Results tagged ‘ Fall Classic ’

Hall Monitor: World Series Special

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The World Series is upon us. The whole season comes down to this, and like the previous 105, this one is already living up to the name Fall Classic.


10-29-10-Hayes_DrysdaleKoufax.jpgTexas Three-Step?
: Just two of the previous seven teams to dig a hole like Texas’ current deficit – losing the first two games, each by at least four runs – have come back to win the World Series. The last team to create such a predicament was the 2001 Yankees, who forced a seventh game but ultimately lost to the Diamondbacks. The pair to overcome similarly lopsided losses: Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale’s 1965 Dodgers, who rallied against the Twins, and the 1996 Yankees, who defeated the Braves.

Record line: In three career postseason starts, San Francisco’s Matt Cain has given up just one run – an unearned blemish in the sixth inning of the NLDS against the Braves. Cain has compiled a 2-0 record after blanking the Rangers in Game Two. Few other players have begun their postseason careers with three straight games in which they didn’t allow an earnie. Giants legends and Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson began his postseason career with what may be the most impressive performance ever: Three straight complete game shutouts in the 1905 World Series – going on three days rest and then two days for the final two. Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt allowed two unearned runs in three starts for the 1921 Yankees- going 2-1 in his first foray into postseason play. And Jon Matlack allowed three unearned while going 2-1 in his first three games before eventually ending with a 2-2 record during the Mets’ postseason run in 1973 – his only career postseason.

10-29-10-Hayes_Mathewson.jpgCain’s 21.1 innings without an earned run to start his postseason career is the sixth longest mark. He sits behind Hoyt (34 innings), Mathewson (28 innings), Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon  (26.1 innings), Matlack  (25 innings) and another Giant Hall of Famer, Carl Hubbell  (22 innings).

End of the run: Cliff Lee went 4.2 innings and gave up seven runs in Game One on Wednesday. His numbers are so astounding because he was on an unbelievable run. Before Wednesday’s aberration, his career 1.26 postseason ERA ranked third among pitchers with at least five starts. Just Sandy Koufax and Christy Mathewson held an edge over Lee’s dominance. As it is now, he still holds a 1.96 ERA and a 7-1 record in nine starts during his playoff career.

Big hits: Nine times in World Series history, a Giant has collected four hits in a game. After his 4-for-5 night in game one, Freddy Sanchez became the latest. The previously four before him is a good group to be in: Hall of Famers Ross Youngs (1923), Fred Lindstrom (1924), Mel Ott (1933) and Monte Irvin (1951).

Pivotal Pitching: The Phils “Feared the Beard” during the NLCS, as Brian Wilson recorded a win or a save in each of the Giants victories. With three saves and a win, he’s just the fourth pitcher since saves became an official stat in 1969 to wreak that kind of havoc on an opponent. Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, with four saves and an MVP Award 1988 ALCS leads the group, followed by Mitch Williams (two wins and two saves in the 1993 NLCS) and John Wetteland (four saves and an MVP Award in the 1996 World Series).

10-29-10-Hayes_Ryan.jpgCheckup up on the stars: Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster and 2003 Ford C. Frick Award winner Bob Uecker was released from the hospital after undergoing successful heart surgery last Tuesday. The broadcaster received a valve replacement earlier this season before surgery to repair a tear at the replacement site earlier this month.

Throughout the postseason, several Hall of Famers have tossed several ceremonial first pitches. Game One of the World Series was no different with Orlando Cepeda, Monte Irvin, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry tossing the first ball. In Texas, Saturday’s game will likewise feature a living legend as Rangers President Nolan Ryan reprises the role after he and Fergie Jenkins took the honors in Game One and Two of the ALCS, respectively.

For a good cause: Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was honored before Thursday’s game with the Roberto Clemente Award. Beating out nominees from the other 29 clubs in his eighth year of being nominated, Wakefield is honored for combining dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field.

Wakefield was honored by Commissioner Bud Selig, widow Clemente’s Vera Clemente and his sons Roberto Jr. and Luis. Of the 27 eligible former winners of the Award, 13 are Hall of Famers.

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

Era ends, but history lives

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

For baseball fans born between 1960 and 1980, his story was the first you committed to memory.

“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

On Monday, that story ended with the death of Bobby Thomson. But the legend lives forever.

08-17-10_Muder_ThomsonB.jpgI can still see the pages of my dog-eared copy of the David S. Neft & Richard M. Cohen World Series encyclopedia. A Christmas gift from my parents in 1979, it provided my first taste of the baseball statistics that would one day fill my mind. In that book, each Fall Classic from 1903 through 1978 is preserved – along with season stats from the two Series teams.

But as a bonus, Neft & Cohen provided box scores and play-by-play of season tiebreakers, including the most famous of them all: The 1951 three-game classic between the Giants and the Dodgers.

It was like finding a dollar in the couch cushions – something extra to be devoured. I poured through those box scores over and over, dreaming of becoming Thomson while agonizing over the fate of Ralph Branca.

No matter what the future holds for baseball, the past will always remain king. That time, that city, that moment, that comeback… It was all too perfect – a scene never to be repeated.

The Autumn Glory exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame serves as a monument to Thomson’s pennant-winning homer with an exhibit dedicated to the Oct. 3, 1951 Shot Heard ‘Round the World. Thomson’s bat, cap and spikes from that day are on display, as well as a rosin bag used by Branca. They serve as a reminder of the greatest homer ever struck in major league competition.

The Museum’s Library also contains a copy of that Neft & Cohen chronology, a book that started so many on the path to baseball adoration.

In so many ways, that path began with a home run by Bobby Thomson.

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

Utley on verge of history

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

In 1977, Reggie Jackson was named the World Series Most Valuable Player after he homered five times in the Fall Classic – including 3 times in the Yankees’ clinching Game 6 - and in the process earned the nickname “Mr. October.” The 1977 Series marked the seventh time in nine World Series that the Yankees beat the Dodgers, and they would do it again the following year when Jackson, on his way to the Hall of Fame, hit two more home runs.

11-4-09-Berowski_Utley.jpgThe Philadelphia Phillies, a team that began as the Philadelphia Quakers in 1883, didn’t earn their first World Series championship until 1980, when they beat future Hall of Famer and .390 hitter George Brett and the Kansas City Royals in six games. Another future Hall of Famer, Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt, took home World Series MVP honors, hitting .381 with two homers, seven RBI and six runs scored in the Series.

If the Phillies are able to complete a comeback and win the World Series this year, the MVP Award just might go to another power-hitting Phillies infielder with his sights set on Cooperstown.

Through the first five games of the Series, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has already matched Jackson’s mark of five home runs in a single Fall Classic, while knocking in eight runs and batting .333. Three of his home runs have come off Yankee ace CC Sabathia, who had never allowed a hit to Utley prior to this World Series. With one more World Series home run this year, Utley will take his place atop the record book by himself.

Aside from Jackson and Utley, only eight players have hit at least four home runs in a single World Series. Babe Ruth was the first to do so in 1926 followed by Lou Gehrig (1928), Duke Snider (who did it twice, 1952 and 1955), Hank Bauer (1958), Gene Tenace (1972), Willie Aikens (1980), Lenny Dykstra (1993) and Barry Bonds (2002).

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Oct. 7, 1950: Ford gets first of six rings

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

The Chairman of the Board emphatically shut the door on Philly’s 59 years ago today — Oct. 7, 1950.


10-7-09-Lawrence_FordPitch.jpgWhitey Ford
, dubbed the “Chairman of the Board” by teammates, is the all-time World Series leader in wins (10) and strikeouts (94). It all began in Game 4 of the 1950 Fall Classic, as his Yankees were looking for a sweep of manger Eddie Sawyer’s Philadelphia Phillies.

On a Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, in front of more than 68,000 fans, Ford had the ball opposite Phils hurler Bob Miller with a chance to earn the Bombers’ 13th World Series title.

Ford, as a rookie, went a sterling 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA in 1950 – finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting to the Red Sox’ Walt Dropo.

The Yankees were defending champions, after taking the ’49 series against cross-town rival Brooklyn under new manager Casey Stengel.

Ford might not have had Game 7 pressure on him, with the Yankees’ three-game cushion, but nonetheless the rookie faced a daunting task at the age of 21. And while it didn’t hurt to have future Hall of Famers like Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Mize on his side, Ford was fearless every time he toed the rubber.

10-7-09-Lawrence_Ford.jpg“He was my banty rooster,” said Stengel. “He used to puff his chest out, like this, and walk out to the mound against any of those big pitchers.”

Despite that “rooster” persona, Ford was a pensive pitcher who chose deception over brute force. Ford promptly demoralized the Phils on Oct. 7, twirling 8.2 innings of brilliant baseball – giving up only two unearned runs.

A native of New York City, Ford went on to those record-setting 10 World Series wins as well as a fantastic postseason ERA of 2.71.

Ford not only owned October in the win column, but the 20th century as well. His 236-106 record makes him the most consistent victor — among pitchers with at least 200 wins — during those years, with a .690 winning percentage.

10-7-09-Lawrence_NYYSeriesChart.jpg“I don’t care what the situation was, how high the stakes were… it never bothered Whitey Ford,” said Yankee great Mickey Mantle. “He pitched his game. Cool. Crafty. Nerves of steel.”

In fact, Ford harnessed those “nerves of steel” to toss 33 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play, another signature “Chairman” mark. Ford also had seven complete games in the Classic, good for fifth all-time, and was part of six Yankees championship teams.

Ford was welcomed into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1974.

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Frey’s history is alive Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder
 
The black and white photograph speaks of another time, before televised games, multiyear contracts and franchises west of the Mississippi.

And yet the man in that photograph, Lonny Frey, lived to see all of those — and more. His memory lives on in Cooperstown.

9-18-09-Muder_Frey.jpgFrey, an infielder for the Dodgers, Cubs, Reds, Yankees and Giants, died Sunday at the age of 99 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He was the second-oldest living ex-major leaguer behind only Tony Malinosky, who will turn 100 in 17 days.

Ironically, Frey’s trade from the Dodgers to the Cubs following the 1936 season helped open an infield spot in Brooklyn for Malinosky, who appeared in all of his 35 major league games with the Dodgers in 1937.

Frey, meanwhile, spent 14 seasons in the big leagues and was named to the All-Star team in 1939, 1941 and 1943. He was the oldest living World Series veteran, having appeared in the 1939 and 1940 Fall Classic with the Reds and the 1947 World Series with the Yankees. That title now falls to former Yankee Tommy Henrich.

Frey was also the last surviving player to have suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and New York Yankees.

Several photos of Frey are housed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s collection, which contains more than half a million photographs. Among the Museum’s 35,000 three-dimensional artifacts is a ball Frey signed — along with several other players like Hall of Famers Ernie Lombardi, Gabby Hartnett, Joe Medwick, Bill Terry and Billy Herman — during an old-timers reunion in the 1960s.

It is all a part of the Museum’s charge to preserve baseball history for generations to come — history that lives on in Cooperstown.

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

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.

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.

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