Results tagged ‘ Cy Young Award ’

Nov. 18, 1966: Koufax calls it quits

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

When Sandy Koufax called it quits 43 years ago today — Nov. 18, 1966 — he ended a six-year run that scouts only dream about.

It was a six-year run good enough for a place in Cooperstown.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Koufax.jpgKoufax, who grew up in Brooklyn playing in the city’s “Ice Cream Leagues,” debuted with his hometown Dodgers in 1955. He posted five wins and a 3.02 ERA in his rookie year. The powerful lefty averaged only six wins per year for the first half of his career, but in 1961 Koufax began quite possibly the most impressive six-year span for a pitcher.

Koufax led the bigs in wins in 1963 (25), 1965 (26) and 1966 (27). His average ERA during his tyranny on National League hitters was an exceptional 1.99.

“I can see how he won 25 games,” said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra of Koufax’s 1963 season. “What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”

In 1963, Koufax also became just the second pitcher to ever take home an MVP and a Cy Young in the same season – after Don Newcombe did it with Brooklyn in the first year of the Cy Young award of 1956. Only six have earned that dual honor since (Vida Blue, Roger Clemens, Willie Hernández, Denny McLain and Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Bob Gibson).

And it wasn’t just soft-hitting utility men that had trouble with the mighty southpaw. Try a Hall of Famer with 475 career home runs.

“Hitting against Sandy Koufax is like drinking coffee with a fork,” said Pirates’ slugger Willie Stargell.

11-18-09-Lawrence_KoufaxNoHitters.jpgHarry Hooper, a four-time champion with the early 20th century Red Sox, echoed Stargell’s sentiments.

“You name a better left-hander in the history of baseball and I’ll eat my hat,” he said, referring to Koufax.

Koufax also became the first pitcher to reach four career no-hitters on Sept. 25, 1965, surpassing Larry Corcoran, Cy Young and Bob Feller. He is also one of only six pitchers to toss a perfect game and a regular no-hitter, along with Young, Jim Bunning, Addie Joss, Randy Johnson and the newest member Mark Buehrle.

It was severe arthritis in the once-in-a-generation left arm of Koufax that led to the demise of his young career. In fact, in April of 1966 Koufax was told that he couldn’t go another season, but he did – winning a career high 27 games with a career-best 1.73 ERA.

“Sandy pitches in extreme pain that can only be overcome by his motivational urge,” said team physician Dr. Robert Kerlan, according to an article in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgAnd despite this mental resolve that allowed the vaunted ace to pitch through immense pain, he was a gentleman of the highest order.

“There is hardly a strong enough word for the way the other players feel about Koufax,” said Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. “It almost goes beyond affection… for a man so gentle he seems misplaced in a jock shop.”

Koufax was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, just the 10th player (at the time) to be inducted in his first year of eligibility.

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sept. 16, 1960: Warren Spahn tosses no-hitter

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

Warren Spahn had earned many accolades by the start of the 1960 season – the 16th of his career. He had won a Cy Young award, a World Series championship and was an 11-time all-star. He had 10 20-win seasons under his belt and a slew of other awards in his trophy case.

9-16-09-Bielefeld_Spahn.jpgYet one thing was still missing from his illustrious résumé – a no-hitter.

That void would be filled 49 years ago today: Sept. 16, 1960, when Spahn, at 39 years old, achieved baseball immortality against the Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Spahn, a crafty southpaw with a high leg kick, had been making quick work of the Phillies all evening. Coming into the top of the ninth inning, in a game that was barely two hours old, Spahn had only allowed two base runners – both of whom reached on walks.

With four runs of support from his Braves, Spahn was in a position to make history.

No. 9 hitter Bobby Gene Smith was the first to bat for the Phils in the ninth. Spahn promptly struck him out for his 14th K of the game – and proceeded to do the same to leadoff man Bobby Del Greco, elevating his total to 15 on the night.

Only one man now stood between Spahn and an accomplishment which few men achieve in a lifetime. Second baseman Bobby Malkmus stepped into the batter’s box, and just as quickly as the game had progressed up to that point, it ended – with a groundout to shortstop Johnny Logan.

9-16-09-Bielefeld_SpahnColor.jpg“He’s beyond comparison with any modern left-hander,” Hall of Famer Casey Stengel said “He has beaten every handicap – the live ball, second division teams. No one can ever say anything to deny his greatness.”

With the win, Spahn improved to 20-9 and lowered his ERA to 3.46.  He finished the season 21-10 and placed second in Cy Young award voting behind Vern Law of the Pirates.

Spahn would go on to throw his second no hitter April 28 of the following year – at 40 years old.

“I don’t think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame,” Stan Musial once said.  “He’ll never stop pitching.”

After the 1960 season, Spahn would spend four more years with the Braves before joining the New York Mets and then San Francisco Giants in 1965 — the year he played his final big league game.

Spahn finished his career with 363 wins (a record for left-handers) and remains sixth on the all-time wins list. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 in his first year of eligibility. Only 10 other pitchers have accomplished that feat.

Just add it to his résumé.

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

Records falling before leaves

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

August is ending, the postseason is around the corner, records are starting to fall and today’s stars are joining the legends of yesteryear.


8-28-09-Hayes_WinfieldGuerrero.jpgBack in the News:
Two weeks after becoming the sixth player to belt 400 homers with a .320 average, Vladimir Guerrero recorded his 1,000th hit for the Angels – the eighth player in franchise history to do so. With 1,215 hits as an Expo, he’s the second player to collect 1,000 hits for a single team in both leagues. As a Padre and then a Yankee, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was the first. Aside from Guerrero, Manny Ramirez is the only active player with 1,000 for two teams (Indians and Red Sox).

Also this week – at 34 years, 194 days old – Guerrero recorded his 1,300th RBI. Since divisional play began in 1969, only eight players have reached the mark at a younger age: Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Ramirez, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Bagwell along with Hall of Famers Jim Rice and Eddie Murray.


8-28-09-Hayes_Sox-Yanks.jpgSox-Yanks:
Baseball’s premiere rivalry provided an offensive showcase last weekend. Friday’s 20-11 slugfest was significant. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the two clubs combined 31 runs, was the most in a single game in the over 100 year history of the rivalry. The previous mark was July 29, 1903, with the Highlanders beating the Americans 15-14 at Huntington Avenue Grounds – almost nine years before Fenway Park opened.

Hideki Matsui paced New York’s 23-hit attack with a pair of three-run jacks and seven RBI. It was the most by a Yankee at Fenway since Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig in 1930.

Not to be outdone, the Sox fired back. Kevin Youkilis contributed two homers and six RBI in a 14-1 victory over the Yankees on Saturday. Over the last 70 years, only Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk has hit two home runs and driven in at least six against the Bronx Bombers. Pudge did it on April 6, 1973 in a 15-5 rout at Fenway.


8-28-09-Hayes_Greinke.jpgA good start:
The Royals Zack Greinke is a long way away from 3,000 strikeouts, but on Tuesday night he recorded a performance that four of the members of the 3,000 strikeout club never did. Greinke sat down 15 Indians to break a single-game club record en route to recording his 700th career strikeout. And while 705 career strikeouts isn’t even a quarter of the way to 3,000, the 15 strikeouts for the 25-year-old Greinke represent a single-game feat Hall of Famers Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Ferguson Jenkins and recent retiree Greg Maddux – all members of the 3,000 strikeout club – never accomplished.

Arms race: John Smoltz will make his second start as a Cardinal tonight. When he debuted last Sunday, he became the ninth former Cy Young Award winner to play under Tony La Russa. Between the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals, La Russa has had two Cy Young winners make it to the Hall of Fame: Dennis Eckersley and Tom Seaver. Joe Torre is the only other manager with nine or more Cy Young winners on his staffs.

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

Former big leaguer Pankovits relishes time in Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

It’s not uncommon for someone to walk into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center requesting to look at a clipping or photo file on a favorite player. But rarely does someone walk in the door whose adult life is on file.

Such was the case Friday afternoon when former big league player Jim Pankovits stopped by as part of a larger visit. Pankovits is in his first year managing the New York-Penn League’s Tri-City ValleyCats, a short-season Single-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, and before Friday’s scheduled game against the Oneonta Tigers he and his team made a trip to Cooperstown.

8-1-09-Francis_Pankovits.jpg“I’d imagine most every team that comes in town to play the Tigers tries to make a trip over here and this was our only opportunity,” Pankovits said. “I think knowing the history of the game is very important for the players in their appreciation of what they’re doing and what they’re trying to achieve.”

According to Pankovits, his roster consists of about a half dozen Latin American players as well as college players selected in this year’s amateur draft.

“And I know, especially the kids from out West don’t get the opportunity to get over here, that they’re especially excited to be here,” Pankovits said. “We’re very fortunately in that the owner of our team, Bill Gladstone, is on the Board of Directors here at the Hall of Fame.”

The ValleyCats got a taste of what it’s like in Cooperstown in the summertime when they played a game against the Tigers at historic Doubleday Field last Saturday, the day before this year’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

“The hustle and bustle of the town was real exciting,” said Pankovits, “and I think the kids got a real good feel for what it’s like to come here and how special it is.”

Prior to this year, Pankovits’ only previous Hall of Fame visit came in 1985 when his Astros played the Boston Red Sox in the Hall of Fame Game.

“We had a group tour of the Hall as a team and it was my first exposure. I’ll tell you what, I was very excited, having played a long time in the minor leagues and obviously growing up a baseball fan,” Pankovits said. “I was always wondering when I’d get a chance to come back, and I’m sorry to say it took 25 years, but I guess it’s better late than never.”

8-1-09-Francis_PankovitsMug.jpgBetter late than never may characterize Pankovits’ big league playing career. Drafted by the Astros in 1976, the versatile bench player didn’t make his big league debut until 1984. He would spend five years with the Houston (1984-88) before his major league career came to an end with a two-game cup of coffee with the Red Sox in 1990.

“It took me eight years to get to the big leagues so I really appreciated being there,” Pankovits said. “We had a couple of good teams in Houston, one notably in ’86 when the Mets beat us in the playoffs. That would obviously be the highlight of my big league career, but it was a blur to be honest with you. It just goes so fast, even though it was five years. As everyone does, I look back on those experiences with a lot of enthusiasm and thanks.”

In looking back at the 1986 National League Championship Series against the Mets, Pankovits immediately recalled the famous Game 6 that went 16 innings before New York won 7-6.

“That Game 6 I’ll never forget. It seems like I can remember every pitch,” Pankovits said. “I thought we had it won winning 3-0, but they came back and tied it with three in the top of the ninth. Then they took the lead in the 14th, but Billy Hatcher hits a home run to tie it for us. Then they score three in the 16th and we score two and have the tying run on second.

“In Game 6, if we’d have won that one, Mike Scott (who would go on to win the 1986 Cy Young Award) had already beaten them twice in the series and he was scheduled to throw Game 7,” he added. “It wasn’t meant to be, I guess, but it was exciting, no doubt about it.”

Pankovits, who turns 54 on Aug. 6, finished his major league playing career with 318 games played – mostly as a second baseman – a .250 batting average in 567 at bats and a lifetime of memories.

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

Mr. Nice Guy turns 80

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Growing up a baseball fan in the 1970s, you quickly learned the rules.

Jim Palmer was THE Cy Young Award winner. Reggie Jackson  was ALWAYS in the World Series.

And Dick Williams‘ players NEVER gave less than 100 percent.

5-27-09-Muder_Williams.jpgOf course, there was a price to be paid for Williams’ managerial work. It seemed like every few years, his players began to grumble, his owner became worried — and Williams was eventually shown the door. But six months later, Williams would be back at Spring Training with yet another team — molding winners out of teams that never won.

Fast-forward to 2008, when Williams is elected to the Hall of Fame. It looked like the same guy: white mustache, piercing eyes… But this person was smiling all the time. In fact, he was moved to tears more than once.

Seems like the disciplinarian manager found out that — along the way — he was loved and respected more than he knew.

Today, Williams becomes one of just 13 living Hall of Famers who have reached their 80th birthday. And after a career filled with hard knocks and hard work, Dick Williams surely deserves to celebrate.

Happy birthday, Mr. Nice Guy!

Watch Williams’ speech from the 2008 Induction Ceremony

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

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