Results tagged ‘ Major League Baseball ’

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.

Induction moments

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The gesture was so touching, it was easy to forget that these were two of the toughest umpires ever to don chest protectors.

It was fifteen minutes after Sunday’s Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown, and Doug Harvey was headed to the post-induction press conference.

07-25-10-Muder-Fogerty.jpgSuddenly, a man came running up behind Harvey, calling “Doug, Doug!”

Enter Joe West, Major League Baseball umpire and former colleague of Harvey.

“I am so happy for you,” said West. And then – with an awe-like respect for the umpire known as “god” – West kissed Harvey’s hand.

A Cooperstown-only moment, to be sure. And there were others.

How about John Fogerty’s appearance at the Hall of Fame? The rock-and-roll legend donated his bat-shaped guitar “Slugger” to the Museum for display Sunday evening. Earlier in the day, Fogerty got to spend time with one of his idols – Hall of Famer Willie Mays – before performing his baseball anthem “Centerfield” live at the Induction Ceremony.

“I don’t even feel like I should be here with these guys,” Fogerty said. “That was Willie Mays!”

For Fogerty – himself a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer – the Cooperstown experience was like that of any baseball fan.

“I felt like I was eight years old all over again.”

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

Ichiro, Phat Albert become Hall of Fame-eligible

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Someday – 10 to 15 years from now – Monday will be known as the day it became official. The day when the clock started ticking. The day two legends truly began their journey to Cooperstown.

04-07-10-Muder_Pujols.jpgMonday was the day that Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki first became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Now, don’t go marking calendars just yet. Phat Albert and Ichiro have a lot of baseball left to play, and their Hall of Fame eligibility doesn’t officially begin until they’ve been retired for five years. At 36, Ichiro looks like he could play for at least 10 more years. And Pujols just turned 30, leaving him with a real chance to take a crack at 700 home runs and 3,000 hits in the latter part of this decade.

But barring the totally unforeseen, Ichiro and Albert are headed for Cooperstown. And on Opening Day, they cleared their primary eligibility hurdle when they appeared in a game in their 10th season of Major League Baseball.

Both Pujols and Suzuki broke into the majors in 2001, and both became instant stars. Each won their respective league’s Rookie of the Year awards that season, and it’s been virtually a non-stop success ride from there.

04-07-10-Muder_Suzuki.jpgIchiro has been named to nine straight All-Star Games, has won nine straight Gold Gloves in right field and was the AL MVP in 2001. He set the all-time single-season hit record in 2004 with 262 base hits, and owns nine straight 200-hit seasons – another big league record.

Pujols has been named to eight All-Star Games, has won three NL MVPs (including the last two in a row), owns a Gold Glove at first base and helped the Cardinals win the 2006 World Series.

But until Monday – when Pujols led his Cardinals over the Reds with two home runs and Ichiro went 1-for-4 for the Mariners in their win against the A’s, the pair had not satisfied the Hall of Fame requirement of playing at least 10 big league seasons.

It would appear to be the last hurdle on a path that will likely take both to Cooperstown.

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

Managing greatness

 
Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Noted baseball author and historian Harold Seymour penned the book “The Golden Age of Baseball” about early 20th century baseball – a time when Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson were the stars of the game. Some would say that what we are experiencing now is the golden age of the baseball manager.

03-17-10-Berowski_LaRusaCoxTorre.jpgEntering the 2010 season, three of baseball’s five all-time winningest managers are active. At 2,552 wins, Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa sits about three seasons away from moving into second-place all-time, ahead of New York Giants Hall of Fame manager John McGraw. Thirteen times LaRussa has piloted clubs to a playoff birth, including two World Championships.

Bobby Cox of the Braves and Joe Torre of the Dodgers, with a combined five World Series championships and 29 postseason appearances, come in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, on the all-time manager win list. With the exception of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Cox lead Atlanta to a first-place finish every season from 1991 to 2005, a mark that is unparalleled in Major League Baseball history.

Meanwhile, for 14 seasons beginning in 1996, Torre has lead either the Yankees or the Dodgers to the postseason with either a first-place finish or a wild-card berth.

To find the last time that three of baseball’s top five winningest managers were active in a season, we have to go back 60 years. The 1950 season was the last for Connie Mack and Joe McCarthy, and also marked the beginning of Bucky Harris’ third stint with the Washington Senators.

At 3,731 wins, no one will be closing in on Mack’s spot at No. 1 on the list anytime soon. But if history holds true it is only a matter of time before Cooperstown comes calling for LaRussa, Cox and Torre. Other than those three active skippers, the rest of the top 11 all-time winningest managers are already enshrined in Cooperstown.

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

2014 could mean a Brave New World in Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The Class of 2014 might just mean a Brave New World at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Former Braves and Mets ace Tom Glavine officially announced his retirement on Thursday, ending stellar 22-year big league career. Glavine did not pitch at the major league level in 2009, meaning he will be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration in 2014.

02-11-10-Muder_Glavine.jpgThe numbers indicate Glavine will get strong support.

One of just 24 300-game winners in Major League Baseball history, Glavine finishes with a record of 305-203. He won two Cy Young Awards (1991 and 1998), was named to 10 All-Star Games and posted 20-or-more wins in five seasons – leading the National League lead win victories in all five years.

In the postseason, Glavine won 14 games and was the World Series MVP in 1995 when the Braves defeated the Indians in the Fall Classic.

Glavine joins a star-studded roster of players who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2014. Former Braves teammate Greg Maddux, who won 355 games, is scheduled to be on the 2014 BBWAA ballot – setting up the possibility of a Braves reunion in Cooperstown.

Other candidates who are slated to become eligible in 2014 include two-time American League Most Valuable Player Frank Thomas, 270-game winner Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent, the all-time home run leader among second basemen.

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

Birthday Sunday

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Jan. 31, the Hall of Fame will wish Happy Birthday to three of our own. 

Ernie Banks will turn 79. Although his beloved Cubbies, a perennial second-division team during his tenure there, never made it to the World Series, it was not because of Mr. Cub, who did everything he could year after year to try to get them there. A 12-time All-Star and two-time NL MVP, Banks hit more than 500 home runs and drove in more than 1,600 runs in his 19 seasons playing first base and shortstop with Chicago’s North-Siders.

01-29-10-Berowski_BanksRyanRobinson.jpgAlso celebrating his birthday is the all-time Major League strikeout king, and current president of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express will celebrate his 63rd birthday. Although his birthday is officially January 31, Ryan seems to have received an early birthday present when his ownership group was recently selected to purchase his home state’s AL franchise, the Texas Rangers. 

Rounding out the trio of birthday boys is Jackie Robinson. The only man with his uniform number retired across Major League Baseball, Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Although he passed away in 1972, Jackie Robinson will be remembered by many on what would have been his 91st birthday.

There are 292 Hall of Famers and 365 days in a calendar year, yet there are more than a dozen dates on the calendar that celebrate the birthday of three Hall of Famers. In fact, May 14 is the day of the year with the most Hall of Famer birthdays: Ed Walsh, Earle Combs, Tony Perez, JL Wilkinson and Alex Pompez. 

October is the month that has the most Hall of Famer birthdays – 36. And three Hall of Famers passed away on their birthday – Joe Tinker, Gabby Hartnett and Bucky Harris. 

A pair of baseball’s former home run kings will have the anniversaries of their births marked next week. Hank Aaron will turn 76 Feb, 5, and Feb. 6 will mark 115th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s birth.

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.

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