Results tagged ‘ Gold Glove ’

Thankful to be in Cooperstown

By Craig Muder

The brain aneurysm that changed John Olerud’s life is visible today by only a small indentation on the left side of his forehead.

But the effects of that event shape Olerud’s outlook to this day – and has left the 17-year big league veteran with a deep sense of gratitude.

Olerud visited the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday with his wife, Kelly; two of their children, Garrett and Jessica; and his in-laws. The 42-year-old Olerud, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, made the trip to Cooperstown based on the recommendation of former teammate Ed Sprague.

“Ed told me what an incredible visit he had, getting to see all the history,” Olerud said. “I have to say: He was right.”

Olerud, looking very much like the strapping 6-foot-5, 205-pound first baseman he was with the Blue Jays, Mets, Mariners, Yankees and Red Sox from 1989-2005, marveled at Museum artifacts like a Babe Ruth bat and a Roberto Clemente cap.

He even held a bat that he donated to the Hall of Fame in 2000 after recording the first-ever hit at Detroit’s Comerica Park as a member of the Mariners.

His .295 career batting average, 2,239 hits, two All-Star Game selections and three Gold Glove Awards were enough to secure him a place on the 2011 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot. But the modest Olerud, a key member of the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series winners in 1992-93, downplayed his own accomplishments.

“I’m just so thankful to have had the chance to get married, have kids and play the game I love,” said Olerud, who suffered the aneurysm while he was working out at Washington State University in 1988, but recovered to debut with the Jays in 1989 after bypassing the minor leagues entirely. “When you’re playing, you don’t really think about something like the Hall of Fame because you’re just trying to help the team and keep yourself in the lineup. And now that I’m retired, I’ve been so involved with my family, it seems like that time when I played is so far away.

“But to come here and see all this, it reminds you of how fortunate you are to play baseball.”

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

‘Cruz’ through history

By Craig Muder

They stood together in the Museum’s archive, father and son of Major League Baseball fame.

Jose Cruz Sr. and Jose Cruz Jr. have 31 big league seasons between them. But nothing prepared them for their visit to Cooperstown.

“This is unbelievable,” said Jose Cruz Jr., in town this week with his children – Jose Sr.’s grandchildren – for a youth baseball tournament. “The history is here… guys that I played with, Hall of Famers… . I’m still here and I can’t wait to come back!”

The pair and their families visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday. Jose Cruz Sr., a 19-year big league veteran best known for his 13 years with the Astros, looks remarkably the same as the smooth left-handed swinger who knocked line drives around the National League during the 1980s. Now 63, Cruz paid special attention to two exhibits: One featuring new Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, who like Cruz was born in Puerto Rico.

The other exhibit? One featuring Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who was an executive with the St. Louis Cardinals when Cruz signed with the team as an amateur free agent in 1966.

“Stan the Man was my hero,” said Cruz, now a special assistant to the general manager for the Astros.

Jose Cruz Jr., 37, is only three years removed from a 12-year big league career that saw him hit 204 homers and capture a Gold Glove Award for his outfield play in 2003. A student of baseball history, Cruz Jr. tested his father on baseball trivia throughout his visit.

Father and son, bonding through baseball. Seems fitting during a week that will feature the annual Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day – Sunday, June 19 – in Cooperstown.

The connection – even at the game’s highest level – remains unbreakable.

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

Hall Monitor: Award Season Begins

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Awards, prizes, honors. No matter what you call them, they serve as validation for a year of hard work on the diamond.

First up were the Gold Glove Awards on Tuesday and Wednesday and the Silver Sluggers yesterday.


11-12-10-Hayes_70sReds.jpgRolen along
: Reds third baseman Scott Rolen won his eighth Gold Glove on Wednesday. Now only two third basemen have won the award more than Cincy’s man at the hot corner, Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10).

Meanwhile the New Red Machine, which reached the playoffs for the first time since 1995, placed two other Reds among this season’s Gold Glove winners. Second baseman Brandon Phillips earned his second award and pitcher Bronson Arroyo won his first. The last time Cincinnati had more than one Gold Glove was over four straight years when the quartet of center fielder Cesar Geronimo, shortstop Dave Concepcion and future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench (catcher) and Joe Morgan (second baseman) won the awards from 1974 to 1977.


11-12-10-Hayes_ClementeMays.jpgJoining the greats
: Ichiro Suzuki has played 10 years in the majors and his numbers seem automatic: 10 All-Star selections, 10 200-hit seasons, 10 seasons with 30-plus stolen bases, 10 seasons with an average over .300 and now 10 Gold Gloves. Among outfielders, only two men have more Gold Gloves and just three others have received 10 trophies from Rawlings. Matching Ichiro at 10 apiece are Andruw Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., and Hall of Famer Al Kaline. But Ichiro is still looking up at Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente, who each earned the award 12 times.

Carl among select in left: Also on Tuesday, the Rays’ Carl Crawford won his first Gold Glove – and he did it as a left fielder. Over the last three decades in the American League, center fielders have dominated the Gold Glove Awards, with right fielders earning sporadic recognition (aside from Ichiro Suzuki’s 10 straight). Since 1958, when the Award was separated by league, nine men have earned 18 Gold Gloves as a left fielder – seven of which went to Carl Yastrazemski. Over the last 30 years, just four men have taken home the honor. The last before Crawford was Darin Erstad in 2000. Before him were Hall of Famers Dave Winfield (two straight in 1982 and 1983) and Rickey Henderson (1981).


11-12-10-Hayes_Niehaus.jpg“Fly away”
: 2008 Ford C. Frick Award winner Dave Niehaus passed away Wednesday night at the age of 75. For fans in the Seattle area, there will be an open house at Safeco Field from noon to 3 p.m. PT Saturday for fans to gather and reflect upon the Voice of the Seattle Mariners. There will be no formal program, but fans are invited to sign a remembrance book for the Niehaus family. There is also an online tribute page for available at www.mariners.com/dave, where fans can post messages and see highlights of his career.

No. 5 on Studio 42: Bob Costas’ MLB Network show Studio 42, which revisits baseball great moments through interviews with key players and Hall of Famers alike, premieres tonight. The first episode will feature George Brett, who will join Costas in an hour-long conversation starting at 8 p.m. ET to talk about his career. Topics will include Brett’s chase for .400, the pine tar incident, the Royals 1985 Championship along with their rivalry with the Yankees and more. Included during the program will be thoughts on Brett from fellow Hall of Famer and longtime nemesis on the diamond, Goose Gossage – the bulldog relief pitcher who faced Brett during several memorable battles.

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

Team Dawson comes to Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Vanessa Dawson watched carefully Tuesday as her husband toured the Baseball Hall of Fame, preparing herself for a hectic Induction Weekend less than three months away.

05-05-10-Muder_Dawson.jpgBut during a film retrospective of her husband’s career, the enormity of it all set in.

The stoic and regal Andre Dawson, one of the game’s leading citizens for more than three decades, took his Orientation Tour on Tuesday in preparation for his July 25 induction. Dawson, who spent 21 big league seasons with the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins, was making his fourth-ever visit to the Hall of Fame – but this time he arrived as an electee. Hall of Fame officials spent the morning preparing Andre and Vanessa for what is to come in July, then showed the Dawsons the Museum in the afternoon.

At the end of the tour, Andre and Vanessa were treated to a video summary of his career, complete with commentary from other Hall of Famers. When the lights went up, Vanessa was moved to tears – overwhelmed by the tribute to her Hall of Fame husband.

“I was driven by discipline that was instilled in me through women who were my mentors – being my mother (Mattie Brown), my grandmother (Eunice Taylor) and then my wife,” Andre Dawson said.

That discipline brought Andre Dawson the 1977 National League Rookie of the Year Award, the 1987 NL MVP Award, eight Gold Gloves for his play in the outfield and eight All-Star Game selections. And now, it has brought him to Cooperstown.

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

Ichiro, Phat Albert become Hall of Fame-eligible

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Someday – 10 to 15 years from now – Monday will be known as the day it became official. The day when the clock started ticking. The day two legends truly began their journey to Cooperstown.

04-07-10-Muder_Pujols.jpgMonday was the day that Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki first became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Now, don’t go marking calendars just yet. Phat Albert and Ichiro have a lot of baseball left to play, and their Hall of Fame eligibility doesn’t officially begin until they’ve been retired for five years. At 36, Ichiro looks like he could play for at least 10 more years. And Pujols just turned 30, leaving him with a real chance to take a crack at 700 home runs and 3,000 hits in the latter part of this decade.

But barring the totally unforeseen, Ichiro and Albert are headed for Cooperstown. And on Opening Day, they cleared their primary eligibility hurdle when they appeared in a game in their 10th season of Major League Baseball.

Both Pujols and Suzuki broke into the majors in 2001, and both became instant stars. Each won their respective league’s Rookie of the Year awards that season, and it’s been virtually a non-stop success ride from there.

04-07-10-Muder_Suzuki.jpgIchiro has been named to nine straight All-Star Games, has won nine straight Gold Gloves in right field and was the AL MVP in 2001. He set the all-time single-season hit record in 2004 with 262 base hits, and owns nine straight 200-hit seasons – another big league record.

Pujols has been named to eight All-Star Games, has won three NL MVPs (including the last two in a row), owns a Gold Glove at first base and helped the Cardinals win the 2006 World Series.

But until Monday – when Pujols led his Cardinals over the Reds with two home runs and Ichiro went 1-for-4 for the Mariners in their win against the A’s, the pair had not satisfied the Hall of Fame requirement of playing at least 10 big league seasons.

It would appear to be the last hurdle on a path that will likely take both to Cooperstown.

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

Classic dream fulfilled

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

A defensive whiz on par with the game’s greatest of all time, longtime center fielder Paul Blair fielded numerous questions pertaining to his distinguished big league career when he recently sat down for an interview with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

03-29-10-Francis_Blair1.jpgIn Cooperstown on March 20 to greet visitors in line to buy tickets for the second annual Hall of Fame Classic, the 66-year-old Blair will trade in his beloved golf clubs for another chance to get out on the field in the June 20 legends game. Tickets for the Classic are on sale at www.baseballhall.org or by calling 1-866-849-7770.

During a 17-year big league career, spent mainly with the great Baltimore Orioles teams of the late 1960s and 1970s, the eight-time Gold Glove Award winner and four-time World Series champion was known for his play in center field. But, surprisingly, Blair was a shortstop until he signed his first professional contract.

“I went to my first spring training the manager said, ‘Everybody go to their positions.’ Seven guys went to short – I was going to be the eighth shortstop,” Blair recalled. “They had two in left, two in center and one in right, and I saw (the player in right field) running and throwing and I knew I could beat him out, so I went to right field and became an outfielder. It just came natural to me for some reason.”

Known as the premier center fielder of his era, Blair was renowned for how shallow he played.

03-29-10-Francis_Blair3.jpg“What I tried to do was play where most of the balls were going to be hit. I didn’t play guys like Harmon Killebrew and Reggie Jackson or the big home run hitters right behind second base, but most guys can’t hit the ball straightaway center field out of the ballpark. If they hit balls to center field they are basically going to be line drives or high pops,” Blair said. “The line drives are not going to go out of the ballpark, so what I tried to do was take some of those line drives away. I wanted to be the best center fielder, head and shoulders, over anybody on my team. That way those pitchers would make the manager play me.”

Raised in Los Angeles, Blair was a Dodgers fan but Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays of the hated San Francisco Giants was his idol.

“Whenever the Giants played the Dodgers, I would hope Mays would get four hits but the Dodgers would win,” Blair said. “When I was growing up I used to do the basket catch even though I was at shortstop, but when I became a professional I thought I better do my own thing and not copy Willie because if I ever droped one then it’s going to be heck to pay.”

A star athlete in high school, Blair’s decision to pursue baseball as a profession was influenced by another Hall of Famer.

“I guess that came from Jackie (Robinson),” Blair said. “As long as I can remember, since I was eight years old, I wanted to be a major league baseball player. That was my one desire, my one goal, and I was just fortunate that I had some athletic ability.”

Blair became a regular with the O’s at the tender age of 21 in 1965 and appeared in the postseason six times with Baltimore over his 13 seasons with the club.

03-29-10-Francis_Blair2.jpg“Our whole thing, and it came from (Hall of Fame manager) Earl (Weaver) and he was the catalyst of those ball clubs, is that you went out there and you played great defense, you pitched well, and you played the whole game,” Blair said. “The team came first. You did everything you possibly could to help win a ballgame.

 “We already had a very good ball club but then (future Hall of Famer) Frank (Robinson) came in 1966 that really put us over the top. He was that big gun that all the other pitchers had to concentrate on. The rest of us just had to do our thing. When Frank said, ‘Let’s go,’ we just followed him.”

Looking back on his baseball career, Blair says that he is proudest of the fact that he got to play in the big leagues for 17 years.

“It’s a very big achievement for me because that’s something I always wanted to do, and it’s the only thing I ever want to do,” Blair said. “The bonus was winning the eight Gold Gloves and the four World Series championships.

“I was very fortunate being on the teams that I played on. I played on 10 first place teams. Every time I went to spring training I knew I had a chance to be in a World Series. I wound up getting in eight playoffs, six World Series, and we won four of them. Hopefully I did my part and contributed to us winning. That was very important to me.”

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

Classic stories from Paul Blair

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The gold ring on his pinkie finger sparkled in the morning sun as Paul Blair signed one autograph after another.

03-19-10-Muder_Blair.jpgSome remembered Blair as the Gold Glove centerfielder of the 1960s and 70s Baltimore Orioles. Others recalled him as the super-sub on the New York Yankees’ title teams of 1977 and 1978.

But all the fans who lined up to purchase tickets for the Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday enjoyed listening to Blair’s stories – and eagerly anticipated his appearance in the Father’s Day legends game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.

Blair, who will join Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Harmon Killebrew, Phil Niekro and Ozzie Smith at the June 20 Classic, posed for pictures and signed balls and caps for fans waiting to purchase tickets at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The four-time World Series champion was easily identifiable with his 1978 World Series ring, but admitted that the 1966 title he won as a member of the Orioles is his favorite baseball memory.

“We beat the Dodgers, not by scoring a bunch of runs but by playing winning baseball,” said Blair, an eight-time Gold Glove centerfielder. “We shut them out for the final 33 innings of that World Series because our pitchers had two goals when they went to the mound: Don’t walk anyone, and keep the ball in the ballpark. They knew if they did that, we’d make the plays behind them.”

03-22-10-Muder_Blair2.jpgBlair’s fifth-inning home run in Game 3 of the 1966 World Series provided the only run in a 1-0 Orioles’ win, putting Baltimore up 3-games-to-0 and effectively clinching the Series. He would finish his 17-year big league career with two All-Star Game appearances and more than 1,500 hits. Only seven players have ever won more Gold Gloves for their outfield play.

This summer, however, Blair expects to man the infield at the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day.

“I started as an infielder, and that’s where I’m playing now,” said the 66-year-old Blair, who today carries a six handicap on the golf course. “I’m looking forward to coming back in June.”

Participants the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program can purchase tickets for the June 20 Hall of Fame Classic exclusively through March 28 by calling 1-866-849-7770 or visiting www.baseballhall.org. For more information about becoming a Member, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org.

Any tickets remaining on March 29 will be made available to the general public.

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

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