Results tagged ‘ Fergie Jenkins ’

Baseball Gene

By Bill Francis

Born and raised in Chicago, young Gene Walter was a fan of such Windy City legends as Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams. Recently, the former big league hurler visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to not only revisit his childhood but share his past with his family.

On his way to Boston for business from his home outside Louisville, Ky., Walter, a southpaw relief pitcher for four big league seasons (1985-88) with the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Seattle Mariners, made a stop in Cooperstown along with his wife and two young sons on Saturday afternoon.

“I definitely wanted to have the family visit Cooperstown and I wanted to get a chance to see it again,” said Walter, soon after he and his family checked out his clipping and photo files at the Hall of Fame Library. “Obviously being a baseball player your dreams at an early age involve one day being a member of the Hall of Fame, but certainly being a part of Major League Baseball was a great thrill and a great honor.”

Walter, who has worked as a financial planner since retiring as a professional player in 1993, made his only other Hall of Fame visit back in 1992 when he and a few teammates from the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, including future big leaguer David Weathers, made the trek on an off-day.

“It sends chills up your spine,” is how Walter explains his feelings when walking through the Cooperstown institution. “When you grow up watching the greats, and I grew up watching baseball in the late 1960s and early ‘70s before free agency when teams played together for long periods of time, those guys are special to me.”

A trio of Walter’s former big league teammates would end up with their bronze likenesses in the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery.

“With the Padres, Tony Gwynn was a consummate professional and just a great teammate, Goose (Gossage) was a great competitor who just gritted his teeth and reared back and intimidated and basically threw the heck out of the ball,” Walter recalled. “And with the Mets, Gary (Carter) was someone who just loved being out on the field.”

Reflecting on his own playing career, which included a 4-7 won-loss record and 3.74 ERA in 128 big league games, Walter says it was just a great opportunity to get to the majors.

“There was nothing etched in stone that I’d play one day professionally let alone get to the big leagues,” Walter said. “I was the Padres last pick in ’82 and I had a hurt arm in college that year and was fortunate enough to get drafted. I was the 29th round pick for the Padres and their last, and I was the first guy to make it to the big leagues out of that draft with them. The only thing that was disappointing is that the arm didn’t hold up long enough to give me the opportunity to play as long as I wanted to play.

“When you reach the big leagues and have a certain level of performance, and that performance lasts a year and a half and then you have an injury and you’re no longer a major league pitcher it’s tough. But you battle and you try to hang in there,” he added. “You’ve got to love to compete, you’ve got to love to put that uniform on and go out there. At the end of my career I was better at working out than getting people out, and you can’t hang around a long time like that.”

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

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.

Hall Monitor: the durable Jamie Moyer

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Let’s get it out of the way so we can start dissecting what it means: Jamie Moyer has allowed more home runs than any other player in the history of the game.

O06-29-10-Hayes_MoyerSea.jpgn Sunday during the bottom of the third inning, Toronto’s Vernon Wells hit the first pitch he saw from Moyer into the left field seats – the 506th home run allowed during Moyer’s 24-year career. The home run moved Moyer into sole possession of the record and past fellow Philles legend, Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

In baseball history, 25 men have hit 500 home runs. Only Moyer and Roberts have given up that many, so Moyer is in good company. Roberts held or shared the all-time home runs allowed title for 52 years and 321 days. The Hall of Famer won 286 games, compiled up a .539 winning percentage and finished his 19-year career with a 3.41 career ERA. He was a workhorse with 305 complete games in 609 starts. He pitched 4,688 innings.

Just below Roberts on the homers-allowed list are Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins (484), Phil Niekro (482) and Don Sutton (472). Among the home runs allowed top ten, there are six Hall of Famers, six 3,000-striekout pitchers, five 300-game winners and no one under 4,000 innings pitched.

06-29-10-Hayes_Roberts.jpgThe record speaks to the longevity of Moyer’s career. In the same game Moyer gave up the record-breaking home run, he threw his 4,000th inning. Just 28 men since 1901 have logged that many innings. Nineteen of them are in the Hall of Fame, and five others are named Bert Blyleven, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux.

Looking at Moyer’s stats, you come to the conclusion that if he’s pitched 24 seasons and registered 4,005 inning in the majors, he had to be doing something right. To this point, Moyer has collected 267 wins, 2,393 strikeouts and owns a .571 winning percentage in 682 career games. He’s fourth in the National League in wins this season at nine and fifth in shutouts and complete games, despite being the oldest player in the majors for the last three years. He owns a pair of 20-win seasons and he’s only led the league in home runs allowed once.

Moyer’s age, 47,  shows his ability to re-invent himself to find ways to get hitters out and be effective – and has been an underlying storyline to his career for the last few years. This season he recorded a complete game victory in his 264th career win. The victory was also his 100th since turning 40. Only two pitchers prior to Moyer had won 100 games on the north side of 40, Niekro (121) and Jack Quinn (104). Moyer is now at 103 and still going strong.

06-29-10-Hayes_MoyerBal.jpgLefties like Moyer have a penchant for hanging on. He’s hung on long enough to see his son was drafted (this season by the Twins in the 22nd round). He’s hung on long enough to face a 20-year-old rookie who was born in 1990 – Moyer’s fifth major league season. Starlin Castro got a hit off Moyer, creating the largest age gap between a hitter and pitcher since 21-year-old Tim Foli got a hit off Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm at 49 in 1972.

One last age note related to Moyer. Since 1901, Only Satchel Paige, Wilhelm, Quinn, Niekro, Kaiser Wilhelm and Nick Altrock pitched at 47 or older. Paige was in a one-game stunt with the Kansas City A’s to make him the oldest player at 58, but his last real season was at 46. Hoyt Wilhelm and Quinn both pitched at 49, appearing in 16 and 14 games respectively. At 48, Wilhelm had similar number (20 appearances), while Quinn threw 87 innings in 42 games. Also at 48, Niekro made 26 starts, pitching 138 innings. Niekro, Quinn and Hoyt Wilhelm were all effective at 47.

So the question becomes, how much longer will Jamie Moyer go?

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

Tales from the Cactus League

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I am so glad Spring Training is here, even if it was warmer in Cooperstown than in the desert for a few of the days I visited Arizona last week. Boy did I miss baseball. And in my job, I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to rub elbows with so many of the game’s greats, bringing them closer to the Hall of Fame.

 
03-12-10-Idelson_KoufaxPalmer.jpgI got to see the Giants, Brewers, White Sox, Mariners, Indians, Reds, Royals and Rangers all play.

It was great to see the two reigning Cy Young award winners – Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke – pitch. I brought Tim plaque postcards of Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer. Why? They are the only Hall of Famers to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards. Perhaps they will help inspire Tim, not that he needs inspiration.

Before the Cactus League opener in Peoria, I visited my friends in the Mariners clubhouse: Head athletic trainer Rick Griffin and I talked about the health of his players; Ken Griffey Jr. told me he expected Ichiro to get twice as many regular season hits as he would – including spring training.  “I’m aiming for 150 hits,” said Junior.  “Have you seen Ichiro get hot?  You turn around, and he’s gone 15-for-25. If anyone can get 300 hits, it’s him.” I don’t doubt Griffey’s sense of logic, having seen Ichiro play so many times.

 Did you ever take an advanced or AP class in high school? I took AP Baseball last week with Professor Ryan. Nolan and I sat together for the Rangers-Royals game, where he gave me a breakdown of every player on the field. I had a similar experience a few days later with White Sox owner and Hall of Fame Board member Jerry Reinsdorf, who invited me to sit with him, his vice chairman, Eddie Einhorn, and his special assistant, Dennis Gilbert, the former agent for George Brett. I now know where the White Sox’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Bobby Brett, George’s brother, joined us.

03-12-10-Idelson_Ryan.jpgWe held our annual Cactus League Champions event in Goodyear, where the Indians and Reds train. It’s a great complex. The Indians were very generous in hosting our Champions, those who support us with an annual donation of $5,000 or more.

Team President Paul Dolan and assistant GM Chris Antonetti addressed our group and let them know what to expect from the Indians this year. After the game, we all had dinner with Bob Feller and Fergie Jenkins, where they regaled the group with stories, photos and autographs.

Speaking of dinners, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie and their wives joined me for dinner the night before. We toasted to a good 2010 Cubs team and the Williams’ 50th wedding anniversary. Quite a feat for the Williamses, a lovely couple.

On my first night in Arizona, I was joined by Mickey Morabito and Steve Vucinich from the A’s, Gary Hughes, the Cubs scout, Roland Hemond, the long-time Bill Veeck disciple who works for the Diamondbacks, and veteran writers Bob Nightengale, of USA Today, and Spink Award winner Tracy Ringolsby. We get together each spring to talk about scouting and the game today. We used to dine each year at the Pink Pony, a popular old-school steakhouse on North Scottsdale Road that finally closed its doors. We miss the Pony.

03-12-10-Idelson_CactusLeague.jpgOn my final evening, I hosted the dinner to end all dinners, at Don & Charlie’s, a popular Scottsdale hangout with great steaks and ribs. We had a large group that included Bob Uecker, Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount and his brother Larry, George Brett and his guest Joe Randa, Mike Murphy, the Giants’ clubhouse man since Day One in San Francisco, Brad Ziegler, my friend who pitches in the A’s bullpen, Jerry, Eddie and Dennis from the White Sox, and Bob Crotty, who is a generous Hall of Fame supporter and owner of Green Diamonds Gallery in Cincinnati, an exquisite baseball gallery of artifacts and art.

Just before we were getting ready to sit down to dinner, Uecker calls me from his cell phone to let me know he invited two other mutual friends – Bob Costas and Joe Torre.

We had a great dinner and talked about the Dodgers impending trip to Taiwan, told Yogi stories, heard all about the Olympics, and tried to recollect if Torre and Fingers ever faced each other. “Did I ever face you?” Joe asked? “I can’t recall,” was Rollie’s response.

So, I emailed Freddy Berowski in the Hall of Fame Library. Sorry Joe: You faced Rollie one time in the regular season, on May 1, 1977, and struck out. You also faced him in the 1973 All-Star Game and popped out in the 9th. None-the-less, you remain one the game’s greatest players, managers and ambassadors and it’s hard to imagine you won’t be in Cooperstown one day.

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

On the road at TwinsFest

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

I spent the last weekend of January representing the Baseball Hall of Fame at TwinsFest in the Metrodome, one of baseball’s largest fan fests. It’s great to celebrate the National Pastime in the dead of winter as the baseball world turns its attention from hot stove planning to spring training.

02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest.jpgTwinsFest, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Twins Community Fund begun in 1989, has raised millions of dollars for local organizations. Many fans stopped by our spot in right field to see the artifacts we brought and to say hello, weigh Bert Blyleven’s chances for election to the Hall next year, talk about trips to Cooperstown and sign up for our membership program.

Many Twins fans, young and old, enjoyed over 50 artifacts from the Hall’s collection, like Ty Cobb’s small glove, Lou Gehrig’s jersey from his final season in pinstripes and a tunic from a 1940s Michigan team in the women’s pro league, the AAGPBL. But the most popular items were from Twins history, including the ball Dave Kingman hit into the Dome’s roof in 1984, the ball Gene Larkin knocked into left-center to win the 1991 World Series, hometown hero Joe Mauer’s bats from each of the three seasons he won the AL batting crown and the Hall of Fame plaque of Harmon Killebrew.

Many current Twins were on hand such as Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and new Twin Jim Thome, as well as former greats Blyleven, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Tony Oliva. Bob Feller had Frank Howard and Denny McLain at his booth, while Fergie Jenkins led Rollie Fingers and other players raising money for Haitian relief.
 
02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest2.jpgThough the Twins have hosted the Hall at TwinsFest for many years, it was my first trip to the Twin Cities. I was impressed by the friendly folks and fantastic food. I only got lost a few times in the downtown skyways and enjoyed a tour of the Twins new outdoor home, Target Field, which looks like a great place to see a game.

After a thrilling season last year and a new ballpark in 2010, I sensed a lot of excitement from the Twins and their fans. It turned out to be one of the biggest TwinsFests they’ve ever had.

Our thanks to Jackie Hoff and the team from the Science Museum of Minnesota, who installed the exhibit and showed me the ropes. The Twins’ staff was great, especially Heidi Sammon, Glo Westerdahl, and their new curator, Clyde Doepner. I hope the Twins and their fans have a great 2010.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator for new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Cubs are a hit

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Tuesday, the Cubs got off to a great start, connecting for eight straight hits off Pirates ace Zach Duke. While most of the balls were not hit particularly hard, they managed to find the right landing spots.

As Cubs leadoff batter Ryan Theriot put it, “The ball was bouncing our way and it was in our favor in the first inning for sure.”

9-10-09-Berowski_Jenkins.jpg With those eight hits, the Cubs tied the major league record for consecutive hits for a team at the start of their half of the first inning, a mark that they established on April 21, 1973 – ironically, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Six times since, a major league team has matched this mark.

The seven-run first inning on Tuesday was all the Cubs would need as they cruised to a 9-4 victory, but it wasn’t that easy for them back in ’73. Future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins started for the Cubs at home and the Pirates jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The Cubs bounced back in their half of the first with eight straight hits, including one by another future Hall of Famer, Billy Williams, chasing Pirates starter Nelson Briles before he could even record an out. But Fergie didn’t fare that well either.

Despite having six straight 20 win seasons under his belt, Jenkins hadn’t beaten the Pirates in his previous seven starts against them, and had only three wins in his previous 15 games against them. Fergie lamented after the game, “Guess some clubs gotta have your number.”  Fergie was pulled after just 4 1/3 innings, and didn’t factor in the decision. The Cubs would hang on for a 10-9 victory.

Other teams to match the mark established by the Cubs were the 1975 Phillies with future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, the 1975 Pirates featuring future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, the 1981 Athletics lead by future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and the 1990 Yankees.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at 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.

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