Results tagged ‘ Joe Girardi ’

History at Yankee Stadium

By Bill Francis

On Oct. 1, 1961, Maris socked a fourth-inning solo home run off Tracy Stallard, his 61st round-tripper of the season, to not only give the Yankees a 1-0 victory over the visiting Boston Red Sox but also surpass the legendary Babe Ruth for one of the game’s most revered records. 

This past Saturday afternoon, prior to a game against the Red Sox, the Yankees held a special ceremony to honor the 50th anniversary of Maris’ memorable then-record single-season feat. As part of the on-field celebration, the bat Maris swung to hit his 61st home run, as well as the 61st home run ball, were hand-delivered from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum that morning to be a part of the festivities.

The Cooperstown institution currently contains over 38,000 three-dimensional artifacts representing all facets of the game, from its inception in the mid-19th century to the present. The Museum’s collection, both on exhibit and in storage, includes over 1,900 bats and 6,600 baseballs.

The on-field ceremony included members of the Maris family, including his wife Pat, daughters Susan and Sandra, and sons Roger Jr., Kevin, Randy and Richard; Mickey Mantle’s sons David and Danny; former Yankees teammates Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Moose Skowron, Bobby Richardson and Bob Cerv; Sal Durante (fan who caught Maris’ 61st home run); and Frank Prudenti (the Yankees bat boy in 1961).

“My family and I are happy to be back in New York to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roger’s 61 home runs,” said Pat Maris prior to the game. “Roger was proud to wear the Yankee pinstripes and play for the great New York Yankees.

“In 1985, Roger passed away from cancer and my family will always be grateful Mr. Steinbrenner retired Roger’s No. 9 before he died, because it meant so much to him. We wish to thank the Steinbrenner family, the Yankees organization and the fans for honoring Roger today.”

Prior to the start of the Maris ceremony, in which Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter walked from the dugout to the infield to hand the bat to the Maris family and Durante walked on the field holding the ball he had famously grabbed five decades ago, members of the current Yankees team began entering the dugout. Soon Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, CC Sabathia and Joe Girardi, among others, were asking about the bat and ball in the big black case, intrigued by a fellow Yankee’s once famous exploits. A few even wanted to touch the bat for good luck.  

The Yankees wouldn’t need much luck on this day, pounding their longtime rivals, a team fighting for its postseason life, on national television by a 9-1 score, Freddy Garcia tossing six scoreless innings for the win.

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

A wild night

Wiles_90.jpgBy Tim Wiles

I will always remember exactly where I was when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run, eclipsing the record held by Roger Maris for 37 years.

02-22-11-Wiles_McGwire.jpgThe date was Sept, 8, 1998, and I was one of 33,409 lucky people sitting in Fenway Park, watching a terrific matchup between David Cone of the Yankees and Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first ever matchup between two pitchers with 18 or more victories and with winning percentages of at least .783 (Cone 18-5). Martinez was at .818. (18-4)

There was a charged playoff atmosphere, despite the fact that the first-place Yankees entered the game at 100-41, 18.5 games ahead of their archrivals, who themselves were 22 games above .500 at 82-60. The Red Sox, who had won the night before, were trying to stave off a Yankee clincher in their home park.

The game was tight, and was tied 1-1 going into the Yankee eighth. 

The leadoff hitter was Joe Girardi. I always enjoyed watching Joe play, as we had grown up together and been basketball teammates in Peoria, Ill. He singled to lead off the inning.

02-22-11-Wiles_Fenway.jpgFrom my vantage point down the right field line, I thought I saw Girardi take off on a steal attempt, not out of the question for a catcher with better than average wheels, but certainly an exciting gambit in a tie game on the road. Subsequent research tells me I was watching first base too closely – he actually took off on a wild pitch.

As Girardi popped up from his slide into second, Fenway Park erupted in a standing ovation. I watched him jerk his head in several directions trying to figure out why the Boston fans were so happy that he had safely arrived at second.

Then both his eyes and mine landed on the scoreboard in center field, which said something like “Mark McGwire has just hit his 62nd home run, breaking Roger Maris’ record. Congratulations, Mark!”

Girardi went on to score and the Yankees took a 3-1 lead en route to a 3-2 victory. Their victory in the third and final game of the series the next night clinched the pennant.

It’s moments like these that will be brought to life in the Hall of Fame’s new One for the Books exhibit. The exhibit opens Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

Tim Wiles is the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A short hop to Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Several future Hall of Famers will likely take the field in tonight’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.

But ironically, it’s another Cooperstown candidate – one who’s not a part of this postseason – who had everybody talking on Sunday.

10-18-10-Muder_Vizquel.jpgElvis Andrus’ stellar play in the first two games of the ALCS has both managers raving about the 22-year-old Venezuelan shortstop. Andrus’ accomplishments have drawn comparisons to another Venezuelan star – Omar Vizquel – who made the postseason his own personal showcase.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi left no doubt that he believes Vizquel – who spent the 2010 season with the White Sox and is just 201 hits short of 3,000 for his career – is worthy of a bronze Hall of Fame plaque.

“Omar Vizquel, I believe, is a future Hall of Famer,” Girardi said at Sunday’s Workout Day press conference at Yankee Stadium. “Now we have another young Venezuelan shortstop in Elvis Andrus who’s doing something similar.

“He may not be hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but – just like Omar – when he gets on base it creates issues.”

10-18-10-Muder_Aparicio.jpgAndrus is batting .355 in seven postseason games this year with five runs scored and five stolen bases. Much of the maturity shown by the second-year Rangers’ star can be traced to Vizquel, who played with the Rangers in 2009 when Andrus was a rookie.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Omar helped Elvis during his first season,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington. “We were fortunate to have someone like Omar on this team.”

Vizquel, who will be 44 next April, has played 22 big league seasons but shows no signs of nearing retirement. But if he does not play in another big league game, he would be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration in 2016.

Andrus, meanwhile, appears on his way to extending the tradition of great Venezuelan shortstops – a tradition that includes Luis Aparicio, Davey Concepcion and Vizquel.

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

Grapefruit stories

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I’m sitting in Tampa International Airport awaiting the one non-stop Southwest Airlines flight back to Albany, having just concluded my Grapefruit League spring training jaunt. My Spring Training mission each year is to visit with those who are close to the Museum – current players and management, Hall of Famers, owners and supporters.

03-24-10-Idelson_DawsonPerez.jpgHaving spent eight years combined in the Red Sox and Yankee front offices before being hired in Cooperstown in 1994, my knowledge was limited to Florida Spring Training: the Yankees were in Ft. Lauderdale and the Red Sox in Winter Haven. Since, I have traveled to the desert, too.

The differences are stark: The air is markedly drier in Arizona, because of the elevation. The ballparks in Arizona are surrounded by mountains; most of the ones in Florida, by water. Thirteen of 15 ballparks in Arizona are within 60 miles of each other. In Florida, they span across the state. I spent seven nights in one hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona; I was in six different places in six nights in Florida and flew in and out of airports across the state from each other.

The one similarity? I had a game rained out in each state.

I had a chance to visit with a number of our Hall of Famers. Andre Dawson and I had dinner in North Miami Beach, near his home. He’s already made great progress on his speech and is getting ready for Induction. “I’ll try not to get too emotional,” the stoic “Hawk” told me. I let him know that if he did not get emotional, I would be worried. Almost every speech I have heard since 1994 has been emotional. 

Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Clark, Ken Meifert from the Hall, and I, saw Mike Schmidt and his wife Donna in Palm Beach Gardens. We talked about a variety of topics, from baseball to bull riding to music to living in Florida. Mike is very excited about our inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Golf tournament in June, in which he will participate. He was thrilled to know that a number of the 28 spots available are already filled.

03-24-10-Idelson_Jupiter.jpgLast Saturday, we hosted our Hall of Fame Champions in Jupiter. John and Kathy Greenthal became the first Champions in Hall of Fame history to attend events in both Spring Training states. Jim and Tina Collias made the trip over from Naples to Jupiter, and Dan Glazer also joined us. Hall of Fame Board member Bill DeWitt, owner of the Cardinals, was generous in hosting us for his team’s game with the Mets. Spring Training games are usually not that interesting, but this one featured the Mets scoring three runs in the 9th, the last on an Ike Davis game-tying home run, only to have Ruben Gotay lead off the bottom of the 9th with a walk-off home run.

Speaking of walk-off home runs, we dined with Dennis and Jennifer Eckersley after the game. I asked Dennis what he thought of Doug Harvey. “He was behind the plate for Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series,” Dennis reminded me, as I began to suffer the symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease. He still thought Harvey was an excellent arbiter. 

I headed across the state to Yankee camp and saw many old friends in the clubhouse before the game: Billy Connors, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, Steve Donohue, the team athletic trainer, Joe Girardi, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, whom we drafted when I worked for the team. The game was rained out as Gene Michael, his minor league teammate and Tigers broadcaster, Jim Price, and I had lunch. Also saw Tiger friends Dave Dombrowski and Al Aliva in the dining room and learned more about the Tigers.

Dinner that night was with Wade and Debbie Boggs and Reggie Jackson. Eddie Fastook, the team’s traveling security director and a long-time friend, also joined us. 

Unbeknownst to me, Boggs grew up a big Reggie Jackson fan, even wearing No. 9 in honor, the number Reggie wore early in his career in Oakland. Wade told the story of how in the mid 1980s, Reggie gave him one of his bats to use in 1985. “I used it for 33 straight games and hit five home runs,” said Wade. “I loved that bat and then I broke it on a Dave Stieb pitch,” a dejected Wade recalled.

03-24-10-Idelson_Zimmer.jpgThe next morning, I visited City of Palms Park in Fort Myers to see the Red Sox and the Rays. I met up with Don Zimmer, who is very bullish on the Rays this year. “The best club we’ve had in my seven years with them,” Zim said.

Zim told me how much he admired Dawson and Ryne Sandberg when he managed the Cubs. “Two guys who led by example,” he said. “The other players watched these guys and saw greatness in the making.”

I told Don I would be seeing Jim Rice and Bob Montgomery later that day. 

“Monty was the best hit-and-run guy I ever had,” recalled Zim. “I remember in a game with Cleveland, the bases were loaded. They had a sinker-baller on the mound so I rolled the dice and gave (coach) Eddie Yost the hit-and-run sign on a 3-2 count. Monty put the bat on the ball and we stayed out of the double play. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, but I really thought it would work, and it did.”

Rice later told me that he believed Thurman Munson and Lou Piniella were among the best hit-and-run guys he saw when he played.

I concluded my trip with dinner at Carlton and Linda Fisk’s home in the Sarasota area. We had a wonderful visit and a great dinner. Pudge joked about how some of the evenings in Florida this year were as cold as those he experienced growing up in New Hampshire.

I’ve had my fill. Let the regular season begin.

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

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