Results tagged ‘ Comerica Park ’

Prepare 4 October in Cooperstown: Detroit Tigers

By Trevor Hayes

While the heartbeat of baseball can be found in Cooperstown throughout the year, there’s no better time to reconnect with the National Pastime than when legends are being made. As the postseason approaches, fans all over the country can connect with the Hall of Fame to get in the fall spirit.

The Tigers’ 2011 resurgence has brought the team’s legends of yesteryear – like Cobb, Greenberg and Kaline – together with the stars of today like Cabrera and Verlander. Tiger fans might not be able to make it to Oakland this weekend to see their team continue its march toward the division crown, but Cooperstown offers a chance to follow along from afar while celebrating the team’s legacy in person.

And there is plenty to see for Bengal Believers at the Hall of Fame. To date, 25 Hall of Famers have worn Detroit’s Old English D, including 10 who entered the Hall of Fame sporting that signature D on their plaques.

While he’s preceded in history by Hall of Fame exec Ed Barrow and teammate Sam Crawford, Ty Cobb was the first Tiger elected to the Hall of Fame – having been a part of the inaugural class of 1936. Cobb, who led the Tigers to pennants in 1907, 1908 and 1909, won an MVP Award in 1911 (at the time a player could only win one during his career) with an other-worldly batting average of .420. He’s well represented in the Hall of Fame both in the Museum’s Baseball Timeline and in the newest exhibit One for the Books. Artifacts like the 1909 and 1911 Honeyboy Evans trophies, awarded to the all-time career batting leader for batting titles in those seasons, as well as sliding pads worn by the former all-time leader in stolen bases, are on exhibit in Cooperstown. Other artifacts from Cobb in the two exhibits include bats used during a career in which he won 11 batting titles; spikes worn during his career; and even a glove used by the stellar-fielding star, who holds the major league record for most games played in the outfield with 2,934.

The Tigers’ 1930s and 40s dynasty has a section devoted to it in the Timeline, marking the achievements of Hall of Famers like Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane and Hal Newhouser. From 1934 to 1945, this core group took Detroit to the World Series four times, winning in 1935 and 1945. The ’36 team holds the franchise record by fielding a lineup of four future Hall of Fame players and player/manager Cochrane. Found within the exhibit about these Motown Mashers are Cochrane’s catcher’s mitt; Gehringer’s bronzed second baseman glove; a home run ball from Greenberg’s 1940 league-leading campaign; a cap and jersey worn by Newhouser; and a number of awards, trophies and trinkets given to the group.

Between Fall Classic appearances in 1945 and 1968, notable Hall of Famers like third baseman and batting wizard George Kell, future senator and ace pitcher Jim Bunning and Mr. Tiger himself – Al Kaline – joined the team. Representing this trio in the Timeline are a pair of silver bats awarded to Kell for batting titles in 1943 (in the Interstate League) and 1949; Bunning’s spikes from his first career no-hitter – thrown at Fenway on July 20, 1958; and a uniform from Kaline who helped lead the Tigers back to the Fall Classic in 1968 when they topped the Cardinals to become World Champions. This group is also represented in One for the Books by Kaline’s 3,000th hit bat and the glove worn by 1968 and 1969 Cy Young Award winner, Denny McLain, who in 1968 became the first big leaguer to win 30 games in a season since 1934.

After Kaline retired, the torch passed to veteran manager Sparky Anderson, who after having won two World Series titles with the Cincinnati Reds, helmed a 1980s Tigers team poised to make some noise. In 1984, they won the World Series – and reached the ALCS again in 1987. Those teams have a spot in Cooperstown with Kirk Gibson’s 1987 batting helmet, Lou Whitaker’s 1984 championship jersey, Alan Trammel’s 1983 Gold Glove jersey, and Jack Morris 1984 no-hitter cap appearing in the Timeline alongside a 1984 Series cap from Sparky.

Recent Detroit squads have plenty of artifacts at the Hall of Fame, celebrating their success. Since winning the AL pennant in 2006, the Tigers have generously donated items found in Today’s Game such as: Bats from 2006 ALCS MVP Placido Polanco and ALCS Game Four walk-off home run slugger Magglio Ordonez, (in ¡Viva Baseball!); a jersey from Curtis Granderson, who joined Willie Mays and Frank Schulte as the only players with at least 20 doubles, triples, home runs and steals in a single season in 2007.

Other items within the Hall’s walls include a piece of the Tiger Stadium outfield wall (in Sacred Ground); and in Today’s Game the cap worn by Brian Moehler on April 11, 2000, when he became the first pitcher to start a game at Comerica Park; and the spikes from Armando Galarraga’s near perfect game on June 2, 2010, while first base from the game resides in One for the Books.

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

Hall Monitor: The Final Tallies Are In

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

We’ve had a champion for several weeks now, but with last week’s announcement of the final major BBWAA Awards, the 2010 season is complete. Now it’s time to look back a little and then move on to 2011. During the next few weeks, we should see a flurry of free agent activity, starting with the Winter Meetings, which begin this weekend in Orlando.

Less can be more: Last week, Josh Hamilton handily won the AL MVP Award. Hobbled by broken ribs and playing in 133 games, he’s only the second position player over the last 30 years to play in that few games (with the exception of strike-shortened seasons) and be named league MVP. 12-03-10-Hayes_BrettMantleStargell.jpgIn fact, he’s only the fifth player to ever earn the Award after playing 133 or fewer during a full 162 game season. The others are the Giants’ Barry Bonds in 2003, the Royals’ George Brett in 1980, the Pirates’ Willie Stargell in 1979 and the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle in 1962. Like Hamilton, Brett and Mantle both suffered injuries that held them out for long periods of time, while Bonds and Stargell were slowed by age.

Twice as nice: With Awards Season coming to a close, the AL champion Rangers now boast the hardware to back-up the run to their first-ever World Series appearance. Josh Hamilton’s MVP Award and Neftali Feliz’s Rookie of the Year Award, make them the 13th pair of teammates to sweep both Awards in a year – not including 1975 and 2001 when Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki won both Awards, respectively.

Of the 13 pairs, Hamilton and Feliz join eight others in reaching the World Series. The others were Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe (1949 Dodgers), Yogi Berra and Gil McDougald (1951 Yankees), Roy Campanella and Jim Gilliam (1953 Dodgers), Mickey Mantle and Tony Kubek (1957 Yankees), Mantle and Tom Tresh (1962 Yankees), Joe Morgan and Pat Zachry (1975 Reds), Willie McGee and Vince Coleman (1985 Cardinals) and Jose Canseco and Walt Weiss (1988 A’s).

 12-03-10-Hayes_CinMVP.jpgIt should also be noted that Lynn’s 1975 Red Sox made the World Series and Suzuki’s 2001 Mariners finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, but lost in the ALCS.

Joey joins Reds’ best: Ten different Cincinnati Reds have been honored with the National League’s MVP Award. Joey Votto became the 10th last week after he denied Albert Pujols his fourth Award, which would have put the Cardinal slugger into rarified air as only the second player to collect more than three MVPs.

Votto’s honor links his name with Reds MVPs like Hall of Famers like Johnny Bench (1970, 1972), Joe Morgan (1975-76), Frank Robinson (1961) and Ernie Lombardi (1938).

Vlad and Texas heaping it on: It’s not a major award, but some major names have been attached to it. This year’s recipient of the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award, Vladimir Guerrero, gave the Rangers yet another piece of hardware last Wednesday to celebrate 2010.

12-03-10-Hayes_Ripken.jpgRenamed after Edgar Martinez in 2004, the list of former winners extends beyond the longtime Mariners legend. Among the Hall of Famers to take home the honor are inaugural winner Orlando Cepeda (1973), Jim Rice (1977), Dave Winfield (1992) and Paul Molitor (1993, 1996).

150 Million Dollar Man: Troy Tulowitzki will be staying in Colorado for the next 10 years and that’s just fine with the slugging shortstop. Not only did he sign a deal this week that will pay him an average of $15 million a year until 2020, but he’s now got a shot to be like his idol, Hall of Famer and Oriole legend Cal Ripken Jr., and stay with one team for his entire career. Of the 292 Hall of Famers, 47 spent their entire playing career with one team. Aside from Ripken, the only other shortstops in that group were the White Sox’s Luke Appling, the Cubs’ Ernie Banks, the New York Giants’ Travis Jackson, the Yankees’ Phil Rizzuto, the Pirates’ Honus Wagner and the Brewers’ Robin Yount.

Hall of Famers around town: Bob Costas brings three more Hall of Fame names to his show tonight on MLB Network. Big Red Machine cogs Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, will be Studio 42 tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

I12-03-10-Hayes_PerezHerzog.jpgn other Reds news, the team’s annual winter celebration, Redsfest, will feature tributes to Sparky Anderson. More than 60 current and former Reds players will be on hand tonight and tomorrow at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati.

Tomorrow, Tigers legend Al Kaline will be at the Comerica Park Retail Shop. The Hall of Famer will be promoting and signing copies of his book “SIX: A Salute to Al Kaline.”

And as the Winter Meetinsg convene this weekend, several Hall of Famers will be in Orlando to participate in the Expansion Era Committee’s Hall of Fame Induction voting. The 16-person committee will vote on Sunday and includes Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith. Results will be announced on Monday at baseballhall.org.

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

Hall Monitor: Strength, splits, speed and supremacy

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

As we enter the final week of the regular season, the mark that 2010 will leave on the game’s history is quickly being finished. But just as quickly, the marks of yesteryear are being revisited.


09-24-10-Hayes_Dawson.jpgFriendly Confines
: Last night, Juan Uribe joined 2010 Hall of Famer Andre Dawson as the last two players to hit a pair of home runs in one inning at Wrigley. Uribe’s grand slam and a two-run shot in the second helped the Giants dismantle the Cubs 13-0. Exactly 25 years ago today, Dawson provided a pair of three-run homers in the fifth in a 17-15 Expos victory.

Short Power: Only three players playing primarily shortstop during their careers have hit more than 300 home runs. The Padres’ Miguel Tejada, who has played 94 percent of his career at short, connected for his 300th last night. He joined Alex Rodriguez and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. Ripken hit 431 homers, playing 77 percent of his games at short before moving to the hot corner late in his career. Rodriguez – who topped the 600 homer mark last month – had 345 home runs before playing almost exclusively at third with the Yankees, but he’s still logged 55 percent of his career at short. Often regarded as a shortstop, Hall of Famer and 500-home run club member Ernie Banks actually logged more games at first base with 45 percent of his games at shortstop.


09-24-10-Hayes_Carlton.jpgEnding a drought
: The Phillies had been without a 20-game winner since Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in 1982. Roy Halladay snapped the streak when he won his 20th game on Tuesday against the Braves. Only teams that have active streaks longer than the one Halladay broke. Like Carlton, the Padres last 20-game winner was a Hall of Famer: Gaylord Perry won 21 in 1978. The last pitcher to win 20 for the Nationals/Expos was Ross Grimsley, also in 1978. 

Comfy in St. Lou: After Sunday’s win against the Padres at Busch Stadium, Cards starter Adam Wainwright improved his home record to 12-3 with a 1.78 ERA. Rookie Jamie Garcia has been slightly better in St. Louis with a 1.74 home ERA. The last two Cards to qualify for the ERA title with home ERAs under 2.00 were Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Bob Gibson. Carlton edged Gibson with a 1.92 ERA to Gibson’s 1.94 at Busch in 1969.


 
09-24-10-Hayes_InfieldChart.jpgThree to 100
: Robinson Cano’s two RBI Saturday at Baltimore pushed the 2010 Bombers into select company. Cano, along with teammates Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, have each driven in 100 runs this season. Never before have three Yankee infielders done it in a single season, though six other groupings of players have – five of which included at least one Hall of Famer. The Red Sox have had three different infields with the achievement – accomplishing it in 1937, 1940 and 1950. Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr and Jimmie Foxx were each a part of two Sox groups, with all three on the 1940 team. Charlie Gehringer and Hank Greenberg were two of the Tigers three 100-RBI infielders in 1934, while Lou Boudreau and Joe Gordon were on the 1948 Indians squad which pulled off the feat. The only previous group without a Hall of Famer is the 2001 A’s of Eric Chavez, Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada – all three of whom are still active.

Johnny Quick: Johnny Damon is second player to reach 100 career triples this season. He began the season as the active leader – tied with Jimmy Rollins at 95 – but 09-24-10-Hayes_Kaline.jpgRays speedster Carl Crawford passed Damon for the active lead earlier this season and broke 100 last month. Since 1901, 108 Major League players have reached 100 triples. Of them, 52 are Hall of Famers, while four are not yet eligible. Since 1950, just 22 players have compiled 100 triples, of which eight are in the Hall of Fame.

Mr. Tiger in Detroit: Al Kaline’s book “Six: A Salute to Al Kaline,” released earlier this year, contains over 150 pages of articles and never-before-seen photographs and captures what the 1980 Hall of Fame inductee has meant to the franchise, his teammates, fans and the baseball world. As a special treat, Kaline will sign copies at Comerica Park prior to the team’s final home game of the season Sunday against the Twins.

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

Hall Monitor: Prodigies, perfection and the past

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes


06-11-10-Hayes_Waner.jpgPirate Prodigy:
Not since 1928 has a Pirate had as many hits at his one-year anniversary as center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Currently riding a .302 average, the 23-year-old celebrated passed the one year mark since his major-league debut last week. He had 185 hits, the most by a Buc since Hall of Famer Lloyd Waner collected 225 in his first year.

Rare day for the all-time leader: Ivan Rodriguez has caught 2,322 games – the all-time leader among catchers after having passed greats like Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. But only three times in his career has Pudge caught a pitcher who racked up 14 strikeouts like Stephen Strasburg did on Tuesday in Washington. Strasburg joins Jeremy Bonderman in 2004 and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1991 as the only pitchers to dominate their opponents that much with Rodriguez behind the plate. Pudge’s Astros jersey from the game in which he broke the games caught record last season is on display in the Museum in the Today’s Game exhibit.


06-11-10-Hayes_BanksWilliamsDawson.jpgCubbies and 300:
One-hundred and twenty-seven players have hit 300 home runs in the history of the majors. Wednesday, Derek Lee added his name to that list and this afternoon, Alfonso Soriano clubbed his 300th. Both join an impressive group of names to do so while playing on the North-side. Six other players have belted No. 300 with the Cubs including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Andre Dawson. The most recent before Lee was Sammy Sosa who the 300th of 609 career home runs in June of 1999.

Boston’s newest Fenway attraction: Two Hall of Famers and two other Red Sox legends were honored this week, as the team dedicated a new statue Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams. The four were staples in the Sox lineups in the 1940s and into the 50s. All four were All-Stars and all four served in the military during World War II. The lifelong friends and Sox legends had their story told in David Halberstam’s book The Teammates – Portrait of a Friendship. The new statue is a tribute to their legacy and features the four standing shoulder to shoulder holding bats. It is outside Fenway’s Gate B at Van Ness and Ipswich.

06-11-10-Hayes_Stearnes.jpgPerfection and the Hall-aday: Roy Halladay threw the major’s 20th perfect game on May 29, beating Marlins ace Josh Johnson 1-0 in the process. The two matched up again Thursday and Johnson got the win. 1965 marks the last time a perfect pitcher faced his opponent again in the same season, as Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and Chicago’s Bob Hendley squared off in back-to-back starts. Koufax mastered the Cubs on Sept. 9, and like Halladay in a 1-0 win, but like Johnson, Hendley got the win in the rematch.

Remembering the past: The Tigers will play host to a weekend long celebration of the Negro leagues, highlighted by their 16th annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game, Saturday. The Tigers will don Detroit Stars uniforms while the Pirates will pay homage to the Pittsburgh Crawfords. During the series, Hall of Famer Turkey Stearnes – a former Star – will be recognized with a video about his plaque, which was dedicated at Comerica Park in 2007. Stearnes’ grandson will throw one of the ceremonial first pitches, while Stearnes daughters will perform the national anthem. Former Negro leaguers Frank Crosson, Joe Douse, Buck Duncan, Bee-Bop Gordon, Bill Hill, Gene Johnson, Cecil Kaiser, Alton King, Bullet Moore and Schoolboy Teasley will be on hand throughout the weekend.

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

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.

Classic Hall of Famers thrill packed crowd, promise more

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

There were literally no empty seats in the Grandstand Theater for the Hall of Fame Classic Voices of the Game. And this special Father’s Day edition delivered with the same impact the four Hall of Famers on stage had during their careers.

The sellout crowd listened for as Triple-Crown winner Bob Feller, 300-game winner Phil Niekro, 3,000-hit Club member Paul Molitor and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner Brooks Robinson reflected on their careers and talked about the game they love.

6-20-09-Hayes_VOG.jpgAll four legends and fellow Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins headline the signature event of the weekend, the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day at Doubleday Field.

The theme of fathers and sons has been a principal element throughout this inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Weekend and was present during Voices of the Game. Niekro spoke vividly of his relationship. As a youngster in Ohio, he looked up to his father, who taught him the weapon that would be his bread and butter in a 24 season career.

“”If it wasn’t for the knuckleball, I probably would have ended up coal mining,” Niekro said. “I didn’t know what it was. I just had fun playing knuckle ball in the back yard. Then I was able to get Little League guys out.”

His success continued and he hitched a ride to a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves. He signed for $500. Early on, Knucksie as he became known, was unsure of his talents. When the Hall’s manager of museum programs Steve Light, who moderated the event asked Niekro how he fared against the two accomplished hitters on either side of him, Knucksie started laughing.

6-20-09-Hayes_RobinsonNiekro.jpg“I faced Brooks early on during a Spring Training game,” he recalled. “One of my 77-mph fastballs got away from me and I hit him in the head.”

Robinson countered, “Didn’t hurt a bit.”

“I thought I was going to be done the next day for hitting Brooks Robinson with a fastball,” Niekro said.

Robinson’s start wasn’t something to brag about either, though he did. He played most of the 1955 season for the York (Penn.) White Roses – a B-League team in the Piedmont League. Robinson got the call at the end of the season and got two hits in his first start.

“I called home and said, ‘This is cake. Why did I play in [the minors] all year? I should have been in the big leagues.'”

He then went 0-for-18. He recovered and became one of the cornerstones of the great Orioles teams of the 1960’s and 70’s. He appeared in four World Series, winning a pair of rings. Robinson played on a lot of great teams, but he feels one of the best didn’t achieve to the level that some of his other teams might have.

6-20-09-Hayes_Robinson.jpgIn honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Miracle Mets, Light asked Robinson about the 1969 World Series.

“I thought our ’62 team was our best,” he said. “But anything can happen in a seven-game series. We beat [Hall of Famer Tom] Seaver and lost the next four, straight.”

Baltimore was back in the Series again the next season and Robinson took the MVP honors, hitting .429 against the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati. He drove in six and hit a pair of home runs. Molitor like Robinson achieved October glory by winning the MVP Award in 1993 with the Blue Jays.

During that Fall Classic, he hit .500 with a pair of doubles, a pair of triples and a pair of homers while driving in eight against the Phillies. Molitor’s best memory of that Series however, was not one of his personal achievements.

“The ’93 Series, I was on first base when Joe Carter hit that ball over the wall,” he said. “I was thinking if it goes off the wall and I hustle, I can score and end this thing, but then it went out and it was all over anyway.”

Another highlight of Molitor’s career was reaching 3,000 hits. Pure consistency throughout his career allowed The Ignitor to retire with a career .306 batting average and 3,319 hits. In 1987, he took a run at one of the game’s longest standing records, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Molitor hit safely in 39 straight.

6-20-09-Hayes_Niekro.jpg“Whether it’s milestones or streaks, players don’t really play for those, but numbers are big in baseball,” he said. “Falling 17 games short is still a long way away from that number and my perspective changed after that streak.

“I always tell people: The way you handle success is directly related to the way you handle failure, because 3,000 hits means 7,000 outs.”

Knucksie, a member of another elite club – the 300-game winners – applauded Molitor on the achievement. He said pitchers have help in winning games, but hitters are alone. 

Niekro’s 300th came in his last start of 1985 as a Yankee. It was a special moment for him and his father, who was faltering in health. Niekro was 46 at the time and at the end of his contract.

“If I didn’t win it, I would have had to wait until the next spring and he wasn’t going to hold on that long,” he said. “So really that was a blessing for both of us.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Feller.jpgFeller missed 300 wins by 34. But he recorded a career-high 27 in 1940 followed by 25 in 1941 before leaving baseball for most of four seasons to serve in the Navy during World War II. Light noted that the Grandstand Theater is a replica of Chicago’s Comiskey Park where Feller authored one of his three no-hitters and the only Opening Day no-no in the history of the game.

“Well it was 69 years ago and I remember it quite well,” the Indians ace recalled. “It wasn’t my best no-hitter. I didn’t have great stuff that day. I only struck out eight and we won 1-0. I remember that my catcher, Rollie Hemsley, hit a triple with my rommmate on base to score the only run.”

At 90, Feller’s memory is as sharp as if he were reading a box score. Light asked him about his famous high-leg kick and he laughed.

“That high leg kick…You’ve seen the picture taken in Yankee Stadium in 1936 or ’37 with my leg kicked over my head and the photographer laying flat on the ground,” Feller said. “That is all for show. It was just symbolism. But it’s the most popular picture they’ve got of me and it sells well at card shows.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Molitor.jpgAnother Feller myth was confirmed, when Light asked the former fireballer about the motorcycle and his fastball. Feller said that, that also happened in Chicago. He was wearing a tie and a dress shirt during the exhibition, but when he wound up with the motorcycle ten feet behind him, the ball beat the bike to the target. Using a timer and the vehicles speedometer, it was figured that he threw the ball 104 mph. Later a similar event was held and Feller clocked in at 107 mph.

Apparently worried by this, Molitor interrupted the story, “Can I ask him how his arm is feeling, since I have to leadoff against him tomorrow? I’ve heard stories of him hitting the first batter, so I’m just curious.”

Once the laughter subsided, and it was confirmed that Molitor would be the first batter to face the Classic’s starting pitcher – the 90-year-old Feller – Light asked Robinson how he felt knowing that he’d be the first guy to dig in against Knucksie in the bottom of the first.

6-20-09-Hayes_MolitorFeller.jpgRecalling their Spring Training encounter, Robinson looked worried and Niekro laughed, “Put your helmet on big boy, it’s coming.”

It is coming. In less than 24 hours, the legends will take the field at Doubleday and the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic will begin with Molitor facing Feller and Robinson against Niekro. Feller’s words seemed to sum up the entire weekend.

Baseball is a game of luck and there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad,” he said, noting the rain that fell on Cooperstown for most of Saturday. “We’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow, rain or shine.”

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

A perfect storm

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The White Sox can slug. Last season they hit 235 home runs, tops in the Majors and 21 ahead of the world champion Phillies. This season, they’ve hit 10 — tied for ninth at the moment, with the Rangers leading the way with 17 homers in this young season.

But Chicago has a fearsome heart of the order with Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and then Paul Konerko. And their bats are coming alive. Quentin deposited a pair of balls over the outfield wall at Comerica Park on Monday, and it was the team’s first four-homer game of 2009. They had 11 last year.

The story of Monday’s Tigers-White Sox game was, of course, two men making history by hitting their 300th career home runs in back-to-back at-bats. Dye and Konerko became the first teammates to reach a century milestone of at least 300 in the same game, let alone doing so in back-to-back fashion.

4-15-09-Hayes_KonerkoDye.jpgIt was the fifth time in Major League history that two men have reached a century milestone of at least 300 in the same day, and Thome has been involved in two of those events. The others are Mark McGwire (400) and Andres Galarraga (300) on May 8, 1998; Albert Belle (300) and Rafael Palmeiro (300) on July 17, 1998; Juan Gonzalez (400) and Thome (300) on June 5, 2002; and Thome (500) and Todd Helton on Sept. 16, 2007.

Thome, Dye and Koneko have been together since 2006 and are fairly well represented at the Hall of Fame. Dye’s jersey from Game 4 of his Most Valuable Player performance during the 2005 World Series is here, as are the jersey Thome wore when he hit his 400th career home-run on June 29, 2004, and his 500th home-run ball. In fact, Thome came to Cooperstown last August and presented the ball to the Hall’s chief curator, Ted Spencer.

Something to think about as the Sox home-run machine gets its engines turning is this: With Dye in right field, Konerko at first base and Thome as the designated hitter, the White Sox have 1,143 career home runs in their lineup between just three men. Of course dropping Dye or Konerko for Ken Griffey Jr. at the end of last 2008 considerably ups the total. Both Konerko and Dye ended 2008 with 298 and Thome ended with 541, while Griffey had 611 for an unreal total of 1,450 home runs. That kind of slugging is historic in nature.

An incomplete look at some of the great home-run hitting trios in baseball history turns up very few teams featuring a lineup with that much pop. I was only able to find one team that can overtake the current Sox. In 2006, the Yankees had Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. Those three Bronx Bombers finished the season with a combined 1,269 career homers (Rodriguez at 464, Sheffield at 455 and Giambi at 350). The next season, Sheffield was traded to Detroit, breaking up the unit.

Many teams have come close. Mr. Cub’s Lovable Losers fall just short of their Windy City successors. In Hall of Famer Ernie Banks‘ final year, the North Siders had 1,131 career homers between their three top sluggers. Banks had 512, Hall of Famer Billy Williams had 319 and Ron Santo had 300.

Babe Ruth‘s final year with the Yankees, 1934, was another homer-happy squad, but even they can’t match the Sox mashers despite having three prominent Hall of Famers. With Ruth at 708 and Lou Gehrig at 348, the two sluggers had 1,056. Like many teams however, they fell short of finding a third player. Bill Dickey‘s 62 give the 1934 Yankees a combined 1,118 career home runs.

The 1971 Giants, featuring two Hall of Famers with a 40-year-old Willie Mays at 646 and Willie McCovey at 370, also had a young Bobby Bonds with 100 career homer runs, combining for a total of 1,116.

Eddie Murray played in Baltimore for many years and came back at the tail end of 1996 with 474 homers at the end of the season and teamed with Cal Ripken Jr. (353) and Palmeiro (233) for 1,060 total home runs. 

4-15-09-Hayes_MantleAaron.jpgThe ’04 Cubs had Slammin’ Sammy Sosa with 543, Moises Alou at 278 and Derrek Lee with 162 for a total of 983. That team also featured Aramis Ramirez with 127 at the time.

The hardest part of finding a team with over 1,000 career homers between three players is finding three prolific hitters at that point in their careers. 2009 inductee Jim Rice and Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams all played in Boston and overlapped each other’s tenures, but they never played together that late in their careers.

The Milwaukee Braves of the late ’50s and ’60s were known for their slugging threesome. In 1962, the Braves featured Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews at 399, Hall of Famer and eventual home-run king Hank Aaron at 298 and Joe Adcock with 270 for a 967 total. Four years later, Adcock was gone, but by then Mathews (493) and Aaron (442) had come a long way. Felipe Alou’s 148 give the new threesome 935 homers in 1966.

Mickey Mantle ran into the same problem. He played with Joe DiMaggio as a youngster and Yogi Berra for a long period of time. By 1963, Mantle had 419 longballs, Berra had 358 and slugger Roger Maris contributed 214 for a total of 991.

It takes the perfect storm to put 1,143 career home runs into one lineup. Right now, the White Sox have it, and it’s fun to watch.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers