Results tagged ‘ Cy Young ’

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 HernŠndez, 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.

Oct. 14, 1905: Christy Mathewson throws third shutout in Series to lead Giants to title

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

Long before Reggie Jackson earned the title “Mr. October” for his dominance in the Fall Classic, Christy Mathewson’s 1905 World Series performance epitomized postseason supremacy.

Mathewson, dubbed “Big Six” by teammates, was coming off a stellar regular season for the New York Giants. At 31-9, he led the National League in wins, strikeouts (206) and ERA (1.28).

10-14-09-Bielefeld_Mathewson.jpgHis efforts propelled the Giants to the top of the NL leader board and earned the team a coveted place in the 1905 Fall Classic against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. The postseason appearance marked the first for the 25-year-old pitcher.

In Games 1 and 3, Mathewson stifled the A’s – pitching a combined 18 shutout innings and striking out 14 men. The A’s were pushed to the precipice of defeat in Game 4, as the Giants increased their lead in the Series 3-games-to-1.

Game 5 was slated for Oct. 14, 1905, and Mathewson, on two days rest, was scheduled to take the mound once again. In a blistering one hour and 35 minutes, Mathewson utilized his famed fadeaway pitch and blanked the A’s 2-0 – throwing his third complete game shutout in a mere five days. No pitcher has ever matched that feat in a World Series.

With the victory, the Giants locked up the World Series, topping the A’s four-games-to-one.

“Mathewson was the greatest pitcher who ever lived,” Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack said. “He had knowledge, judgment, perfect control and form. It was wonderful to watch him pitch – when he wasn’t pitching against you.”

10-14-09-Bielefeld_Chart.jpgThe Bucknell University alum holds the record for most National League wins with 373 – along with Grover Cleveland Alexander – and is third on the all-time list behind only Cy Young and Walter Johnson.

“Mathewson pitched against Cincinnati yesterday,” writer Damon Runyon once said. “Another way of putting it is that Cincinnati lost a game of baseball. The first statement means the same as the second.”

Those winning ways earned Mathewson a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1936. Along with Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner, they make up the first class of inductees.

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

Perfect Mark

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

There is a saying that you can’t mess with perfection and I’m sure that’s why the artifacts from Mark Buehrle’s perfect game arrived late last week instead of two weeks ago.

8-11-09-Hayes_Buehrle.jpgYou see, when Buehrle hurled his second career no-hitter on July 23rd against the Tampa Bay Rays – the first perfect game in the majors since Randy Johnson’s on May 18, 2004 – history wasn’t over. Buehrle went on to retire the first 17 Minnesota Twins he faced during his next start on July 28th.

Mark Buehrle not only threw the 18th perfect game in major league history (17th during the regular season), but he set the major league record for scoreless innings during his next start. Counting the final out he recorded on July 18 versus Baltimore, Buehrle retired 45 consecutive batters. That broke the record of 41 set by Jim Barr in 1972 and Buehrle’s Sox teammate Bobby Jenks, a reliever, in 2007.

From the historic event, the Hall of Fame has received Buehrle’s jersey and a ball used during the perfect game.

8-11-09-Hayes_BuehrlePitch.jpgCoupled with his 2007 no-no, Buehrle is the sixth pitcher to collect both a perfect game and a no-hitter during his career, joining Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Addie Joss, Sandy Koufax, Cy Young and current Giants pitcher Randy Johnson. Coincidentally, both of Buehrle’s no-no’s have come at home at U.S. Cellular Field with umpire Eric Cooper behind the plate – a first for a pitcher-umpire combo.

Buehrle’s gem set a lot of other firsts too. It was the first against a current league or division champ, aside from Don Larsen’s perfecto against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series. According to the Elias Sport Bureau, because the Rays were third in the majors in runs scored, Buehrle joins Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter (versus the Twins in 1968) as the only pitchers throw a perfect game against teams ranked in the top-five in the majors in runs scored.

There’s more: Josh Fields became the first player to hit a grand slam while his teammate threw a perfect game. Ramon Castro teamed with Buehrle to become the first battery to never start a game together before recording a perfect game. The final out was Jason Bartlett, who made the All-Star team this season and was hitting .342 coming into the game. No other pitcher completed a perfect game by retiring a batter hitting at least .300 or who had the All-Star team in the same season.

8-11-09-Hayes_Wise.jpgThe story of Buehrle’s perfect game can’t be told without teammate DeWayne Wise. He was inserted into the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. The first batter, Gabe Kapler drilled a 2-2 pitch to center. Wise bolted for the wall and brought Kapler’s drive back, robbing the Rays outfielder of a homer. In one last first: surely that catch is the most spectacular ever made to save a perfect game and almost certainly by a defensive replacement. Though it’s not an official stat, Wise was still kind enough to send his glove along with Buehrle’s jersey and the game ball to commemorate the special day.

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

As American as baseball and apple pie

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. – Terence Mann

As demonstrated in this iconic quote from the film Field of Dreams, our National Pastime has reflected and often shaped American culture. It is woven into the very fabric that makes up America. Baseball has a connection and an undeniable relevance to this country, which can be seen simply by looking back at the history of baseball on Independence Day.

7-2-09-Carr_Gehrig.jpgToday, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. – Lou Gehrig

Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig stood in front of a crowd at Yankee Stadium and uttered these now famous words seventy years ago Saturday. The speech took place on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, about a month after he learned of his terminal diagnosis. Less than two years later, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – a disease that would one day bear his name – would claim the life of the Iron Horse, who played 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees.

The July 4, 1939, ceremony was held between games of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators in front of fans, dignitaries and former teammates. The Yankees retired his uniform No. 4 – making Gehrig the first player ever afforded that honor. The crowd stood and applauded for two straight minutes following Gehrig’s speech.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum houses numerous artifacts in its collection from both Gehrig’s career and that special day in 1939 – including a 21 Ĺ inch silver trophy given to Gehrig by his 1939 Yankee teammates. But the connection between July 4 and baseball spans much more than one special day.

The Museum’s collection also contains a glove used by future Hall of Famer Rube Waddell in a 1905 pitching matchup with fellow Hall of Famer Cy Young; and a ball and Yankees cap from Dave Righetti’s no-hitter in 1983.

7-2-09-Carr_RyanNiekro.jpgFor almost 100 years, future Hall of Famers have recorded historic performances on July 4. In 1925, the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia A’s in a classic pitching duel between two future Hall of Famers. Herb Pennock of the Yankees retired the final 21 batters he faced to beat Lefty Grove.

And two soon-to-be Hall of Famers, Nolan Ryan and Phil Niekro, recorded their 3,000th strikeouts on July 4th. Ryan struck out Cesar Geronimo in 1980 and Niekro sat down Larry Parrish in 1984.

Baseball is forever tied to our nation’s history, and as we fire up the grills and make some of our own baseball memories on July 4, it is clear that those ties will not soon be broken.

Happy 4th of July!

You can find the history of any day in baseball on our Web site.

For more on Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech, check out the Induction issue of the Hall of Fame’s Members magazine Memories and Dreams. To become a Member, please click here.

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Big shoes to fill

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Growing up, my older brother and sister used to tease me about having wide feet and stubby toes. In fact, they nicknamed me Franklin Stubbs after the 1980s Dodgers first baseman and outfielder. I can look back and laugh at it now, but I can’t imagine how much teasing CC Sabathia took growing up.

4-21-09-Carr_Sabathia.jpgThis week, Sabathia handed over his cleats from Opening Day at Yankee Stadium to Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson — and in the process, broke a new record in Cooperstown.

Mary Bellew, assistant registrar at the Hall of Fame, assures me that at size 15, Sabathia’s shoes are the largest ever in our collection, breaking Ryan Minor’s mark of 13 Ĺ. Minor donated the cleats he wore Sept. 20, 1998, when he took over for Cal Ripken Jr. at third base after Ripken decided to end his record-breaking streak of consecutive games played at 2,632.

We also have shoes from 6-foot-10 and five-time Cy Young-winner Randy Johnson, but he is only a size 13.

Jeff also brought back the bat Grady Sizemore used to hit the first grand slam in the new park and a game-used commemorative Opening Day baseball signed by winning pitcher Cliff Lee. They will be on display, along with Sabathia’s cleats, in the Today’s Game exhibit this summer.

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at 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 fiancťe (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.

An Unforgettable Birthday at the Museum

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Donald Bentzel had no idea what to expect when the limo arrived at his home Thursday morning. All he knew was that it was his 60th birthday, and the boys had planned a trip.

“I had no idea. I thought we were on our way to an old-folks home to dump me off,” Bentzel said, laughing.

4-2-09-Carr_Bentzels.jpgInstead, Troy, Tim and Brian had planned him a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Donald’s wife, Roxanne, began to drop hints about one hour into the trip from Ephrata, Pa., and four hours later, they arrived in Cooperstown.

“How many years have we waited to come here?” Roxanne asked her husband.

“I can’t believe I’m here,” Bentzel said.

The entire family is either active in or retired from the U.S. Army and Air Force. Tim was able to take leave and join his parents on the trip, but Troy and Brian are stationed in Alabama and Georgia and were unable to make the trip.

Bentzel coached Midget League baseball for nine years in the ’80s, and Roxanne describes him as a true sports fanatic.

“I have always wanted to come,” said Bentzel, proudly wearing his Phillies shirt.

And he can’t wait to see the Autumn Glory exhibit featuring the Phillies’ World Series artifacts. He loved every minute of the championship run last October, and he and the boys ran up their cell-phone bills calling back and forth.

Donald had expected Cooperstown to just be a big tourist attraction. But once he got here, he realized it is much more than that.

“It’s baseball. It takes me back to the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s when baseball was every kid’s fantasy. It’s the atmosphere. I can hear the called third-strike, the sound of the bat hitting a ball, and Cy Young is walking beside me, and I’m telling him how to hold his fastball.”

With the Hall of Famers as guests, this will be a birthday party that Bentzel and his family won’t soon forget.

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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