Results tagged ‘ Little League ’

FBI files in Cooperstown

By Bill Francis

You never know what you’ll run across when doing baseball research.

While looking through the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library’s clipping file for famed pitcher Johnny Vander Meer, what soon appeared was a copy of a 1938 typed letter sent by longtime Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover congratulating the Cincinnati Reds southpaw on his two consecutive no-hitters.

Hoover has been in the news of late thanks to the recently released movie, J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role and directed by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood. Hoover was the FBI’s chief from its beginnings in 1935 until his death in 1972 at the age of 77.

In the letter, typed on the chief G-Man’s letterhead and dated June 17, 1938, Hoover writes, “I did have time to glance at the sports page of one of the Miami papers and read the account of the thrilling no-hit game which you pitched against the Boston Bees, and then when I read of your second no-hit game in five days I simply could not resist dropping you this note to extend you my congratulations on this remarkable feat.”

Hoover begins the letter by telling Vander Meer that he’s been “engaged in the investigation of the Cash kidnapping case,” referring to the kidnapping of 5-year-old James B. Cash Jr., known as “Skeegie,” who had been kidnapped from his bed in Princeton, Fla. on May 28, 1938.

Later in the letter Hoover admits that baseball has always been one of his favorite sports and that he attends many games, “although I do not attend as many games as I would like, due to the pressure of my official duties.”

In fact, years later, Hoover would be considered for the job of big league baseball’s commissioner. After a 1945 speech in which he extolled the virtues of wartime baseball, Hoover’s name shot to the top as a possible successor when big league baseball’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, passed away in 1944. The job eventually went to Happy Chandler. When Chandler resigned his post in 1951, Hoover’s name again was bandied about.

Ellis Ryan, the principal owner of the Cleveland Indians and a member of baseball’s screening committee in search of a replacement for Chandler, said in a 1951 interview, “For instance, if J. Edgar Hoover decided to run, I’m sure he would get every vote. But that is out of the question. It would be improper for baseball to attempt to take so valuable a man away from the government.”

After sharing with Vander Meer the recent success of the FBI’s baseball team in Washington, D.C., Hoover ends the letter by wishing the hurler luck in the future, adding, “I really would be thrilled to see you pitch a third no-hit game this season.”

Hoover, once on the Little League board of directors, said that baseball would be the greatest deterrent to crime that America had ever seen. “Keep kids in sports,” his motto went, “and out of courts.”

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

Baseball Film Festival less than two weeks away

By Steve Light

Here in Cooperstown, the air has turned brisk and the leaves are beginning to turn colors. For me, that means two things: The regular season is winding down, and the Baseball Film Festival is just around the corner.

Indeed, the Festival is less than two weeks away, and we are very excited for the great lineup of baseball themed films – a record 14 in all this year. Our lineup includes a bit of everything – from Little League Baseball in Curacao and Michigan, to Big League Baseball at Wrigley, to midnight baseball in Alaska. You can go behind the scenes at the Great American Ballpark and Fenway, or learn about grounds keeping at Camden Yards.

The Festival kicks off on Friday night, Sept. 30, and will run through Sunday afternoon, Oct. 2 in the Bullpen Theater. Tickets to each screening session are free but must be reserved, and tickets are available now to participants in the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program by calling 607-547-0397 weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET. Non-members can reserve their seats, if any remain, starting on Monday, Sept. 26.

So if you enjoy watching baseball films, be sure to mark Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 on your calendar, and reserve your tickets today.

And if you would like a sneak preview of some of the films, check out the trailers listed below.

Official Schedule
Friday, September 30th
Session 1: 7:00 p.m., Bullpen Theater

Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend (27 minutes) – A portrait of Nicole Sherry, head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards – one of only two women in that position in Major League Baseball.
Produced by: Jo Films
Directed by: Sarah Knight

Slap Back Jack: High Five Master (11 minutes) – This kid friendly stop motion short film narrated in rhyme begins when superstar baseball player, Bub Stocky, hits a walk off Grand Salami to win the big ball game for his team the Bronx Buffalo. When he tries to celebrate with his teammates, he flubs his high-fives, loses out on his lows, and punks out on his pounds.
Produced by: Combover Productions/MRN Media Inc.
Directed by: Mark Newell
View the trailer: http://www.slapbackjack.com/

Catching Hell (1 hour, 41 minutes) – It’s the pop fly that will live in infamy. When Chicagoan Steve Bartman fatefully deflected a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, the city’s long-suffering Cubs fans found someone new to blame for their cursed century without a World Series title.
Produced by: ESPN Films
Directed by: Alex Gibney

Saturday, October 1st
Session 2: 10:00 a.m., Bullpen Theater

Play by Play (23 minutes) – Donn, a lonely 10-year-old, leads a vivid imaginary life as a big league ballplayer. When his schoolyard nemesis Steve accidentally learns about it, Donn is thrust into an escalating struggle to avoid being humiliated in front of his class.
Produced by: Afterwork Films
Directed by: Carlos Baena & Sureena Mann
View the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi2452200729/

The Legend of Pinky Deras (41 minutes) – Since Little League Baseball was founded in 1939, about 40 million kids have played the sport. The list includes future Hall of Famers like Carl Yastrzemski, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, and hundreds of other future Major Leaguers. But of all the kids who ever played Little League, the best of the best was a boy you’ve probably never heard of.
Produced by: Stunt3 Multimedia
Directed by: Buddy Moorehose and Brian Kruger
View the trailer: http://stunt3.com/Stunt3_Multimedia/The_Legend_of_Pinky_Deras.html

Session 3: 2:00 p.m.,Bullpen Theater

Bubble Gum Champs (8 minutes) – Marc is watching a baseball game with his wife, Julie. His son’s team is losing and Marc is not so happy about it. He blames it on the coach, a Frenchman. Fed up with Marc’s attitude, Julie drops the bomb and accuses him of being a couch coach…
Produced by: Eric K. Boulianne
Directed by: Jean-Sebastien Beudoin Gagnon & Eric K. Boulianne

Touching the Game: Alaska (1 hour, 40 minutes) – In today’s high pressure, big dollar world of professional baseball and its accompanying media cyclone, the most poignant and refreshing perspectives are those that portray the unique and committed institutions which keep the essence and purity of our national pastime alive. The Alaska Baseball League is such an institution and offers such a perspective.
Produced by: Fields of Vision and Eye Candy Cinema
Directed by: Jim Carroll
View the trailer: http://touchingthegame.com/alaska/trailer.shtml

Session 4: 7:00 p.m., Bullpen Theater

Christy Mathewson Day (48 minutes) – Christy Mathewson Day captures the spirit of Factoryville, PA as they celebrate their most famous resident, Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson. Members of the community tell their own history of triumphs and adversities through the framework of the yearly celebration of their favorite son.
Produced by: 23circles Productions
Directed by: Kevin Malone
View the trailer: http://www.christymathewsondayfilm.com

Boys of Summer (1 hour, 33 minutes) – On the tiny island of Curaçao, Manager Vernon Isabella has sent his Little League All-Stars to the World Series for seven consecutive years, routinely defeating such baseball powerhouses as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to win a spot in Williamsport. How do they do it? This film tries to crack the code of Curaçao’s phenomenal success.
Produced by: Keith Aumont & Ariana Garfinkel
Directed by: Kevin Aumont
View the trailer: http://boysofsummerfilm.com/videos.html

Sunday, October 3rd
S
ession 5: 10:00 a.m., Bullpen Theater

Black Baseball in Indiana (25 minutes) – A half-hour documentary film of original research and interviews, produced by students at Ball State University’s Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry, under the advisement of Negro leagues historian and SABR member Geri Strecker.
Produced by: Ball State University
Project Coordinator: Geri Strecker

The Queen of the People (1 hour, 4 minutes) – In 1944, Caracas hosts the 7th Amateur Baseball World Series. The organizers decide that the beauty queen of the event has to be elected via a popular vote. The title is disputed by Yolanda Leal, a school teacher from a humble neighborhood, and Oly Clemente, a young woman from Caracas’ high society.
Produced by: Producciones Triana
Directed by: Juan Andrés Bello
View the trailer: http://www.youtube.com

Session 6: 2:00 p.m., Bullpen Theater

Late August (10 minutes) – Scenes from the Babe Ruth World Series in Clifton Park, New York.
Produced by: Chris Woods
Directed by: Chris Woods

Down the Line (23 minutes) – A documentary on Boston’s Fenway Park that takes fans where they have never been before by celebrating Fenway’s “team behind the team” – the bat boys, ball girls, clubhouse attendants and grounds crew members who make every Major League Baseball game possible.
Produced by: Prospect Productions
Directed by: Colin Barnicle
View the trailer: http://www.prospectproduction.com/site/projects.html

Let’s Get Ready to Win (44 minutes) – In this 44-minute documentary, Mid-American Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Craig Lindvahl features the unforgettable Sept. 28, 2010 game in which Jay Bruce hits the walk-off home run that clinched the National League Central division title for the Cincinnati Reds, as part of a season-long look behind the scenes at the operations within Great American Ballpark.
Produced by: Callan Films / Cincinnati Reds
Directed by: Craig Lindvahl

Steve Light is the manager of museum programs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Perfectly Perfect

 
Odell_90(2).jpgBy John Odell

One of my favorite records is not from the pros; it wasn’t even set by an adult. It is a Little League record. The Hall of Fame rarely calls out such marks because there are so many games taking place, encompassing so many levels of competition, that the leagues themselves do not even keep track of them.

03-17-11-Odell_DiamondDreams.jpgOccasionally, though, a youth league accomplishment is so astounding that we learn about it here in Cooperstown. On May 14, 2005, 11-year-old Katie Brownell, the pitcher for the Dodgers in the Oakfield (N.Y.) Little League and the only girl in her entire league, set such a record.

Exceptional Little League pitching performances, while uncommon, are nowhere near as rare as they are in the majors. In youth leagues, the combination of talent imbalances and six-inning games means that good pitchers often strike out many batters.

But on this day, Katie was unhittable in a way I had never heard of before. She struck out every batter she faced in all six innings of the regulation game. Eighteen up, eighteen down. A perfect game. And more than that in my mind, because this was the best performance a pitcher could ever imagine. Striking everyone out in a game is the stuff of daydreams and legends. For a pitcher, this was a perfect perfect game. At our request, she donated the jersey she wore on that day.

Several aspects of this record make it special for me. First, if this record doesn’t make your jaw drop, whether a boy or a girl accomplished it, then you haven’t suffered through the agony of a youth league pitcher walking half a team around the bases, or surrendering hits when he (or she!) keeps the ball around the plate.

03-17-11-Odell_Johnston.jpgSecond, Katie was playing baseball because she loved to play baseball. Nothing against other bat and ball games, but if you are a baseball player, there is no substitute. As the curator for Diamond Dreams, our permanent exhibition about the history of women in baseball, I am especially attuned to the challenges girls and women have faced in order to play our National Pastime, even to the point of going to court.

As a culture, we no longer discourage kids from playing baseball because of their skin color or because of a differing ability that puts them at a physical disadvantage to their peers, and I believe that we should not discourage someone from playing simply because she is a girl. In this respect, I think that Katie’s performance shows how our love for baseball can be a uniting force, something that draws us together. 

Regardless of how many times other Little Leaguers may have reached this mark of perfection, either before or since, I am thrilled that we can illustrate Katie Brownell’s accomplishment for our visitors in our new exhibit One for the Books.

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

John Odell is the curator of history and research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Bo Duke comes to Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Was that really Bo Duke?

John Schneider, who famously portrayed Bo Duke on the television series “The Dukes of Hazzard” from 1979-85, could be found on Cooperstown’s Main Street in front of the KeyBank building signing autographs on Friday.

7-24-09-Francis_Schneiders.jpg“My brother Bob lives in Cooperstown right around the corner, and he teaches people how to paint beautiful landscapes right up here at the top of the bank building,” said Schneider between posing for pictures and signing photos for fans. “I was doing a movie in Florida and Bob said, ‘Hey, you’re on the East Coast. Come through Cooperstown on your way. It’s Induction Weekend.’ I wish my 17-year-old son was here.”

Besides “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Schneider has had starring roles on such series as “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and “Smallville.” He’s even portrayed a few baseball players over the years.

“I played several baseball players, mostly knuckleball players, on television,” Schneider said. “On a show called “Grand Slam” (1990) I played a guy named Dennis Bakelenekoff and another one for Aaron Spelling I played a dead guy who was a knuckleball pitcher called “Heaven Help Us” (1994), and that didn’t last very long either.”

While he played a knuckleball pitcher, he couldn’t master the elusive pitch. But he did get to meet one of the pitch’s masters today.

7-24-09-Francis_DukesCast.jpg“Here’s the thrill of a lifetime. It’s when somebody says, ‘I’d like to shake your hand,’ and I turn and it’s (Hall of Famer) Phil Niekro,” Schneider said. “What a nice man and what an honor to have Phil Niekro want to meet me. He’s a hero. So my weekend was made right there.”

Though he was a baseball fan while growing up in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., Schneider has been away from the game for a little while.

“I played Little League as a kid. I was a first baseman and they called me Stretch. But I’ve been so busy I haven’t been following it a lot,” Schneider said. “I grew up a Tom Seaver fan, an Amazing Mets fan. We’re talking about ’69. One of the first Super 8 movies I had on my Kodak projector was called “The Amazing Mets.” In those days Gil Hodges and the gang were my favorites.”

Today, Schneider’s 17-year-old son is a big fan.

“I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame with my son a couple years ago and Chasen read every word on every plaque in that building. It was the greatest thing,” Schneider said. “We use to call him Stats because at 14 he could tell you everything about anybody.”

Schneider can be found outside the KeyBank building in Cooperstown for the rest of Induction Weekend.

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

Classic Hall of Famers thrill packed crowd, promise more

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

There were literally no empty seats in the Grandstand Theater for the Hall of Fame Classic Voices of the Game. And this special Father’s Day edition delivered with the same impact the four Hall of Famers on stage had during their careers.

The sellout crowd listened for as Triple-Crown winner Bob Feller, 300-game winner Phil Niekro, 3,000-hit Club member Paul Molitor and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner Brooks Robinson reflected on their careers and talked about the game they love.

6-20-09-Hayes_VOG.jpgAll four legends and fellow Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins headline the signature event of the weekend, the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day at Doubleday Field.

The theme of fathers and sons has been a principal element throughout this inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Weekend and was present during Voices of the Game. Niekro spoke vividly of his relationship. As a youngster in Ohio, he looked up to his father, who taught him the weapon that would be his bread and butter in a 24 season career.

“”If it wasn’t for the knuckleball, I probably would have ended up coal mining,” Niekro said. “I didn’t know what it was. I just had fun playing knuckle ball in the back yard. Then I was able to get Little League guys out.”

His success continued and he hitched a ride to a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves. He signed for $500. Early on, Knucksie as he became known, was unsure of his talents. When the Hall’s manager of museum programs Steve Light, who moderated the event asked Niekro how he fared against the two accomplished hitters on either side of him, Knucksie started laughing.

6-20-09-Hayes_RobinsonNiekro.jpg“I faced Brooks early on during a Spring Training game,” he recalled. “One of my 77-mph fastballs got away from me and I hit him in the head.”

Robinson countered, “Didn’t hurt a bit.”

“I thought I was going to be done the next day for hitting Brooks Robinson with a fastball,” Niekro said.

Robinson’s start wasn’t something to brag about either, though he did. He played most of the 1955 season for the York (Penn.) White Roses – a B-League team in the Piedmont League. Robinson got the call at the end of the season and got two hits in his first start.

“I called home and said, ‘This is cake. Why did I play in [the minors] all year? I should have been in the big leagues.'”

He then went 0-for-18. He recovered and became one of the cornerstones of the great Orioles teams of the 1960’s and 70’s. He appeared in four World Series, winning a pair of rings. Robinson played on a lot of great teams, but he feels one of the best didn’t achieve to the level that some of his other teams might have.

6-20-09-Hayes_Robinson.jpgIn honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Miracle Mets, Light asked Robinson about the 1969 World Series.

“I thought our ’62 team was our best,” he said. “But anything can happen in a seven-game series. We beat [Hall of Famer Tom] Seaver and lost the next four, straight.”

Baltimore was back in the Series again the next season and Robinson took the MVP honors, hitting .429 against the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati. He drove in six and hit a pair of home runs. Molitor like Robinson achieved October glory by winning the MVP Award in 1993 with the Blue Jays.

During that Fall Classic, he hit .500 with a pair of doubles, a pair of triples and a pair of homers while driving in eight against the Phillies. Molitor’s best memory of that Series however, was not one of his personal achievements.

“The ’93 Series, I was on first base when Joe Carter hit that ball over the wall,” he said. “I was thinking if it goes off the wall and I hustle, I can score and end this thing, but then it went out and it was all over anyway.”

Another highlight of Molitor’s career was reaching 3,000 hits. Pure consistency throughout his career allowed The Ignitor to retire with a career .306 batting average and 3,319 hits. In 1987, he took a run at one of the game’s longest standing records, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Molitor hit safely in 39 straight.

6-20-09-Hayes_Niekro.jpg“Whether it’s milestones or streaks, players don’t really play for those, but numbers are big in baseball,” he said. “Falling 17 games short is still a long way away from that number and my perspective changed after that streak.

“I always tell people: The way you handle success is directly related to the way you handle failure, because 3,000 hits means 7,000 outs.”

Knucksie, a member of another elite club – the 300-game winners – applauded Molitor on the achievement. He said pitchers have help in winning games, but hitters are alone. 

Niekro’s 300th came in his last start of 1985 as a Yankee. It was a special moment for him and his father, who was faltering in health. Niekro was 46 at the time and at the end of his contract.

“If I didn’t win it, I would have had to wait until the next spring and he wasn’t going to hold on that long,” he said. “So really that was a blessing for both of us.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Feller.jpgFeller missed 300 wins by 34. But he recorded a career-high 27 in 1940 followed by 25 in 1941 before leaving baseball for most of four seasons to serve in the Navy during World War II. Light noted that the Grandstand Theater is a replica of Chicago’s Comiskey Park where Feller authored one of his three no-hitters and the only Opening Day no-no in the history of the game.

“Well it was 69 years ago and I remember it quite well,” the Indians ace recalled. “It wasn’t my best no-hitter. I didn’t have great stuff that day. I only struck out eight and we won 1-0. I remember that my catcher, Rollie Hemsley, hit a triple with my rommmate on base to score the only run.”

At 90, Feller’s memory is as sharp as if he were reading a box score. Light asked him about his famous high-leg kick and he laughed.

“That high leg kick…You’ve seen the picture taken in Yankee Stadium in 1936 or ’37 with my leg kicked over my head and the photographer laying flat on the ground,” Feller said. “That is all for show. It was just symbolism. But it’s the most popular picture they’ve got of me and it sells well at card shows.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Molitor.jpgAnother Feller myth was confirmed, when Light asked the former fireballer about the motorcycle and his fastball. Feller said that, that also happened in Chicago. He was wearing a tie and a dress shirt during the exhibition, but when he wound up with the motorcycle ten feet behind him, the ball beat the bike to the target. Using a timer and the vehicles speedometer, it was figured that he threw the ball 104 mph. Later a similar event was held and Feller clocked in at 107 mph.

Apparently worried by this, Molitor interrupted the story, “Can I ask him how his arm is feeling, since I have to leadoff against him tomorrow? I’ve heard stories of him hitting the first batter, so I’m just curious.”

Once the laughter subsided, and it was confirmed that Molitor would be the first batter to face the Classic’s starting pitcher – the 90-year-old Feller – Light asked Robinson how he felt knowing that he’d be the first guy to dig in against Knucksie in the bottom of the first.

6-20-09-Hayes_MolitorFeller.jpgRecalling their Spring Training encounter, Robinson looked worried and Niekro laughed, “Put your helmet on big boy, it’s coming.”

It is coming. In less than 24 hours, the legends will take the field at Doubleday and the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic will begin with Molitor facing Feller and Robinson against Niekro. Feller’s words seemed to sum up the entire weekend.

Baseball is a game of luck and there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad,” he said, noting the rain that fell on Cooperstown for most of Saturday. “We’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow, rain or shine.”

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

Getting Excited for the Classic

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

I work at the Baseball Hall of Fame and am surrounded by some of the greatest baseball minds and scholars in the world on a daily basis. But the other night when I was watching a ballgame on TV and had a question, I still picked up the phone and called my dad.

The bond we have was only strengthened over the years as my father coached me in Little League, just as he had my brother and sister before me. He never missed a game in high school or college and was always there to give me advice on my swing. Although my playing days are behind me, my dad is still always there for me to fix my computer or find out why my car is making that funny noise. Now that all of his kids are coaches, you can still find him at the diamond, showing his support and sharing tips.

6-11-09-Carr_Classic.jpgBaseball runs in my family. My dad’s father loved the game and his older brother does too. My dad passed that love on to us. This Father’s Day, my family is coming to Cooperstown to celebrate Dad and watch some legends of my childhood, and his, compete at Doubleday Field.

We are excited to watch Phil Niekro dazzle hitters again with his knuckleball, and see Bob Feller prove that at 90 years old, he’s still got it. Not to mention the chance to meet Brooks Robinson, Fergie Jenkins and Paul Molitor. It will be fun to see a few players who just recently retired like Jeff Kent, Mike Timlin and Steve Finley – and I know my dad will be happy to see some Yankee greats like Mike Pagliarulo and Kevin Maas.

People are always in awe of my job because I get to work in baseball and meet some legendary players. But June 21st will be pretty special this year – because I get to share it all with my dad.

For tickets to the June 21 Hall of Fame Classic, call 1-888-Hall-of-Fame weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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

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