Results tagged ‘ Detroit Tigers ’

Making a name

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

A few names and numbers from the week that was in baseball:


8-21-09-Hayes_AbreuHenderson.jpgBobby’s World:
With two home runs against the Orioles last weekend, the Angels’ Bobby Abreu became the fifth player with 11 10 home run/20 stolen base seasons, joining Barry and Bobby Bonds and Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Joe Morgan.

Last week, Abreu hit his 250th career homer, which placed him with Willie Mays as the only players in baseball history with 250-plus homers, 300-plus steals and a .300 or better career average. He also became one of only six players in major league history with 2,000 hits, 250 home runs, 1,000 runs scored, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases. The other five are Henderson, Mays, Morgan, Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio.

Mauer power: On Tuesday night, Joe Mauer collected three hits – including two homers – finishing the night with 25 homers and a .383 batting average. Hall of Famers Ted Williams (1941 and 1957), Joe DiMaggio (1939), Lou Gehrig (1930 and 1936) and Babe Ruth (1931) were the last four AL players prior to Mauer with at least 25 home runs and a .380 batting average through 119 games.

.300 Angels: The Angels accomplished a feat on Tuesday at Cleveland which hadn’t been seen since 1934. A quick scan of the box score Wednesday morning showed a .300 average or better for each player in the lineup. With Mike Napoli and Maicer Izturis, a super-substitute, each ending the night with a .300 average, the Angels matched the 1934 Tigers as the last team to sport that kind of arsenal in a lineup 100 games into the season.
 
The Tigers included Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin and Hank Greenberg. Pitcher Schoolboy Rowe even joined the cause with a .302 average.


8-21-09-Hayes_Stargell.jpgCelebration:
The summer of ’69 and ’79 are remembered rather fondly in two National League cities. And this weekend, both the Pirates and the Mets will celebrate their good times.

The Pirates are remembering their last World Championship with “We Are Fam-A-Lee Weekend.” Breakout the polyester because 1979 throwbacks will be worn by the Pirates and their opponents, the Reds, on Friday and Saturday and a ceremony will be held on Saturday honoring the 22 players and staff who are attending, including  Margaret Stargell (wife of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell), Dave Parker, Phil Garner, Bert Blyleven and Dale Berra.

Also on Saturday The Miracle Mets will celebrate their amazing World Series victory. Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Yogi Berra are scheduled to be on the field with several other key members of that magic season, including the widow of manager Gil Hodges.

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

A little anniversary: Veeck sent Gaedel to bat 58 years ago

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

Bill Veeck always found ways to lure fans to the ballpark, using elaborate giveaways and exploding scoreboards.

Yet perhaps the most well-known stunt of his career as baseball executive could hardly be seen by the fans in the upper deck. The memory of that promotion, however, will live forever in baseball lore.

Veeck, then the owner of the St. Louis Browns, sent 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to bat 58 years ago today.

8-19-09-Bielefeld_Veeck.jpgThe American League was celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1951, and Veeck wanted to do something memorable. He partnered with a local brewery to deliver a big crowd, and they came through. The Browns recorded their highest attendance mark in four years, as 18,369 fans crammed into Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis for an August 19 doubleheader between the last place Detroit Tigers and the eventual cellar dwellers, the Browns.

He also hired Gaedel -a 26-year-old stunt performer. To keep his plan a secret, Veeck sent the contract to the league office late on Saturday, Aug. 18 – knowing it would not be delivered until Monday.

Between games Gaedel – sporting No. 1/8 – jumped out of a large papier-mâché cake and scurried into the Browns dugout. Little did the fans know at the time – nor did anyone from the league office – that Veeck had discretely signed Gaedel to a major league contract. Gaedel, given strict orders from Veeck not to swing the bat, swapped his elf-like shoes for a pair of cleats.  

“When he heard what I wanted him to do, he was a little dubious,” Veeck wrote in his autobiography, Veeck – As in Wreck.  “I had to give him a sales pitch.  I said, ‘Eddie, you’ll be the only midget in the history of the game. You’ll be appearing before thousands of people. Your name will go in the record books for all-time. You’ll be famous, Eddie. You’ll be immortal.'”

Gaedel waited in the Browns tunnel until the bottom of the first inning, he heard public address announcer Bernie Ebert boom, “Batting for Frank Saucier, No. 1/8, Eddie Gaedel.”

8-19-09-Bielefeld_Keeler.jpgAs he approached the batters’ box, home plate umpire Ed Hurley summoned Browns manager Zack Taylor. Prepared by Veeck, Taylor brought with him a copy of Gaedel’s contract and a roster – proving they had room for him on the team. Appeased, Hurley called for play to resume.

“When Eddie went into that crouch, his strike zone was just about visible to the naked eye,” Veeck wrote. “I picked up a ruler and measured it for posterity. It was 1.5 inches.” 

Tigers pitcher Bob Cain walked Gaedel on four pitches – all high. At first base, Gaedel was lifted for pinch runner Jim Delsing and left to a roaring ovation from the crowd.

“For a minute, I felt like Babe Ruth,” Gaedel said after the game. 

American League president Will Harridge was not amused. He banned Gaedel from Major League Baseball and implemented a rule stating that all player contracts must be approved by the president prior to that player appearing in a game.

Gaedel’s walk also was expunged from the record books in 1951, but was later restored. His career stat line reads one game, one plate appearance, one walk and an on-base percentage of 1.000.

Veeck would own the Browns for two more seasons before selling. In 1959, he purchased the White Sox and would have two separate stints as the team’s owner. He passed away in 1986 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

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

Joe, Jim, Rickey … and Tom Burgmeier?

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Longtime big league pitcher Tom Burgmeier’s baseball career includes almost 750 games played, over 100 saves, and one All-Star Game. But when it comes to the 2009 Hall of Fame electees, he holds a special place amongst all other players.   

7-24-09-Francis_Burgmeier.jpgWhile baserunning phenom Rickey Henderson, slugging outfielder Jim Rice and slick-fielding and powerful second baseman Joe Gordon will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this Sunday, Burgmeier has the distinction of being the only major leaguer to have been teammates of both Henderson and Rice and to have played under Gordon when he was a manager.

In his fourth season as the pitching coach for the Omaha Royals, the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, Burgmeier reflected on his unique connection to the Class of 2009.

“Actually, we were talking about it the other day,” said Burgmeier, whose past visits to Cooperstown came via the Hall of Fame Game, first as a player with the Twins in 1977 and later as a coach with the Royals in 1999. “Somebody mentioned Joe Gordon and said, ‘Gee, you played under him and you played with the other two. I wonder if you’re the only person who did that?'”

Burgmeier enjoyed a 17-year big league playing career (1968-1984), spent mostly as a relief pitcher, with the California Angels, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s. The lefty finished with a 79-55 record, 102 saves and a 3.23 ERA.

7-24-09-Francis_Gordon.jpgA fourth-round selection by the Royals in the expansion draft, Burgmeier played under manager Joe Gordon in 1969. Following his stellar 11-year playing career with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians, Gordon served managerial stints with the Indians (1958-1960), Detroit Tigers (1960), Kansas City Athletics (1961) and Royals (1969).

“Joe was very vibrant and was a good manager. We had a lot of fun and for an expansion team we actually won a few games, too,” said Burgmeier, of the 69-73 Royals. “He was a heck of a player and a good manager and I really enjoyed playing for him.”

Burgmeier would finish the 1969 season with a 3-1 record in 31 games. “What’s that baseball cliché? He was a players’ manager,” Burgmeier said. “What I mean is you get the players, you put them in the lineup, and if they do well, you become a good manager.”

Sometimes Gordon would talk to the players about his career as a nine-time All-Star and winner of five World Series crowns. “But I don’t think that happens as much anymore: guys sitting around the clubhouse after the game talking about old times. And that’s too bad,” Burgmeier said.

In February of 1978, after four seasons with Minnesota, Burgmeier signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. “I was with the Twins in 1974 and we were playing Boston. I had some friends of mine on the Red Sox and I was standing in the bullpen and asked them, ‘Hey, do have any good players in the minor leagues?’ I’ll never forget that they said, ‘Yeah, we have a couple kids probably be up next year. We got this kid Rice and this Freddy Lynn.’ I said, ‘Do they hit pretty good?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, they’re good minor league players. They’ll probably make the team next year.’ Well, the rest is history.”

7-24-09-Francis_Rice.jpgBurgmeier and Rice were Red Sox teammates for five seasons (1978 to 1982).

“Jim hated to come out of the lineup. Any kind of minor injury didn’t get him out of the lineup — there had to be a bone sticking out or he’d have to be bleeding to where they’d have to bandage him up,” Burgmeier said. “He was a funny guy around the clubhouse. He liked to have a good time and loved to play golf in his off days. We did that a lot on the road.

“If he was in a little slump, which everybody goes through, he’d always tell the press to talk to him at the end of the year. I remember there was one stretch he went a few weeks without hitting a home run and I remember him telling a guy, ‘Don’t talk to me now. Just talk to me at the end of the year and see how I’m doing.'”

Rice was arguably the top right-handed hitter of his era. Against Burgmeier, Rice batted .357 (5-for-14) with one homer.

“He struck fear in the hearts of many a pitcher, especially in Fenway. He (Rice) could hit them as far as anybody — right field, center field, left field,” Burgmeier recalled. “And like anybody else who’s a good hitter, it’s the same basic thing: keep the ball down, stay away from him, pitch inside a little bit. It’s a formula that has been around for 130 years.”

7-24-09-Francis_Henderson.jpgBurgmeier spent his final two major league seasons (1983 and 1984) with the Oakland A’s. During that stretch, Rickey Henderson stole 174 bases.

“Rickey was one of the best base stealers of all time. The score or who was catching or who was pitching really didn’t make a difference,” said Burgmeier, who lockered next to Henderson. “If he was going to steal, he was going to steal. And not only second, but steal third, too. The years I was there he was well into being one of the best ever as far as not being able to throw him out.”

Though Burgmeier faced Henderson only five times in his career, he got to experience the threat the future Hall of Famer posed.

“What sticks out is that because of his speed, when he got on, you knew you had to do all of the things to combat that. And even if you did, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to run anyway,” Burgmeier said. “You had to slide step more and throw over more. But did it stop him from running? No, he still ran. He was as fast as anybody going today.”

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

Kent, Timlin savor time in Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Of the 26 former big league players who participated in Sunday’s inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame Classic, only two were in the big leagues as recently as last season. One says he’s retired for good; the other is willing to listen to offers.

Jeff Kent was a slugging second baseman who captured the 2000 National League MVP Award, while Mike Timlin a stalwart relief pitcher who helped four teams win World Series titles. Between the pair of baseball veterans are 35 seasons and almost 3,400 games of major league action. 

According to Kent, who ended last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers with 377 career home runs, including his record-setting 351 as a second baseman, he’s ready for the next phase of his life.

6-24-09-Francis_Timlin.jpg“I’m 41 now and my desire to compete is going out a little bit,” Kent said before the Classic. “I’ll probably always think I could compete, but at what level I don’t know. It’s time for the younger kids to start taking on the game.

“I think the last 10 years of my career I played the game a lot better in my mind than I did with my body.”

For Timlin, 43, while he sees the writing on the wall, he’s unwillingly to completely concede his playing career has come to an end.

 “Nothing’s totally official,” said Timlin, who played the last six seasons with the Boston Red Sox. “I had my name out there in spring training, so something could happen this summer. If someone gives me a call that I would deem worthy to walk away from the family for a little while, it could happen.”

Both players have been generous over the years about donating artifacts from their careers to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

“They’re probably collecting dust in the basement,” joked Kent, who donated, among other things, the bat he used to hit his 278th homer as a second baseman, breaking Ryne Sandberg‘s former career mark. “It’s neat that I was a part of history for the 17 years that I played.”

Among the Timlin artifacts in the Museum – which like all artifacts are kept in climate-controlled environments – are the spikes he wore when he made his 1,000th appearance as a pitcher. 

“It’s an honor just to be asked to have something in there,” Timlin said. “I know my career numbers are not going to put me in there with a plaque on the wall, so it’s nice to actually have something in there that is part of me.”

Timlin’s last visit to Cooperstown was with the Red Sox as a participant in the 2005 Hall of Fame Game.

“My mom passed away from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), so I took a picture with Lou Gehrig‘s first baseman mitt,” Timlin said. “That was pretty neat.”

6-24-09-Francis_Kent.jpgThis was Kent’s first visit to Cooperstown, but with the career he’s had he could one day find himself with a Hall of Fame plaque of his own.

“I’ve never been a baseball historian, so because of that I’ve never really been able to compare myself to anybody else. I never got caught up in the history of the game because I felt like that might erase some of my competitive nature,” Kent said. “I always competed for the moment rather than competing for the past or competing for the future. When you know that history about me, for me to think about where I stand within baseball history, I have no idea.”

But Kent did admit to some curiosity after being around some of the Hall of Famers as part of the Hall of Fame Classic.

“I’m learning more about the intrigue, the specialness, the mystery of the Hall of Fame and the classiness of these players that are in the Hall. And to say that I can be a part of that in the future I appreciate,” Kent said. “I’ve always tried to separate myself from things I can’t control. I played the game and I played it right and hopefully that’ll stand up for itself. We’ll see.

“Being able to say that I was one of the better players is an honor in itself whether somebody votes for me or not.”

And with his long career possibly having come to an end, Timlin can look back with a certain wide-eyed awe.

“God’s blessed me tremendously just to do what I’ve done,” he said. “It has been awesome.”

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

Billingham strolls down memory lane at Hall of Fame

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Former big league pitcher Jack Billingham, a witness to some of the game’s greatest moments of the 1970s, has been walking through the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum the past few days.

Billingham — along with his wife, Jolene, and his sister and brother-in-law — has been touring the country in a pair of RVs over the past three weeks, making stops, among other places, in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit. The brief stay in Cooperstown isn’t Billingham’s first: The 6-foot-4 right-hander, now retired and living in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., made the trip in 1969 to participate in the Hall of Fame Game as a member of the Houston Astros.

5-11-09-Francis_Billingham.jpgDuring this visit, Billingham and his group spent Monday morning getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the baseball institution from Senior Curator Tom Shieber. The 13-year veteran, who spent time with the Dodgers (1968), Astros (1969-71), Reds (1972-77), Tigers (1978-80) and Red Sox (1980), looked at both his clipping and photo files in the Library before viewing some of the Museum’s vast archives.

“Growing up, you always heard about the Hall of Fame, but I wasn’t a Hall of Fame candidate, and I knew that from the start,” Billingham said with a chuckle.

Though he might not have had the resume of some of his more celebrated teammates, the sinkerballer ended his career with 145 wins, winning at least 10 games for 10 consecutive years.

“You thought of the Hall of Fame in terms of who you were playing with,” Billingham said. “When I came up as a rookie, I was playing with Don Drysdale. I went to Spring Training with Sandy Koufax. Walter Alston was my manager in 1968, and I came up in the Minor Leagues with Tommy Lasorda when he became a manager. And then I go over to Houston, and I tell people all the time I played with Joe Morgan three years in Houston when he was an All-Star player, but when he came to Cincinnati, he became a Hall of Famer.”

After he was traded to the Reds from the Astros with Morgan prior to the 1972 campaign, Billingham became a stalwart moundsman of Cincinnati’s famed Big Red Machine of the mid-1970s, when his teammates included future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Morgan, as well as manager Sparky Anderson.

“We had Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Davey Concepcion, an All-Star lineup,” Billingham said. “You knew you were playing with special guys who would be in the Hall of Fame.”

The Big Red Machine cemented its reputation by winning consecutive World Series titles in 1975 and ’76.

“The World Series is exciting and great, and it’s a dream to be there, but you have to win to make a name for yourself. We were there in 1972 [against the Oakland A’s] and didn’t win,” Billingham said. “Then we played Boston in 1975 — it went seven games. A lot of people think it was one of the better World Series ever played. But we won. And I think the thing that really put the mark on us and really made our name is when in 1976, we played the Yankees and swept them in four games.”

5-11-09-Francis_BillinghamMug.jpgBillingham’s star shined the brightest in the Fall Classic. He posted a 2-0 record and a 0.36 ERA in 25 1/3 innings pitched. Billingham still holds the record for lowest career World Series ERA with a minimum of 25 innings pitched.

“I think [the record] was just being at the right place at the right time. You go through streaks pitching. I was just on,” Billingham said. “I wasn’t a strikeout pitcher, so I needed gloves behind me. And though we were known as the Big Red Machine as far as scoring runs and hitting the ball, we also could catch the ball. Up the middle is where you make your defense, and we had guys like Davey Concepcion, Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo and Johnny Bench. We had the best at that time.”

Billingham also became the answer to a trivia question when he surrendered Hank Aaron‘s 714th career home run on April 4, 1974. The bat and ball from Aaron’s 714th home run are now on display in the Hall of Fame’s new exhibit, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.

“It was almost like being in the World Series; there was so much press there. Everybody wants to interview you — ‘How do you feel? How will you feel if you give up 714? If Hank comes up, and you’re leading by nine runs, would you throw one right down the middle so he could hit it out?’ — so I was aware of it, but it didn’t bother me,” Billingham said.

“Once the game started, you just get in your own little world. You know Hank Aaron is up there. He came up with two men on in the first inning. We’re playing at home, and there are 40,000 fans in Cincinnati booing me because they want to see Hank Aaron hit. I was 3-1, and I wasn’t going to back off, and tried to throw a fastball sinker on the outside part of the plate. And when you’re behind in the count, and you have a good hitter up there, that’s when you get in trouble. And he hit the ball, a three-run homer. But like I told everybody, I had one of the best seats in the house, and we won the ballgame when it was all over with.”

Looking back on his long professional baseball career, Billingham admitted the game meant everything to him.

“It was my life,” he said. “I started playing the day I got out of high school, and I played 20 years. I got 13 years in the big leagues. I played with some great players. I have nothing but great memories.”

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

Happy birthday, Luis Aparicio

Carr_90.jpg
Muder_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr and Craig Muder

Few players can say they changed the way baseball is played. Before Luis Aparicio revitalized the running game 50 years ago, the stolen base was on its way to becoming an archaic footnote.

Aparicio, who turns 75 Wednesday, turned the baseball world upside down in 1959 by stealing 56 bases for the Chicago White Sox. Only one other American League team — the Detroit Tigers with 68 — had as many steals as Aparicio that year. The Sox shortstop finished second in the AL Most Valuable Player voting that year, leading Chicago to the AL pennant.

4-30-09-Carr-Muder_Aparicio.jpgAparicio had led the AL in steals in each of his first three seasons before 1959 and went on to lead the league every season through 1964. That year, with a career-high 57 steals for the Orioles, Aparicio swiped more bags than six other AL teams.

But baseball was catching up to Aparicio — especially in the National League, where Maury Wills and the Dodgers were building an offense around speed. By 1969, when Aparicio topped the 20-steal mark for the 12th and final time, five AL clubs recorded at least 100 stolen bases — a mark not reached in the Junior Circuit from 1946-56.

The Venezuelan-born Aparicio, a 13-time All-Star, played every one of his 2,583 Major League games in the field at shortstop, winning nine Gold Gloves. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame 25 years ago after an 18-year big league career with the White Sox, Orioles and Red Sox.

Happy birthday, Little Louie!

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Get thee a denominator

Gates_90.jpg
4-23-09-Gates_Urdaneta.jpgBy Jim Gates

Perhaps one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball belongs to a group of pitchers who each appeared in only one Major League game in his career, gave up at least one run but never recorded an out. Therefore, their ERAs are ?, also known as the lemniscate, the mathematical symbol for infinity.

Surely it must have been frustrating to have earned your big league cup of coffee but never to have achieved the basic arithmetic feature that every pitcher desires most — an out. Fortunately for us, the statisticians of the game have kept the data we need to track this select group, so without further ceremony, here is “The Brotherhood of the Lemniscate”:

4-23-09-Gates_LemniscateChart.jpgOf the 8,188 players who have pitched in a Major League game (as of April 21, 2009, according to David Smith at Project Retrosheet) only 13 meet the criteria for this group. One of the interesting things about this list (as if we need to take this any further) is that two members (Bruckbauer and Hamann) were born in New Ulm, Minn. (population 13,500 in 2000). Such an august group needs a club motto, something to hang over its clubhouse door, so to speak, and a colleague of mine would propose the following: “He who lemniscates is lost.”

Ah, where would we be without such obscurities?

Jim Gates is librarian of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

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