Results tagged ‘ Doubleday Field ’

Classic Hall of Famers thrill packed crowd, promise more

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

There were literally no empty seats in the Grandstand Theater for the Hall of Fame Classic Voices of the Game. And this special Father’s Day edition delivered with the same impact the four Hall of Famers on stage had during their careers.

The sellout crowd listened for as Triple-Crown winner Bob Feller, 300-game winner Phil Niekro, 3,000-hit Club member Paul Molitor and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner Brooks Robinson reflected on their careers and talked about the game they love.

6-20-09-Hayes_VOG.jpgAll four legends and fellow Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins headline the signature event of the weekend, the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day at Doubleday Field.

The theme of fathers and sons has been a principal element throughout this inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Weekend and was present during Voices of the Game. Niekro spoke vividly of his relationship. As a youngster in Ohio, he looked up to his father, who taught him the weapon that would be his bread and butter in a 24 season career.

“”If it wasn’t for the knuckleball, I probably would have ended up coal mining,” Niekro said. “I didn’t know what it was. I just had fun playing knuckle ball in the back yard. Then I was able to get Little League guys out.”

His success continued and he hitched a ride to a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves. He signed for $500. Early on, Knucksie as he became known, was unsure of his talents. When the Hall’s manager of museum programs Steve Light, who moderated the event asked Niekro how he fared against the two accomplished hitters on either side of him, Knucksie started laughing.

6-20-09-Hayes_RobinsonNiekro.jpg“I faced Brooks early on during a Spring Training game,” he recalled. “One of my 77-mph fastballs got away from me and I hit him in the head.”

Robinson countered, “Didn’t hurt a bit.”

“I thought I was going to be done the next day for hitting Brooks Robinson with a fastball,” Niekro said.

Robinson’s start wasn’t something to brag about either, though he did. He played most of the 1955 season for the York (Penn.) White Roses – a B-League team in the Piedmont League. Robinson got the call at the end of the season and got two hits in his first start.

“I called home and said, ‘This is cake. Why did I play in [the minors] all year? I should have been in the big leagues.'”

He then went 0-for-18. He recovered and became one of the cornerstones of the great Orioles teams of the 1960’s and 70’s. He appeared in four World Series, winning a pair of rings. Robinson played on a lot of great teams, but he feels one of the best didn’t achieve to the level that some of his other teams might have.

6-20-09-Hayes_Robinson.jpgIn honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Miracle Mets, Light asked Robinson about the 1969 World Series.

“I thought our ’62 team was our best,” he said. “But anything can happen in a seven-game series. We beat [Hall of Famer Tom] Seaver and lost the next four, straight.”

Baltimore was back in the Series again the next season and Robinson took the MVP honors, hitting .429 against the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati. He drove in six and hit a pair of home runs. Molitor like Robinson achieved October glory by winning the MVP Award in 1993 with the Blue Jays.

During that Fall Classic, he hit .500 with a pair of doubles, a pair of triples and a pair of homers while driving in eight against the Phillies. Molitor’s best memory of that Series however, was not one of his personal achievements.

“The ’93 Series, I was on first base when Joe Carter hit that ball over the wall,” he said. “I was thinking if it goes off the wall and I hustle, I can score and end this thing, but then it went out and it was all over anyway.”

Another highlight of Molitor’s career was reaching 3,000 hits. Pure consistency throughout his career allowed The Ignitor to retire with a career .306 batting average and 3,319 hits. In 1987, he took a run at one of the game’s longest standing records, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Molitor hit safely in 39 straight.

6-20-09-Hayes_Niekro.jpg“Whether it’s milestones or streaks, players don’t really play for those, but numbers are big in baseball,” he said. “Falling 17 games short is still a long way away from that number and my perspective changed after that streak.

“I always tell people: The way you handle success is directly related to the way you handle failure, because 3,000 hits means 7,000 outs.”

Knucksie, a member of another elite club – the 300-game winners – applauded Molitor on the achievement. He said pitchers have help in winning games, but hitters are alone. 

Niekro’s 300th came in his last start of 1985 as a Yankee. It was a special moment for him and his father, who was faltering in health. Niekro was 46 at the time and at the end of his contract.

“If I didn’t win it, I would have had to wait until the next spring and he wasn’t going to hold on that long,” he said. “So really that was a blessing for both of us.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Feller.jpgFeller missed 300 wins by 34. But he recorded a career-high 27 in 1940 followed by 25 in 1941 before leaving baseball for most of four seasons to serve in the Navy during World War II. Light noted that the Grandstand Theater is a replica of Chicago’s Comiskey Park where Feller authored one of his three no-hitters and the only Opening Day no-no in the history of the game.

“Well it was 69 years ago and I remember it quite well,” the Indians ace recalled. “It wasn’t my best no-hitter. I didn’t have great stuff that day. I only struck out eight and we won 1-0. I remember that my catcher, Rollie Hemsley, hit a triple with my rommmate on base to score the only run.”

At 90, Feller’s memory is as sharp as if he were reading a box score. Light asked him about his famous high-leg kick and he laughed.

“That high leg kick…You’ve seen the picture taken in Yankee Stadium in 1936 or ’37 with my leg kicked over my head and the photographer laying flat on the ground,” Feller said. “That is all for show. It was just symbolism. But it’s the most popular picture they’ve got of me and it sells well at card shows.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Molitor.jpgAnother Feller myth was confirmed, when Light asked the former fireballer about the motorcycle and his fastball. Feller said that, that also happened in Chicago. He was wearing a tie and a dress shirt during the exhibition, but when he wound up with the motorcycle ten feet behind him, the ball beat the bike to the target. Using a timer and the vehicles speedometer, it was figured that he threw the ball 104 mph. Later a similar event was held and Feller clocked in at 107 mph.

Apparently worried by this, Molitor interrupted the story, “Can I ask him how his arm is feeling, since I have to leadoff against him tomorrow? I’ve heard stories of him hitting the first batter, so I’m just curious.”

Once the laughter subsided, and it was confirmed that Molitor would be the first batter to face the Classic’s starting pitcher – the 90-year-old Feller – Light asked Robinson how he felt knowing that he’d be the first guy to dig in against Knucksie in the bottom of the first.

6-20-09-Hayes_MolitorFeller.jpgRecalling their Spring Training encounter, Robinson looked worried and Niekro laughed, “Put your helmet on big boy, it’s coming.”

It is coming. In less than 24 hours, the legends will take the field at Doubleday and the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic will begin with Molitor facing Feller and Robinson against Niekro. Feller’s words seemed to sum up the entire weekend.

Baseball is a game of luck and there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad,” he said, noting the rain that fell on Cooperstown for most of Saturday. “We’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow, rain or shine.”

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

Baseball and family a winning combination

Meifert_90.jpgBy Ken Meifert

Last month I was in Columbia, S.C., for a Hall of Fame Champions fundraising dinner hosted by John D. Baker. Hall of Famer Phil Niekro joined us for what proved to be a wonderful evening of stories, laughs and friendship.

Phil shared many wonderful stories about his career and his brother Joe, who also pitched in the major leagues. In fact, Phil and Joe Niekro have more combined wins in the major leagues than any brothers in the history of the game with Phil having 318 and Joe have 221, for a combined total of 539.

6-18-09-Meifert_Niekro.jpgPhil shared a story of giving up a home run to his brother Joe – and it just happened to be the only home run Joe hit in the majors! For anyone who has a sibling, it is easy to imagine the good natured ribbing that went on between the brothers about that home run. It was obvious as Phil told the story that he and Joe shared a very special bond that baseball served to strengthen. Family is very important to Phil, who lost his brother Joe suddenly a few years ago. Reflecting on the loss, Phil took comfort in the fact that his last words to his brother had been “I love you Joe.”

Phil’s stories about his family caused me to reflect on the way that baseball brings people together – literally how it connects families across generations. Sound familiar? It is part of the Hall’s mission to preserve history, honor excellence and connect generations. I am thankful to be part of this great Game and I am thankful for the friends that baseball has brought me – friends like our host John Baker – and so many others.

John is a Columbia native and a lifelong Braves fan. I chuckled as he recounted his parents telling him years ago that if he spent as much time on his homework as he spent following the Braves he would be an A+ student. Now, please don’t get the impression that John did not get his homework done – he is a successful real estate developer today. But I believe it was a combination of great family and friends, his faith and the lessons learned from baseball that made John the outstanding person he is today. 

As we approach Father’s Day Weekend and the Inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Weekend, I hope you will take the time to enjoy a game (The Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday) or play catch (Family Catch on Doubleday Field Saturday afternoon) with your family this weekend. Make some new memories, share some old ones, and tell them you love them.

Ken Meifert is the senior director of development for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Cooperstown stirs Hall of Fame memories

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Franics

6-15-09-Francis_Doubleday.jpgOn Sunday, Cooperstown’s historic Doubleday Field played host to a pair of Triple-A minor league teams – whose players are one step away from the majors. The game came exactly six weeks to the day before Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice are inducted into the Hall of Fame as the Class of 2009.

Cooperstown Classic II saw the International League’s Pawtucket Red Sox come away with a 15-5 win over the Syracuse Chiefs. With the game’s greatest enshrined down the street in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the two squads’ off-field personnel who had played with and against Rice and Henderson shared their thoughts on the duo.

“I think I still have a bruise from a line drive hit off my arm on my first pitch of a spring training game in 1982 by Rickey,” joked Syracuse pitching coach Rich Gale, a 6-foot-7 righty who pitched in the big leagues from 1978-84. “I was saying on the way over here that I should go visit the Hall of Fame because there’s a lot of guys I helped get in there.”

6-15-09-Francis_Rice.jpgActually, Rice had only a .147 batting average (5-for-34) against Gale. 

“I happened to have good success against Jim Rice. But boy, I’ll tell you what, I was never overconfident,” Gale said. “Every time he was in the box you knew that every swing could be a home run. You could make a nasty, nasty pitch and he’d rifle the ball to right, right-center or he’d launch one on to the Mass. Pike at Fenway.”

Gale spent his final big league season in 1984 as Rice’s teammate with the Boston Red Sox. “The first time he saw me in spring training he joked, ‘I hope you make our club. Don’t get traded to somebody.’ He remembered that I had some success against him.”

As for Henderson, Gale said, “I’m sure he saw me pitching out there and when he got on base he licked his chops because I had a big, long, slow delivery. My catchers weren’t too happy about that.

“He’s a guy you could throw one pitch to to lead off a game and be behind 1-0 after he hit a home run. Or you could throw one pitch and he’d be on first base, the next thing it’s second, and the next thing it’s third. And then you get an out from the second guy and you’re still behind 1-0. It was a tremendous, tremendous package.”

Pawtucket batting coach Russ Morman, who spent most of his nine-year major league playing career at first base, remembered the pressure Henderson could put on a pitcher.

“Every time he got on base he was a threat to go and cause havoc on the base paths,” Morman said. “Rickey never stayed at first very long.”

6-15-09-Francis_Henderson.jpgSyracuse batting coach Darnell Coles was another contemporary, spending 14 years in the majors (1983-95, 1997), including one as a teammate of Henderson’s with the World Series-winning 1993 Toronto Blue Jays.

“Rickey is Rickey,” Coles said with a smile. “He’s the catalyst of your team, he gets on base, he sets things in motion on the bases that not a whole lot of people have done.”

Coles spent most of time as a third baseman, always alert when Henderson was on base.

“I think it was more of a matter of when he wanted to steal bases. He could steal them pretty much anytime he wanted because he could see things other guys couldn’t,” Coles said. “And he just continued to do that over the course of his career. Then with all the leadoff home runs, he was just a special player.”

Coles recalled Rice as one of the most prolific right-handed hitters that he’d ever played against.

“Rice was just a guy that you want up with the game on the line,” Coles said. “He’s also one of those guys you wanted on your team if there was a brawl. He was somebody who had a clubhouse presence. He was a guy with a certain stature who’d go out and play the game the right way, break up double plays, do the things it takes to play on championship caliber team.”

Tom Foli, the Syracuse manager, was a 16-year veteran at second base who saw a little too much of Henderson.

6-15-09-Francis_Gordon.jpg“He was ridiculous,” Foli said. “He’d dive head first into second base. He’s probably the only guy that ever actually hurt me when he dove in. Everybody else you could kind of stop, but he was so strong he could actually take you out diving. That’s how fast and how hard he slid.”

Rice was just an RBI machine, according to Foli.

“A great hitter you like that you had to go right at them because if you pitch around them you’re going to make more mistakes,” Foli said. “If you make good pitches you have a chance to get them out seven out of 10 times. You don’t make good pitches they’re going to make you pay.”

The 2009 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, featuring Rice and Henderson as well as Joe Gordon, will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 26. Admission is free.

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

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers visit Cooperstown

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

One of the great strengths of the Baseball Hall of Fame is its universal appeal. Even though we are a Museum dedicated to baseball, fans of American history will invariably visit because one can’t begin to fully appreciate Americana without seeing baseball’s imprint. 

Those who travel to Cooperstown do so as a pilgrimage – we’re not exactly a place you can stumble upon. Once in a great while, visitors will “just happen to be in town for other reasons” and a Museum visit becomes a secondary undertaking. 

6-15-09-Idelson_CSN.jpgSuch was the case Friday when music icons and 1997 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Crosby, Stills and Nash came to town to play a concert at legendary Doubleday Field, the fifth concert ever at the famed venue. Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson got the ball rolling in 2004. Others to have performed include Paul Simon, The Beach Boys with Herman’s Hermits and Dylan, a second time.

Prior to the show, led by three decade-long tour manager Mike “Coach” Sexton, the entire band sans David Crosby, came to visit the Museum. Arriving in golf carts two hours before sound check were Graham Nash and Stephen Stills, along with drummer Joe Vitale, base player Bob Glaub, their newly-anointed organist, and pianist James Raymond — David Crosby’s son.

They spent 90 minutes touring the exhibits and 30 minutes in archival collections. The tour ended with a trip to the photo library so Nash, a well-known photography collector, could have a look at the Library’s famed collection. “Too short of a visit,” lamented Stills after the tour. 

While touring, I learned that Vitale was born in Canton, Ohio, and went to high school with Thurman Munson. “Is he in the Hall?” asked Vitale. When told he wasn’t, he responded: “He should be.”

Stills and Nash loved the Museum and were fascinated with its history. “Ahhh, Mickey Mantle – my first hero,” recalled Stills in the Yankees of 1950s exhibit on the Museum’s second floor. “I loved the Mick, but I am a Red Sox fan. I threw out the first pitch during their run to their first championship and that baseball is one of my prized possessions.”

 In archives, Nash, who played cricket in Blackpool, England as a youngster, picked up one of Hall of Famer George Wright‘s cricket bats, circa 1890. He was intrigued to learn of Wright, the only person in history to play Major League Baseball (Boston and Providence) and First Class Cricket (Longwood Cricket Club of Chestnut Hill, Mass.).

6-15-09-Idelson_Paige.jpgCricket matches are renowned for being seemingly-endless, as they can last for days. I asked Nash if cricket reminded him of acoustic Grateful Dead concerts, which were could also last for hours. “You may have a point there,” he said laughing.

I explained to both musicians the definition of a five-tool player (hit for average, hit for power, run, throw and field) and asked if music had any. “Prince. Definitely Prince,” said Nash. “He can probably play five instruments.”

When I asked Stills if he could go back in time which player he would meet, he answered without hesitation, Satchel Paige. “B.B. King told me that watching Satchel Paige pitch was like watching Jimi Hendrix play guitar. They were both legendary.”

The band thanked Hall of Fame curators Erik Strohl and Tom Shieber for arranging the tour and then headed back to Doubleday Field. After the sound check at 4:30 p.m., the three rock legends posed in Hall of Fame jerseys – as one Hall of Fame honored legends from another: Crosby, Stills and Nash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and are about to enter the Songwriters Hall of Fame (the three are also in the Harmony Hall of Fame). Nash was so appreciative, he opened the show wearing his new garb.

For the photo shoot, to tie music and baseball together even more closely, we brought the bats of three players with which the three musicians posed: Crosby with a Babe Ruth bat, Stills with a Lou Gehrig bat and Nash with a Joe DiMaggio one.

“What a thrill,” said Nash. “What a thrill.”

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

Getting Excited for the Classic

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

I work at the Baseball Hall of Fame and am surrounded by some of the greatest baseball minds and scholars in the world on a daily basis. But the other night when I was watching a ballgame on TV and had a question, I still picked up the phone and called my dad.

The bond we have was only strengthened over the years as my father coached me in Little League, just as he had my brother and sister before me. He never missed a game in high school or college and was always there to give me advice on my swing. Although my playing days are behind me, my dad is still always there for me to fix my computer or find out why my car is making that funny noise. Now that all of his kids are coaches, you can still find him at the diamond, showing his support and sharing tips.

6-11-09-Carr_Classic.jpgBaseball runs in my family. My dad’s father loved the game and his older brother does too. My dad passed that love on to us. This Father’s Day, my family is coming to Cooperstown to celebrate Dad and watch some legends of my childhood, and his, compete at Doubleday Field.

We are excited to watch Phil Niekro dazzle hitters again with his knuckleball, and see Bob Feller prove that at 90 years old, he’s still got it. Not to mention the chance to meet Brooks Robinson, Fergie Jenkins and Paul Molitor. It will be fun to see a few players who just recently retired like Jeff Kent, Mike Timlin and Steve Finley – and I know my dad will be happy to see some Yankee greats like Mike Pagliarulo and Kevin Maas.

People are always in awe of my job because I get to work in baseball and meet some legendary players. But June 21st will be pretty special this year – because I get to share it all with my dad.

For tickets to the June 21 Hall of Fame Classic, call 1-888-Hall-of-Fame weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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

Home means coming to Cooperstown

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Brothers Chris and Cary Buchanan drove to Chris’ home in Hamilton, N.Y., from Colorado Springs, Colo. — and once again found themselves taking a detour to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Both Buchanans have recently returned home from their second tour of duty in Iraq with the army and visited baseball heaven with their families. To them, last Thursday’s trip to Cooperstown was a reminder of what it means to be home.

3-30-09-Carr_Buchanans.jpg“It’s not real yet,” said Chris about his happiness to be home. “You really get pulled in a lot of different directions, but spending time with my family is great.”

Active and retired career military personnel receive free admission to the Museum, and Chris visits Cooperstown just about every time he returns home. He was even a part of Induction Weekend in 2007 to see Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn receive their Hall of Fame plaques.

“The Hall of Fame has grown quite a bit over the years,” said Chris.

“I haven’t been here in about 15 years and [the village] has grown a lot,” added Cary, who makes his home in Richmond, Va. “You can barely even see [Doubleday Field] from the road.”

Chris returned from Baghdad in January, and Cary has only been back about a month.

“I’m stationed in Hawaii, so last week I was deep-sea fishing in warm weather, and now I’m in cold Upstate New York,” Cary said.

I can’t imagine that is the best tradeoff, but Cary is a fan of Jackie Robinson, so once he gets to see the Pride and Passion exhibit dedicated to the African-American baseball experience, I know he will think it’s worth it.

Both Buchanan wives, Laurie and Rose, are also military women. Chris’ wife, Laurie, served for 12 years in the army, and Rose has served for 14 in the same branch.

Both couples became much more animated when they got to view the plaque at the entrance to the Plaque Gallery that commemorates all of the Hall of Famers who served in the military.

Lawrence Berra — is that Yogi?” Chris asked. When I replied that it was, he responded with a laugh. “I wouldn’t go by Lawrence, either.”

It was a great opportunity to thank a few of the people that dedicate their lives to defending freedom. Thank you to Chris, Cary, Laurie, Rose and all the other members of the U.S. military.

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

Welcome to Cooperstown

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Greetings from Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Welcome to our first official blog.

We’re proud to be entering the world of social networking. We created our first Web site in early 1995, certainly ahead of the curve in the Museum world, riding that cyberwave that society was just beginning to discover. We are excited to now be a part of the blogosphere. You’ll begin to hear from many Hall of Fame staff members about a variety of topics.

In Cooperstown, we have a series of entertaining, educational and interactive exhibit openings and special programs planned between now and Induction Weekend. We hope you’ll be able to join us.

3-16-09-Idelson_Welcome.jpgNext month we’ll open Chasing the Dream, the life story of Hank Aaron and a permanent tribute to one of the game’s lasting legends. From humble beginnings to integrating the South Atlantic League to setting many records in the face of intense racism to becoming a successful philanthropist, Aaron’s life story is fascinating, and you’ll learn much more about “The Hammer” through this exhibit. It opens April 25, and the day will include a formal dedication and ribbon-cutting, a roundtable discussion and a Member reception to close the day. Chasing the Dream is the centerpiece to a new Hall of Fame Gallery of Records, which will open in 2011.

You’ll most certainly want to be in Cooperstown on Memorial Day Weekend when we open our first-ever bilingual exhibit. °Viva Baseball! tells the story of how Latinos have changed the face of baseball in America, while giving Museum visitors a taste of how baseball looks and feels and what it means in Caribbean Basin countries, including Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico. This exhibit has a great deal of technology and features our first-ever “talking labels” — Hall of Famers and other Latino stars sharing stories about artifacts in their own words. There will also be an entire wall of television screens, creating an awesome visual of the sights and sounds of Latino baseball, as narrated by 1998 Ford C. Frick Award-winner and the Spanish voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jaime Jarrin.

Cooperstown will be a hotbed of fun, talent and nostalgia Father’s Day Weekend when we stage the first Hall of Fame Classic Weekend, replete with a game of catch on Doubleday Field for fathers and their children, a children’s baseball clinic, Museum programs dedicated to dads and a legends (old-timers) game called the Hall of Fame Classic. The Classic, complete with autograph sessions for ticket-holders, and presented by the Ford Motor Company, will be held Sunday at legendary Doubleday Field, and includes five Hall of Famers and scores of other retired Major League players. We expect the weekend to become one of the Museum’s signature events and the ultimate Father’s Day Weekend destination.

That’s it for now.

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

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