Results tagged ‘ Cy Young Award ’

Mike McCormick visits Hall of Fame

By Bill Francis

Mike McCormick had experienced much in his baseball career, from making his big league debut 55 years ago at the age of 17, to capturing the 1967 National League Cy Young Award, and surrendering Hank Aaron’s 500th career home run. But it wasn’t until this week that the longtime left-handed pitcher visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

“It’s the first time that I’ve been to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and shame on me,” McCormick said on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve heard about it, obviously, my whole career and honored to be in it in different ways, not as an elected person. It’s been a wonderful day so far and we’re looking forward to the rest of it.”

The 72-year-old McCormick is a native Californian who moved with his wife to Pinehurst, N.C. eight years ago. Now retired, he spends time on the golf course and keeping up with his beloved Giants thanks to a cable television baseball package. He was visiting Cooperstown with one of his daughters, her husband, and their two children. Soon after the family arrived, they were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum.

“You come in as the average citizen and you see the exhibits but you don’t see what’s behind those exhibits,” McCormick said. “They have some incredible things that they shared with my family and me that, had it not been under the conditions, we wouldn’t even be aware that such things existed.”

After a heralded prep career in a Los Angeles suburb in which he posted records of 49-4 in American Legion and 34-4 in high school, McCormick spent 16 seasons (1956-71) as a major league hurler. Because of the rules at the time, his reported $50,000 signing bonus from the New York Giants demanded he stay on the big league roster for his first two professional seasons.

“I wanted to be a baseball player,” McCormick recalled. “And all at once I was thrust into it at 17 and it was whole different world, let me tell you. I grew up real fast.”

While McCormick spent most of his time with the Giants, first in New York and then with San Francisco after the franchise moved in 1958, he also saw time with the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators, New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals. His career, which ended with a 134-128 won-loss record, was highlighted by his 22 wins in 1967 that helped him capture the senior circuit’s top pitching prize.

“When I was healthy, I don’t want to say I was the best but I was among the best. I just had a struggle staying healthy,” McCormick said. “I went my first six years feeling fine then all at once I ran into a sore shoulder which set me back the next three years. I stayed in the major leagues but I was really a nonproductive individual. Then I got to Washington and re-established that I had some value, where I had three or four good years, one of which one was the Cy Young Award year. But then I had back problems and had to succumb to a back operation.”

Walking through the Plaque Gallery, McCormick not only saw the bronze likenesses of such former teammates as Willie Mays, Gaylord Perry, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, but also legendary opponents like Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle.

“I’ve been blessed to have played with and against the finest in the game,” McCormick said. “I pitched in both leagues in the 1950s and ‘60s, an era I consider one of baseball’s best ever.”

Before continuing on his first-ever Hall of Fame visit, McCormick added, “It’s an incredible place. I would tell everybody that has an opportunity that this is the place to come.”

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

Kenny Loggins relishes Hall of Fame visit

By Jeff Ideslon

I spend a lot of time walking through the Museum with celebrities. Some have very little interest, others modest – and then there’s the serious fan, like Kenny Loggins.

The popular musician was in town Thursday to play a benefit show for Hospice at Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, fronting his band Blue Sky Riders, which includes vocalist Georgia Middleman and bass player/guitarist Gary Burr.

The very accomplished Loggins won Best Male Pop Vocal Grammy for “This Is It” in 1980, and co-wrote the 1979 Grammy-winning Song of The Year “What A Fool Believes” with his long-time friend, Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers.

Along with his son Luke, who is entering his senior year at Santa Barbara High School and pitches for the baseball team, Loggins spent Thursday afternoon at the Hall of Fame. The two completely immersed themselves in the history of the game.

Loggins, who played youth baseball through the Babe Ruth level, played catch with all five of his children through the years. “I wanted them to know baseball like I did,” he said. “Luke has a much better temperament for the game than I did. He handles adversity well.”

Growing up in Alhambra, Calif., Loggins and his dad would sit in the kitchen and listen to Vin Scully call Dodger games on the radio. “I grew up with Koufax and Drysdale. It seemed like one of them pitched every day.”

Walking through the Hall of Fame’s collections, “Oh my God, this is in great shape,” he said, marveling at the wonderful conservation of the jersey.

Holding a Stan Musial game-used bat he looked skyward and said, “This is my day. ‘The Man’ was unbelievable.” I explained to Loggins that Musial was a five-tool player – he could hit for power and average, run, throw and catch. I asked him if he knew any five-tool musicians.

Without even thinking, he answered exactly as Graham Nash did two years ago when I asked him the same question: “Prince.” Loggins added Stevie Wonder and Nash added Stephen Stills.

After seeing Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson sweaters, Loggins asked where he could get one. “I wish these were still in vogue. These are beautiful,” he said.

Finally, while holding the bat Ted Williams used for his 521st and final home run, he noticed that part of the Louisville Slugger trademark was the word, ‘powerized.’ “Do you think I could get my guitar powerized?” he asked his Burr and me.

After seeing artifacts from Willie Mays, Orel Hershiser, and so many other, he softly said to no one in particular, “You forget how short a baseball career is. ” How true.

Two hours later, Loggins concluded, “This Museum is incredibly well done. It is interactive and exciting, and chock full of great contextual information. It plays well to my son Luke, who’s in high school and also to older folks, like Gary and me. The experience really took me back in time, right back to my childhood.”

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

Dan Quisenberry: Fireman of the Year

By Trevor Hayes

Dan Quisenberry was never the type to grab headlines and national attention. He was a solid performer and a reliable closer. He won a World Series and appeared in every game of another Fall Classic. He pitched 12 seasons in the Majors, but he was anything but a typical ballplayer.

Quiz wrote poetry. He was a shutdown reliever, but he relied not on a blow-away fastball but pinpoint control, deception and a submarine delivery that confused hitters and earned him the nickname “The Australian,” because he came from down under.

He might have been the wackiest guy to play for the Royals – though with personalities like “The Mad Hungarian” Al Hrabosky having worn a K.C. uniform that might be a tough title to hold. But in Kansas City, everyone who slots into the back of the Royals bullpen must live up to Quiz.

Growing up in Kansas City, I’ve gotten a steady diet of two things – bad baseball to watch and plenty of chatter about the team’s successful past. Quisenberry is talked about with great respect. I was at his Induction to the Royals Hall of Fame and remember the sadness throughout the Metro area when he passed away after a bought with brain cancer.

A unique personality off the field, when Quisenberry took the mound hitters could expect a fight and lots of strikes. Using the solid defense behind him, he picked away at the zone. He gave up just 11 walks in 1983 and 12 in 1984 over a combined 268 innings, and was runnerup for the Cy Young Award in both years.

As guys like Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter began to define the modern day closer, in some ways Quisenberry was right there. He set the single season record for saves in 1983 with 45 – a mark that is still tied for tops in the Royals record books. It was the first time any pitcher had reached 40 saves in a single season. In 1984 Quiz threatened his own record, ending the season with 44, while Sutter saved 45. The two shared the mark until Dave Righetti got 46 in 1986. Jeff Reardon joined Quisenberry as the only pitchers with a pair of 40-save seasons in 1988 and then in 1992, he broke Quiz’s AL saves record, a mark he’d held since passing Fingers in 1987.

As the position of closer evolved in the 1980s, several pitchers put their stamp on the game, but today’s advanced metrics show how good Quisenberry was. His Adjusted ERA+ (which factors ballpark tendencies and season averages) of 146 ties him for fifth all-time. The names above him: Mariano Rivera, Pedro Martinez, Jim Devlin and Lefty Grove. He’s tied with Water Johnson and Hoyt Wilhelm. His career rate of 1.4 walks per nine innings pitched is the lowest since 1926 and fifth lowest since 1901.

One lasting impression Quiz holds on the closer position is his ties to the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award (originally called Fireman of the Year). From 1980 to 1985, he earned five gold-plated firefighter’s helmets, including four in a row. During that span he yeilded only the 1981 honors to Fingers (who won four in his career). Rivera is the only pitcher to match Quiz’s five Awards and noone has won more than two in a row.

Through the years, Quiz has become one of my favorite players, and the bobblehead of him wearing a fireman’s hat that sits on my desk is one of my favorite pieces of memorabilia not only because of the record it represents, but the player and story behind it. The Hall of Fame’s newest exhibit, One for the Books, which opens May 28, is focused on that exact concept. It seeks to not only glorify the game’s greatest records, but the rich stories behind the records.

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

Willie, Joey and the Doc

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

One at a time, they approached the podium at the New York Hilton. Men of great fame, accustomed to honors and accolades.

01-24-11-Muder_Mays.jpgAnd one at a time, they looked to their right – 30 feet away in the audience at the New York City Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner on Saturday night. And they acknowledged the great Willie Mays.

Ron Gardenhire, skipper of the Minnesota Twins and the 2010 American League Manager of the Year. Bud Harrelson, the glue that held the 1969 Miracle Mets together at shortstop. John Denny, the 1983 National League Cy Young Award winner.

Each told similar versions of the same tale, separated by only geography and time. Mays was their hero, the player who inspired them to what they became.

As more than one said: The greatest living ballplayer.

It was a chance to celebrate the Giants’ Hall of Famer, who will turn 80 this spring yet still elicits kid-like awe from three generations of baseball fans. For many, just sharing dinner with Mays was an experience they’ll never forget.

01-24-11-Muder_Gillick.jpgMays, however, was far from the only star in the room. The best of the best from the 2010 season received their hardware Saturday night, joined at the head table by luminaries like 2011 Hall of Fame electee Pat Gillick, 2012 HOF hopeful Barry Larkin, and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

It was the coda to the 2010 season, the official start of 2011. In 22 days, pitchers and catchers will begin to report to camps in Florida and Arizona. And the journey will begin anew.

It will be tough to top the heroics of 2010. Cy Young performances by Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez. MVP seasons by Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto. And farewell campaigns from legendary managers Bobby Box, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre.

But come January of 2012, the magic will return at the BBWAA dinner. Maybe not with the bonus of an appearance by Willie Mays, but with the joy that is reborn with every fresh season on the diamond.

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

Hall Monitor: Hot Stove Around the Corner

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Not much is left of 2010 and even less remains of the baseball season. With the Rookies of the Year, Cy Youngs and Manager of the Year Awards doled out this week, two awards remain – the League MVPs. The remnants of the season that was haven’t stopped a flurry of action building toward 2011.

Classic impact: Monday saw a pair of new-bloods honored with the Rookie of the Year Awards. And for the third time in history, both players helped lead their club to the World Series. The Giants’ Buster Posey and Rangers’ Neftali Feliz were the first pair since 11-19-10-Hayes_KoufaxCarltonMaddux.jpgFernando Valenzuela and Dave Righetti in 1981 for the Yankees and Dodgers. The first pair was Gil McDougald and Hall of Famer Willie Mays in 1951 for the Yankees and Giants, respectively.

Seven is Three’s Company: Your National League Cy Young Award winner, author of two no-hitters – one a perfect game and the other the second ever thrown in the postseason – is Roy Halladay. The Doc’s second Cy Young shows he is among the game’s elite, but he remains five behind the all-time lead in that category. His team however, just became one of only three teams with at least seven Cy Young Awards. Hallday is joined in Phillies history by Hall of Famer Steve Carlton (four), Steve Bedrosian and John Denny (one each).

Interestingly enough, the other two clubs with seven are also NL teams. The Braves racked up seven with Greg Maddux (three), Tom Glavine (two), Hall of Famer Warren Spahn and John Smoltz (one each). And the Dodgers out-rank all major league teams with nine Cy Young Award winners: Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax (three) and Don Drysdale (one), along with Eric Gagne, Orel Hershiser, Mike Marshall, Don Newcombe and Fernando Valenzuela (one each).


11-19-10-Hayes_810WManagers.jpgNine years is a heck of a start
: Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire won his first Manager of the Year Award, and Twins fans think it’s about time. Gardy had previously finished second in voting five times. His teams have won 90 games five times and he is the first manger in history to win six division titles in his first nine years. With 803 career wins, only five managers had more wins in their first nine seasons than Gardenhire. All five now call Cooperstown home: Sparky Anderson (863), Al Lopez (836), Joe McCarthy (828), Earl Weaver (812) and Frank Chance (810). Current Angels manager Mike Scioscia, also had exactly 803 wins through his first nine seasons.

Hot Stove action: While the heat really turns up around the Winter Meetings, a least one big trade has already gone down. All-Star utility man Omar Infante is taking his talents to South Beach while slugging second baseman Dan Uggla shifts to Atlanta. Losing an All-Star who can play almost any position on the field is big, but the Braves may have picked up a steal. Uggla owns the third-best batting average of anyone at Turner Field since it opened in 1997 at .354. Only Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds have hit better.

11-19-10-Hayes_GordonBanksRipken.jpgBut batting average aside, Uggla’s best skill is his power. He’s the first second baseman to produce four 30-home run seasons, let alone consecutively. And among the first five years of any middle infielder’s career, Uggla’s 154 home runs are tops. Three MVP-wining Hall of Famers round out the top five, with 500-home run club member Ernie Banks second (136), Joe Gordon third (125) and Cal Ripken Jr. fifth (108). Nomar Garciaparra is fourth with 117.

King Felix’s Mariners vs. Lefty’s Phils: Announced Thursday was the American League Cy Young winner, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. The honor continues a trend of moving away from wins in the voting. In fact, the AL wins leader has won only five of the last nine Cy Young Awards.

With the lowest win total for a Cy Young winner ever, King Felix and his team set a new precedent. Previously, Steve Carlton’s 1972 Phillies were the worst team to boast a Cy Young winner. While the Hall of Fame lefty lead the league with an incredible 27 wins, his Phillies won 59 games – a .378 win percentage. This season, run support torpedoed Hernandez, who went 13-12, while Seattle posted a winning percentage of .377.

11-19-10-Hayes_CarewGwynn.jpgCatching up with the Hall of Famers: Drafted in 1978 and debuting in 1981 with the Phillies, Ryne Sandberg is returning to Philadelphia. After four seasons managing in the Cubs’ farm system, the 2010 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year was hired to manage the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. Starting next season, Ryno will head the Lehigh Valley IronPigs as he continues his quest to pilot a big league club.

Stan Musial made news this week as the Cardinals legend was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. The St. Louis faithful campaigned all season to get Stan the Man the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Also, two more Hall of Famers grace Studio 42 with Bob Costas tonight. Legendary hitters Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew will drop by to talk baseball and the art of hitting with the veteran broadcaster at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

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

Big stars — and a little fun

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

INDIANAPOLIS — The man with the “GTS” monogram on his sweater looked around the room, then asked: “Where’s my cameraman?”

Camera in hand — and with far less photography skills than worthy of the event — I darted over to the two gentlemen in the chairs. They had just wrapped up Sunday’s afternoon Veterans Committee for Executives and Pioneers meeting at Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, and they wanted to capture their moment.

12-07-09-Muder_RobertsSeaver.jpgJust two guys, 597 major league victories — and a whole lot of little boy in both of them.

“I’m keeping this one,” said George Thomas Seaver, who couldn’t resist the chance to pose with fellow Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. “How many wins do we have here?”

Let’s see: 286 for Roberts, 311 for Seaver. Then, two of the best right-handed pitchers in history began doing what every pitcher does: They compared hitting statistics.

“I had four career stolen bases, and was never caught,” said Seaver.

“You got me there,” said Roberts. “I only had three steals. But I did something not even Babe Ruth did: I hit home runs from both sides of the plate.”

Seaver was duly impressed — so much so that the three-time Cy Young Award winner dropped into his best “We’re Not Worthy” pose, saluting the switch-hitting Roberts from the carpeted floor.

In a flash, the two friends were on their way — ready to pick up the conversation this summer in Cooperstown during the July 23-26 Hall of Fame Weekend. Two of baseball’s greatest, still in love with the game they played.

A moment to remember.

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

Nov. 25, 1981: Rollie Fingers becomes first relief pitcher in AL history to win MVP

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

When Oakland A’s manager Dick Williams sent Rollie Fingers to the bullpen in 1971 after several sub-par outings as a starter, Fingers thought his short major league run had come to an end.

“Williams threw me out to the bullpen and I thought: ‘Well that’s the end of that,’” Fingers said in an interview with the New York Post. “My baseball career was over. I figured the handwriting was on the wall.”

11-25-09-Bielefeld_Fingers.jpg“No kid ever dreams of being a reliever,” Fingers further explained. “Everybody wants to be a starter, and I was no different.”

However, the transition proved to be a blessing in disguise for Fingers – who, during his 17-year major league career with the A’s, Padres and Brewers, became one of the greatest relief pitchers the game has ever seen.

The pinnacle of his illustrious bullpen career came 28 years ago today when, on Nov. 25, 1981, just days after winning his first Cy Young Award, Fingers became only the second relief pitcher in major league history to win a Most Valuable Player Award and the first to do so in the American League.

In his 14th year in the majors, Fingers posted a 6-3 record, racked up an AL leading 28 saves and sported an infinitesimal 1.04 ERA. Utilizing his fastball and sharp slider, he struck out 61 men while walking only 13 in 78 innings pitched.

Fingers was especially dominant in the second half of the ’81 season. After the Brewers got off to a lackluster start, the club rallied, emerging as second half champions and climbing to first place in the AL East.

11-25-09-Bielefeld_Chart.jpg“He’s the type of pitcher who has command of all of his pitches,” said former Brewers skipper Rene Lachemann, who managed Fingers in 1984. “He knows he’s going to get [batters] out. He gives me a lot of confidence when he’s out there.”

While the 1981 Brewers would ultimately lose in the AL Division Series, Fingers was no stranger to October success. In his career, he pitched in 16 World Series games – winning three consecutive titles with the Athletics from 1972-74.

When Fingers retired in 1985, he was the all-time saves king with 341. Today, he is 10th on the all-time list.

Fingers, along with his famed handlebar mustache, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. Shortly after his enshrinement in Cooperstown, the Brewers retired No. 34 – Fingers’ jersey number – to commemorate his four-year tenure with the team and his MVP accomplishment.

Bridget Bielefeld was the 2009 public relations intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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