Results tagged ‘ Cleveland Indians ’

Memories of Bob

By Craig Muder

The gray-haired gentlemen emerged from the entrance foyer at the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday – and no introductions were necessary.

Bob Feller, their father, could be seen in their faces. And even though it’s been more than a year since Bob passed away, the visit of his sons Steve and Bruce brought the memories to life in Cooperstown.

Steve and Bruce stopped by the Hall of Fame on Wednesday to donate two documents to the Museum’s Library. One was an original scorecard from their father’s legendary Opening Day no-hitter on April 16, 1940. The other: Bob Feller’s original contract with the Indians, hand-written on the back of stationery from a Des Moines, Iowa, hotel and signed by Feller and scout Cy Slapnicka.

“These were both in Dad’s house when he passed, squirreled away in the attic,” Steve Feller said. “We remember the scorecard hanging in our rec room when we were kids.”

The scorecard documents the only game in big league history where all players on one team started and finished the game with the same batting average: All White Sox batters were hitting .000 after the game.

But the contract is equally fascinating. The deal gave Feller a $1 bonus, and provided that he would visit his “folks” anytime he wanted during the 1936 season, plus provided that he could play basketball in his off hours. The deal indicated that Feller would start the season playing for a team in Fargo, N.D., but the fireballing phenom went right to the majors to begin his career.

During their stop in the Museum, the Feller brothers took a look at their Dad’s Hall of Fame plaque as well as others located nearby.

“Elmer Flick – he used to come to my baseball games in Solon (Ohio),” said Steve Feller of his youth baseball days. “And Hank Greenberg – we played with his sons.”

It was all part of a unique childhood with an iconic father.

“These belong here – in Cooperstown,” said Bruce Feller of his father’s documents. “Dad would have wanted it that way, and so do we.”

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

FBI files in Cooperstown

By Bill Francis

You never know what you’ll run across when doing baseball research.

While looking through the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library’s clipping file for famed pitcher Johnny Vander Meer, what soon appeared was a copy of a 1938 typed letter sent by longtime Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover congratulating the Cincinnati Reds southpaw on his two consecutive no-hitters.

Hoover has been in the news of late thanks to the recently released movie, J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role and directed by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood. Hoover was the FBI’s chief from its beginnings in 1935 until his death in 1972 at the age of 77.

In the letter, typed on the chief G-Man’s letterhead and dated June 17, 1938, Hoover writes, “I did have time to glance at the sports page of one of the Miami papers and read the account of the thrilling no-hit game which you pitched against the Boston Bees, and then when I read of your second no-hit game in five days I simply could not resist dropping you this note to extend you my congratulations on this remarkable feat.”

Hoover begins the letter by telling Vander Meer that he’s been “engaged in the investigation of the Cash kidnapping case,” referring to the kidnapping of 5-year-old James B. Cash Jr., known as “Skeegie,” who had been kidnapped from his bed in Princeton, Fla. on May 28, 1938.

Later in the letter Hoover admits that baseball has always been one of his favorite sports and that he attends many games, “although I do not attend as many games as I would like, due to the pressure of my official duties.”

In fact, years later, Hoover would be considered for the job of big league baseball’s commissioner. After a 1945 speech in which he extolled the virtues of wartime baseball, Hoover’s name shot to the top as a possible successor when big league baseball’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, passed away in 1944. The job eventually went to Happy Chandler. When Chandler resigned his post in 1951, Hoover’s name again was bandied about.

Ellis Ryan, the principal owner of the Cleveland Indians and a member of baseball’s screening committee in search of a replacement for Chandler, said in a 1951 interview, “For instance, if J. Edgar Hoover decided to run, I’m sure he would get every vote. But that is out of the question. It would be improper for baseball to attempt to take so valuable a man away from the government.”

After sharing with Vander Meer the recent success of the FBI’s baseball team in Washington, D.C., Hoover ends the letter by wishing the hurler luck in the future, adding, “I really would be thrilled to see you pitch a third no-hit game this season.”

Hoover, once on the Little League board of directors, said that baseball would be the greatest deterrent to crime that America had ever seen. “Keep kids in sports,” his motto went, “and out of courts.”

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

A little Kittle history

By Craig Muder

Ron Kittle spent 10 big league seasons as a prolific power hitter, and even today – at 53 years old – that power is still evident in a firm grip and muscular shoulders.

But as Kittle toured the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, the former outfielder with the White Sox, Yankees, Indians and Orioles was more focused on the game off the field than anything he did on the baseball diamond.

Kittle, who hit 176 big league homers from 1982-91, was in Cooperstown on business when he stopped by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for his first behind-the-scenes visit. Kittle had been to the home of baseball previously, including a 1988 trip as a member of the Cleveland Indians for the Hall of Fame Game at Doubleday Field.

“There was no score, and I came up to pinch hit late in the game,” Kittle said. “I told (Cubs catcher) Jody Davis that I was going to hit a home run to end this thing, and I did. But Ryne Sandberg came up in the bottom of the ninth and homered – On a check swing! – to tie the game.”

The game was called after nine innings with the score tied at 1, leaving both Kittle and Sandberg with a memorable moment. But it was not Kittle’s first brush with a Hall of Famer. Passing by a photo of Sandy Koufax in the Hall’s archive on Wednesday, Kittle recounted his days as a Dodgers’ minor leaguer.

“I came into the Dodgers’ organization with Mike Scioscia as a catcher,” said Kittle, who was signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1977. “Down in Spring Training, they had strings across the batter’s box to teach pitchers control, and this guy got on the mound and started throwing to me and putting it right where he wanted. After he finished, someone said: ‘Don’t you know who that was? That was Sandy Koufax.’ I’ll never forget that.”

On Wednesday, Kittle took home more memories after learning about the Hall of Fame’s commitment to preserve baseball history.

“I love hearing stories about things that go on behind the scenes,” Kittle said. “And to see all this is incredible.”

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

Hall Monitor: Pitching and Home Runs

By Trevor Hayes

The last Hall Monitor topic of two 600 home run hitters squaring off in the same game seems so long ago after the week’s events. But to follow-up, it did happen on Sunday. Alex Rodriguez and the Yanks met Jim Thome and the Twins marked the A.L.’s first 600 vs. 600. Here’s what’s happened since:

These go to 11: Just arrived in Cooperstown: Albert Pujols’ batting gloves and bat from his 30th home run of 2011 made it to their final destination at the beginning of the week. Pujols deposited his 30th into the PNC Park bleachers on Aug. 16. That historic stroke made the man known as The Machine the first player to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first 11 seasons.

A pair of sevens: The American League Cy Young favorite is arguably Justin Verlander, and on Monday night he extended a winning streak to seven starts for the second time this season. The Tigers’ ace also compiled seven straight victories from May 29 to June 30. Over the last 50, years only three other pitchers have had two streaks of seven or more in the same season. Each led their league in wins and earned the Cy Young Award. Fellow Tiger Denny McLain did it in the first of his back-to-back Cy Young seasons while winning 31 in 1968. Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson did it in 1970 with 23 wins and the Twins’ Frank Viola did it in 1988, winning 24.

Movin’ on up: Baseball’s active strikeout leader inched his way a little further up the all-time list on Wednesday as the Marlins’ Javier Vazquez passed Don Drysdale for 30th place. By striking out 11 Reds, the 34-year-old Vazquez now has 2,494 K’s. When Drysdale retied in 1969 he was eighth with 2,486 behind Hall of Fame names like Johnson, Young, Bunning, Spahn, Feller and Keefe. Vazquez should be able to reach 29th this season as Christy Mathewson is just 13 strikeouts away.

Rookie Backstop Power: The Tigers’ Rudy York and Matt Nokes, Red Sox Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, the Dodgers’ Mike Piazza and the Cubs’ Geovany Soto did it – and now the Blue Jays’ J.P Arencibia has too. In a loss to Kansas City Thursday, Arencibia became the sixth rookie to hit 20 home runs as a catcher, joining good company that includes 32 All-Star selections, 14 Silver Sluggers, three Rookie of the Year Award and of course, a Hall of Famer.

A grand old game in the Bronx: Lastly we have an MLB first. Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Ganderson literally slammed the Yankees into the record books Thursday when the three made the Bronx Bombers the first team to hit three grand slams in a game. The 22-9 drubbing of the A’s made history in a lot of ways.

History notes other than the grand trio include from yesterday’s massacre: The Yanks tied a record by having three players with at least five RBIs; they matched the record for largest winning margin by a team which trailed by at least six; they became the fourth team to score at least four runs in four consecutive innings; and Martin is just the second catcher and third Pinstriper, regardless of position, to go 5-for-5 with two home runs and five or more RBIs. He joins current Tigers backstop Victor Martinez who did it as an Indian in 2004 and fellow Yankees Joe DiMaggio (July 9, 1937) and Danny Tartabull (Sept. 8, 1992).

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

A record for the fans

Wilson_90.jpgBy Julie Wilson

When the Boston Red Sox open the 2011 season, the team, the city of Boston, and Red Sox Nation will continue to build on a record that they set back in 2008.

03-02-11-Wilson_Fenway.jpgThe record for most consecutive sellouts by a team is one that truly belongs to the fans. Red Sox fans have had plenty of reasons to keep coming back since the streak began in 2003. Two World Series titles and the notoriety of keeping the 600-plus game streak alive should be enough to draw the crowds in spite of their somewhat disappointing 2010 season.

As a kid growing up in Cleveland, I experienced firsthand the joy of being a part of the previously held record of 455 games. From June 12,1995 until April 4th, 2001, I was a junior high schooler and then a high school student who could not get enough of the Indians, and I was far from alone in a city desperate for a championship. There was an incredible aura surrounding the city of Cleveland as each night 40,000 or more fans packed the stands at Jacobs Field.

If you didn’t have tickets before the season started, you needed to know someone, or even know someone who knew someone, if you wanted a shot at getting into a game. In spite of the constant struggle to get tickets, my father made sure that we at least made it to Opening Day each season, and often finagled a way to get tickets to a handful of other games throughout each year.

03-02-11-Wilson_Jacobs.jpgIn total, some 19,324,248 fans passed through the gates during those seven magical seasons. Knowing that my dad and I likely account for about 100 of these individuals gives me an enormous sense of pride. Cleveland fans have not had much to celebrate in recent years and yet we keep coming back. Maybe not at the rate of 40,000 a night, but the love is certainly still there.

Each time I set foot in the renamed Progressive Field, I still get a tingle down my spine from the retired number “455–The Fans” that hangs out above right center field. There is no record that is more meaningful to me as one of the faithful who contributed to that streak.

It’s memories like these that will be brought to life in the Hall of Fame’s new One for the Books exhibit. The exhibit opens Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

Julie Wilson is the manager of school programming for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Hello Larry…and welcome spring

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

It was 31 springs ago, a glorious one for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I was 11, and my family took a trip to Florida that March to watch the Bucs begin defense of their 1979 World Championship. It was my first taste of the magic of Spring Training.

01-28-11-Muder_BlylevenStargell.jpgThere was no game at Bradenton’s historic McKechnie Field that day, so we wandered over a few streets to Pirate City. With its dorm-like housing and seemingly innumerable practice fields, it was the perfect place to learn baseball.

Of course, future Hall of Famers like Willie Stargell and Bert Blyleven were a bit past the learning stage and were nowhere to be seen. The prolific Pirates farm system, however, featured future major leaguers like Vance Law and Joel Skinner – both of whom were in camp as non-roster invitees.

But the player I remember most that day was Larry Andersen.

My father and I were standing behind home plate, with just a screen between us and the diamond. Suddenly, I heard the “crack-crack-crack” of cleats on cement. And before I could fully turn around to get a good look, there was Andersen – seemingly a giant at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds – brushing by me while never breaking stride.

I turned back around, getting a glimpse of his number – 52 – and the uncommon spelling of his last name sewn onto his jersey. And then he was gone, off to another day of work on the diamond.

01-28-11-Muder_McKechnie.jpgAt that moment, I considered myself the biggest Pirates fan on the planet. And the fact that I had no idea who Larry Andersen was left me momentarily dazed. But I decided that he must have been some imposter – a player with no past or future who would never see a big league day in a Pittsburgh uniform.

Of course, I was right: Andersen never played for the Pirates. But I was also wrong – because within a year, Larry Andersen had developed into a excellent big league reliever with the Mariners.

The lesson for me was clear: Don’t blink, because greatness can brush by you like a stranger in a crowd.

Andersen went on to appear in 677 MLB games after that March 1980 day (he appeared in 22 as an Indians prospect between 1975 and 1979 for a big league total of 699), but may be best remembered as the player the Red Sox acquired when they sent Jeff Bagwell to the Astros in 1990.

But for me, Larry Andersen always brings back memories of a warm day in Bradenton.

Welcome, Baseball. Bring your cheer. Only two weeks until pitchers and catchers report.

Our long, cold winter is nearly over.

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

A timeless hero


Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

As I sat in the press box at Chain O’ Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla. that morning in 1996, a rumbling of applause jolted me out of the story I was writing.

It grew louder and louder – cresting in a full-fledged ovation – as the man in the Cleveland Indians uniform strode to home plate and doffed his cap. An older gentleman, but still thick with muscle tone and apparently ready to play at a moment’s notice.

12-16-10-Muder_FellerClassic.jpg“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the public address announcer, “please welcome Hall of Famer Bob Feller!”

For a moment, I couldn’t believe it. It was my first time at Spring Training, so I wasn’t accustomed to Feller’s omnipresent appearance.

I bolted for my baseball encyclopedia: How old was Bob Feller? And he’s still in uniform?

That day, Feller was 77. But when he threw out the first pitch before that day’s exhibition game, it seemed he was practically ageless.

He would remain so for the next 14 years.

Feller’s passing on Wednesday brings to a close one of the most remarkable American lives of the 20th Century. An archetypical farm boy turned athlete, Feller imparted force onto a baseball that had not been seen before and rarely since. But it was his personal magnetism that made him a household name before he reached his 20th birthday.

His success on the baseball diamond was nearly total. But six years into his big league career, Feller dropped everything and enlisted in the Navy the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He spent almost four years fighting in World War II, earning eight battle stars aboard the U.S.S. Alabama. 

When he returned to the Indians, he quickly regained the form that made him the best pitcher in baseball.

12-16-10-Muder_Feller.jpgFor many, 266 big league victories and military honors would be a lifetime. But for Feller, the second act of his life – as a Hall of Famer and baseball emissary – was yet to come. After his election to the Hall in 1962, Feller thrilled fans for the next five decades with his homespun wit and passion for the game.

He would sign autographs until the last fan was satisfied – and he never tired of spreading the gospel of baseball. He would, it seemed, never grow old.

In 2009, I sat in the press box at Doubleday Field when a rumbling of applause jolted me out of the blog I was writing. It grew louder and louder – cresting in a full-fledged ovation – as the man in the Cleveland Indians uniform strode to home plate and doffed his cap. An older gentleman, but still thick with muscle tone and apparently ready to play at a moment’s notice.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the public address announcer, “please welcome Hall of Famer Bob Feller!”

Florida or Cooperstown, 1996 or 2009. Spring Training game or Hall of Fame Classic. Bob Feller never lost that ability to thrill baseball fans.

I cannot believe he is not here today.

His like will not be seen again.

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

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