Results tagged ‘ Los Angeles Dodgers ’

Bobby Bragan left remarkable legacy

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The image is a silly one, with the men pictured engaged in a pretend scream.

But for Pittsburgh Pirates manager Bobby Bragan, the passion was real. It was a fire that burned for more than 90 years – a fire that helped forge the careers of several Hall of Famers.

The photo, one of more than half a million in the Hall of Fame’s photo collection, shows Bragan and actor Joe E. Brown, the father of Pirates general manager Joe L. Brown.

01-21-10-Muder_BraganBrown.jpgJoe E. Brown was a huge baseball fan and appeared in several baseball-themed moves. Bragan, on the other hand, was a man who shaped baseball history.

Bragan passed away Thursday night at the age of 92. He played for seven seasons in the big leagues during the 1940s, finishing with a .240 average. But after retiring following the 1948 season, Bragan found his calling when Dodgers’ general manager Branch Rickey made him a minor league manager.

“Every one of my wins should have a note that says: ‘See Bobby Bragan,'” said Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams, who played for Bragan with the Dodgers’ minor league team in Fort Worth, Texas. “He disciplined me, and therefore taught me how to discipline.”

Bragan managed in the big leagues for seven seasons, starting with the Pirates in 1956 and 1957. He moved on to the Indians in 1958, then managed the Braves from 1963-66. His final record: 443-478.

But for those he touched, Bobby Bragan was one of the most influential men of their careers.

His photo – like more than 500,000 others in the Hall of Fame’s collection – will be preserved in Cooperstown forever.

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

Pierre chasing Hall of Famers

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Juan Pierre is on the move again – but this time it’s not on the basepaths.

Pierre, the active career steals leader with 459 whose playing time was limited over the last year and a half due to the Dodgers’ acquisition of Manny Ramirez, was dealt on Tuesday to the Chicago White Sox, where he will become their new left fielder and leadoff man. It will be Pierre’s fifth team in what will be his 11th big league season.

12-16-09-Berowski_Pierre.jpg“Juan always put the Dodgers first, even when it wasn’t in his personal best interest,” said Dodgers GM Ned Colleti.

Pierre currently ranks 47th all-time on Major League Baseball’s stolen base list. At 32 years of age, before all is said and done, Pierre should have no problem moving up considerably on that list. But the question remains, how many more steals are left in those legs?

At 1,406 steals, Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is baseball’s all-time stolen base king, and the only player in history to steal more than 1,000 bases. When Henderson was 32, he was ready to begin his 13th major league campaign and was only two steals shy of Lou Brock’s then record 938 steals. Rickey went on to play 25 seasons with nine different teams before hanging up his spikes for good and ultimately earning enshrinement in Cooperstown this past summer.

Pierre might not match Rickey’s mark of 1,406, but he could pass several Hall of Famers while moving up the all-time steals list. Pierre has averaged 45 steals per year since 2001 and should pass Hall of Famers Tommy McCarthy and Willie Keeler in 2010. He may also pass Hall members Paul Molitor, Fred Clarke and Luis Aparicio next season as well if he stays healthy.

One thing Pierre has going for him is his work ethic.

“I’ve never seen anyone who works like him – never” said Pierre’s former batting coach with the Marlins, Bill Robinson, “He’s hungry for knowledge, hungry to learn, hungry to play. It’s beautiful. He’s a delight.”

If Pierre maintains a stolen base rate close to his average over the next three seasons, by 2013 he will have also passed several more Hall of Famers: Bid McPhee, Hugh Duffy and Ozzie Smith, and in the process crack the top 20 on the all-time list.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at 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.

Nov. 18, 1966: Koufax calls it quits

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

When Sandy Koufax called it quits 43 years ago today — Nov. 18, 1966 — he ended a six-year run that scouts only dream about.

It was a six-year run good enough for a place in Cooperstown.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Koufax.jpgKoufax, who grew up in Brooklyn playing in the city’s “Ice Cream Leagues,” debuted with his hometown Dodgers in 1955. He posted five wins and a 3.02 ERA in his rookie year. The powerful lefty averaged only six wins per year for the first half of his career, but in 1961 Koufax began quite possibly the most impressive six-year span for a pitcher.

Koufax led the bigs in wins in 1963 (25), 1965 (26) and 1966 (27). His average ERA during his tyranny on National League hitters was an exceptional 1.99.

“I can see how he won 25 games,” said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra of Koufax’s 1963 season. “What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”

In 1963, Koufax also became just the second pitcher to ever take home an MVP and a Cy Young in the same season – after Don Newcombe did it with Brooklyn in the first year of the Cy Young award of 1956. Only six have earned that dual honor since (Vida Blue, Roger Clemens, Willie HernŠndez, Denny McLain and Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Bob Gibson).

And it wasn’t just soft-hitting utility men that had trouble with the mighty southpaw. Try a Hall of Famer with 475 career home runs.

“Hitting against Sandy Koufax is like drinking coffee with a fork,” said Pirates’ slugger Willie Stargell.

11-18-09-Lawrence_KoufaxNoHitters.jpgHarry Hooper, a four-time champion with the early 20th century Red Sox, echoed Stargell’s sentiments.

“You name a better left-hander in the history of baseball and I’ll eat my hat,” he said, referring to Koufax.

Koufax also became the first pitcher to reach four career no-hitters on Sept. 25, 1965, surpassing Larry Corcoran, Cy Young and Bob Feller. He is also one of only six pitchers to toss a perfect game and a regular no-hitter, along with Young, Jim Bunning, Addie Joss, Randy Johnson and the newest member Mark Buehrle.

It was severe arthritis in the once-in-a-generation left arm of Koufax that led to the demise of his young career. In fact, in April of 1966 Koufax was told that he couldn’t go another season, but he did – winning a career high 27 games with a career-best 1.73 ERA.

“Sandy pitches in extreme pain that can only be overcome by his motivational urge,” said team physician Dr. Robert Kerlan, according to an article in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgAnd despite this mental resolve that allowed the vaunted ace to pitch through immense pain, he was a gentleman of the highest order.

“There is hardly a strong enough word for the way the other players feel about Koufax,” said Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. “It almost goes beyond affection… for a man so gentle he seems misplaced in a jock shop.”

Koufax was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, just the 10th player (at the time) to be inducted in his first year of eligibility.

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern 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.

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.

Cox could be approaching a date in Cooperstown

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Bobby Cox has set the date for his retirement. If he remains on schedule, it will likely mean a date in Cooperstown as well.

After years of speculation, the Braves skipper has announced that 2010 will be his final year as a manager. He will continue to serve the organization as a consultant beyond next season.

9-24-09-Carr_MackMcGrawCox.jpg“I’m thrilled and happy to be coming back next year,” Cox told MLB.com. “The retirement, it’s time in my life that I do that.”

Cox ranks fourth all-time on baseball’s all-time managerial wins list with 2,409. He trails only Hall of Famers Connie Mack and John McGraw, and Tony La Russa, who is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame.

“Bobby loves the game. It’s in his blood,” La Russa said. “He always had his team ready to play.”

If he follows through on his retirement, Cox will be eligible for Hall of Fame Veterans Committee consideration in time for the Class of 2012. Among first-time eligible players up for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America election in 2012 are former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams and long-time Braves catcher Javy Lopez.

Next year will mark Cox’s 25th year as the Braves manager, his 29th overall. Cox began his managerial career in Atlanta from 1978-1981 and then managed for four years in Toronto from 1982-1985. After a stint as general manager, Cox became the Braves skipper again in 1991.

The 68-year-old manager led the Braves to 14 straight postseason appearances (1991-2005) and a World Series crown in 1995. He has a .556 winning percentage and five NL pennants to his credit.

And he shows his passion on the diamond. Cox has been ejected from a ballgame a record 150 times.

“He’s one of the greatest – not only managers, but people,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “He’s a Hall of Famer.”

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

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