Results tagged ‘ Cleveland Indians ’

Face the future

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

It was 17 years ago Saturday. April 11, 1992. My first real Opening Day: the Indians’ home opener that year.

I was a writer with the Ashtabula (Ohio) Star Beacon, covering the Cleveland Indians at old Cleveland Stadium. Seven months into my first real job, I was stepping into the big leagues. Or what passed for the bigs in Cleveland.

4-6-09-Muder_Naehring.jpgI ambled up the wood stairs to the press box, squeezing my way down the hall past the Teepee Room (free hot dogs and soda). I found my seat — and found dead insects on the table in front of me. Then I hooked up my Radio Shack laptop (complete with acoustic couplers to transmit the story via the handpiece of a regular phone-line) and bounced onto the field.

Pure heaven.

It’s a little different today. Cub reporters all over the country will descend on palatial stadia like Cleveland’s Progressive Field, complete with hand-held BlackBerries capable of 100 times the output of my TRS-80 Model 100. They’ll post to live blogs, send Web updates to their sites and even tweet on Twitter.

I can imagine myself on Twitter in 1992: “Craig’s knees are knocking because he just interviewed Mark Lewis behind the batting cage.”

Today, as a part of the team at the Baseball Hall of Fame, we take a major step into the world of social media with the launch of our new Facebook page. There you can find Hall of Fame calendars and photos, along with links to our site and information about supporting our educational mission. Stop by while you’re surfing the net today on Opening Day and become a “fan” of the Hall of Fame.

By the way, the Red Sox beat the Indians in that 1992 opener, 7-5, in 19 innings on a Tim Naehring home run, and future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs was 2-for-9 with a run scored and an RBI. I didn’t get home until just before midnight — even though the game started in the early afternoon.

I don’t think I ever had as much fun.

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

Love of baseball grows in spring

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Just back to Cooperstown after a nine-day road trip to Los Angeles, for the WBC; Phoenix, to meet with a couple of owners; and Florida, for some fundraising initiatives. My trip home from Florida on Sunday was fine, though my string of six straight Southwest flights in seat 11C – exit row aisle – came to an end.  Hey, at least I got an aisle seat.

 The main thrust of my visit to Florida was our annual Hall of Fame Champions Grapefruit League trip. We have a great circle of Champions –  individuals and couples who support the Hall of Fame at $5,000 or more.  In return for supporting our educational mission, Champions receive invitations to events across the country with Hall of Famers, spring training games in Florida and Arizona, exhibit openings, Hall of Fame Weekend and the Hall of Fame Classic, all with exclusive access.

4-3-09-Idelson_Roberts.jpgTwo weeks ago we were in Arizona to see the A’s and Mariners play. A’s General Manager Billy Beane joined us for a while before the game, and we had dinner with Hall of Famer Billy Williams.

For our Grapefruit League endeavor, we headed for Ft. Myers. Hall of Fame Vice President and Chief Curator Ted Spencer, named after Ted Williams, Senior Development Director Ken Meifert, whose heart belongs to the Indians, and I, were joined by Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

We picked up the Hall of Fame right-hander at his home outside Tampa. “The Rays are selling out every game this spring,” beamed the longtime Phillie, about his hometown Tampa Bay Rays.

We headed south to Naples, where I talked to Robin about his career. “Sure I met Cy Young. I asked him how he won all those games and he told me he held the ball way back in his hand. I met Cobb too. He told me, ‘I wish I had a few less hits and a few more friends.'”

In Napes, we met Champion Jay Baker for lunch. Jay is a long-time Yankees fan and history buff, and along with his wife Patty, an ardent supporter of many philanthropic causes, such as the Hall of Fame. 

Over lunch, I asked Robin if he had ever been in a movie. “No, but Ashburn and I met Spencer Tracy when he was filming Judgment at Nuremberg,” he said. “What a nice man.”

Robin then quipped, “I was on television once, on What’s My Line (YouTube clip of Robin). The panel had to try and guess my off-season job, which was with the Neptunalia Seafood Company. I was president of Gold King and we sold frozen shrimp. No one could figure out what I did, but they sure came close.”

“I was on Murphy Brown,” quipped Baker. “If you watch carefully, you can see me. I was so smooth we did it on one take,” he laughed.

We spent the afternoon seeing two impressive private baseball collections – Jay’s and the one of another area Champion, Don Gunther. Both are wonderful examples of how the game means so much to people personally. They are both inspired by their love of the game and its history, akin to what happens to visitors every day in Cooperstown.

Jay and Patty generously hosted a Champions recruiting dinner that evening in Naples. There were 24 dinner guests, including former major leaguer Sterling Hitchcock, and we spent the evening all sharing personal stories about what the game means to each of us. 

Robin reminisced about meeting Grover Cleveland Alexander in grade school in Springfield, Illinois. “We had a two-room school house for 8 grades. Alexander was the special guest one day when I was in the eighth grade. He told us, ‘Baseball is a great game. Don’t drink. Look what it did to me.’ Sad, but true.”  

Hitchcock recounted how he grew up unhappy with George Brett who once refused to sign an autograph for him as a high school student. He told his fiance (who became his wife) that if he ever made the majors, he would hit Brett with a pitch.

4-3-09-Idelson_Hitchcock.jpgNot too many years later, making his major league debut at Yankee Stadium, Hitchcock hit Brett on the elbow, very much by mistake. The phone rang that night, and Sterling’s mother-in-law, who was watching the game, remembered the story and thought he had done it on purpose. “Of course, I hadn’t, nor would I ever do that” said Hitchcock, laughing.

The dinner conversation was delightful, with everyone sharing childhood memories of how they first fell in love with the game.  

Jim Collias, a retired neurosurgeon from Yale-New Haven Medical Center, recalled growing up in Boston’s South End. “Mr. Yawkey gave a bunch of us jobs working in the clubhouse during the Depression. I have fond memories of being in Fenway Park and Mr. Yawkey was a nice man. We also were sent to the train station to get the players’ bags when the team arrived in town. We all got very excited to welcome the Yankees, though Joe DiMaggio would never let us carry his bag. He would just shake his head, ‘No.'”

Saturday was spent in City of Palms Park, home to the Red Sox, who played the Twins.   Brad Penny and Francisco Liriano pitched, and – aided by some serious wind blowing out to left field –  Rocco Baldelli, Big Papi and Jason Bay all hit home runs in a Red Sox victory.

Thanks to the generosity of the Red Sox, we enjoyed the afternoon from the owners’ suite.  A number of our Champions and recruits enjoyed the beautiful weather and the pristine ballpark while talking baseball all afternoon. 

Cincinnati-based champion Buck Newsome and his wife Robin traveled in for the game with Robin keeping a detailed scorebook. “This book’s only for spring training,” she explained to me “and I like this style scorebook, because it allows me to count pitches.” The Newsomes are my kind of people — ones who adore the game.

Robin (the pitcher, not the scorekeeper) and I were on the field before the game and we spoke with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “Things sure have changed in pitching,” said Robin to Ron.  “My pitching coach and mentor, Cy Perkins’, instruction to me was pretty simple.  He said, ‘Kid, you can really pitch, keep it up; stay ahead of the batter, and; don’t get past 2-2 on a hitter.’ That was it.” 

After the game, we headed north to Sarasota to have dinner with Reds’ owner Bob Castellini and his wife, Susie, along with their son Bob, Jr., team general manager Walt Jocketty and Hall of Fame champion Bob Crotty. The dinner was wonderful. We talked to the Castellinis about the Hall of Fame and its programs and shared a lot of laughs.

On the way back to Tampa, I asked Robin about how he developed such an effective curveball. “Sal Maglie,” said Robin. “I pitched against ‘The Barber’ on opening day in 1952 and watched how he really shortened up his delivery with the curveball. So, I copied it, won 28 games that year, and never told him.”

We dropped Robin off at home around 11:30 pm, concluding a great couple of days with a group of friends who truly love the game of baseball.

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

Pacific Rim comes up strong in Classic

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

The second of two semifinal World Baseball Classic games came to an end last night here at historic Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. The Japanese national side proved too tough for its U.S. counterpart, beating the American team in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.

So Japan, which sealed victory in the 2006 Classic by beating Cuba, will defend its title by playing intracontinental rival Korea tonight, with first pitch slated for 9 p.m. ET.

3-23-09-Idelson_Wright.jpgLast night’s game had a similar feeling to the Korea-Venezuela semifinal on Saturday. Korea, featuring but one current Major Leaguer, Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin Soo Choo, faced a Venezuela club that was stocked with Major Leaguers. As any good team will do, the Koreans took advantage of five Venezuela errors and parlayed that into a bunch or runs and a lopsided victory.

The U.S. also played sloppily defensively, and Daisuke Matsuzaka was effective enough to keep the U.S. in check, allowing two runs over five innings. A three-run ninth inning for Japan turned a 6-4 game into a lopsided 9-4 final outcome.

The pageantry in the stands was vintage international sports. Japanese flags, thundersticks, balloons, homemade signs and constant enthusiasm gave Team Japan support and took any thoughts of home-field advantage away from the U.S. True, the support for the U.S. was strong, but there was great balance.

Japanese baseball Commissioner Ryozo Kato and all-time home-run leader Sadaharu Oh were in the stands, sitting in front of me. I first met the commissioner last spring in Washington, D.C., when U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon England invited me to lunch in his Pentagon office with Kato and Stan Kasten of the Nationals.

At the time, Commissioner Kato, a very big baseball fan with a deep understanding of U.S. baseball history, was Japan’s ambassador to the United States. He is very proud of his national team.

After the Korea-Venezuela game, Brad Horn and I visited with U.S. reliever Brad Ziegler, who last year ran a record-string of scoreless frames for a pitcher starting his Major League career (and yes, he did donate his spikes). Ziegler, an impressive kid who has tremendous respect for the game and visited the Hall of Fame last fall to enjoy the game’s history, felt that the team chemistry was strong, allowing the U.S. to reach the semis. Chemistry in sports does matter, but the U.S. side just did not jell last night.

3-23-09-Idelson_Japan.jpgBefore the game yesterday, the team seemed loose. David Wright, who delivered the game-winning walkoff hit to propel the U.S. over Puerto Rico and into the semifinals, donated the bat he used to the Hall in the U.S. dugout. “I am so honored to be asked to have something in Cooperstown,” he told me. I let him know how grateful we were to him for recognizing that fans would want to see his bat for many years to come and thanked him for sharing it with the baseball public.

Tonight’s matchup should be terrific. You have a hungry team in Korea, whose players want to show they can beat a world-class team like Japan. The Koreans have 2008 league most valuable player Kwang-Hyun Kim, who was 16-4 with a 2.39 ERA last year, as well as the two players who finished second and third in the voting, outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim (.357 average) and first baseman Tae Kyun Kim (.324, 31 home runs, 92 RBI).

Japan has a host of talent, led by Ichiro Suzuki, who has 3,000 combined hits between the U.S. and Japan, pitching phenom Yu Darvish, who was 16-4 with a 1.88 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2008, and standout outfielder Norichika Aoki (.347 average in 2008).

It should be a great game, and the Pacific Rim again is showing the world that baseball is as important there as it is in Latin America or the Untied States.

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

Hargrove slips in and out of Museum

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Mike Hargrove spent his entire baseball career behind the scenes.

So when he made a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in September, it was no surprise that it came without fanfare. But this time, “behind the scenes” also meant a look at baseball’s most sacred treasures.

Hargrove stopped in Cooperstown on Sept. 19 while on a trip through the Northeast. He and his wife, Sharon, travel throughout the country on their motorcycle, and few heads turned as the couple pulled into Cooper Park next door to the Hall of Fame.

9-22-08-Muder_Hargrove.jpgOnce inside, the Hargroves received a behind-the-scenes tour from Senior Curator Tom Shieber and chatted with Bull Durham writer/director Ron Shelton, who was himself experiencing the thrill of looking at the Museum’s archives.

A few hours later, the Hargroves emerged from the Hall of Fame and walked down Main Street to have a relaxed lunch. Soon after, they returned to Cooper Park, put on their leathers and rolled north on Main Street and out of town.

It was typical of Hargrove, who never sought the spotlight as a player or manager. A former Rookie of the Year and All-Star with the Texas Rangers, Hargrove was famous for his deliberate — or was that super-slow motion? — approach at the plate. And yet those tactics, which drove pitchers crazy and got them off their rhythm, often overshadowed a hitter who compiled a .290 career average and a .396 on-base percentage.

As a manager, Hargrove took over a dilapidated Cleveland Indians franchise in 1991 and led it to the World Series four years later. His even-handed approach and clubhouse skills resulted in five playoff appearances and two American League pennants for a team that was the laughingstock of baseball in the 1970s and ’80s.

At 58, Hargrove certainly has something left to give as a manager. Yet it would shock no one if he spent the rest of his days enjoying the fruits of his former lifetime. After a career in forced limelight, Hargrove seems content with his life.

Baseball is better because of people like him.

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

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