Results tagged ‘ Johnny Bench ’

Hall Monitor: Prodigies, perfection and the past

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes


06-11-10-Hayes_Waner.jpgPirate Prodigy:
Not since 1928 has a Pirate had as many hits at his one-year anniversary as center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Currently riding a .302 average, the 23-year-old celebrated passed the one year mark since his major-league debut last week. He had 185 hits, the most by a Buc since Hall of Famer Lloyd Waner collected 225 in his first year.

Rare day for the all-time leader: Ivan Rodriguez has caught 2,322 games – the all-time leader among catchers after having passed greats like Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. But only three times in his career has Pudge caught a pitcher who racked up 14 strikeouts like Stephen Strasburg did on Tuesday in Washington. Strasburg joins Jeremy Bonderman in 2004 and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1991 as the only pitchers to dominate their opponents that much with Rodriguez behind the plate. Pudge’s Astros jersey from the game in which he broke the games caught record last season is on display in the Museum in the Today’s Game exhibit.


06-11-10-Hayes_BanksWilliamsDawson.jpgCubbies and 300:
One-hundred and twenty-seven players have hit 300 home runs in the history of the majors. Wednesday, Derek Lee added his name to that list and this afternoon, Alfonso Soriano clubbed his 300th. Both join an impressive group of names to do so while playing on the North-side. Six other players have belted No. 300 with the Cubs including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Andre Dawson. The most recent before Lee was Sammy Sosa who the 300th of 609 career home runs in June of 1999.

Boston’s newest Fenway attraction: Two Hall of Famers and two other Red Sox legends were honored this week, as the team dedicated a new statue Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams. The four were staples in the Sox lineups in the 1940s and into the 50s. All four were All-Stars and all four served in the military during World War II. The lifelong friends and Sox legends had their story told in David Halberstam’s book The Teammates – Portrait of a Friendship. The new statue is a tribute to their legacy and features the four standing shoulder to shoulder holding bats. It is outside Fenway’s Gate B at Van Ness and Ipswich.

06-11-10-Hayes_Stearnes.jpgPerfection and the Hall-aday: Roy Halladay threw the major’s 20th perfect game on May 29, beating Marlins ace Josh Johnson 1-0 in the process. The two matched up again Thursday and Johnson got the win. 1965 marks the last time a perfect pitcher faced his opponent again in the same season, as Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and Chicago’s Bob Hendley squared off in back-to-back starts. Koufax mastered the Cubs on Sept. 9, and like Halladay in a 1-0 win, but like Johnson, Hendley got the win in the rematch.

Remembering the past: The Tigers will play host to a weekend long celebration of the Negro leagues, highlighted by their 16th annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game, Saturday. The Tigers will don Detroit Stars uniforms while the Pirates will pay homage to the Pittsburgh Crawfords. During the series, Hall of Famer Turkey Stearnes – a former Star – will be recognized with a video about his plaque, which was dedicated at Comerica Park in 2007. Stearnes’ grandson will throw one of the ceremonial first pitches, while Stearnes daughters will perform the national anthem. Former Negro leaguers Frank Crosson, Joe Douse, Buck Duncan, Bee-Bop Gordon, Bill Hill, Gene Johnson, Cecil Kaiser, Alton King, Bullet Moore and Schoolboy Teasley will be on hand throughout the weekend.

Trevor Hayes is editorial production manager at 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.

Billingham strolls down memory lane at Hall of Fame

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Former big league pitcher Jack Billingham, a witness to some of the game’s greatest moments of the 1970s, has been walking through the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum the past few days.

Billingham — along with his wife, Jolene, and his sister and brother-in-law — has been touring the country in a pair of RVs over the past three weeks, making stops, among other places, in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit. The brief stay in Cooperstown isn’t Billingham’s first: The 6-foot-4 right-hander, now retired and living in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., made the trip in 1969 to participate in the Hall of Fame Game as a member of the Houston Astros.

5-11-09-Francis_Billingham.jpgDuring this visit, Billingham and his group spent Monday morning getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the baseball institution from Senior Curator Tom Shieber. The 13-year veteran, who spent time with the Dodgers (1968), Astros (1969-71), Reds (1972-77), Tigers (1978-80) and Red Sox (1980), looked at both his clipping and photo files in the Library before viewing some of the Museum’s vast archives.

“Growing up, you always heard about the Hall of Fame, but I wasn’t a Hall of Fame candidate, and I knew that from the start,” Billingham said with a chuckle.

Though he might not have had the resume of some of his more celebrated teammates, the sinkerballer ended his career with 145 wins, winning at least 10 games for 10 consecutive years.

“You thought of the Hall of Fame in terms of who you were playing with,” Billingham said. “When I came up as a rookie, I was playing with Don Drysdale. I went to Spring Training with Sandy Koufax. Walter Alston was my manager in 1968, and I came up in the Minor Leagues with Tommy Lasorda when he became a manager. And then I go over to Houston, and I tell people all the time I played with Joe Morgan three years in Houston when he was an All-Star player, but when he came to Cincinnati, he became a Hall of Famer.”

After he was traded to the Reds from the Astros with Morgan prior to the 1972 campaign, Billingham became a stalwart moundsman of Cincinnati’s famed Big Red Machine of the mid-1970s, when his teammates included future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Morgan, as well as manager Sparky Anderson.

“We had Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Davey Concepcion, an All-Star lineup,” Billingham said. “You knew you were playing with special guys who would be in the Hall of Fame.”

The Big Red Machine cemented its reputation by winning consecutive World Series titles in 1975 and ’76.

“The World Series is exciting and great, and it’s a dream to be there, but you have to win to make a name for yourself. We were there in 1972 [against the Oakland A's] and didn’t win,” Billingham said. “Then we played Boston in 1975 — it went seven games. A lot of people think it was one of the better World Series ever played. But we won. And I think the thing that really put the mark on us and really made our name is when in 1976, we played the Yankees and swept them in four games.”

5-11-09-Francis_BillinghamMug.jpgBillingham’s star shined the brightest in the Fall Classic. He posted a 2-0 record and a 0.36 ERA in 25 1/3 innings pitched. Billingham still holds the record for lowest career World Series ERA with a minimum of 25 innings pitched.

“I think [the record] was just being at the right place at the right time. You go through streaks pitching. I was just on,” Billingham said. “I wasn’t a strikeout pitcher, so I needed gloves behind me. And though we were known as the Big Red Machine as far as scoring runs and hitting the ball, we also could catch the ball. Up the middle is where you make your defense, and we had guys like Davey Concepcion, Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo and Johnny Bench. We had the best at that time.”

Billingham also became the answer to a trivia question when he surrendered Hank Aaron‘s 714th career home run on April 4, 1974. The bat and ball from Aaron’s 714th home run are now on display in the Hall of Fame’s new exhibit, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.

“It was almost like being in the World Series; there was so much press there. Everybody wants to interview you — ‘How do you feel? How will you feel if you give up 714? If Hank comes up, and you’re leading by nine runs, would you throw one right down the middle so he could hit it out?’ — so I was aware of it, but it didn’t bother me,” Billingham said.

“Once the game started, you just get in your own little world. You know Hank Aaron is up there. He came up with two men on in the first inning. We’re playing at home, and there are 40,000 fans in Cincinnati booing me because they want to see Hank Aaron hit. I was 3-1, and I wasn’t going to back off, and tried to throw a fastball sinker on the outside part of the plate. And when you’re behind in the count, and you have a good hitter up there, that’s when you get in trouble. And he hit the ball, a three-run homer. But like I told everybody, I had one of the best seats in the house, and we won the ballgame when it was all over with.”

Looking back on his long professional baseball career, Billingham admitted the game meant everything to him.

“It was my life,” he said. “I started playing the day I got out of high school, and I played 20 years. I got 13 years in the big leagues. I played with some great players. I have nothing but great memories.”

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

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