Results tagged ‘ David Ortiz ’

Halls of Fenway

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I spent last night in Fenway Park enjoying the final game of a three-game series between the Red Sox and their rival, the New York Yankees. There’s no bigger rivalry in baseball and it ranks among the all-time greats in professional sports.

There were four Hall of Famers in the house: Joe Morgan, in town to broadcast on ESPN with 2010 Ford C. Frick Award winner Jon Miller; Jim Rice, a fixture at Fenway as a pre and post-game analyst for the Red Sox’ cable rightsholder, NESN; Pudge Fisk, in town to spend a few days in the Red Sox Legends Suite, entertaining clients for the Red Sox, and Orlando Cepeda.

 
 
05-10-10-Idelson-Fenway.jpgOrlando, or Cha-Cha as he’s known in baseball circles, was in town for an event with EMC2, a worldwide leader in digital data storage. Orlando flew cross country from the Bay Area and made his first visit to the Fenway since 1987, 14 years after making history as the first designated hitter in Red Sox history in 1973.

Since he was already at the ballpark, Cha-Cha was asked to participate in a pre-game ceremony on Mother’s Day Sunday. He was to don a Red Sox jersey – with his number, 25, on the back, and a dark blue Red Sox cap — and escort a cancer-surviving mom to the mound and deliver the first pitch baseball to her so she could throw it out prior to the game.

Before the event, Orlando, Pudge, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Hall of Fame PR Chief Brad Horn and I sat in the dugout for a few minutes and exchanged some banter.

“Orlando! What are you doing here? Can you still hit?” Francona asked the 1999 Hall of Fame inductee who hit 20 home runs in 1973 for Boston.  “I don’t think so, my knee is not too good,” Cepeda said smiling. “How about you Pudge? Can you catch a few innings?” Fisk just rolled his eyes and chuckled.

Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez came out of the tunnel, and Francona introduced his starting catcher to the two legends. Martinez’ eyes lit up. 

Next was Kevin Youkilis. “What size bat did you use, Orlando?” asked Youk. When told that he swung a Louisville Slugger B83 model, weighing 40-ounces, the Red Sox infielder raised his eyebrows in disbelief, then turned to Francona and said: “Can you imagine swinging something that big against the fireballer (Nefti Feliz) from Texas?”

Francona wanted to know who the fastest pitcher was that Cepeda faced. Without thinking twice, Cha-Cha stated, “Nolan Ryan, but there were so many others.  Bob Veale.  So many.”

 “How about Marichal?” asked Francona.  “He threw around 92,” Cepeda replied.

Fisk swung Youkilis’s Mother’s Day pink bat and marveled at the feel of it.

Cepeda walked down the dugout to meet Dustin Pedroia, who grew up near his home in Fairfield, Calif. They talked about living in the Bay Area.  Then David Oritz came into the dugout and the two power hitters exchanged hugs. 

“I loved to watch your dad, Tito, hit,” Cepeda told Francona.

Francona smiled and told Orlando: “He loved watching you hit too. You and Rico Carty were the two guys who really could hit the ball hard.”  “And Yaz,” said Cepeda.  “He swung harder than anyone I know.”

As the pregame ceremony started, Orlando left the dugout for the field. I wondered if the 15 minutes of levity helped the Red Sox at all as the team salvaged the final game of the Series with New York.

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

Mr. October is 63

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Clutching the pack of Topps baseball cards my mother had just agreed to buy for me, I rushed past the candy display at our neighborhood market that spring day in 1978 — only to stop with a startled shake.

Like any kid, I had the candy rack memorized: Hershey bars here, Three Musketeers there — all in their usual place. But then I saw it: This square, orange wrapper with the baseball player on it, disrupting the order I knew so well.

5-18-09-Muder_Jackson.jpgThe Reggie Bar had arrived.

At 9 years old, I had yet to grasp the magnitude of Reggie Jackson‘s Game 6 performance in the 1977 World Series. But I could tell this was someone special. And that fall, when Reggie had two more homers and eight more RBIs against the Dodgers in the 1978 World Series, I thought greatness was simply Jackson’s birthright.

But Jackson’s career was much more than those two unbelievable World Series. He appeared in the postseason in more than half (11) of his 21 seasons, winning five World Series rings. He was a 14-time All-Star, and he still ranks 19th all-time with 1,075 extra-base hits.

It is the home runs, however, that everyone remembers: The towering shot that nearly left Tiger Stadium in the 1971 All-Star Game; his third homer of Game 6 in 1977, deep into the black of Yankee Stadium’s former bleachers; that go-for-broke left-handed stroke that seemed to bring out every ounce of power in the man. His 563 home runs still rank No. 11 on the all-time list.

Today, on Reggie’s 63rd birthday, much of that history is just memories. But the aura surrounding Jackson still remains.

As for the swing, it’s still there — though now it’s on the golf course. The stride, the follow-through, the power.

Ping! And that white ball is majestically flying.

Just like it was in 1977.

I never did care for the candy. But long after the Reggie Bar left supermarket shelves, the sweet taste of success still belongs to Reggie Jackson.

If you want to keep up with Reggie, visit his Web site and blog.

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

Love of baseball grows in spring

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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