Results tagged ‘ Doubleday Field ’

Forty years ago, Rick Wise made history

By Bill Francis

Rick Wise was the starting second baseman for The Knucksies in the 2011 Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday, but exactly 40 years ago today he was the toast of baseball.

On June 23, 1971, the 25-year-old Wise pitched a no-hitter and added two home runs to lead the visiting Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-0 over the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. In his nine-inning stint, the righty faced just 28 batters, walked one (Dave Concepcion with one out in the sixth inning), struck out two, and raised his record to 8-4 on the way to a 17-win season.

After serving as an instructor during Saturday’s Legends for Youth Skills Clinic at Doubleday Field, Wise talk about that memorable day from four decades ago.

“I was coming off the flu and I felt very weak,” said Wise, after taking a seat in the third base dugout. “And it was hot, too. It was Cincinnati and the heat was coming off the carpet there. Man, it was smoking. But I think it sweated it out of me. I remember warming up and it seemed like the ball was stopping about halfway to the catcher. I said to myself, ‘Man, I better locate my pitches because this team with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez can do some severe damage with their hitters.’

“But I had a good tempo and they were putting the ball in play early. I only made 94 pitches that day and it has an hour and 53 minutes. And only six balls were hit out of the infield, and I wasn’t a groundball pitcher either. I was a fly ball pitcher.”

Now 65, Wise ended his 18-year big league playing career in 1982 before embarking on a couple dozen seasons as a coach at almost every level of baseball before retiring in 2008. Sporting a ring given to members of the 1975 American League champion Boston Red Sox (Wise was the wining pitcher in Game 6 of the ’75 World Series in which Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk hit his memorable home run), he delighted in stating that he is one of the few people to appear in a Little League World Series, a Babe Ruth League World Series and Major League Baseball World Series. 

Proud of his hitting, Wise finished the 1971 season twice hitting two home runs in a game.

“But that was the National League game. My first nine years were in the National League – seven with the Phillies and two with the Cardinals – and I had 15 home runs after nine years,” Wise recalled.  “Then I went to the American League for six years and never picked up a bat again. My final team was San Diego but by that time my skills were completely diminished as far as hand-eye coordination.”

According to Wise, when he was coaching in the New York-Penn League, he brought his Auburn, N.Y. team from nearby Oneonta to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and donated from his no-hitter game the bat, his glove and a ball to the Cooperstown institution. The bat can currently be seen in the Museum’s newest exhibit, One for the Books: Baseball Record and the Stories Behind Them.

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

Festival of Baseball Fun

By Samantha Carr

Under beautiful sunny skies, baseball fans from around the country spent Saturday afternoon at Doubleday Field for the inaugural Classic Fest during Hall of Fame Classic Weekend.

Whether it was competing in a trivia game, being fitted for a balloon animal hat, or learning about baseball card collecting, families were enjoying the day and celebrating Father’s Day Weekend on the legendary diamond.

Seven-year-old friends Victoria Marrero and Samantha Shilling met in the morning at the Legends for Youth Skills Clinic. Marrero hails from Brooklyn and Shilling is from Maryland, but you’d never guess these two weren’t best friends.

“We just met this morning,” said Marrero.

Former major leaguers took the field at 9 a.m. to share their baseball knowledge with youngsters.

“We learned how to pitch and hit,” said Shilling.

By 1 p.m. the girls had ladybug balloon bracelets and tried out their skills at the MLB Network Strike Zone, where fans could test their pitching accuracy. Fans got to meet Pappy, the mascot for the Tri-City ValleyCats and even some former major leaguers like Dave Henderson who showed off his 1989 World Series ring.

“Are you fast?” Henderson asked a young fan who replied in the affirmative. “Then I can’t let you try on my ring – because I won’t be able to catch you.”

Henderson joked with fans and posed for pictures along side other players like Steve Grilli, John Doherty and Frank Catalanotto.

A table dedicated to the making of a baseball taught fans that there are 369 yards of string wrapped inside a ball, which would measure almost four football fields. Fans were able to compare a ball from the late 1800s that used lemon peel stitches to a current major league baseball.

“They call is a lemon peel because all the stitches end in a point and you could peel it like a lemon,” said Jennifer Rodger, a member of the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the Hall of Fame for the summer.

Near the infield, Bill “Spaceman” Lee was entertaining fans of all ages, preparing for his role tomorrow when he joins six Hall of Famers and 25 former major leaguers in the position of Designated Humorist in the Hall of Fame Classic.

“Hitting and pitching, that’s all I do,” said Lee. “It’s the running part that I don’t want to do – it’s starting to hurt at my age.”

A jokester known for his wacky antics, Lee pitched for 14 seasons in the majors from 1969-82 and is the third-winningest lefty in Red Sox history. At age 63, Lee became the oldest person to pitch in and win a minor league game on September 5, 2010 when he made an appearance for the Brockton Rox. Lee donated his cap from the game to the Hall of Fame.

“I may need that back because they want me to play another year,” said Lee. “Last year I was day-to-day, but this year I told them I am hour-to-hour.”

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

Baseball’s Happiest Place on Earth

By Trevor Hayes

I spent most of my morning chatting with MLB.com’s Marty Noble at the MLBPAA Skills Clinic at Doubleday Field.

As we walked the field, it was filled with smiling faces. The kids were having a wonderful time as they moved from station to station interacting with and learning from Jim Hannan, Jon Warden, John Doherty, Don Demola, Steve Grilli and the other MLB Player Alumni on the field. Many of these MLBPAA alumni had retired even before these kids were born, but for the kids, each of the players was a star.

Several former All-Stars were also instructors. Rick Wise and Bill “Spaceman” Lee were working on pitching mechanics in the right field corner. Dave Henderson – wearing his large gold World Series ring from 1989 – was talking hitting in shallow center.

“Always remember that Dave Henderson taught you to kiss each shoulder,” he’d say, showing the proper follow through of a swing. Before long though, his station always became baseball chatter. It was a chance for him to talk with the younger generation about the game, moving from Derek Jeter’s chance at 3,000 to dealing with making an out (“You’re going to make them, because the game has to end sometime.”) to showing off his ring – to the delight of many of the youngsters who’d never seen one.

One young ballplayer in Grilli’s base running station may have summed up the atmosphere best. Grilli said, “We’re in Cooperstown, but what is Cooperstown?” One youngster quickly shouted out “It’s baseball!”

Truly baseball was alive at Doubleday this morning and it’s as vibrant as the pop of all the mitts in Doherty’s catch station – where players worked the basics of throwing and catching a ball. “We’re working on playing catch instead of playing fetch,” he’d say before each of the groups began.

Once the clinic ended, each young ballplayer got one last chance to shake hands with the Major Leaguers before getting a sheet with their autographs. While we watched the kids go through the line, Noble started laughing. I asked him what he was laughing about and he said, “One of the kids just gave you guys a great marketing line. He said, ‘This place is like Disneyland for baseball.’”

That’s what Cooperstown feels like during the summer, especially during our big events like Classic and Induction Weekend. It’s Disneyland for baseball fans.

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

Blyleven revels in Hall of Fame tour

By Craig Muder

The fan in the Red Sox cap got to within 20 feet of the Cooperstown visitor when he stopped dead in his tracks, eyes wide-eyed and mouth agape.

A moment later, Bert Blyleven approached the gentleman with a smile and his hand extended.

“How are you today?” Blyleven asked.

“I’m great,” the fan replied. “You know, Bert, it’s about time you got into the Hall of Fame.”

With that, the fan was gone – and Blyleven continued his stroll down the Main Street sidewalk. A Hall of Fame pitcher, and a down-to-earth person.

Blyleven took his Orientation Tour with his wife Gayle on Tuesday, preparing for his July 24 induction in Cooperstown as a member of the Class of 2011. Before touring the Museum and the archive, he took a short stroll over to Doubleday Field – reminiscing about his trip to Cooperstown in 1980 for the Hall of Fame Game while a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

On the way back to the Museum, Blyleven – dressed in a Twins windbreaker (he has broadcast Twins games on TV for the last 16 years) and blue jeans – chatted with fans on Main Street and even stopped by a few stores.

On his tour, Blyleven cheerily greeted fans lucky enough to be visiting the Hall of Fame on a once-in-a-lifetime day.

“I want to learn about Cy Young; I want to see a baseball used by Walter Johnson,” Blyleven said of his Hall of Fame brethren. “Walter Johnson had 110 shutouts? Are you kidding? How do you do that?”

Blyleven had 60 shutouts himself, powering a Hall of Fame career that included 287 wins and 242 complete games. But it was the majesty of the moment that impacted Blyleven the most on Tuesday.

“I got to play a kids’ game for 23 years in the big leagues,” Blyleven said. “That’s what this is all about, right? A kid’s dream is to be here in Cooperstown.

“If you love baseball, you have to come here. This is a baseball fan’s dream come true.”

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

A timeless hero


Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

As I sat in the press box at Chain O’ Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla. that morning in 1996, a rumbling of applause jolted me out of the story I was writing.

It grew louder and louder – cresting in a full-fledged ovation – as the man in the Cleveland Indians uniform strode to home plate and doffed his cap. An older gentleman, but still thick with muscle tone and apparently ready to play at a moment’s notice.

12-16-10-Muder_FellerClassic.jpg“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the public address announcer, “please welcome Hall of Famer Bob Feller!”

For a moment, I couldn’t believe it. It was my first time at Spring Training, so I wasn’t accustomed to Feller’s omnipresent appearance.

I bolted for my baseball encyclopedia: How old was Bob Feller? And he’s still in uniform?

That day, Feller was 77. But when he threw out the first pitch before that day’s exhibition game, it seemed he was practically ageless.

He would remain so for the next 14 years.

Feller’s passing on Wednesday brings to a close one of the most remarkable American lives of the 20th Century. An archetypical farm boy turned athlete, Feller imparted force onto a baseball that had not been seen before and rarely since. But it was his personal magnetism that made him a household name before he reached his 20th birthday.

His success on the baseball diamond was nearly total. But six years into his big league career, Feller dropped everything and enlisted in the Navy the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He spent almost four years fighting in World War II, earning eight battle stars aboard the U.S.S. Alabama. 

When he returned to the Indians, he quickly regained the form that made him the best pitcher in baseball.

12-16-10-Muder_Feller.jpgFor many, 266 big league victories and military honors would be a lifetime. But for Feller, the second act of his life – as a Hall of Famer and baseball emissary – was yet to come. After his election to the Hall in 1962, Feller thrilled fans for the next five decades with his homespun wit and passion for the game.

He would sign autographs until the last fan was satisfied – and he never tired of spreading the gospel of baseball. He would, it seemed, never grow old.

In 2009, I sat in the press box at Doubleday Field when a rumbling of applause jolted me out of the blog I was writing. It grew louder and louder – cresting in a full-fledged ovation – as the man in the Cleveland Indians uniform strode to home plate and doffed his cap. An older gentleman, but still thick with muscle tone and apparently ready to play at a moment’s notice.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the public address announcer, “please welcome Hall of Famer Bob Feller!”

Florida or Cooperstown, 1996 or 2009. Spring Training game or Hall of Fame Classic. Bob Feller never lost that ability to thrill baseball fans.

I cannot believe he is not here today.

His like will not be seen again.

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

Fun and games

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Seven Hall of Famers, heroes all.

They range in age from 55 to 91, but they remain kids at heart. And on Saturday – the day before the Father’s Day Hall of Fame Classic – they were all thinking about their dad.

06-19-10-Muder_VOG.jpgIn front of a capacity crowd of more than 500 fans at Cooperstown High School, the seven Hall of Famers who will appear at Sunday’s Hall of Fame Classic reminisced about their playing days and told stories about one another.

Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, Goose Gossage, Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, Phil Niekro and Gary Carter brought the house down several times with one-liners – and drew applause when remembering their fathers.

“I think all of us on this stage remember when we played catch with our dads,” Smith said. “To be here in the Mecca of baseball on this weekend is very special for me.”

Just being around their former teammates and opponents was pretty special, too. The jokes flowed quickly from the stage – much to the delight of the audience.

06-19-10-Muder_Box.jpg“Phil, you better get some rest,” said Carter to Niekro when Knucksie was told he’ll be starting in Sunday’s Classic.

“Why?” deadpanned Niekro. “I never did when I played.”

After an hour, it was over – the legends were gone. To be continued on Sunday at Doubleday Field. Where the legends live forever.

“I’ve always loved it in Cooperstown,” said Gossage. “To be elected to the Hall of Fame and to play in this game, I still can’t put into words what it means to me.”

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

Only in Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

With about 48 hours until Sunday’s Hall of Fame Classic, Cooperstown acquired a certain buzz on Friday.

06-18-10-Muder_Feller.jpgThe arrival of one of the legends of the game didn’t hurt, either.

With a backdrop of blue skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze, the man in the black polo shirt walked up Main Street. It could have been any baseball fan, any tourist, any Cooperstown resident.

But one look told you it was Bob Feller.

Eventually… inevitably, the fans recognized him. The 91-year-old Hall of Famer obligingly cut short his walk to stop and talk, spinning tales about his career. Few have ever loved the game – or their role – more than the former Cleveland Indians fireballer.

On Sunday, Feller will captain his team at the 2 p.m. Hall of Fame Classic at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field. He’ll emerge from the dugout to cheers as fervent as those he received as a player. A national treasure deserves no less.

And yet on Friday, he quietly strolled Main Street – soaking in the beauty of Central New York and this idyllic setting.

Only in Cooperstown… where history lives.

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

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