Results tagged ‘ Joe Gordon ’

Famous faces in St. Louis

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

ST. LOUIS — The stars were out this week at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and the Baseball Hall of Fame was on the mind of many of the most famous people in sports and entertainment:


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NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, who played in the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game Sunday night: “I’m really excited to get to meet (Hall of Fame shortstop) Ozzie Smith. We’ve been trying to meet up today. He’s out there managing the game that’s going on. I hear he’s a little upset at me for stealing his back flip, but we can hopefully work that out and shake hands over it. I’m really excited to meet him.”

Actor Billy Bob Thornton, on meeting Hall of Famer Stan Musial: “I’d have to say out of all my experiences out of meeting baseball players in my lifetime when I got to meet Mr. Musial, which I have to call him that, that was probably the biggest thrill I ever had.

7-14-09-Francis_Thornton.jpg“But Bob Gibson (like Musial, a Hall of Famer) is my guy. I threw the first pitch out in 1998 here (in St. Louis), we were playing the Braves, Tom Glavine was pitching for the Braves. I’ll never forget this. I was in the clubhouse with (Cardinals manager) Tony (La Russa), (Mark) McGwire, and Bobby Knight, and we were all taking pictures together, and Gibson comes in and so we took some with him. And of course I was thrilled already, that was the first time I met him. And Tony said, ‘Bob, you’re the guy’s hero. Why don’t you catch the ball today?’ I wanted to say, ‘Tony, don’t make me throw it to him.’ So we were on the mound and Gibson knew I had been a pitcher so I had to throw him something. I learned my slider from Gibson’s instructional book in the ’60s when I was a kid. So I threw him a slider, and it was a good one, about two inches off the plate, it was a strike, and Gibson comes out and hands me the ball and he goes, ‘Where did you get that pitch?’ And I said, ‘Out of your book.’ And he goes, ‘You’re kidding me. That old book from the ’60s?’ After that he just warmed up to me just in a great way. Since then I’ve seen him a bunch of times and he’s always really gracious to me.”


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Dodgers manager Joe Torre, a National League All-Star coach, on the Class of 2009 at the Hall of Fame: “Jim Rice, I’m really pleased for him, Rickey Henderson was a no-brainer, obviously. Jim Rice waited a long time and he put some pretty impressive numbers up. I’m just happy for Jim Rice. A class act, he was a player that really was a no-nonsense guy, just got up there and did what he did. I’m really pleased for Jimmy. Rickey, his ability spoke for itself. He put all those base-stealing records and leadoff home runs in his hip pocket.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2009 – Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice – will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 26.

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

Cooperstown is home to biggest of stars

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Back in December, we did some research on the All-Star Game. The Veterans Committee had just elected Joe Gordon to the Hall of Fame, and we found that Gordon played 11 seasons and was an All-Star nine times – a pretty good ratio, but how good?

We figured that at 81.8 percent, he would be fairly high. The numbers show that Gordon was the highest among all Veterans Committee inductees – and that the percentage of seasons he was an All-Star was 13th overall among all Hall of Famers.

7-6-09-Hayes_Gordon.jpgBut en route to finding Gordon’s numbers, we found some other interesting stats concerning All-Stars and Hall of Famers. Two caveats: For purposes of this research, a season is counted for a player only if they debuted before June 1. And time spent in the armed services does not count as a season.

Hank Aaron holds the MLB record for both the most seasons as an All-Star (21) and the most selections (25). From 1959-62, two All-Star Games were played every season.

Following Aaron are Willie Mays and Stan Musial at 20 seasons and 24 games apiece. These three players and seven others have percentages above 90 (among players with at least six All-Star selections). The 90-to-99 club includes Aaron (91.3), Bill Dickey (91.7), Ted Williams (94.4), Rod Carew (94.7), Cal Ripken Jr. (95) and Mays and Musial (both at 95.2).

Only three players in the history of the Midsummer Classic have been selected to every game for which they were eligible. Lou Gehrig, who began his playing career 10 seasons before the creation of the All-Star Game, spent his last seven as All-Star (including a 1939 selection, despite playing his final game in April of that year). Joe DiMaggio spent three seasons in the military during World War II, but all of his 13 seasons on either side of his service time were All-Star years.

7-6-09-Hayes_Pujols.jpgThe only non-Hall of Famer to have been selected as an All-Star in at least 90 percent of his seasons is Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki – who is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. After a successful career in Japan, Ichiro debuted in the major leagues in 2001 and has been an All-Star each of the nine seasons since.

Keep your eye on Albert Pujols. The Cardinals first baseman received 5.3 million votes this year – the second highest total in the history of fan balloting. And with each All-Star selection, Pujols is inching up a very select ladder. His current percentage of 88.9 is tied with Mickey Mantle and is trailing only those 10 above 90 percent.

Listed below are the top 15 Hall of Famer percentages for seasons as an All-Star:


 
7-6-09-Hayes_ASGTable.jpgTrevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Long enjoys Hall of Fame visit

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Terrence Long, who became accustomed to postseason baseball during big league playing career, found time during his first trip to Cooperstown to show his young family the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Thursday.

Long, his wife and four sons made the trip from their home in Montgomery, Ala., because 9-year-old Jalon has been playing in one of the local baseball camps. According to Long, Jalon, a right fielder on his 10-and-under travel team, and his brothers are all good athletes.

“They are star players on their teams,” said Long, after looking at his clippings file at the Hall of Fame Library’s A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center. “Hopefully, I rubbed off on them in some kind of way.

6-25-09-Francis_Long.jpg“They might be a little bit better than me,” said Long. “They’ve got a lot more tools than I think I had.”

Long played for eight big league seasons from 1999 to 2006, spending time with the New York Mets, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees. But it was his years in Oakland where both he and the team excelled.

For four straight seasons, from 2000 to 2003, with Long a starting outfielder, the A’s qualified for the postseason – only to get knocked out each time in the American League Division Series.

“I do miss it,” said the 33-year-old Long. “My first couple of years out of baseball I missed October baseball. I got a chance to play in October in four of my six full seasons, so that was a blessing. I do miss my teammates, but I really miss playing in October.”

In one of the more famous plays of recent postseason action, Long’s two-out double in the seventh inning against the Yankees nearly scored Oakland teammate Jeremy Giambi from first base in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS. The A’s had won the first two games of the five-game series, and were losing 1-0 in Game 3 when Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter picked up an errant throw from the outfield and flipped the ball to catcher Jorge Posada. Giambi, who didn’t slide, was tagged out on a close play.

“We had Eric Byrnes, who was probably the fastest guy on the team, ready to pinch-run,” recalled Long. “But I can’t… Jeremy was my buddy. It will be on TV forever, though.”

6-25-09-Francis_Long-Byrnes.jpgLong was a first round draft pick of the Mets in 1994, but didn’t establish himself in the majors until he was traded to the A’s for pitcher Kenny Rogers on July 23, 1999.

“It was exciting having been in the Mets organization and not getting to play much and then getting traded to Oakland. They gave me a chance to play and we had some good teams,” Long said. “Thanks to the Mets for drafting me and a special thanks to Billy Beane (A’s general manager) for giving me a chance to play. That started my career off.”

It was in 1999, the year Long made his big league debut with the Mets, that he became teammates with Rickey Henderson. Henderson will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Joe Gordon and Jim Rice on Sunday, July 26.

“I got a chance to hang out with Rickey then. It was great,” Long said. “He took care of me. He taught me a lot and that was good. He’s a great guy, teaches the game, great sense of humor. A real laid back, down to earth guy. I wish I could be here to see him get inducted.”

These days Long spends his time coaching his sons and fishing.

“Just teaching the kids the game of baseball. I enjoy it. It takes up a lot of my time,” Long said. “I never thought that I would spend eight seasons in the big leagues. Maybe one day we’ll come back and my sons will be in the majors.”

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

Cooperstown stirs Hall of Fame memories

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Franics

6-15-09-Francis_Doubleday.jpgOn Sunday, Cooperstown’s historic Doubleday Field played host to a pair of Triple-A minor league teams – whose players are one step away from the majors. The game came exactly six weeks to the day before Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice are inducted into the Hall of Fame as the Class of 2009.

Cooperstown Classic II saw the International League’s Pawtucket Red Sox come away with a 15-5 win over the Syracuse Chiefs. With the game’s greatest enshrined down the street in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the two squads’ off-field personnel who had played with and against Rice and Henderson shared their thoughts on the duo.

“I think I still have a bruise from a line drive hit off my arm on my first pitch of a spring training game in 1982 by Rickey,” joked Syracuse pitching coach Rich Gale, a 6-foot-7 righty who pitched in the big leagues from 1978-84. “I was saying on the way over here that I should go visit the Hall of Fame because there’s a lot of guys I helped get in there.”

6-15-09-Francis_Rice.jpgActually, Rice had only a .147 batting average (5-for-34) against Gale. 

“I happened to have good success against Jim Rice. But boy, I’ll tell you what, I was never overconfident,” Gale said. “Every time he was in the box you knew that every swing could be a home run. You could make a nasty, nasty pitch and he’d rifle the ball to right, right-center or he’d launch one on to the Mass. Pike at Fenway.”

Gale spent his final big league season in 1984 as Rice’s teammate with the Boston Red Sox. “The first time he saw me in spring training he joked, ‘I hope you make our club. Don’t get traded to somebody.’ He remembered that I had some success against him.”

As for Henderson, Gale said, “I’m sure he saw me pitching out there and when he got on base he licked his chops because I had a big, long, slow delivery. My catchers weren’t too happy about that.

“He’s a guy you could throw one pitch to to lead off a game and be behind 1-0 after he hit a home run. Or you could throw one pitch and he’d be on first base, the next thing it’s second, and the next thing it’s third. And then you get an out from the second guy and you’re still behind 1-0. It was a tremendous, tremendous package.”

Pawtucket batting coach Russ Morman, who spent most of his nine-year major league playing career at first base, remembered the pressure Henderson could put on a pitcher.

“Every time he got on base he was a threat to go and cause havoc on the base paths,” Morman said. “Rickey never stayed at first very long.”

6-15-09-Francis_Henderson.jpgSyracuse batting coach Darnell Coles was another contemporary, spending 14 years in the majors (1983-95, 1997), including one as a teammate of Henderson’s with the World Series-winning 1993 Toronto Blue Jays.

“Rickey is Rickey,” Coles said with a smile. “He’s the catalyst of your team, he gets on base, he sets things in motion on the bases that not a whole lot of people have done.”

Coles spent most of time as a third baseman, always alert when Henderson was on base.

“I think it was more of a matter of when he wanted to steal bases. He could steal them pretty much anytime he wanted because he could see things other guys couldn’t,” Coles said. “And he just continued to do that over the course of his career. Then with all the leadoff home runs, he was just a special player.”

Coles recalled Rice as one of the most prolific right-handed hitters that he’d ever played against.

“Rice was just a guy that you want up with the game on the line,” Coles said. “He’s also one of those guys you wanted on your team if there was a brawl. He was somebody who had a clubhouse presence. He was a guy with a certain stature who’d go out and play the game the right way, break up double plays, do the things it takes to play on championship caliber team.”

Tom Foli, the Syracuse manager, was a 16-year veteran at second base who saw a little too much of Henderson.

6-15-09-Francis_Gordon.jpg“He was ridiculous,” Foli said. “He’d dive head first into second base. He’s probably the only guy that ever actually hurt me when he dove in. Everybody else you could kind of stop, but he was so strong he could actually take you out diving. That’s how fast and how hard he slid.”

Rice was just an RBI machine, according to Foli.

“A great hitter you like that you had to go right at them because if you pitch around them you’re going to make more mistakes,” Foli said. “If you make good pitches you have a chance to get them out seven out of 10 times. You don’t make good pitches they’re going to make you pay.”

The 2009 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, featuring Rice and Henderson as well as Joe Gordon, will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 26. Admission is free.

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

Henderson right at home at Hall of Fame

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

With his back to plaques of some of the most famous players in baseball history, Rickey Henderson sat down and was immediately confronted with microphones, flash bulbs and notepads. But if he had been any more relaxed, you’d have thought he was on his couch at home.

Fitting, since the Man of Steal was always most composed in the midst of utter chaos on the baseball diamond. It was Henderson — and his singular baserunning ability — who always made others nervous

5-8-09-Muder_Rickey.jpgHenderson and his wife Pamela came to Cooperstown on Friday for his orientation tour. With only 11 weeks until his July 26 induction into the Hall of Fame, Henderson had a chance to visit the Museum and learn what to expect during the weekend that will be the crown jewel of his record-setting career.

“It’s great to see all the history here,” Henderson said. “I think you don’t feel it until you get here.”

His tour completed, Henderson held court with the media — recounting stories and reflecting on his accomplishments. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in January on his first appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot — garnering almost 95 percent of the vote.

As the career leader in runs (2,295) and stolen bases (1,406), Henderson’s election was no surprise. But the minute the call came this winter, Henderson’s life changed forever.

I’m going to spend the next few weeks doing what I’ve been doing since January: Preparing for Hall of Fame Weekend,” Henderson said. “It’s only going to happen once, so I’m going to enjoy it.”

Henderson will join Jim Rice and Joe Gordon as the Class of 2009 at the Hall of Fame. For more details on Hall of Fame Weekend — including the free Induction Ceremony — visit www.baseballhall.org.

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

Bronzed glove to be golden addition to collection

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

Ever since this year’s inductee list was set at Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, and Joe “Flash” Gordon, we’ve been planning the exhibits that will honor them. We’ve combed through our collection for artifacts related to the players and discovered some excellent items. But, like most years, we’ve also looked to borrow items that would help us illustrate these great careers.

I have been assigned Joe Gordon’s exhibit, and it has been a great pleasure to communicate with Gordon’s children, Judy and Joe. Their effort and generosity has allowed us to assemble an extraordinary tribute to their father that will give visitors to Cooperstown an excellent review of his accomplishments.

4-24-09-DiFranza_GordonGlove.jpgOf all the wonderful items they loaned to us, my favorite is a bronzed fielder’s glove that arrived just a few days ago. Judy Gordon explained to me that when her father retired, her mother took possession of the glove he had been using and had it preserved in bronze.

We have Gold Glove Awards in our collection and many different items that were bronzed and later donated to our museum, but this bronzed glove stands out in comparison, showing the rips and repairs of an old, trusted piece of leather.

I hope you can see, along with the many other items that the Gordon family loaned to us for this summer’s exhibit, for yourself.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator for new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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