Results tagged ‘ Jackie Robinson ’

A tribute to character

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Hall of Fame legend Lou Gehrig delivered his memorable “…I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech on July 4, 1939. Seventy years later, little Gehrig Hopson was delivered.

It was on June 10 that Jeff Hopson, a supporter of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Membership Program since 2007, called the Hall of Fame seeking some insight into the life of Lou Gehrig – explaining that he and his wife were considering naming their soon-to-be-adopted son after the longtime Yankees first baseman. 7-9-09-Francis_Hopson.jpgJeff is a big baseball fan, especially the history of the game, and wanted to know if there was anything he may have missed in the Iron Horse’s past that could change his mind.

There wasn’t. In fact, when the Hall of Fame held its first Character and Courage Weekend on Nov. 1, 2008, it unveiled statues of Gehrig, Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson as symbols of the finest characteristics of the human race.

Gehrig James Hopson was born in Glendale, Ariz., on June 12, 2009, the 70th anniversary of the Hall of Fame’s official dedication. Soon after, the Hopsons, Jeff and wife Amy, brought their new son back to their home in Hilliard, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.

Coming up with a middle name was relatively easy, as both Jeff and Amy’s fathers are named James. But that first name would take a little more consideration.

“I probably came up with the idea after I read the Jonathan Eig book (Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig),” said Jeff Hopson in a recent telephone interview. “I’m adopted myself and I started thinking I’d really like to have a boy, and if I have a boy I wonder what I’d name him.

“When I went to the Hall of Fame for the first time two years ago (a 40th birthday present from his wife), I bought three or four Lou Gehrig things. And then I was like, ‘I really like that name Gehrig. It’s unique and it’s different.’ At first I was wondering if my wife would like it.”

According to Amy Hopson, it didn’t take much convincing.

“When my daughter was born (5-year-old Jaelyn) we wanted to come up with a non-traditional name, so hers is a combination of my middle name and the J from Jeff. So when we were thinking of boys names we wanted a non-traditional name as well,” Amy said. “We talked about Gehrig and some other names, and of course that’s the name he’ll have for the rest of his life, so we wanted to make sure we thought about it.

7-9-09-Francis_Gehrigs.jpg“Ultimately, we just liked Gehrig the best. It was nice to find a name that was unique but also stood for something – his character and who he was and how he was courageous through his life. Not just respected as a player but as a man.”

The Hopsons did not tell anyone of their choice until the big day came.

“The first that we told was the birth mom. We told her why, she really liked it, and that made us feel good,” Amy said. “But now that we’ve shared it with family and friends everybody just thinks it’s the greatest. We’ve had a couple people say, ‘Oh, I wish I’d have thought of that.’”

Recently retired pitcher Curt Schilling, a longtime supporter in the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named his first son Gehrig.

“Last night the Gary Cooper movie, The Pride of the Yankees, was on and I was watching it and my daughter came in and she said, ‘Why did she call him Gehrig,?’” Jeff said. “I told her, ‘That’s Lou Gehrig. That’s who we named your brother after.’ And she ended up sitting there and watching the whole thing with me.”

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

A great month

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

5-29-09-Idelson_Aaron.jpgWhat a month it has been for the Hall of Fame — from opening two new major exhibits to having five Hall of Famers in town. It’s been a whirlwind, but a good whirlwind.

The Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream exhibit opening was especially gratifying because Henry and his wife Billye were in Cooperstown, and truly impressed with the presentation. You could almost see their sense of pride seeing in brick and mortar all that they have accomplished in life. Our Voices of the Game program with members was great, especially when Henry grabbed a Jackie Robinson model bat and started showing everyone how Jackie grabbed the bat tightly, while Henry’s hands were loose. Insider info. So cool.

5-29-09-Idelson_Viva.jpgTwo weeks later, we opened Viva Baseball! Orlando Cepeda traveled from San Francisco and Juan Marichal from the Dominican Republic for the dedication. This exhibit may be the most intricate one we have established, with its widespread use of multimedia, and with every single element — labels, captions and video, all bilingual. As I delivered my remarks while standing on a map of South America, and specifically on Nicaragua, it caused me to pause and remember that Orioles and Expos star, Dennis Martinez, the all-time winningest pitcher in the country’s history, signed a contract in the spring of 1973, just months after Hall of Fame hero and humanitarian Roberto Clemente died trying to deliver earthquake relief supplies there on New Year’s Eve. 

Both exhibits are ones with which our entire staff is so proud.

5-29-09-Idelson_HendersonRice.jpgSprinkled among the openings were orientation visits from Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson. Both were seeing the Museum for the first time. It’s always interesting to see how the guys react to being in Cooperstown and the result is always the same: humbled. They both now are beginning to realize the enormity of being a Hall of Famer. From talking to a lot of Hall of Famers over the years, coming to Cooperstown and then giving their speech on stage truly leads them to realize that their careers are ongoing. I know Rickey still thinks about playing… he asked me if he could play in the WBC in January.

Now we roll into June and the Hall of Fame Classic is quickly approaching and five MORE Hall of Famers will be in Coop. July will bring 50+ more. 

While the village of Cooperstown can be classified as sleepy, the Museum certainly can not.  There’s always something fun happening in the Hall.

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

Ellsbury pulls off Hall of Fame-like steal of home

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

On Sunday night, the Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury did something that is rare in today’s game — he managed a straight steal of home off the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte. Pettitte looked devastated after it happened, and Ellsbury got a curtain call from the Fenway Park faithful after his daring dash.

The straight steal of home is rare, just like no-hitters or cycles. This season, there have been three cycles, and there were five last year. Last season there were two no-hitters. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there were 15 steals of home in 2008, with just four being straight thefts. Torii Hunter’s straight steal on Sept. 18, 2008, was the last steal of home of any kind.

4-28-09-Hayes_Ellsbury.jpgDuring the ESPN telecast, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was asked how many times he’d performed a straight steal of home. Morgan, who ranks ninth among modern-era players with 689 stolen bases, said he’d done it maybe twice in his career. (He’s done it three times.) But after one particularly close attempt, teammate Tony Perez — another future Hall of Famer — told him not to do it anymore. Morgan listened.

Because stealing home is not an official statistic, research is considered ongoing, but the untouchable leader in steals of home is Hall of Famer Ty Cobb. He stole home a staggering 54 times in his career, including 25 straight steals. Max Carey, another Hall of Famer, is second with 33.

In Major League history, 38 men have 10 or more steals of home. Of those 38, exactly half, 19, are in the Hall of Fame.

Rk Hall of Famer Steals of Home
1) Ty Cobb 54
2) Max Carey 33
4) Honus Wagner 27
8) George Sisler 20
7) Johnny Evers 21
9) Frankie Frisch 19
9) Jackie Robinson 19
11) Tris Speaker 18
11) Joe Tinker 18
14) Rod Carew 17
14) Eddie Collins 17
18) Fred Clarke 15
18) Lou Gehrig 15
26) Sam Rice 12
28) Harry Hooper 11
32) Rabbit Maranville 10
32) Paul Molitor 10
32) Babe Ruth 10
32) Ross Youngs 10

Cobb holds the single-season record with eight during the 1912 season, whereas Pete Reiser holds the National League single-season record with seven. Carew, who stole home seven times in 1969, is the most productive home-plate thief in the post-Jackie Robinson era.

4-29-09-Hayes_Cobb.jpgRobinson, however, may have recorded the most famous steal of home. On Sept. 28, 1955, in Game 1 of the World Series, Robinson — who made stealing home and driving pitchers nuts an art form — slid under the tag of catcher Yogi Berra during an eighth-inning attempt, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 6-5. Berra immediately began arguing with home-plate umpire Bill Summers, insisting that Robinson was out — a stance he maintains to this day. The Hall of Fame catcher lost the argument, and eventually his team lost the World Series.

The Mets’ Jose Reyes, one of today’s prolific basestealers, said he’s planning a tribute to Robinson this season. After being told Jackie stole home 19 times, Reyes couldn’t believe it, but he’s been inspired and said he wants to pilfer the plate to honor Robinson’s fearlessness on the bases.

There’s an ongoing argument in baseball about the most exciting play in the game. Some people call it the triple; others say it’s a squeeze play or the inside-the-park home run. On Sunday night, Ellsbury reminded fans that the straight steal of home should be included in that conversation.

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

The greatness of Hank Aaron

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

“Here’s the pitch from Downing … swinging … there’s a drive into left-center field. The ball is gonna beeee … out of here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home-run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron.”

That was the radio call of Braves broadcaster Milo Hamilton on April 8, 1974, when Aaron broke Babe Ruth‘s long-standing home-run record. As important as that milestone was, and as immortal as Hamilton’s words have become, that singular event is precisely why Aaron ranks among baseball’s most underrated ballplayers.

4-24-09-Idelson_Aaron.jpgFans tend to remember Lou Gehrig because he died from ALS. Outside of Baltimore, Cal Ripken Jr. is remembered for “the streak.” And Aaron is often remembered for the home runs, though he accomplished so much more.

On this — the eve of the opening of Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, our new exhibit dedicated to Aaron at the Baseball Hall of Fame — it is appropriate to consider the magnitude of what Aaron accomplished on and off the field.

Who is the all-time leader today in RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits? Hank Aaron. “The Hammer” also ranks second all time in home runs, third in hits and fourth in runs. He showed up to play every day, which is why he is among the top five all time in games played, at-bats and plate appearances.

Aaron’s also a member of the prestigious 3,000-hit club. Take away each and every one of his 755 home runs, and he still has 3,016 hits.

Said teammate Phil Niekro of Aaron’s home runs after No. 700, “It’s like the sun coming up every morning. You just don’t know what time.”

Over 23 seasons, Aaron was great, averaging 33 home runs and 100 RBIs with a .305 batting average. He was a 25-time All-Star, representing his league every year except his rookie year and final season. Aaron was in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting 12 times, winning it in 1957 when the Braves won the World Series. By the way, Aaron hit .393 with three home runs and seven RBIs in the Braves’ victory over the Yankees in the Fall Classic.

4-24-09-Idelson_Aaron2.jpgNot only was he great, but Aaron was consistently awesome: He hit 20 or more home runs 20 times, drove in 100 or more runs 11 times and hit better than .300 14 times. He hit .303 with 385 home runs at home and .306 with 370 home runs on the road. His batting average never varied by more than 10 points, month to month, over his career.

The Hammer was raised in Mobile, Ala., a hotbed for talent. Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith and Billy Williams were all born in Mobile, a city with a population under 200,000.

Aaron accomplished so much with a quiet grace and dignity which he brought to the ballpark every day in a time of racial divide in America. He was also among those who integrated the South Atlantic League, and he broke Ruth’s home-run mark in the face of intense hatred and racism. It’s no surprise that his hero was Jackie Robinson, who paved Aaron’s way to the way to the Majors.

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

Turning four: Congrats Tommy and Happy Birthday MLBlogs

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

This weekend we were a little busy with the sale of Hall of Fame Classic tickets and the announcement of Mike Pagliarulo’s participation in the June 21st Father’s Day Game. But we did note that Saturday was the MLBlog-osphere‘s fourth birthday; and we’d like to send a shout out to one of our own who helped start this thing.


4-20-09-Hayes_Lasorda.jpgHall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda
wrote an introductory post on April 18, 2005, for the launch of this grand old network talking about this grand old game. Tommy has always been a great ambassador to the game (as you can see by that first post: “Remembering my friend Jackie” on Jackie Robinson). His blog has become an outlet for so many stories. As a newbie to the blog world, we here at Cooperstown Chatter are taking a page out of what he’s done and hope we can build the kind of community he has.

Today is the 41st entry for the Hall of Fame on Cooperstown Chatter and we are just over a month old, but we feel like we’re starting to connect to the vibrant community here on mlblogs.com. We have a wide variety of voices coming to you from recently retired Hall of Fame Chief Curator Ted Spencer to a special contributor Marty Appel, who made his debut last week. We’ve made a lot of progress very quickly in social networking (check out our Facebook site), and even though the Major League season is still young, we’re already chronicling the artifacts we’re collecting from the game’s historic openings, victories and defeats.

So here’s to you Tommy, and Happy Belated Birthday MLBlogs.

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

Jackie Robinson Day

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

All Major Leaguers wore the No. 42 yesterday in honor of one man. It’s amazing to me that a number can be retired throughout a sport to honor just one person. But then the accomplishments of Jackie Robinson are far beyond amazing.

I recently finished reading Jonathan Eig’s book Opening Day, about Robinson’s first season in the Majors. Let me just say this — I knew what he accomplished was hard, but I really had no clue. The truth about Robinson’s first season goes way beyond anything I ever knew beforehand.

The hatred he faced in the early part of the season is nothing I can even comprehend. Death threats — something Hank Aaron also received while chasing the Babe — were just the tip of it. 4-16-09-Hayes_Mets42.jpgHe had really had no friends other than his wife and infant son. Players threatened to stop playing, thinking the game would continue without Robinson and other black players.

I was born after the Civil Rights Movement, so for me to try to understand the environment is tough. The book, however, gave me a good clue. One of Eig’s main sources was Jackie’s widow, Rachel Robinson. Between the research Eig did in newspapers and interviews with Rachel, the book painted a picture for me that I can more fully appreciate.

I had the good fortune to say hello and shake Rachel’s hand in November when the Hall of Fame dedicated the Character and Courage statues in the lobby of the Museum. Eig was also there that day and participated in a Voices of the Game event with Roberto Clemente‘s sons. I learned that day that baseball can mean so much more. The game follows the ebb and flow of the nation.

A lot of things have been said about why Branch Rickey signed Robinson. Regardless of the original reason, Robinson became an icon not just for African-Americans but for people throughout the country. He was Martin Luther King Jr. before the Civil Rights Movement had a face. Malcolm X charted Robinson’s batting average while listening to Red Barber on the radio.

The Robinsons were celebrated but were also outcasts. They lived a fairly secluded life, but Jackie may have been the most recognizable face in America — and most certainly was the most recognizable African-American next to Joe Louis.

His success that first season proved a color line should have never been drawn. He carried the team for parts of the season, and he made thousands of people instant Dodger fans. His style of play made the game a thrill ride. It was aggressive, it was fast-paced and it was exciting.

Babe Ruth changed the game with the home run, but Jackie Robinson revolutionized it. He opened the door, and talent flooded through. Larry Doby was in the Majors by July. Dan Bankhead joined the Dodgers for the playoff push. But Jackie was first. He faced unreal circumstances and showed he could flourish. The bravery, skill and spirit he displayed are attributes that we can admire.

Robinson deserves every bit of appreciation we can gather. He is immortalized here at the Hall of Fame in the Plaque Gallery. The month of November has been designated Character and Courage Month to celebrate Robinson and two players he shared those characteristics with — Clemente and Lou Gehrig. Their statues in the lobby serve as year-round reminders of traits we should all aspire to exhibit. The entrance to the Mets’ new ballpark, Citi Field, was dedicated to him. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda replicates the entrance to Ebbets Field where Jackie broke the color barrier. His No. 42 hangs in every ballpark, and yesterday it was on the back of every player to take the field.

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

Home means coming to Cooperstown

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Brothers Chris and Cary Buchanan drove to Chris’ home in Hamilton, N.Y., from Colorado Springs, Colo. — and once again found themselves taking a detour to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Both Buchanans have recently returned home from their second tour of duty in Iraq with the army and visited baseball heaven with their families. To them, last Thursday’s trip to Cooperstown was a reminder of what it means to be home.

3-30-09-Carr_Buchanans.jpg“It’s not real yet,” said Chris about his happiness to be home. “You really get pulled in a lot of different directions, but spending time with my family is great.”

Active and retired career military personnel receive free admission to the Museum, and Chris visits Cooperstown just about every time he returns home. He was even a part of Induction Weekend in 2007 to see Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn receive their Hall of Fame plaques.

“The Hall of Fame has grown quite a bit over the years,” said Chris.

“I haven’t been here in about 15 years and [the village] has grown a lot,” added Cary, who makes his home in Richmond, Va. “You can barely even see [Doubleday Field] from the road.”

Chris returned from Baghdad in January, and Cary has only been back about a month.

“I’m stationed in Hawaii, so last week I was deep-sea fishing in warm weather, and now I’m in cold Upstate New York,” Cary said.

I can’t imagine that is the best tradeoff, but Cary is a fan of Jackie Robinson, so once he gets to see the Pride and Passion exhibit dedicated to the African-American baseball experience, I know he will think it’s worth it.

Both Buchanan wives, Laurie and Rose, are also military women. Chris’ wife, Laurie, served for 12 years in the army, and Rose has served for 14 in the same branch.

Both couples became much more animated when they got to view the plaque at the entrance to the Plaque Gallery that commemorates all of the Hall of Famers who served in the military.

Lawrence Berra — is that Yogi?” Chris asked. When I replied that it was, he responded with a laugh. “I wouldn’t go by Lawrence, either.”

It was a great opportunity to thank a few of the people that dedicate their lives to defending freedom. Thank you to Chris, Cary, Laurie, Rose and all the other members of the U.S. military.

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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