Results tagged ‘ Kansas City Royals ’

Tales from the Cactus League

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I am so glad Spring Training is here, even if it was warmer in Cooperstown than in the desert for a few of the days I visited Arizona last week. Boy did I miss baseball. And in my job, I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to rub elbows with so many of the game’s greats, bringing them closer to the Hall of Fame.

 
03-12-10-Idelson_KoufaxPalmer.jpgI got to see the Giants, Brewers, White Sox, Mariners, Indians, Reds, Royals and Rangers all play.

It was great to see the two reigning Cy Young award winners – Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke – pitch. I brought Tim plaque postcards of Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer. Why? They are the only Hall of Famers to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards. Perhaps they will help inspire Tim, not that he needs inspiration.

Before the Cactus League opener in Peoria, I visited my friends in the Mariners clubhouse: Head athletic trainer Rick Griffin and I talked about the health of his players; Ken Griffey Jr. told me he expected Ichiro to get twice as many regular season hits as he would – including spring training.  “I’m aiming for 150 hits,” said Junior.  “Have you seen Ichiro get hot?  You turn around, and he’s gone 15-for-25. If anyone can get 300 hits, it’s him.” I don’t doubt Griffey’s sense of logic, having seen Ichiro play so many times.

 Did you ever take an advanced or AP class in high school? I took AP Baseball last week with Professor Ryan. Nolan and I sat together for the Rangers-Royals game, where he gave me a breakdown of every player on the field. I had a similar experience a few days later with White Sox owner and Hall of Fame Board member Jerry Reinsdorf, who invited me to sit with him, his vice chairman, Eddie Einhorn, and his special assistant, Dennis Gilbert, the former agent for George Brett. I now know where the White Sox’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Bobby Brett, George’s brother, joined us.

03-12-10-Idelson_Ryan.jpgWe held our annual Cactus League Champions event in Goodyear, where the Indians and Reds train. It’s a great complex. The Indians were very generous in hosting our Champions, those who support us with an annual donation of $5,000 or more.

Team President Paul Dolan and assistant GM Chris Antonetti addressed our group and let them know what to expect from the Indians this year. After the game, we all had dinner with Bob Feller and Fergie Jenkins, where they regaled the group with stories, photos and autographs.

Speaking of dinners, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie and their wives joined me for dinner the night before. We toasted to a good 2010 Cubs team and the Williams’ 50th wedding anniversary. Quite a feat for the Williamses, a lovely couple.

On my first night in Arizona, I was joined by Mickey Morabito and Steve Vucinich from the A’s, Gary Hughes, the Cubs scout, Roland Hemond, the long-time Bill Veeck disciple who works for the Diamondbacks, and veteran writers Bob Nightengale, of USA Today, and Spink Award winner Tracy Ringolsby. We get together each spring to talk about scouting and the game today. We used to dine each year at the Pink Pony, a popular old-school steakhouse on North Scottsdale Road that finally closed its doors. We miss the Pony.

03-12-10-Idelson_CactusLeague.jpgOn my final evening, I hosted the dinner to end all dinners, at Don & Charlie’s, a popular Scottsdale hangout with great steaks and ribs. We had a large group that included Bob Uecker, Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount and his brother Larry, George Brett and his guest Joe Randa, Mike Murphy, the Giants’ clubhouse man since Day One in San Francisco, Brad Ziegler, my friend who pitches in the A’s bullpen, Jerry, Eddie and Dennis from the White Sox, and Bob Crotty, who is a generous Hall of Fame supporter and owner of Green Diamonds Gallery in Cincinnati, an exquisite baseball gallery of artifacts and art.

Just before we were getting ready to sit down to dinner, Uecker calls me from his cell phone to let me know he invited two other mutual friends – Bob Costas and Joe Torre.

We had a great dinner and talked about the Dodgers impending trip to Taiwan, told Yogi stories, heard all about the Olympics, and tried to recollect if Torre and Fingers ever faced each other. “Did I ever face you?” Joe asked? “I can’t recall,” was Rollie’s response.

So, I emailed Freddy Berowski in the Hall of Fame Library. Sorry Joe: You faced Rollie one time in the regular season, on May 1, 1977, and struck out. You also faced him in the 1973 All-Star Game and popped out in the 9th. None-the-less, you remain one the game’s greatest players, managers and ambassadors and it’s hard to imagine you won’t be in Cooperstown one day.

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

Whitey and Donnie

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

INDIANAPOLIS — Whitey Herzog was in the middle of a story when the unassuming man with the dark eyes walked into the hotel lobby.

Herzog, who 11 hours earlier learned he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, had shaken countless hands and seen countless faces throughout Monday afternoon. But Whitey didn’t need to look twice to know that Donnie Baseball had just entered the room.

12-08-09-Muder_HerzogMattingly.jpg“I just had to stop and say congratulations,” said Don Mattingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ batting coach and an Indiana native in town for baseball’s Winter Meetings.

A beaming Herzog shook Mattingly’s hand and exchanged a few pleasantries. And just like that, Mattingly was gone.

But for Herzog, the memories came flooding back.

“That guy was a heckuva player,” said Herzog, who never managed a regular-season game against Mattingly’s Yankees during Mattingly’s career — and yet clearly appreciated the Yankee captain’s skills. “For four or five years — until the back injury got him — he was as good as there was in the game.”

Mattingly will make his 10th appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot this year.

Herzog, meanwhile, is already a Hall of Famer — having been named to the Class of 2010 along with umpire Doug Harvey by the Veterans Committee on Monday.

For two of baseball’s biggest names of the 1980s, it was a fitting — if all-too-brief — reunion.

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

Frick voting under way on Facebook

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The bubbling world of social networking is getting even busier at the Hall of Fame.

The baseball season ended a month ago and we’re over 100 days away from Opening Day, but the Hall’s Facebook site started buzzing this morning and most likely will remain at a fever pitch through the end of the month.

12-01-09-Hayes_Mathews.jpgWhy? Fan voting started for the 2010 Ford C. Frick Award, which is presented annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting. The people are speaking and they are letting us know which broadcasters deserve to be honored with legends like Mel Allen, Red Barber, Vin Scully and Jack Buck. Growing up in Kansas City, 2007 Frick winner Denny Mathews provided the soundtrack to my summers. And now fans of this great game can make their voices heard on Facebook.

From now through Dec. 31, 2009 at 5 p.m. EST, fans will choose three broadcasters to be placed on the final ballot. They and seven other finalists and will be voted on in January and the 2010 honoree will be announced in February.

In order to vote, please visit the Hall of Fame Facebook page at www.facebook.com/baseballhall. Frick voting is listed under the polls tab at the top of the page. Fans must have a Facebook account and must be logged in to cast a vote, but voting is unlimited. Vote totals appearing on the site may not be current.

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

Utley on verge of history

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

In 1977, Reggie Jackson was named the World Series Most Valuable Player after he homered five times in the Fall Classic – including 3 times in the Yankees’ clinching Game 6 – and in the process earned the nickname “Mr. October.” The 1977 Series marked the seventh time in nine World Series that the Yankees beat the Dodgers, and they would do it again the following year when Jackson, on his way to the Hall of Fame, hit two more home runs.

11-4-09-Berowski_Utley.jpgThe Philadelphia Phillies, a team that began as the Philadelphia Quakers in 1883, didn’t earn their first World Series championship until 1980, when they beat future Hall of Famer and .390 hitter George Brett and the Kansas City Royals in six games. Another future Hall of Famer, Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt, took home World Series MVP honors, hitting .381 with two homers, seven RBI and six runs scored in the Series.

If the Phillies are able to complete a comeback and win the World Series this year, the MVP Award just might go to another power-hitting Phillies infielder with his sights set on Cooperstown.

Through the first five games of the Series, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has already matched Jackson’s mark of five home runs in a single Fall Classic, while knocking in eight runs and batting .333. Three of his home runs have come off Yankee ace CC Sabathia, who had never allowed a hit to Utley prior to this World Series. With one more World Series home run this year, Utley will take his place atop the record book by himself.

Aside from Jackson and Utley, only eight players have hit at least four home runs in a single World Series. Babe Ruth was the first to do so in 1926 followed by Lou Gehrig (1928), Duke Snider (who did it twice, 1952 and 1955), Hank Bauer (1958), Gene Tenace (1972), Willie Aikens (1980), Lenny Dykstra (1993) and Barry Bonds (2002).

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

Cromartie overwhelmed by first visit to Hall of Fame

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Warren Cromartie slipped on the white gloves provided by the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library and opened the file with his name on it.

10-31-09-Muder_Cromartie.jpg“That was me, in the minors,” said Cromartie, carefully examining a newspaper clipping from his days as an Expos farmhand. “Oh my word. You surprised me… You surprised me.”

Suddenly, Cromartie’s eyes filled. On his first trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the memories — and the tears — came flooding back.

Cromartie, who played 10 big league seasons with the Expos and the Royals, visited Cooperstown on Friday as part of an assignment with Fuji TV. Following a nine-year stint with the Expos that ended in 1983, Cromartie played seven seasons in Japan with the Tokyo Giants — learning the Japanese language and becoming a fan favorite.

Cromartie led his TV crew through the Hall of Fame, describing artifacts along the Museum’s timeline before visiting the Library — which contains a file on each of the more than 17,000 players in MLB history.

10-31-09-Muder_CromartieBears.jpg“Playing in Montreal was great, and we had a good team,” said Cromartie, who averaged 177 hits and 38 doubles per season in his first four big league campaigns from 1977-80. “But after the 1983 season, the Giants’ owner said to me: ‘Mr. Cromartie, how much will it take for you to come to play in Japan?’ Well, I wrote down a figure with a lot of numbers, and they said OK. And I really enjoyed my time there.”

Today, Cromartie lives in South Florida and is exploring ownership possibilities in minor league baseball. But the next major event on his baseball calendar comes Jan. 6, when his longtime friend Andre Dawson will be one of the top returning candidates in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame election.

In last year’s election, Dawson received 67 percent of the BBWAA vote — falling just 44 votes short of the 75 percent needed for enshrinement.

“I’m going to be back here real soon, with tears in my eyes again,” Cromartie said. “Everyone who saw Andre Dawson play knows he’s a Hall of Famer. I can’t wait to come back with Andre.”

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

Rock-tober comes to an end

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

While Jim Tracy’s Colorado Rockies won’t join the likes of Jack McKeon’s 2003 Florida Marlins and Hall of Famer Bob Lemon‘s 1978 Yankees, the skipper certainly made headlines before his team was eliminated from the playoffs on Monday by the defending World Champion Phillies.

10-13-09-Hayes_Lemon.jpgBoth Lemon and McKeon, however, claimed the unique accomplishment of leading their team to a World Series title during a season in which they didn’t start the year as that team’s manager.

Lemon, elected to the Hall of Fame as a pitcher in 1976, was hired by the Yankees shortly after the White Sox fired him in the summer of 1978. His new team trailed the Red Sox by nine-and-a-half games when Lemon was hired on July 25, but future Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Goose Gossage helped the team surge back into contention to catch Boston. The chase was highlighted by a four-game sweep of the Sox known as the Boston Massacre and a one game playoff which featured Bucky Dent’s historic home run. The Yankees then went on to defeat the Royals in the American League Championship Series and the Dodgers in the World Series.

McKeon’s Marlins were much quieter in qualifying for the postseason via the Wild Card – but used an infusion of stellar play from young talents like Josh Beckett, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Riding the youth wave, McKeon let veterans like Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Lowell pace the team – pushing the Marlins from 19-29 in late May to 91 wins and a World Series title.

10-13-09-Hayes_Tracy.jpgTracy, who took over the Rockies in May, accomplished quite a bit in his first season at Colorado’s helm. The Rockies finished 22 games over .500 (92-70), making Tracy the first in-season replacement to take a team that was 10 games under .500 to 20 games over .500. He set several other records, tying the modern mark for wins (41) in a team’s first 60 games after getting the job in midseason. With 50 wins through 75 contests, he matched Lemon in 1978-79 as the first mid-season replacement to post a .667 win percentage through that many games.

Entering this year, 30 managers were replaced during the season since 2000. Only eight of the new skippers posted winning records – and only one, McKeon with the 2003 Marlins, actually won the World Series.

Just 15 midseason managerial changes, prior to Tracy, resulted in a playoff berth.In fact, only two teams in history have changed their manager midseason and won the World Series – McKeon’s Marlins and Lemon’s Yankees.

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

Sept. 23, 1984: Anderson becomes first skipper with 100-win seasons in both leagues

Lawrence_90.jpgBy  Thomas Lawrence

Sparky Anderson had a knack for making good teams better. The result was four 100-win seasons – and a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Twenty-five years ago today, on Sept. 23, 1984, Anderson’s eventual world champion Detroit Tigers won their 100th game of the season. Not only did this give Anderson his fourth 100-win season, but it also made him the first manager to do so in both leagues. Since then, Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa have joined that exclusive club.

9-23-09-Lawrence_Anderson.jpgSparky did it with the 1970 Cincinnati Reds the first time, and led the Reds to 100 wins twice more (1975 and 1976) before bringing his winning ways to the Motor City.

“Sparky’s got style and charisma…” said his former outfielder Champ Summers, who played for him in both Cincinnati and Detroit, “…and knows how to manage and get the best out of his players.”

Against the Yankees on that September day in 1984, Anderson’s Tigers pulled out a 4-1 win led by a six-inning, scoreless performance by starter Jack Morris. The win was Morris’ 19th and final regular-season win of his 1984 All-Star campaign.

Solo homers by third baseman Marty Castillo and slugging right fielder Kirk Gibson also helped Detroit’s cause.

9-23-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgIt was Anderson’s 1,338th win out of an eventual 2,194, which is sixth all-time behind current titans Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, as well as John McGraw and all-time leader Connie Mack. When Anderson retired, he was third on the all-time wins list.

In his years as skipper, Anderson took home five league pennants, three World Series rings and two Manager of the Year awards – with the 1984 and 1987 Tigers.

Anderson retired after the 1995 season and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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