Results tagged ‘ Ebbets Field ’

Baldwin and baseball

By Bill Francis

Actor Billy Baldwin is certainly a recognizable face after starring in such films as Backdraft, Sliver and Fair Game, but on Friday he was just another fan of the New York Yankees taking in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum experience with his family.

A member of the famed acting clan that includes brothers Alec, Daniel and Stephen, Baldwin lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., but is spending part of the summer in Skaneateles, N.Y., near Syracuse. When the opportunity arose he jumped at the chance to visit Cooperstown with son Vance, a brother-in-law and two nephews.

“Last year I said, ‘We’re going to Cooperstown while we’re in Skaneateles,’ but we never got around to it,” he said while walking to lunch. “This year I said, ‘I’ll be darned if I come up here for another two or three years and we don’t get there. I am going this year.’”

Before they saw the Museum, Baldwin and his family would receive a behind-the-scenes from Senior Curator Tom Shieber, where the actor was able to hold the bat used by Ted Williams to slug his final home run. Baldwin was certainly impressive in his knowledge of the history of the national pastime, whether it be marveling at the home run prowess of Babe Ruth when measured against the other teams in the league or explaining how Joe DiMaggio’s homer production was hampered by playing his home games at Yankee Stadium. 

Baldwin, who unabashedly admits to balling his eyes out when he watches Kevin Costner play catch with his dad in Field of Dreams, also explained his love of the game that is also evident in his son.

“I don’t know how to articulate it … It’s weird because I consider myself a big baseball fan but I’m not one of those guys who sits down with a pad and pen and does all the stats of every game,” Baldwin said. “I’m a huge baseball fan and I’m a diehard Yankees fan and probably watch or listen to a portion of about 100 games a year.

“But if there’s such a thing as having a metronome for your life, for me it starts with pitchers and catchers and goes all the way through October, hopefully with the Yankees in the postseason,” he added with a grin. “In these trying times with the economy not doing well and all sorts of struggles across the country and around the globe, I don’t want to be constantly reminded of all the tough stuff that’s going on. I find that the number one anecdote for that for me is baseball.”

Thanks to a father who once was an usher at Brooklyn’s beloved Ebbets Field, the Baldwin brothers were exposed to the game at a young age. But Billy Baldwin, with a famed wrestling coach living nearby, eventually turned his attentions to the mat.

“Growing up my favorite game was baseball, and I was best at baseball, but I made a mistake when I was in 10th grade,” he recalled. “I ran with this posse of guys on my wrestling team and we all gave up everything we were doing to wrestle all year and I walked away from baseball.

“Obviously, I have the build of a small basketball player or a baseball player or a tennis player and not a wrestler,” he said jokingly. “I was a pretty good wrestler – I won more than I lost – but I was just more of a natural baseball player. I should have stuck with it.”

As for which of the Baldwin brothers was the best baseball player, Billy claimed it was pretty close between him Daniel, who he said  had “kind of like a Boog Powell type of build” before laughingly sharing stories of concussions the older sibling inflicted on him during childhood.

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

Worth watching

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

A familiar face from PBS’s popular show Antiques Roadshow for 14 years made a non-televised but nonetheless enlightening appearance at the 22nd annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture this week.

Leila “Lee” Dunbar can often be seen appraising sports memorabilia on the long-running television show – she has provided more than 2,000 verbal appraisals on more than 50 segments – but Thursday afternoon in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Bullpen Theater she presented a talk titled “Stories in Hand – Baseball History Told Through its Memorabilia.” Before a full house, Dunbar talked of her life and the road she traveled to become a professional appraiser of pop culture memorabilia, including sports. Interspersed was the detective work often involved as well as stories of intriguing baseball items she has been involved with over the years.

06-04-10-Francis_Dunbar.jpg“The Cooperstown Symposium is great because it gives a lot of different viewpoints, a lot of different nuances of history, a lot of stories that you don’t get to hear in the mainstream,” Dunbar said after her presentation. “One of the things about baseball is that no matter how much you know, there’s a lot more that you don’t know. And I’ve learned so much just in a day. It’s been just fantastic, and you meet a great group of people.

“People with different viewpoints is fantastic because in my world, normally, I’m either meeting people who have items, so they are what I would call ‘civilians,’ or I know other appraisers, and we discuss things from a slightly different point of view,” she added. “So the people that I meet here are not looking at this as a business, they’re looking at it as a purely historical exercise of deepening knowledge and understanding and I appreciate that, I appreciate that passion.”

Besides her work on TV, Dunbar’s company, Leila Dunbar LLC, provides all types of written appraisals for insurance, donation, estate tax, divorce, etc. Prior to opening her own business in July 2008, she served as senior vice president and director of Sotheby’s Collectibles department.

“One of the great things about the Symposium is that it has scholars, it has journalists, it has curators, and it has collectors. Me as an appraiser and having been in the business of actually buying and selling memorabilia, auctioning memorabilia, I look at objects in a variety of ways,” Dunbar said. “One, I look at is what’s the price, what’s the value? Be it a replacement value, be it value for estate tax or donation. So I have to think in that regard. But the only way you can get to that number is to do many of the same things that the others do, which is to do your research and then be able to think quantitatively about that research.”

According to Dunbar, she had very little choice when it came to her affection for the national pastime. While admitting to loving all sports, baseball’s her favorite because it’s what she grew up while being exposed to the most intense rivalry in the game.

“I was very lucky. I grew up with a love a baseball on both sides of my family,” she said. “My grandfather is an Episcopalian minister in New York who had tickets to Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium and idolized all the Yankees. And my mother, a big baseball fan, was actually a member of the knothole gang for the Boston Braves, and to this day I have all these aunts in their 70s, 80s and 90s who all watch, curse or cheer on the Red Sox depending on how well they’re doing.”

As for the institution that was hosting the Symposium, Dunbar had only high praise.

“I think the Baseball Hall of Fame is the ultimate repository of baseball memorabilia, and one that’s able to continually play a role in deepening the understanding of baseball and its history.”

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

By the numbers

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

It’s been a great week for numbers in baseball. And here at the Baseball Hall of Fame, those numbers will be preserved forever.

A sample of the week that was:


7-31-09-Hayes_HeltonSpeaker.jpg500 for Todd:
Last week, Colorado’s Todd Helton became the 50th player to collect 500 doubles. Hall of Famer Tris Speaker holds the record with 792, while 32 of the men who have 500 or more doubles are also enshrined in Cooperstown. Five, including Helton, are active and six others aren’t yet eligible. One other note: Helton achieved the feat in his 1,749th game. Only two players reached 500 quicker: Hall of Famers Joe Medwick (1,714) and Nap Lajoie (1,730).

Dodger Details: Tuesday night marked the 2,000th regular-season contest between the Dodgers and Cardinals, dating back to 1892, when the St. Louis Browns first played the Brooklyn Grooms as members of the National League. Brooklyn/Los Angeles holds a slight edge over St. Louis at 993-992 – with 16 ties – after losing to the Redbirds on Wednesday. The match-up includes a two-game tiebreaker series in 1946 when the Cards swept the Dodgers for the NL pennant.

One man who’s probably seen more of those games than anyone else is Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully. The 1982 Ford C. Frick winner announced this week that he may retire after the 2010 season – his 61st in the booth. The 81-year-old Scully started calling Dodger games in 1950, when they played at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.


7-31-09-Hayes_MoyerNiekro.jpgAgeless Pitchers:
Jamie Moyer earned his 10th victory of the 2009 season in the Phillies’ 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks on Monday. At 46 years and 251 days, he is the second-oldest pitcher to reach double-digit wins in a season. Hall of Famer Phil Niekro holds the record, earning his 10th in 1986 for the Indians, at 47 years and 145 days. Knucksie won seven more games in 1987 for a total of 318 wins. Moyer’s most recent victory was his 256th.
 
Chasing Rickey: Curtis Granderson hit two home runs to lead off games this week at Texas. With 20 leadoff bombs, he has a long way to go to catch the leader. 2009 Hall of Fame Inductee Rickey Henderson holds the record with 81, followed by Alfonso Soriano, who tied Craig Biggio at 53 in May of this year.

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

Jackie Robinson Day

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

All Major Leaguers wore the No. 42 yesterday in honor of one man. It’s amazing to me that a number can be retired throughout a sport to honor just one person. But then the accomplishments of Jackie Robinson are far beyond amazing.

I recently finished reading Jonathan Eig’s book Opening Day, about Robinson’s first season in the Majors. Let me just say this — I knew what he accomplished was hard, but I really had no clue. The truth about Robinson’s first season goes way beyond anything I ever knew beforehand.

The hatred he faced in the early part of the season is nothing I can even comprehend. Death threats — something Hank Aaron also received while chasing the Babe — were just the tip of it. 4-16-09-Hayes_Mets42.jpgHe had really had no friends other than his wife and infant son. Players threatened to stop playing, thinking the game would continue without Robinson and other black players.

I was born after the Civil Rights Movement, so for me to try to understand the environment is tough. The book, however, gave me a good clue. One of Eig’s main sources was Jackie’s widow, Rachel Robinson. Between the research Eig did in newspapers and interviews with Rachel, the book painted a picture for me that I can more fully appreciate.

I had the good fortune to say hello and shake Rachel’s hand in November when the Hall of Fame dedicated the Character and Courage statues in the lobby of the Museum. Eig was also there that day and participated in a Voices of the Game event with Roberto Clemente‘s sons. I learned that day that baseball can mean so much more. The game follows the ebb and flow of the nation.

A lot of things have been said about why Branch Rickey signed Robinson. Regardless of the original reason, Robinson became an icon not just for African-Americans but for people throughout the country. He was Martin Luther King Jr. before the Civil Rights Movement had a face. Malcolm X charted Robinson’s batting average while listening to Red Barber on the radio.

The Robinsons were celebrated but were also outcasts. They lived a fairly secluded life, but Jackie may have been the most recognizable face in America — and most certainly was the most recognizable African-American next to Joe Louis.

His success that first season proved a color line should have never been drawn. He carried the team for parts of the season, and he made thousands of people instant Dodger fans. His style of play made the game a thrill ride. It was aggressive, it was fast-paced and it was exciting.

Babe Ruth changed the game with the home run, but Jackie Robinson revolutionized it. He opened the door, and talent flooded through. Larry Doby was in the Majors by July. Dan Bankhead joined the Dodgers for the playoff push. But Jackie was first. He faced unreal circumstances and showed he could flourish. The bravery, skill and spirit he displayed are attributes that we can admire.

Robinson deserves every bit of appreciation we can gather. He is immortalized here at the Hall of Fame in the Plaque Gallery. The month of November has been designated Character and Courage Month to celebrate Robinson and two players he shared those characteristics with — Clemente and Lou Gehrig. Their statues in the lobby serve as year-round reminders of traits we should all aspire to exhibit. The entrance to the Mets’ new ballpark, Citi Field, was dedicated to him. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda replicates the entrance to Ebbets Field where Jackie broke the color barrier. His No. 42 hangs in every ballpark, and yesterday it was on the back of every player to take the field.

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

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