Results tagged ‘ Chicago Cubs ’

Lucky 10,000

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Colby Lessmann became a fan of the Hall of Fame on Facebook last week because he wanted to stay in touch. Little did he know that by clicking the “Become a fan” button on www.facebook.com/baseballhall, he’d be getting more than updates on his News Feed.

04-15-10-Hayes_Kauffman.jpgLessmann just happened to be Facebook fan number 10,000 – a mark the Hall reached in just over a year after launching on Opening Day 2009. To honor him, the Hall of Fame has given away an individual membership. As a Member, Lessmann receives a subscription to the Hall’s bi-monthly Memories and Dreams magazine, a Hall of Fame Yearbook, complimentary admission, a Tom Seaver membership card and lapel pin and a 10 percent discount and free shipping on all purchases through the Hall of Fame store at www.baseballhall.org/shop.

A baseball-lifer, Lessmann has been a fan since his early childhood, continuing to play the game through college and now as an amateur at age 37. He grew up four hours north of Kansas City and watched the glory years of the Royals, led by Hall of Famer George Brett. Many of Brett’s heroic feats serve as Lessmann’s greatest baseball moments.

“Back in the 80’s my family and I went to a Royals game,” Lessmann said of his favorite memory. “It turned out Brett had been injured, but he pinch hit in the ninth inning. When he came out on deck the crowd went crazy. He came up and jacked a home run over the right field wall and the stadium went wild.”

04-15-10-Hayes_Brett.jpgAn ardent Royals fan, he’s been to at least one game in K.C. each year since 1979, but growing up in Iowa also provided the chance to easily travel to games in Minnesota and Chicago. As an adult he’s taken that passion to a new level and vowed to visit every major league stadium.

“Of course, it is getting more difficult because they keep building new stadiums,” Lessmann said. Among his conquests have been the brand new Target Field, Safeco Field, Chase Field, AT&T Park, Comerica Park, Great American Ballpark and 16 others past and present.

He’s also writing on the history of baseball in his hometown of Sioux City, Iowa. And After doing some research for the book through the Library, Lessmann sought out the Hall’s Facebook page.

“The Research Center at the Hall of Fame helped me out., (so I) wanted to be a fan to show my appreciation for a great museum and research facility” he said. “I have visited the Hall of Fame a few years ago and plan to go back in the future. I went probably 10 years ago when I was in northern New York State.  My favorite memory was viewing all of the old memorabilia of Ruth, Gehrig and other greats. It is a great experience that any baseball fan should pursue.”

Now as both a Facebook fan and a Hall of Fame member, he can continue re-living the great moments in baseball history with his connection to the game. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Facebook action at www.facebook.com/baseballhall.

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

Grapefruit stories

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I’m sitting in Tampa International Airport awaiting the one non-stop Southwest Airlines flight back to Albany, having just concluded my Grapefruit League spring training jaunt. My Spring Training mission each year is to visit with those who are close to the Museum – current players and management, Hall of Famers, owners and supporters.

03-24-10-Idelson_DawsonPerez.jpgHaving spent eight years combined in the Red Sox and Yankee front offices before being hired in Cooperstown in 1994, my knowledge was limited to Florida Spring Training: the Yankees were in Ft. Lauderdale and the Red Sox in Winter Haven. Since, I have traveled to the desert, too.

The differences are stark: The air is markedly drier in Arizona, because of the elevation. The ballparks in Arizona are surrounded by mountains; most of the ones in Florida, by water. Thirteen of 15 ballparks in Arizona are within 60 miles of each other. In Florida, they span across the state. I spent seven nights in one hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona; I was in six different places in six nights in Florida and flew in and out of airports across the state from each other.

The one similarity? I had a game rained out in each state.

I had a chance to visit with a number of our Hall of Famers. Andre Dawson and I had dinner in North Miami Beach, near his home. He’s already made great progress on his speech and is getting ready for Induction. “I’ll try not to get too emotional,” the stoic “Hawk” told me. I let him know that if he did not get emotional, I would be worried. Almost every speech I have heard since 1994 has been emotional. 

Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Clark, Ken Meifert from the Hall, and I, saw Mike Schmidt and his wife Donna in Palm Beach Gardens. We talked about a variety of topics, from baseball to bull riding to music to living in Florida. Mike is very excited about our inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Golf tournament in June, in which he will participate. He was thrilled to know that a number of the 28 spots available are already filled.

03-24-10-Idelson_Jupiter.jpgLast Saturday, we hosted our Hall of Fame Champions in Jupiter. John and Kathy Greenthal became the first Champions in Hall of Fame history to attend events in both Spring Training states. Jim and Tina Collias made the trip over from Naples to Jupiter, and Dan Glazer also joined us. Hall of Fame Board member Bill DeWitt, owner of the Cardinals, was generous in hosting us for his team’s game with the Mets. Spring Training games are usually not that interesting, but this one featured the Mets scoring three runs in the 9th, the last on an Ike Davis game-tying home run, only to have Ruben Gotay lead off the bottom of the 9th with a walk-off home run.

Speaking of walk-off home runs, we dined with Dennis and Jennifer Eckersley after the game. I asked Dennis what he thought of Doug Harvey. “He was behind the plate for Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series,” Dennis reminded me, as I began to suffer the symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease. He still thought Harvey was an excellent arbiter. 

I headed across the state to Yankee camp and saw many old friends in the clubhouse before the game: Billy Connors, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, Steve Donohue, the team athletic trainer, Joe Girardi, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, whom we drafted when I worked for the team. The game was rained out as Gene Michael, his minor league teammate and Tigers broadcaster, Jim Price, and I had lunch. Also saw Tiger friends Dave Dombrowski and Al Aliva in the dining room and learned more about the Tigers.

Dinner that night was with Wade and Debbie Boggs and Reggie Jackson. Eddie Fastook, the team’s traveling security director and a long-time friend, also joined us. 

Unbeknownst to me, Boggs grew up a big Reggie Jackson fan, even wearing No. 9 in honor, the number Reggie wore early in his career in Oakland. Wade told the story of how in the mid 1980s, Reggie gave him one of his bats to use in 1985. “I used it for 33 straight games and hit five home runs,” said Wade. “I loved that bat and then I broke it on a Dave Stieb pitch,” a dejected Wade recalled.

03-24-10-Idelson_Zimmer.jpgThe next morning, I visited City of Palms Park in Fort Myers to see the Red Sox and the Rays. I met up with Don Zimmer, who is very bullish on the Rays this year. “The best club we’ve had in my seven years with them,” Zim said.

Zim told me how much he admired Dawson and Ryne Sandberg when he managed the Cubs. “Two guys who led by example,” he said. “The other players watched these guys and saw greatness in the making.”

I told Don I would be seeing Jim Rice and Bob Montgomery later that day. 

“Monty was the best hit-and-run guy I ever had,” recalled Zim. “I remember in a game with Cleveland, the bases were loaded. They had a sinker-baller on the mound so I rolled the dice and gave (coach) Eddie Yost the hit-and-run sign on a 3-2 count. Monty put the bat on the ball and we stayed out of the double play. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, but I really thought it would work, and it did.”

Rice later told me that he believed Thurman Munson and Lou Piniella were among the best hit-and-run guys he saw when he played.

I concluded my trip with dinner at Carlton and Linda Fisk’s home in the Sarasota area. We had a wonderful visit and a great dinner. Pudge joked about how some of the evenings in Florida this year were as cold as those he experienced growing up in New Hampshire.

I’ve had my fill. Let the regular season begin.

Jeff Idelson is president of 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.

Career saves

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

 
03-11-10-Berowski_JohnT.jpgWill Carroll, author of the definitive book on baseball injuries Saving the Pitcher, puts it in the simplest terms: “Since the invention of the breaking ball, there has been no more significant development in baseball than Tommy John surgery.”

Pioneered by Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974, ulnar collateral ligament surgery has saved the careers of hundreds of ballplayers. More commonly known as “Tommy John surgery,” named after the first ballplayer to undergo the procedure, Tommy John himself was given full recovery odds of about one percent. The surgery was a success and added 14 seasons, and 164 more wins, to John’s career. Today, full recovery rates hover at around 90 percent.

The ulnar collateral ligament or UCL is the primary medial stabilizer of the elbow joint – in simple terms, it affects one’s ability to throw a baseball. Tommy John surgery involves removing a tendon from another body part, usually the opposite arm or knee, and using a figure 8 pattern to connect the humerus and ulna bones, replacing the ligament. 

03-11-10-Berowski_Molitor.jpgIf it weren’t for Dr. Jobe’s pioneering procedure, there might only be 291 Hall of Famers instead of 292. On March 22, 1984, in a spring training game against the Cubs, Brewers third baseman Paul Molitor suffered an injury to his right elbow. That injury resulted in Dr. Jobe performing his patented surgery on Molitor, removing a tendon from Molly’s left forearm and using it to replace the ligament in his right elbow. Thanks to the surgery, Molitor was able to add 2,410 hits to his resume over the next 14 seasons, ultimately earning enshrinement in Cooperstown in 2004.

It was revealed only days ago the Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins suffered a tear in the UCL of his throwing arm. No pitcher has recorded more saves than the Twins’ stopper over the last six seasons. But if surgery is necessary, Nathan would likely miss the entire 2010 campaign. 

Over the last decade or so a number of star players, notably late-inning relievers, have had to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery – some with potential Hall of Fame credentials.  Ace relievers John Franco, John Smoltz and Billy Wagner have all undergone the procedure and came back strong.

To date, however, no Hall of Fame pitcher has undergone Tommy John surgery during his career.

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

Birthday Sunday

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Jan. 31, the Hall of Fame will wish Happy Birthday to three of our own. 

Ernie Banks will turn 79. Although his beloved Cubbies, a perennial second-division team during his tenure there, never made it to the World Series, it was not because of Mr. Cub, who did everything he could year after year to try to get them there. A 12-time All-Star and two-time NL MVP, Banks hit more than 500 home runs and drove in more than 1,600 runs in his 19 seasons playing first base and shortstop with Chicago’s North-Siders.

01-29-10-Berowski_BanksRyanRobinson.jpgAlso celebrating his birthday is the all-time Major League strikeout king, and current president of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express will celebrate his 63rd birthday. Although his birthday is officially January 31, Ryan seems to have received an early birthday present when his ownership group was recently selected to purchase his home state’s AL franchise, the Texas Rangers. 

Rounding out the trio of birthday boys is Jackie Robinson. The only man with his uniform number retired across Major League Baseball, Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Although he passed away in 1972, Jackie Robinson will be remembered by many on what would have been his 91st birthday.

There are 292 Hall of Famers and 365 days in a calendar year, yet there are more than a dozen dates on the calendar that celebrate the birthday of three Hall of Famers. In fact, May 14 is the day of the year with the most Hall of Famer birthdays: Ed Walsh, Earle Combs, Tony Perez, JL Wilkinson and Alex Pompez. 

October is the month that has the most Hall of Famer birthdays – 36. And three Hall of Famers passed away on their birthday – Joe Tinker, Gabby Hartnett and Bucky Harris. 

A pair of baseball’s former home run kings will have the anniversaries of their births marked next week. Hank Aaron will turn 76 Feb, 5, and Feb. 6 will mark 115th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s birth.

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

Frey’s history is alive Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder
 
The black and white photograph speaks of another time, before televised games, multiyear contracts and franchises west of the Mississippi.

And yet the man in that photograph, Lonny Frey, lived to see all of those — and more. His memory lives on in Cooperstown.

9-18-09-Muder_Frey.jpgFrey, an infielder for the Dodgers, Cubs, Reds, Yankees and Giants, died Sunday at the age of 99 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He was the second-oldest living ex-major leaguer behind only Tony Malinosky, who will turn 100 in 17 days.

Ironically, Frey’s trade from the Dodgers to the Cubs following the 1936 season helped open an infield spot in Brooklyn for Malinosky, who appeared in all of his 35 major league games with the Dodgers in 1937.

Frey, meanwhile, spent 14 seasons in the big leagues and was named to the All-Star team in 1939, 1941 and 1943. He was the oldest living World Series veteran, having appeared in the 1939 and 1940 Fall Classic with the Reds and the 1947 World Series with the Yankees. That title now falls to former Yankee Tommy Henrich.

Frey was also the last surviving player to have suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and New York Yankees.

Several photos of Frey are housed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s collection, which contains more than half a million photographs. Among the Museum’s 35,000 three-dimensional artifacts is a ball Frey signed — along with several other players like Hall of Famers Ernie Lombardi, Gabby Hartnett, Joe Medwick, Bill Terry and Billy Herman — during an old-timers reunion in the 1960s.

It is all a part of the Museum’s charge to preserve baseball history for generations to come — history that lives on in Cooperstown.

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

Spotlight on baseball: Hall of Fame gears up for 4th Annual Baseball Film Festival

Light_90.jpgBy Stephen Light

Here at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, summer is our busiest time of year, as families on vacation flock to village of Cooperstown to take advantage of the beautiful weather and baseball history.

But you might argue fall is the perfect time of year to visit Cooperstown – you can take in the crisp autumn air and the beautiful tree foliage while the baseball seasons winds toward its exciting conclusion.

9-14-09-Light_Movies.jpgFall also brings to the National Baseball Hall of Fame our annual Baseball Film Festival, held this year on the final weekend of the regular season – Oct. 2-4. If you ever doubted that baseball is woven into the cultural identity of America – not to mention dozens of other countries – then the Baseball Film Festival is an event that will open your eyes.

This year’s lineup will have you following the footsteps of former big league pitcher Luis Tiant as he returns to the streets of Havana after 46 years of exile, and the footsteps of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. as he brings America’s pastime to China as an official ambassador. It will unravel the mysterious origins of umpire signs and signals, and reveal the complex and unusual love affair between the city of Chicago and the Cubs. You can root for the WBL Sparks, the first all-girls baseball team to compete in a boys’ national tournament, and for a man struggling to make a baseball league in Israel a reality.

These are just a few of the many plot lines that will run throughout our fourth annual Baseball Film Festival as 13 films vie for three awards: The Award for Best Film, The Award for Baseball Excellence, and the Award for Excellence in Filmmaking.

Tickets for each screening are free, but must be reserved in advance. Members can reserve their tickets immediately, and any remaining seats will made available to the general public beginning Monday, Sept. 28, by calling the Membership Department at 607-547-0397 or by visiting the membership desk in the Museum.

The awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m. in the Grandstand Theater and is open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

For a complete schedule, please click here.

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

Here are a few the trailers for some of the films at this year’s festival:

The Lost Son of Havana

Signs of the Time

Girls of Summer

We Believe

The Farm Team

Holy Land Hardball

Road to the Big Leagues

Ghost Player

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