Results tagged ‘ Hall of Fame Classic ’

Baseball, fathers and Cooperstown

By Bill Francis

The father-son bond in baseball undoubtedly goes back to the sport’s beginnings and continues to thrive, whether that entails playing catch in the front yard, attending a game together, or debating the travails of a favorite team.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, that special relationship was in evidence with a trio of minor leaguers who visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday afternoon.

Throughout major league history, there have been slightly more than 200 players whose father also spent time in The Show. Included in this unique group are infielder Josh Barfield, outfielder John Mayberry Jr. and pitcher Jason Grilli – all current members of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, who visited Cooperstown.

For Josh Barfield, a big leaguer from 2006-09, his father Jesse – a 12-year major league right fielder with the Blue Jays and Yankees who led the American League with 40 home runs in 1986 – was the main reason he chose to pursue baseball as a career.

“He’s the reason that I play,” Josh Barfield said. “I loved watching him. He was always my hero, my favorite player growing up. He’s why I play, he’s the reason I am who I am as a person, so it’s cool that he gets to see me play now.

“I think we (teammates Mayberry Jr. and Grilli) all have that unique situation of growing up around the game, which is pretty special. I was at the field every day, and for me it was fun. You get to go and watch the game that you love, you get to be around your buddies, so it was a lot of fun for me.”

So what are Josh Barfield’s plans on Sunday?

“I talk to him every day,” he said, “but Father’s Day is special just because it’s a time to just say: ‘Thank you for what you’ve done.’”

John Mayberry Jr. has spent parts of the last three seasons with the Phillies, following in the footsteps of his father, a first baseman who clubbed 255 homers over 15 major league seasons spent with four different clubs.

“I grew up around the game and I’ve always loved it, so it’s a dream come true for me to be able to play,” John Mayberry Jr. said. “It was great to get a firsthand glimpse of what big league life is all about.”

It’s connections like these that will be celebrated on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown. Tickets for the annual Father’s Day legends game are available this week at the Hall of Fame and on Sunday at Doubleday Field.

As for his relationship with his father, John Mayberry Jr. said: “My dad and I are in pretty consistent contact, but I’m guessing it’s no different than any other close father-son relationship.”

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

Line forms here

By Craig Muder

They came from all over the Northeast, claiming their annual spots at the front of the line.

They came from all over Otsego County, Cooperstown friends and neighbors wanting to be a part of the Father’s Day fun.

They came for tickets for the June 19 Hall of Fame Classic. They left with future memories in hand.

Fans began lining up at the Baseball Hall of Fame for the annual Hall of Fame Classic Ticket Sale in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning, braving a chilly April day with hot coffee, portable chairs and winter coats. They’ll return to Cooperstown for the June 18-19 Hall of Fame Classic Weekend, assured of their place at what is fast becoming baseball’s newest must-see event.

Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Goose Gossage, Phil Niekro, Tony Pérez, Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith and Dick Williams will headline the Classic, with former big leaguers Frank Catalanotto, Steve Garvey, Doug Glanville, Bill Lee, Dale Murphy, Willie Wilson, Rick Wise and Dmitri Young also scheduled to appear.

Following Saturday’s one-day sale, tickets will be available exclusively to participants in the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program from April 17-24 at http://www.baseballhall.org or by calling 1-866-849-7770. Starting April 25, any remaining tickets will be made available to the general public.

Just 63 day to go until the perfect Father’s Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

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

Home run trip

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

01-31-11-Carr_Lopez.jpgIn March 2008, I was finishing up my Master’s Degree and found out that my baseball hero, Javy Lopez, was attempting to make a comeback with the Atlanta Braves, my favorite team. More importantly, Lopez would appear in Spring Training.

When I told my mom the news, she simply said, “We have to go!”

I had never seen Lopez play in person, although I had been to a Braves game and Spring Training before. I either caught the team on his rest day or after he had left as a free agent. So I had to settle for watching him take BP and getting a wave before the game.

We left the winter of upstate New York for the sunny ballfields of Florida, scheduled to watch 5 games in 7 days. For a kid who grew up playing softball in New York, there is something about seeing the dirt and grass for the first time that makes you feel good. Baseball season is here.

At our first game at Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Hall of Fame legend Phil Niekro brought the lineup card to the umpire at home plate for the Braves.

Standing in awe as the knuckleballer waved to the crowd, little did I know that a short time later I would consider Niekro one of our guys at the Hall of Fame – someone who I would meet and get to know in Cooperstown.

01-31-11-Carr_Niekro.jpgMy parents and I spent the week enjoying the sunshine and catching ballgames each day. We’d keep score, eat hot dogs and argue over who was going to be better this year, the Braves or my parents’ favorite team, the Yankees.

In the first at-bat I would ever see Lopez take, he homered over the left field fence. As I jumped up and cheered, my parents and I both figured it was for me. I had patiently waited to watch him all these years.

Although Lopez retired before completing Spring Training and ended his comeback bid, I could now say I saw him play. As we headed back to the winter-like north, I couldn’t help but think that most 22-year olds can think of a better way to spend a spring break than a week in Florida with their parents. But not me. It was the trip of a lifetime with memories I will keep forever of both my baseball hero and sharing the game with the two people who taught me to love it.

What could be better than that?

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A timeless hero


Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

As I sat in the press box at Chain O’ Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla. that morning in 1996, a rumbling of applause jolted me out of the story I was writing.

It grew louder and louder – cresting in a full-fledged ovation – as the man in the Cleveland Indians uniform strode to home plate and doffed his cap. An older gentleman, but still thick with muscle tone and apparently ready to play at a moment’s notice.

12-16-10-Muder_FellerClassic.jpg“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the public address announcer, “please welcome Hall of Famer Bob Feller!”

For a moment, I couldn’t believe it. It was my first time at Spring Training, so I wasn’t accustomed to Feller’s omnipresent appearance.

I bolted for my baseball encyclopedia: How old was Bob Feller? And he’s still in uniform?

That day, Feller was 77. But when he threw out the first pitch before that day’s exhibition game, it seemed he was practically ageless.

He would remain so for the next 14 years.

Feller’s passing on Wednesday brings to a close one of the most remarkable American lives of the 20th Century. An archetypical farm boy turned athlete, Feller imparted force onto a baseball that had not been seen before and rarely since. But it was his personal magnetism that made him a household name before he reached his 20th birthday.

His success on the baseball diamond was nearly total. But six years into his big league career, Feller dropped everything and enlisted in the Navy the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He spent almost four years fighting in World War II, earning eight battle stars aboard the U.S.S. Alabama. 

When he returned to the Indians, he quickly regained the form that made him the best pitcher in baseball.

12-16-10-Muder_Feller.jpgFor many, 266 big league victories and military honors would be a lifetime. But for Feller, the second act of his life – as a Hall of Famer and baseball emissary – was yet to come. After his election to the Hall in 1962, Feller thrilled fans for the next five decades with his homespun wit and passion for the game.

He would sign autographs until the last fan was satisfied – and he never tired of spreading the gospel of baseball. He would, it seemed, never grow old.

In 2009, I sat in the press box at Doubleday Field when a rumbling of applause jolted me out of the blog I was writing. It grew louder and louder – cresting in a full-fledged ovation – as the man in the Cleveland Indians uniform strode to home plate and doffed his cap. An older gentleman, but still thick with muscle tone and apparently ready to play at a moment’s notice.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the public address announcer, “please welcome Hall of Famer Bob Feller!”

Florida or Cooperstown, 1996 or 2009. Spring Training game or Hall of Fame Classic. Bob Feller never lost that ability to thrill baseball fans.

I cannot believe he is not here today.

His like will not be seen again.

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

Destined for Cooperstown

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

It sometimes seems that things here in Cooperstown are just destined to go right.

06-22-10-Hayes_Greinke.jpgDon’t get me wrong, the staff at the Baseball Hall of Fame is extremely dedicated, very knowledgeable and good at what they do – executing plans to make the Hall of Fame perfect. But some stories take an extra little bit of chance to become truly special. My most recent example came Monday in the form of a donation by my mother of some photos of two current Royals stars, including 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.

As a native Kansas Citian, it takes a holiday or other big event to see my family. But after last year’s Hall of Fame Classic, I knew I had to get my parents to Cooperstown for the 2010 event. Not just to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad – sharing a game we both love – but to reconnect that baseball bond with my mother too, who played countless hours of catch with me in the backyard while waiting for dad to get home form work and take me to practice.

At every opportunity, I pestered them about a trip out. In late September, I went to a wedding and on the Sunday after, my family went to Kauffman Stadium. Greinke was starting and I hadn’t seen him in person all season. I’d followed his year from the scoreless streak in April to his 1-0 complete game loss in Anaheim when he had pitches touch every speed from 66 to 96 mph. I tuned in early to the All-Star Game to make sure I didn’t miss a second. I wished people at work “Happy Greinke Day” on the days he started. It was can’t miss TV and I shared it with my parents, chatting about my hometown team throughout the season.

06-22-10-Hayes_Greinke2.jpgOn that warm September day, Greinke was his usual self. He went seven innings and allowed just one run. He struck out eight, including eventual batting champ and MVP Joe Mauer twice. During the game, my mom snapped some photos with her new camera.

Before leaving Missouri over the holidays, she slipped an envelope into my bag. Inside were photos she’d printed of family and my girlfriend and I. The last couple were photos of Greinke and 2008 All-Star Joakim Soria. I was surprised. My mother has always been creative, knitting and doing flower arrangements. I’d even seen her still-life and nature photos. But her action shots were exceptional, especially since they were from Row Double-S.

Just before the start of the 2010 season, I got my parents to commit to a visit during Father’s Day. At the same time, our staff updates our  Today’s Game exhibit, outfitting the lockers with artifacts from the previous season. Shortly after the update I was reminded of the photos when I saw hanging in the Royals locker a powder blue jersey – the team’s staple attire for home day games. Greinke gave the Hall of Fame his jersey from his final home start, which turned out to be the last win of his Cy Young campaign.

06-22-10-Hayes_Soria.jpgIt had crossed my mind that my mom should donate the photos,  and now I was sure. Her photos are of Greinke wearing the same jersey that’s on exhibit. I called and told her that when they came for the Hall of Fame Classic, she should donate the photos. Worried about the quality, she wasn’t so sure.

On Monday, my mother, father and myself presented her five prints – three of Greinke and two of Soria – to photo archivist Pat Kelly. Pat gushed. The quality was professional level and they filled a void in the archives – neither player had hard copy files. The fact that Greinke is wearing the same jersey that’s in the collection sweetened the deal.

A bit of chance played into my trip in September happening in the same weekend of the Royals final home stand. Luck let the rotation fall just right. And by coincidence or fate, my family is extremely proud of my mother and we now have a special moment to cap a great weekend in Cooperstown.

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

Fun and games

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Seven Hall of Famers, heroes all.

They range in age from 55 to 91, but they remain kids at heart. And on Saturday – the day before the Father’s Day Hall of Fame Classic – they were all thinking about their dad.

06-19-10-Muder_VOG.jpgIn front of a capacity crowd of more than 500 fans at Cooperstown High School, the seven Hall of Famers who will appear at Sunday’s Hall of Fame Classic reminisced about their playing days and told stories about one another.

Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, Goose Gossage, Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, Phil Niekro and Gary Carter brought the house down several times with one-liners – and drew applause when remembering their fathers.

“I think all of us on this stage remember when we played catch with our dads,” Smith said. “To be here in the Mecca of baseball on this weekend is very special for me.”

Just being around their former teammates and opponents was pretty special, too. The jokes flowed quickly from the stage – much to the delight of the audience.

06-19-10-Muder_Box.jpg“Phil, you better get some rest,” said Carter to Niekro when Knucksie was told he’ll be starting in Sunday’s Classic.

“Why?” deadpanned Niekro. “I never did when I played.”

After an hour, it was over – the legends were gone. To be continued on Sunday at Doubleday Field. Where the legends live forever.

“I’ve always loved it in Cooperstown,” said Gossage. “To be elected to the Hall of Fame and to play in this game, I still can’t put into words what it means to me.”

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

Only in Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

With about 48 hours until Sunday’s Hall of Fame Classic, Cooperstown acquired a certain buzz on Friday.

06-18-10-Muder_Feller.jpgThe arrival of one of the legends of the game didn’t hurt, either.

With a backdrop of blue skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze, the man in the black polo shirt walked up Main Street. It could have been any baseball fan, any tourist, any Cooperstown resident.

But one look told you it was Bob Feller.

Eventually… inevitably, the fans recognized him. The 91-year-old Hall of Famer obligingly cut short his walk to stop and talk, spinning tales about his career. Few have ever loved the game – or their role – more than the former Cleveland Indians fireballer.

On Sunday, Feller will captain his team at the 2 p.m. Hall of Fame Classic at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field. He’ll emerge from the dugout to cheers as fervent as those he received as a player. A national treasure deserves no less.

And yet on Friday, he quietly strolled Main Street – soaking in the beauty of Central New York and this idyllic setting.

Only in Cooperstown… where history lives.

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

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