working on an exhibit on cricket and baseball. She combined her appearance at the Symposium with her continuing research at the Hall of Fame.

“Today’s talk was looking in detail at one small element of the exhibition, which is the spreading of the two games,” said Hise. “Cricket spread internationally very strongly through the British Empire, where they weren’t imposing a foreign game; they were imposing an entirely foreign system. And the game came as part of it.

“Where baseball is very different is that baseball tried to missionize and send out teams around the world but they sent out two star-studded teams to play each other,” she added, referring to exhibition games held throughout Europe by the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants in both 1913-14 and 1924. “My talk looked at the reception of those two tours in the early 20th Century and how England, in particular, received those tours.”

According to Hise, England saw in those tours something that was outside of anything that they would have anything to do with.

“It was great spectacle, thousands showed up for the matches, they were watched by royalty, but what I did was I looked at the press response,” she said. “I found a lot of different things that the reporters wrote about – very humorous, very good natured, very much enjoying the spectacle, enjoying what they learned about Americans but keeping it all pretty much at arm’s length.”

Hise added the Major League Baseball International is now promoting the fact that our national pastime isn’t strictly an American game but can be adopted for each country’s own needs and have it reflect what they want it to.

“But in the early 20th Century it was really brought over to England as an American export and very much enjoyed in a very strongly American, patriotic sense.”

The annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, co-sponsored by the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, runs through Friday. Each year, the event brings baseball scholars from throughout the country together to examine the impact of baseball on American culture from inter- and multi-disciplinary perspectives.

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

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