Results tagged ‘ Boston Red Sox ’

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. 

Designated history

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Former big leaguer Ron Blomberg was reunited with an old friend on Tuesday afternoon – a bat that he jokes might have had 50 more hits in it.

05-27-10-Francis_Bloomberg.jpgBut for Blomberg, immortality at the Hall of Fame was well worth the trade.

Blomberg was in Cooperstown working with a film crew from the YES Network on a program involving the history of the designated hitter. Blomberg made history when his New York Yankees visited the Boston Red Sox for the season opener on April 6, 1973 and he became the first designated hitter used in a regular season game. After the game, he donated his bat to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

“People don’t realize when we played they gave us (only) two dozen bats right before the season,” said Blomberg in an interview soon after arriving. “And that was a bat that I knew was going to have a lot of hits in it. But it’s great to give back to the game of baseball.”

Blomberg didn’t know what to expect when approached by the Yankees before the game about serving as a DH in the game.

“It was a very unusual day because in 1972 I was coming off a pretty good year, and then in 1973 I pulled a hamstring down in spring training,” Blomberg said. “Our manager, Ralph Houk, and coaches Dick Howser and Elston Howard asked me on the flight from Fort Lauderdale up to Boston if instead of going out on the field could I, because of the pulled hamstring, be the DH. I said, ‘What is it?’ I thought it was a glorified pinch hitter to be honest with you. They said just (go) up to bat four or five times, try and knock in a few runs.

05-27-10-Francis_BloombergAction.jpg“Unfortunately we lost 15-5, but I got to be the first designated hitter.”

Highly recruited in both football and basketball, Blomberg was drafted first overall out of his Georgia high school by the Yankees in the 1967 amateur draft. But injuries to his knees and shoulders ravaged what could have been a very successful career in the major leagues.

Looking back on his eight-year big league career, the lefty-swinging first baseman/right fielder/DH has no regrets.

“I got lucky. One AB (at bat) got me into the Hall, one AB got me into every newspaper and magazine in the country,” said Blomberg, who does a lot of motivational and corporate speaking these days. “Everywhere I go two things happen – people know who I am because I was the first DH or they think I’m related to (New York City) Mayor Bloomberg.

“The funny part about it is to be able to be the first, and after 38 years people still remember. Fifty percent of the people love it but 50 percent of the people hate it,” Blomberg said of the designated hitter.

“It’s really been a fun ride, I really enjoy it. I got in the Hall of Fame the back door rather than the front door.”

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

Hall Monitor: Perfection, Civil Rights in Cincy and one cycle?

Hayes_90.jpgBy 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.


05-14-10-Hayes_Cycles.jpgJust 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.


05-14-10-Hayes_MBuehrle.jpgFollowing 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. 

Halls of Fenway

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I spent last night in Fenway Park enjoying the final game of a three-game series between the Red Sox and their rival, the New York Yankees. There’s no bigger rivalry in baseball and it ranks among the all-time greats in professional sports.

There were four Hall of Famers in the house: Joe Morgan, in town to broadcast on ESPN with 2010 Ford C. Frick Award winner Jon Miller; Jim Rice, a fixture at Fenway as a pre and post-game analyst for the Red Sox’ cable rightsholder, NESN; Pudge Fisk, in town to spend a few days in the Red Sox Legends Suite, entertaining clients for the Red Sox, and Orlando Cepeda.

 
 
05-10-10-Idelson-Fenway.jpgOrlando, or Cha-Cha as he’s known in baseball circles, was in town for an event with EMC2, a worldwide leader in digital data storage. Orlando flew cross country from the Bay Area and made his first visit to the Fenway since 1987, 14 years after making history as the first designated hitter in Red Sox history in 1973.

Since he was already at the ballpark, Cha-Cha was asked to participate in a pre-game ceremony on Mother’s Day Sunday. He was to don a Red Sox jersey – with his number, 25, on the back, and a dark blue Red Sox cap — and escort a cancer-surviving mom to the mound and deliver the first pitch baseball to her so she could throw it out prior to the game.

Before the event, Orlando, Pudge, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Hall of Fame PR Chief Brad Horn and I sat in the dugout for a few minutes and exchanged some banter.

“Orlando! What are you doing here? Can you still hit?” Francona asked the 1999 Hall of Fame inductee who hit 20 home runs in 1973 for Boston.  “I don’t think so, my knee is not too good,” Cepeda said smiling. “How about you Pudge? Can you catch a few innings?” Fisk just rolled his eyes and chuckled.

Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez came out of the tunnel, and Francona introduced his starting catcher to the two legends. Martinez’ eyes lit up. 

Next was Kevin Youkilis. “What size bat did you use, Orlando?” asked Youk. When told that he swung a Louisville Slugger B83 model, weighing 40-ounces, the Red Sox infielder raised his eyebrows in disbelief, then turned to Francona and said: “Can you imagine swinging something that big against the fireballer (Nefti Feliz) from Texas?”

Francona wanted to know who the fastest pitcher was that Cepeda faced. Without thinking twice, Cha-Cha stated, “Nolan Ryan, but there were so many others.  Bob Veale.  So many.”

 “How about Marichal?” asked Francona.  “He threw around 92,” Cepeda replied.

Fisk swung Youkilis’s Mother’s Day pink bat and marveled at the feel of it.

Cepeda walked down the dugout to meet Dustin Pedroia, who grew up near his home in Fairfield, Calif. They talked about living in the Bay Area.  Then David Oritz came into the dugout and the two power hitters exchanged hugs. 

“I loved to watch your dad, Tito, hit,” Cepeda told Francona.

Francona smiled and told Orlando: “He loved watching you hit too. You and Rico Carty were the two guys who really could hit the ball hard.”  “And Yaz,” said Cepeda.  “He swung harder than anyone I know.”

As the pregame ceremony started, Orlando left the dugout for the field. I wondered if the 15 minutes of levity helped the Red Sox at all as the team salvaged the final game of the Series with New York.

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

Team Dawson comes to Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Vanessa Dawson watched carefully Tuesday as her husband toured the Baseball Hall of Fame, preparing herself for a hectic Induction Weekend less than three months away.

05-05-10-Muder_Dawson.jpgBut during a film retrospective of her husband’s career, the enormity of it all set in.

The stoic and regal Andre Dawson, one of the game’s leading citizens for more than three decades, took his Orientation Tour on Tuesday in preparation for his July 25 induction. Dawson, who spent 21 big league seasons with the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins, was making his fourth-ever visit to the Hall of Fame – but this time he arrived as an electee. Hall of Fame officials spent the morning preparing Andre and Vanessa for what is to come in July, then showed the Dawsons the Museum in the afternoon.

At the end of the tour, Andre and Vanessa were treated to a video summary of his career, complete with commentary from other Hall of Famers. When the lights went up, Vanessa was moved to tears – overwhelmed by the tribute to her Hall of Fame husband.

“I was driven by discipline that was instilled in me through women who were my mentors – being my mother (Mattie Brown), my grandmother (Eunice Taylor) and then my wife,” Andre Dawson said.

That discipline brought Andre Dawson the 1977 National League Rookie of the Year Award, the 1987 NL MVP Award, eight Gold Gloves for his play in the outfield and eight All-Star Game selections. And now, it has brought him to Cooperstown.

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

Grand Slam Poetry

Light_90.jpgBy Steve Light

One-Hundred years after Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (“Tinkers, to Evers, to Chance”), baseball remains a sport that lends itself to poetic musings. With this in mind, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum celebrated National Poetry Month last week by asking our visitors to express their love of baseball in poetic form.

04-28-10-Light_TinkersEversChance.jpgVisitors to the Museum were greeted with signs that asked, “What is Baseball to You?” After completing their tour through the Museum, many no doubt reliving and sharing their own baseball memories along the way, visitors could stop in the Education Gallery and record their own thoughts in special poetry journals set out for the week, or simply flip through and read what others had to say.

In all, we collected over 80 entries of poems and prose during the week, from young and old, Red Sox fans to Yankee fans. Taken in whole, our visitor entries get at the heart of what it means to be a baseball fan, and why it’s more than just a sport for many. As a Sox fan from Worcester wrote:

Baseball is History.
Common stories,
celebration, and disappointment,
always with the promise
of next year’s resurrection.

We thought we would share some of the collected poems here on our blog. Read them.

So, what is baseball to you?

Stephen Light is manager of museum programs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Outdoor Baseball Returns to Twin Cities

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Minnesota Twins opened a new ballpark on Monday, as Target Field played host to its first official regular-season game, and for the first time since 1981 a major league game took place outdoors in the Twin Cities. The day could not have been more perfect – from the weather, to initial reviews of the stadium, to the reactions of players and those in the stands. The new ballpark is a home run.

04-13-10-Horn_KillebrewCarew.jpgDeployed to bring home items to Cooperstown that represented the Twins’ move from the Metrodome, I was honored to be a part of the day, which was filled with so many familiar faces – all who were united in their reverence for a ballpark that has immediately joined the discussion of best ballparks anywhere in the country.

Hall of Fame Senior Vice President Bill Haase and I encountered several members of baseball’s royalty who were simply thrilled to be a part of the moment. Hall of Famer and Twins legend Rod Carew – along with his wife, Rhonda – and I talked about how the gaps would play for his sweet stroke, and how he might run all day around the bases. Former Twins outfielder Shannon Stewart offered me a contrarian view of the defensive effort that would be required of the new dimensions.

Harmon Killebrew, the “Killer,” and his wife, Nita, enjoyed the beautiful weather conditions and a new era for baseball in Minneapolis with several members of their family, as did fellow Hall of Famer and Twins great Dave Winfield, who along with his brother Steve, watched the game from just past the first base dugout.

As to the game itself, we at the Hall of Fame were fortunate to head home with the ball hit by Boston Red Sox infielder Marco Scutaro, who laced a single to center off Carl Pavano to lead off the game for the first hit at Target Field. A special tip-of-the-cap to home plate umpire Jeff Nelson and crew chief Tim Tschida for pulling the ball out of play to make sure it ended up several hundred miles east of here, in its eternal home in Cooperstown.

04-13-10-Horn_Kubel.jpgThe ball came out of play with a three-inch scuff of fresh-cut grass, a substance not found on a baseball in a major league game in Minneapolis in nearly 30 years. It was the perfect treasure for representing a return to outdoor baseball in a city whose passion for the game has, perhaps, never been more intense.

Following the game, Jason Kubel of the Twins pledged the hardwood used to hit the first home run in the history of Target Field, an eighth-inning solo shot to right field off Boston’s Scott Atchison (like me, a TCU Horned Frog, who is one of the best stories of the early season, winning a spot on an Opening Day roster for the first time at age 34 after a previous brief stint with Seattle in 2004 and 2005).

Kubel was honored by our offer to have the bat preserved forever in Cooperstown, but he was convinced that there are a few more bombs left in the bat. So, we happily agreed to take the bat once it dies… and I’m guessing it is going to be remembered as a hero, with a few more big hits in it for Kubel. This would be his second artifact donation to the Hall of Fame, previously donating his helmet from his cycle in 2009.

Before departing Target Field, I made sure to scoop up some infield dirt to commemorate the day to add to our collection in Cooperstown. Mixed in are several cuts of fresh green grass, a perfect tribute to Minneapolis’ triumphant return to outdoor baseball.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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