Results tagged ‘ Dick Williams ’

The Kid in the Hall

By Jeff Idelson

I’ll never forget May 20th and 21st of 2011. 

I embarked on a 24-hour journey for an aspect of my job that is never comfortable and always sad: Attending a funeral.   

Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew had passed away in Arizona. After lunch with Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and their wives, as well as Bob Nightengale, my friend with USA Today, I headed back to the airport to take a redeye flight home.

As I sat on the flight and drifted off, I wondered what else could happen. Harmon’s passing was the last of six Hall of Famers who had passed away in the last year: Robin Roberts, Sparky Anderson, Bob Feller, Duke Snider and Dick Williams.

As I de-boarded my flight in Newark to change planes that next morning, May 21st, my phone began to ring. It was The Kid, and I smiled. I always looked forward to conversations with Gary Carter because he was so positive, so uplifting and had a zest for life.

This time, the call was different. 

Gary explained that he had been inventorying equipment with his coaches for Palm Beach Community College, where he was the head baseball coach. He told me he had lost count a few times and even snapped at some of his colleagues, and he did not know why. Very uncharacteristic of the most positive person I had come to know in Baseball.

I immediately thought about what I had been reading, about the recent rash of concussions in football. “I bet you have a concussion from all of those collisions you took,” I quickly blurted out, as if I could solve the problem. Gary waited patiently for me to finish and said, “No, it’s actually four tumors wrapped around my brain.” And then he quickly added, “But I am not scared, because I have my family around me and I am going to beat this.” 

And that was the essence of Gary Carter.

He fought gallantly with his family by his side, at every step. He went to Duke Medical Center to learn more. It was actually one tumor with four tentacles. And he could not have surgery: His cancer was inoperable. 

Gary called the next day.

“It’s inoperable, which is going to make this a little bit tougher, but I’ll beat this,” he told me confidently. “I have my family and my faith and with that, we’ll get through this, Jeffrey,” he said. “I plan to be at Hall of Fame Weekend to see everyone.”

It never happened.

Gary was so generous of time and spirit. He traveled to Cooperstown for the 2010 Hall of Fame Classic over Father’s Day Weekend and then to Cooperstown a month later for the induction of Andre Dawson, Doug Harvey and Whitey Herzog.  That would be his last visit to the place he adored so much and the Classic was the final time he participated in a baseball game. The fans adored him.

“Gary was so proud to be a Hall of Famer,” his widow Sandy told me on the phone yesterday afternoon after letting me know of Gary’s peaceful passing. 

And “proud” sums up the Kid so well. He was proud of wearing a major league uniform for 19 seasons, of being a Hall of Famer, of his family and his friends. 

We lost a good one yesterday. Rest in Peace #8. We miss you.

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

Van Gundys’ Visit

By Bill Francis

Despite the fact that Stan and Jeff Van Gundy have made their names in basketball, the brothers’ affection for a game that uses a much smaller ball was evident with their visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday.

“We’ve been meaning to come here for awhile,” said Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who also brought with him his 16-year-old son Michael. “With work schedules and we both have families and other things around it was hard, but finally Jeff just said, ‘Get a date and I’ll go,’ so we came up with a date.”

While Stan was making his first visit to Cooperstown, Jeff Van Gundy, who coached the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets prior to his current gig broadcasting the NBA for ABC/ESPN, thinks he might have come years ago, adding, “I think I was here before once when I was in high school but now I’m not totally clear.”

But what was clear was how much the siblings were enjoying their Hall of Fame visit.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Stan Van Gundy said. “We’ve been baseball fans since we were little kids and been meaning to come here for years and years and years. It’s incredible how much stuff is here and how much history is here. You really feel connected to it. There’s just an overwhelming amount of … things.”

With a father who was a basketball coach, the Van Gundy brothers were exposed to that game from an early age. But as Stan explained, baseball brought with it a special family dynamic.

“We’re all involved in basketball and so we weren’t really together at a lot of games. We were watching my dad’s team or watching Jeff play a game or watching me play a game or whatever, but baseball’s something you can do together,” Stan said. “And it’s been the same way with me and my son. He may come to my games or I might go to his games but we’re rarely at a basketball game together. Baseball we can share. It’s a family experience. I remember going to baseball games with my family, so I think that’s been a big part of it.”

For Jeff Van Gundy, an A’s fan whose family lived in the Bay area in the 1970s, an early baseball memory comes from the 1972 World Series between Oakland pitcher Rollie Fingers and Reds batter Johnny Bench.

“I still remember vividly (A’s manager) Dick Williams walking out to the mound and calling for an intentional walk and they throw the strike. It was one of the great memories of my life,” Jeff said. “And I can still remember that we used to go out for a dollar and sit in the bleachers (in Oakland).”

Having lived in Florida for many years, Stan Van Gundy now roots for the Marlins.

“The 2003 World Series with the Marlins, we were living in Miami and got to know some of those guys,” Stan said. “And probably my biggest baseball memory is Jeff Conine throwing J.T. Snow out at home plate in the first round of the playoffs. The only time a play at the plate ended a series. And J.T. Snow tries to run Pudge Rodriguez over and he comes up with the ball.

“Baseball’s so many memories for all of us. And to be here, where there’s memories from the entire history of the game… It’s really overwhelming.”

While the National Football League settled its lockout this week, the National Baseball Association is currently embroiled on one of its own. When asked for their thoughts on the current impasse, Stan Van Gundy politely demurred, explaining that he could be fined by the league for making a comment. But brother Jeff was under no restrictions.

“I think it’ll work out eventually,” Jeff said. “Obviously it’ll involve compromise, the owners will win, and it will start late. And it will harm everybody and everything. What’s always forgotten in these is the person who is just striving to live paycheck to paycheck and gotten laid off. That’s the unfortunate thing about all these things. We talk about what’s in it for the owners or for the players but we often forget so many of the other people that are impacted by these types of lockouts.”

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

Hall Monitor: Cys, Fourths, Hitters and Winners

By Trevor Hayes

Here we are, basically at the halfway point. Many point to the All-Star break as the halfway mark, though that’s not entirely true this season. Seventeen teams are slated to play their 90th game tonight. Baltimore has the fewest games played and tonight will be the Orioles’ 86th contest. Plenty of storylines are swirling with Albert Pujols’ injury, Derek Jeter’s quest for 3,000 and much more. Here’s how the last week has gone.

The Cy Young Returns: On Sunday, the Blue Jays 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay started in Toronto, wearing a Phillies uniform. The outcome was a complete game victory for Doc in his first start as an opposing pitcher since leaving the Jays. Halladay is the sixth former Cy Young to notch a complete game “W” in his first road start against the team for which he won the Cy Young Award. The others include: Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter as a Yankee a season after leaving Oakland in 1975; Tom Seaver after being traded by the Mets to the Reds in 1977; and 300-game winner Randy Johnson in 1999 as a Diamondback against the Mariners.

First-year Oriole mashers: Before this season, Frank Robinson was the only player to collect 20 home runs by the All-Star break in his first season in Baltimore. He had 21 in 1966, the same year he won the AL MVP Award and the Triple Crown. Robinson now has company as Mark Reynolds hit two home runs on Monday, giving him 20 before the break in his first season in Birdland.

Independence Day Fun: Vance Worley led the red-white-and-blue clad Phillies to a 1-0 victory on the Fourth of July. For fans in the city that is home to the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin, they can now claim a .500 record on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. With Hall of Famers from Chuck Klein and Mike Schmidt to Pete Alexander and Steve Carlton, in 201 July 4th games since 1883, Philadelphia’s record is now 101-100.

A fellow N.L. East red-white-and-blue team, the Nationals, also won on Monday. The team in the Nation’s Capital now sports a .633 winning percentage on the Fourth of July. At 31 wins and 18 losses, it’s the best mark for any team with at least 20 Independence Day tilts. Of course, the majority of the franchise’s wins came while playing in another country powered by Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Dick Williams – though as Les Expos de Montreal, they still wore red-white-and-blue uniforms.

Verlander matching Newhouser: Tiger All-Star Justin Verlander, who’s scheduled to throw again this weekend, has been dominant this season, especially so in his last eight starts. After Tuesday, he’s thrown at least seven innings and given up two-or-fewer runs in each of his last eight. It’s rarified air for Detroit pitchers. In 1945, future Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser put together the only other streak like Verlander’s – a nine-game string en route to one of his two MVP Awards.

Youngsters walkin’ off: Mike Stanton became the third youngest player to hit a walk-off  home run when he went yard in the bottom of the 10th on Wednesday. At 21, Stanton’s game-winner gave Florida a 7-6 win over the Phillies. Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews is the youngest, when at 20-years-old he decided a game for the Boston Braves in 1952, also beating the Phillies. Fellow Marlin Alex Gonzalez hit a walk-off homer in 1998 – also 21, but slightly younger than Stanton.

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

Hall of Fame friend

By Craig Muder

The man with the glasses and the gray mustache walked beside me that Cooperstown afternoon, heading to a press
conference following his Hall of Fame Induction Speech.

“Mr. Williams, congratulations,” was all I could muster on that July 2008 day, less than one month into my new
job at the Hall of Fame.

“Thank you!” Dick Williams beamed back at me. “I never thought I would be here.”

Me either, Dick. Me either.

I didn’t know Dick Williams that well. After that first meeting, we’d bump into each other at Hall of Fame
Weekend or at the Hall of Fame Classic. But there will always be a connection between me and this one-of-a-kind manager.

First, there was his book. Published in 1990, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” – by Williams with Bill Plaschke – became one of my favorite looks inside the game. Williams pulled no punches, recounting his career and family life in startling detail.

Growing up in the 1970s, I had not thought kindly of Williams, who always seemed a bit harsh. But after reading
his life story, I found a deep respect for a man whose passion for winning produced great triumph – and sometimes heartache.

So on July 27, 2008, I found myself escorting a man I felt I knew like a friend. It calmed me, soothed me… in
the face of great nervousness as I began my dream job in Cooperstown.

It was like coming home.

Dick, you may not have known this, but you’ll always have a special place in my heart.

Your memory lives on in the place where history remains forever young: Cooperstown.

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

Line forms here

By Craig Muder

They came from all over the Northeast, claiming their annual spots at the front of the line.

They came from all over Otsego County, Cooperstown friends and neighbors wanting to be a part of the Father’s Day fun.

They came for tickets for the June 19 Hall of Fame Classic. They left with future memories in hand.

Fans began lining up at the Baseball Hall of Fame for the annual Hall of Fame Classic Ticket Sale in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning, braving a chilly April day with hot coffee, portable chairs and winter coats. They’ll return to Cooperstown for the June 18-19 Hall of Fame Classic Weekend, assured of their place at what is fast becoming baseball’s newest must-see event.

Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Goose Gossage, Phil Niekro, Tony Pérez, Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith and Dick Williams will headline the Classic, with former big leaguers Frank Catalanotto, Steve Garvey, Doug Glanville, Bill Lee, Dale Murphy, Willie Wilson, Rick Wise and Dmitri Young also scheduled to appear.

Following Saturday’s one-day sale, tickets will be available exclusively to participants in the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program from April 17-24 at http://www.baseballhall.org or by calling 1-866-849-7770. Starting April 25, any remaining tickets will be made available to the general public.

Just 63 day to go until the perfect Father’s Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

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

End of an era

 
Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

In the 1990s, the Braves came into households all across the nation each night on TBS and became America’s Team. I was one of those youngsters who tuned in almost every night to root on the Braves… and Bobby Cox is largely the reason why.

10-12-10-Carr_Cox.jpgRetiring at the end of the season, Cox managed his final game last night as the Braves were eliminated from the NLDS by the San Francisco Giants. It seems fitting that they showed a feisty disposition and flair for the dramatic all season – winning games on late inning home runs and clawing their way back for come from behind wins, much like their manager Bobby Cox who’s been ejected more than any other Major League manager in history. But they just couldn’t close it out this year.

“They’ve come a long way with this team,” Cox said. “They played their hearts out, and I’ll miss them.”

In the top of the seventh inning, Cox made the walk he’s made so many times before to the mound to remove a starting pitcher and bring on relief. But as he approached the mound, veteran righty Derek Lowe pled his case and soon Cox jogged back to the dugout without asking for the ball.

It couldn’t have been a more emblematic moment for the man eternally called a “player’s manager”.

10-12-10-Carr_CoxPlayer.jpg“The guys wanted so bad to get Bobby back to the playoffs,” said Chipper Jones, who has played 2,261 games for Cox, the second-most player/manager duo in history behind Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke. “And once we got a chance to go to the playoffs, we wanted so bad to get him back to the World Series. All those things contributed to the grit and guts this team played with all year.”

The Braves players had T-shirts made up for the playoffs that said 11 for 6. It takes 11 wins to become World Champions and the Braves would do it all for Cox’s No. 6.

“He is one of a kind,” Braves closer Billy Wagner said. “There will never be another Bobby Cox, who has so much influence not just on your life, but your career. Even when you played against him, you were a fan of the Braves.”

Cox spent 25 years as the Braves skipper and four more in Toronto. He has also served as the Braves’ general manager and between playing and coaching, spent 50 years in baseball. He finished his career fourth all-time in regular season games (4,508) and wins (2,504). The Braves’ playoff appearance this year is a record setting 16th appearance for Cox. He has won four Manager of the Year Awards and one World Series in 1995 which came in the middle of a 14-year division title run.

In 2010, the Braves won 91 games during the regular seasons. It’s the 15th time that a Bobby Cox-managed team has won at least 90 games in a season. Only 2 other managers in major-league history had that many 90-win seasons: John McGraw (16) and Joe McCarthy (15) – both Hall of Famers.

Bobby Cox will be eligible for Hall of Fame induction when Expansion Era Committee next considers managers for the Class of 2014. That same year will feature two Cox-era Braves players: Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. All three have Hall of Fame credentials on their list of career accomplishments.

10-12-10-Carr_CoxWS.jpgOf course Lou Piniella and Cito Gaston managed their final regular-season games this year and Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa’s future statuses remains unclear. They would all join the list in 2014 as their first eligible election. To date, there have been only two instances of three former World Series-winning managers sharing the same final major-league season.

In 1950, the managerial careers of Connie Mack (Philadelphia Athletics), Joe McCarthy (Red Sox) and Eddie Dyer (Cardinals) all came to an end. Mack and McCarthy went on to Hall of Fame election. The other year in which three World Series winning managers left the major-league stage was 1988, with Dick Williams (Mariners), Billy Martin (Yankees) and Chuck Tanner (Braves). Williams was inducted in 2008.

Despite the end of the Braves season last night, fans stayed in the stadium not to watch the Giants celebrate but to chant “Bobby, Bobby” until their favorite skipper came out of the dugout to doff his cap. In the press conference following the game, Cox found it hard to keep it together and his emotions got the best of him as he reflected on his career in baseball.

Many fans on the other side of the television had a similar reaction. As a kid growing up during the 1990s, Bobby Cox helped make me a baseball fan. The only way to sum it up is to say: Thanks, Bobby!

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Bobby Bragan left remarkable legacy

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The image is a silly one, with the men pictured engaged in a pretend scream.

But for Pittsburgh Pirates manager Bobby Bragan, the passion was real. It was a fire that burned for more than 90 years – a fire that helped forge the careers of several Hall of Famers.

The photo, one of more than half a million in the Hall of Fame’s photo collection, shows Bragan and actor Joe E. Brown, the father of Pirates general manager Joe L. Brown.

01-21-10-Muder_BraganBrown.jpgJoe E. Brown was a huge baseball fan and appeared in several baseball-themed moves. Bragan, on the other hand, was a man who shaped baseball history.

Bragan passed away Thursday night at the age of 92. He played for seven seasons in the big leagues during the 1940s, finishing with a .240 average. But after retiring following the 1948 season, Bragan found his calling when Dodgers’ general manager Branch Rickey made him a minor league manager.

“Every one of my wins should have a note that says: ‘See Bobby Bragan,'” said Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams, who played for Bragan with the Dodgers’ minor league team in Fort Worth, Texas. “He disciplined me, and therefore taught me how to discipline.”

Bragan managed in the big leagues for seven seasons, starting with the Pirates in 1956 and 1957. He moved on to the Indians in 1958, then managed the Braves from 1963-66. His final record: 443-478.

But for those he touched, Bobby Bragan was one of the most influential men of their careers.

His photo – like more than 500,000 others in the Hall of Fame’s collection – will be preserved in Cooperstown forever.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 64 other followers