Results tagged ‘ Jackie Robinson ’

Unforgettable character

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The fans were lined up at the ticket booth, waiting to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame on a perfect Saturday morning in Cooperstown.

10-9-10-Muder_DawsonC&C.jpgWithout warning, into the foyer walked Andre Dawson for a photo opportunity.

Exactly 26 seconds later, you could hear the hushed gasp: “That’s Andre Dawson!”

Correction: That’s Andre Dawson, Hall of Famer.

“I can’t go too many places any more without being appreciated, so that’s one of the biggest changes since I was elected to the Hall of Fame,” Dawson said. “It has opened my eyes to the fact that I did something that people really appreciated.”

Appreciation for Dawson’s talent and work ethic were on display Saturday as a near-capacity crowd in the Hall of Fame’s Grandstand Theater welcomed him to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame’s Character and Courage Weekend. Dawson participated in a Voices of the Game program where he recounted his career path and discussed the character that resulted in his stellar 21-season big league career.

10-9-10-Muder_Dawson.jpg“I knew I wasn’t flashy, but I wanted to leave it all on the field,” said Dawson, looking fit and relaxed in his first return to Cooperstown since his July 25 induction. “Once someone said that I was like Roberto Clemente – only with bad knees. That’s a huge compliment.”

Clemente is one of three Hall of Famers – along with Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson – who are represented in the Museum’s Character and Courage exhibit. Made possible by through a gift from Hall of Fame supporter Bob Crotty, the permanent exhibit celebrates character and courage on and off the baseball field. The Hall of Fame celebrates character and courage annually during Columbus Day Weekend.

Dawson, who had 12 knee surgeries during a career that saw him become one of baseball’s leading citizens, drew several thunderous ovations during the program while discussing his legendary career.

“I’m not as old as I pretend to be, but I’m very content where I am right now,” said the 56-year-old former outfielder for the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins. “This is a way of life now, and I’m thankful for every opportunity.”

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

Jayhawk flies into Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The man and his son stood in the center of the Hall of Fame’s Giamatti Research Center on Tuesday afternoon – awed by history like hundreds of others who made the pilgrimage to baseball’s holy shrine in Cooperstown.

06-16-10-Muder_Owens.jpgBut for Jayhawk Owens and his son Walker, the trip was a little more personal.

Owens, a catcher for the Colorado Rockies from 1993-96, and his son were in town as part of a local youth baseball tournament. Owens, 41, brought Walker to the Hall of Fame for a little history lesson.

After learning about the Hall of Fame and its mission, father and son got a look at some of the Library’s files – including one on Owens himself.

“It’s amazing to think I’m even in here in a file,” said Owens, who played in 132 big league games during his four-year career as a catcher. “How many players are in the Hall of Fame? Two-hundred and ninety-two? That’s pretty rare.”

Walker, meanwhile, savored the chance to read Babe Ruth’s file – gazing in wonder at documents written almost 100 years ago.

For his dad, however, it was another Library document – the National League’s day-by-day register for 1947 – that stood out.

“Look at that: April 15, 1947, the day Jackie Robinson broke into the majors,” said Owens of the hand-recorded statistics that marked each day in the 1947 NL schedule. “All those games, recorded in this book. I never knew anything like this existed.”

It’s history – like that of Jayhawk Owens – preserved forever in Cooperstown.

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

Breaking barriers

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Claire Smith is accustomed to working outside the status quo, so being the first female keynote speaker in the 22 years of the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture is par for the course.

Held at the different venues at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the three-day event kicked off Wednesday afternoon with Smith’s keynote, titled “Race and Gender: Perspectives from the Press Box.” Smith is not only a female in a male- dominated field, but she’s also African-American.

06-02-10-Francis_Smith.jpgCurrently a news editor at ESPN who covered baseball for 27 years at the Hartford Courant, the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Smith offered a unique perspective on the trails and tribulations she had to endure as a woman and a minority in her chosen field.

Honored for her writing numerous times over the years, Smith, a longstanding member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, admits that “being a woman and being African-American in the field of baseball writing remain somewhat unique and far too unusual in this day and age.”

Smith talked about being drawn to the field because of her mother’s love of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who faced hardships as he crossed the big league color line in 1947.

“I knew of his story from the moment I could walk and talk, I think, because my mother, more so than my father, was a Jackie Robinson fan,” Smith said. “America was always represented as what is possible. She passed that on to me.

“I wanted to know as much as I could about sports. The older I got the more I wanted to know. I was able to dovetail this interest that never made me want to think about anything other than baseball.”

Smith would late joke about another Hall of Famer: “As Yogi Berra would say, Jackie (Robinson) -  thanks for making this necessary.”

Encouraged by her mother’s love of Jackie Robinson (her father was a Willie Mays fan), Smith has always bled Dodger blue. So it should come as no surprise when visiting the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery prior to her speech she made sure to check out the bronze likenesses of Robinson and Sandy Koufax.

Moving on to gender, Smith said that’s always been the more intriguing and difficult aspect of her life in baseball.

“It’s safe to say by the time I started covering baseball it wasn’t politically correct to show any kind of prejudice in terms of race in major league clubhouses,’ Smith said. “Not so much to show prejudice against women. It happened early, it happened often.”

Often the only women in a baseball clubhouse, Smith called it “tough, it really was tough.”

“I don’t believe there is a female writer of my generation who didn’t have a tale to tell that wouldn’t bring another female writer to tears because it was a very vulnerable place to be,” Smith added. “And often your male peers were so busy doing their job that they couldn’t interrupt their jobs and come to your aid.”

Smith then recalled her defining moment, her “tipping point,” came in the 1984 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres when she was physically removed by players from the Padres clubhouse after Game One. While the situation was eventually resolved, thanks to Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, it left scars for a number of years.

But despite the hardships Smith suffered due only to the profession she chose, she told those in attendance to encourage their students, daughters, nieces and granddaughters to pursue sports writing as a career. Not only are there numerous opportunities with the Internet, but also it can be a very rewarding.

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

Hall Monitor: Perfection, Civil Rights in Cincy and one cycle?

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The last week has been a historical one in many respects and will certainly go down as an important one in the 2010 memory bank.
 
Tex and Lou: The Sox-Yankees feud adds a new layer each year. This year’s latest notable? Mark Teixeira’s three-homer game on Saturday matched Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig’s as the only Yankees’ three-homer effort against Boston. Gehrig’s barrage came in an 11-4 win at Fenway Park on June 23, 1927. Since 1920, Bronx Bombers have recorded 22 games with three or more homers.


05-14-10-Hayes_Cycles.jpgJust one cycle
: On May 14, 2009, the majors had already witnessed three cycles with a fourth to come in a little more than a week. This season only Milwaukee’s Jody Gerut has accomplished the feat, with his cycle last Saturday. Last season a record-tying eight cycles were hit, artifacts of which can be seen – along with Gerut’s bat from the first home run in Citi Field history – in the Today’s Game exhibit at the Hall of Fame.

Third knuckler to 2,000: With his fourth-inning K of Vernon Wells on Wednesday, Tim Wakefield achieved his 2,000th major-league strikeout. Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough are the only other knucklers above the 2,000-mark, with the Hall of Famer at 3,342 and Hough at 2,362. At the age of 43 years, 283 days, Wakefield became the second-oldest pitcher to reach the 2,000-strikeout mark. The only older pitcher to reach the milestone was Jamie Moyer at 44 years, 145 days in 2007.


05-14-10-Hayes_MBuehrle.jpgFollowing Perfection
: Dallas Braden’s media whirlwind is over and his artifacts are in Cooperstown, so what’s next after tossing the major’s 18th regular-season perfect game last Sunday? Less than a year ago, Mark Buehrle threw a perfecto against the same Tampa Bay Rays Braden faced – making it the shortest time span separating a pair of perfect games since Worcester’s Lee Richmond against Cleveland (the first perfect game) and Providence’s Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward versus Buffalo, which happened within a week in 1880 – and then retired the 17 batters he faced in his next start. Coupled with the final batter of his start prior to the perfect game, Buehrle set the record for consecutive hitters retired. Braden has his chance to keep perfection going tonight against the Angels in a 10:05 ET start in Los Angeles. “To have something of mine taking up space in that beautiful Hall is pretty nice,” said Braden, who visited Cooperstown a few years ago.

Celebrating Civil Rights: Hall of Famer Joe Morgan will be back in Cincinnati this weekend for the annual Civil Rights Game – which this year features the Cardinals and Reds. The former second baseman for the Big Red Machine is helping kick off the event with a roundtable discussion on the state of race relations. Also among the festivities held at the Freedom Center and the Reds Hall of Fame are a meet-and-greet event with former Negro leagues players and a special exhibition of Jackie Robinson artifacts, including a game-worn jerseys, a Robinson bat and a ticket stub from the April 15, 1947, game in which Robinson broke the color barrier for the Dodgers.

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

Legendary visit

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

As founder, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, Thomas Tull has been responsible for some of the most popular films of the past half dozen years. So maybe it’s appropriate that the first movie produced by this baseball fan’s company was Batman Begins.

Tull, born and raised in Binghamton, N.Y., less than 70 miles from Cooperstown, visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Friday afternoon with his wife Alba and stepson Bret. During a break in the family’s tour, Tull talked about what brought him to the home of the National Pastime.

04-23-10-Francis_Tull.jpg“I haven’t been here in over a decade, which is a travesty,” Tull said. “Living in Los Angeles it’s a little tougher, but I was in New York on business and just thought with the start of the season and everything that I had to get over here.

“For me, it’s the connective fabric between the past, today and the fact that you guys are such amazing custodians of the game. Baseball, I think more than any other sport, has a reverence for the past – records, statistics – and it’s all here under one roof.”

Tull, 39, estimates that he has been to the Hall of Fame 10 times over the years, the first when he was brought by an uncle at the age of nine.

“I remember being excited to see everything but not quite having an appreciation for the plaques and the older players,” he said. “I’ve always been in awe of the Hall of Fame. This place is absolute hallowed ground for me.”

A multi-sport athlete at Maine-Endwell High School, Tull had the rare opportunity to play baseball a few times on Cooperstown’s historic Doubleday Field. An outfielder, he continued his ball playing at nearby Hamilton College, eventually getting a tryout with the Atlanta Braves where, he joked, he was “not quite good enough to get a paycheck for it, so that’s why I keep on hanging around places like these.”

Besides Batman Begins (2005), other Legendary Pictures productions include Superman Returns (2006), 300 (2007), The Dark Knight (2008), Watchmen (2009), The Hangover (2009) and the recently released Clash of the Titans (2010).

“Since I was a little boy I’ve been a total movie geek, so it’s a real privilege to do it. We make movies that I want to see, and when that stops working that I’ll be done with that,” Tull said. “Sometimes it’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time I get to work with some amazing directors like Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder.”

04-23-10-Francis_Nettles.jpgAccording to Tull, who counts The Natural as one of has favorite all-time films, he can see one day making a baseball movie.

“As far as baseball, I would love to do that if I could find the right story. Jackie Robinson is a story I think needs to be told,” he said. “I would love to make a baseball movie if we could find the right story just because I’m so passionate about the game.”

A Yankee rooter since childhood, with third baseman Graig Nettles a favorite, Tull is also a football fan and part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I love sports and I’m unbelievably fortunate,” Tull said. “I sometimes feel like I’m Forrest Gump, like I just kind of wander in. It’s pretty great.”

Though his allegiance lies with the Bronx Bombers, and he makes it to as many Yankee games as possible, he does have season tickets for the Los Angeles Dodgers “just because it’s baseball and it’s in town.”

As for why baseball still has this pull on him after all these years, Tull explained that “every spring I walk near a field and you can smell the dirt in the air. There’s something unbelievably poetic about it in a way.”

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

Ninety years ago, Negro National League was born

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Fans of the national pastime are familiar with the story of Jackie Robinson, the African-American ballplayer who in 1947 broke big league baseball’s modern color barrier. But unfamiliar to most is a story that took place without much fanfare 90 years ago this week that improved the lot of those who were prohibited from playing at the game’s highest level.

02-12-10-Francis_Foster.jpgWith organized baseball, though segregated, thriving, a meeting took place with a number of the owners of the top independent black baseball teams at a YMCA in Kansas City, Mo., on Feb. 13, 1920. It was here that the Negro National League, the first successful baseball league featuring black players, was founded. Leading the way was Andrew “Rube” Foster, considered black baseball’s best pitcher before serving as owner and manager of the Chicago American Giants.

A number of unsuccessful attempts had been made in the past to bring stability to Negro baseball, but this time, after a lengthy discussion, the other owners agreed to Foster’s proposal. While black professional baseball had been part of sport’s landscape for years, this new venture would do away with scheduling difficulties and bring a sense of financial security to both the owners and players.

It was not coincidence that the NNL’s founding came at the same time as the Great Migration, when a half million blacks left the rural south to live and work in northern cities. The new league would have an eager audience looking for a source of inexpensive entertainment long day of work.

In 1997, 50 years after Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the National Baseball Hall of Fame opened the permanent exhibit Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience. The exhibit was re-curated and re-designed for a grand opening in 2004.

T02-12-10-Francis_Panels.jpghe story of Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience is also told throughout the country through a national traveling panel exhibition that will visit more than three dozen public and academic libraries over the next four years. The exhibit, a partnership of the Hall of Fame and the American Library Association, features photographs of artifacts and the stories of the participants as African-American players and owners changed the landscape of professional baseball.

The exhibit is currently on display in San Jose, Calif., at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. For a list of all sites and dates, visit http://www.ala.org/publicprograms

Foster, elected as the NNL’s first president, would be elected by the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Committee on Veterans in 1981. He would serve his team and the NNL until late in 1926 when illness forced his retirement. He died four years later at 51.

Years later, Joe Green, former owner of the Chicago Giants, said, “Actually, when Rube died, the league died with him.”

In the summer of 1931, after having been without Foster’s guidance for four years, the NNL, which added and subtracted numerous cities to its roster over the years, folded. But ultimately, Foster proved that Negro League baseball could be a viable business for African-American entrepreneurs – as well as great entertainment for fans.

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

Birthday Sunday

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Jan. 31, the Hall of Fame will wish Happy Birthday to three of our own. 

Ernie Banks will turn 79. Although his beloved Cubbies, a perennial second-division team during his tenure there, never made it to the World Series, it was not because of Mr. Cub, who did everything he could year after year to try to get them there. A 12-time All-Star and two-time NL MVP, Banks hit more than 500 home runs and drove in more than 1,600 runs in his 19 seasons playing first base and shortstop with Chicago’s North-Siders.

01-29-10-Berowski_BanksRyanRobinson.jpgAlso celebrating his birthday is the all-time Major League strikeout king, and current president of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express will celebrate his 63rd birthday. Although his birthday is officially January 31, Ryan seems to have received an early birthday present when his ownership group was recently selected to purchase his home state’s AL franchise, the Texas Rangers. 

Rounding out the trio of birthday boys is Jackie Robinson. The only man with his uniform number retired across Major League Baseball, Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Although he passed away in 1972, Jackie Robinson will be remembered by many on what would have been his 91st birthday.

There are 292 Hall of Famers and 365 days in a calendar year, yet there are more than a dozen dates on the calendar that celebrate the birthday of three Hall of Famers. In fact, May 14 is the day of the year with the most Hall of Famer birthdays: Ed Walsh, Earle Combs, Tony Perez, JL Wilkinson and Alex Pompez. 

October is the month that has the most Hall of Famer birthdays – 36. And three Hall of Famers passed away on their birthday – Joe Tinker, Gabby Hartnett and Bucky Harris. 

A pair of baseball’s former home run kings will have the anniversaries of their births marked next week. Hank Aaron will turn 76 Feb, 5, and Feb. 6 will mark 115th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s birth.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers