Results tagged ‘ Major League Baseball ’

The Cubs are a hit

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Tuesday, the Cubs got off to a great start, connecting for eight straight hits off Pirates ace Zach Duke. While most of the balls were not hit particularly hard, they managed to find the right landing spots.

As Cubs leadoff batter Ryan Theriot put it, “The ball was bouncing our way and it was in our favor in the first inning for sure.”

9-10-09-Berowski_Jenkins.jpg With those eight hits, the Cubs tied the major league record for consecutive hits for a team at the start of their half of the first inning, a mark that they established on April 21, 1973 – ironically, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Six times since, a major league team has matched this mark.

The seven-run first inning on Tuesday was all the Cubs would need as they cruised to a 9-4 victory, but it wasn’t that easy for them back in ’73. Future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins started for the Cubs at home and the Pirates jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The Cubs bounced back in their half of the first with eight straight hits, including one by another future Hall of Famer, Billy Williams, chasing Pirates starter Nelson Briles before he could even record an out. But Fergie didn’t fare that well either.

Despite having six straight 20 win seasons under his belt, Jenkins hadn’t beaten the Pirates in his previous seven starts against them, and had only three wins in his previous 15 games against them. Fergie lamented after the game, “Guess some clubs gotta have your number.”  Fergie was pulled after just 4 1/3 innings, and didn’t factor in the decision. The Cubs would hang on for a 10-9 victory.

Other teams to match the mark established by the Cubs were the 1975 Phillies with future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, the 1975 Pirates featuring future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, the 1981 Athletics lead by future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and the 1990 Yankees.

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

Rising in the fall

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

A look at some of baseball’s record chasers as the last month of the season gets under way:


9-4-09-Hayes_HowardKlein.jpgRanking Ryan:
With August coming to a close, Ryan Howard cemented his name in the Phillies record book yet again. Last Friday marked his third multi-homer game of the month, tying the Phils record for a single calendar month. Among the five others to do it are Hall of Famers Chuck Klein (August 1931) and Mike Schmidt (August 1974 and August 1983). Howard’s teammate Chase Utley (September 2006) is on the list as well.

The last week also saw Howard drive in his 600th career run in just his 693rd game. That’s the fastest for any major-league player since 1946, when Ted Williams collected his 600th RBI in his 675th game.

Elite Pettitte: Though he lost a perfect game bid in the seventh inning, Andy Pettitte’s win on the final day of August made him the third winningest pitcher in Yankees history. He had been tied with Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez at 189. Only Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231) have more wins in Yankee history.

9-4-09-Hayes_Uggla.jpgPower at second: Florida’s Dan Uggla belted his 25th homer Wednesday, making him the third second baseman to hit at least 25 dingers in four straight seasons. The others are Alfonso Soriano (2002-05) and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg (1989-92). Unlike the others, however, Uggla has done it all in the first four years of his career.

Remembering Roberto: In October, the Hall of Fame will hold its second Character and Courage weekend to honor the achievements and spirit of Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente. Major League Baseball, meanwhile, is in the midst of its own celebration of the Pirates’ legend.

9-4-09-Hayes_Clemente.jpgWednesday was the eighth annual Roberto Clemente Day, and MLB’s teams announced their nominees for the Roberto Clemente Award, which seeks to find the player “who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”

Prior to Clemente’s tragic death on New Year’s Eve 1972 while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, the award was simply called the Commissioner’s Award. Last year’s winner was NL MVP Albert Pujols, and the names on the award read like a who’s who of the game’s greats since 1971 – the first year it was given out.

Hall of Famers have won the award 13 times, including Willie Mays, who received the honor the first year, Al Kaline, who was the first winner of the award after it was renamed in Clemente’s honor; Clemente’s teammate Willie Stargell. Other Hall of Famers who won the Clemente Award include Brooks Robinson, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Phil Niekro, Gary Carter, Cal Ripken, Jr., Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith, Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn.

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

Ernie Banks hits 400th career home run

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

Mr. Cub brightened an otherwise challenging season of “lovable losing” for Chicago Cubs fans 44 years ago today.

9-2-09-Lawrence_BanksMug.jpgTaking on lefty Curt Simmons and the rival Cardinals on Sept. 2, 1965, Ernie Banks and the Cubs were simply trying to finish strong in a season in which they were 63-73 heading into play on that day.

After two scoreless frames at the plate for the Cubs, they manufactured a run and had future Hall of Famer Billy Williams and teammate Ron Santo on base for Banks.

An influential member of the post-Jackie Robinson era of African-American stars in Major League Baseball, and a former Negro leaguer himself with the Kansas City Monarchs, Banks stepped to the plate against Simmons looking to give the Cubbies a bigger lead, with the potential to set one of his many career milestones.

9-2-09-Lawrence_BanksSwing.jpgBanks promptly blasted the ball into the bleachers at Wrigley Field like he had so many times before. It was home run No. 400 for Banks, making him only the 11th player to join that club at the time – and only the second African American to do so, along with “The Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays.

Banks was also the first to join the home run club as a Cub, and is still one of only four former Cubs in the 500 home run club along with Sammy Sosa, Jimmie Foxx and Rafael Palmeiro.

“Without (Banks), the Cubs would finish in Albuquerque,” said Jimmie *****, the manager of the White Sox from 1934-46.

9-2-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgBanks and the Cubs never reached the postseason during his 19 big league seasons. In 1965, the year of his historic 400th homer, the Cubs finished in eighth out of 10 in the NL with a .444 winning percentage.

But Banks certainly did his part to bring a pennant to Chicago. He is still No. 1 all-time in franchise history in games played (2,528), total bases (4,706) and extra base hits (1,009).

Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 in his first year eligible.

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

Double dip: Reds and Pirates have history of multiple matchups

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Monday, the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates played a day-night doubleheader. The two games were only one game short of the record for the most games played between these teams in one day. 

Like the day that the Reds and Pirates played three, this day began with consecutive losses for the Bucs. But that’s where the similarities between this Pirates team and the 1920s squad, one that had four future Hall of Famers on its roster, end. 

9-1-09-Berowski_Traynor.jpgIt was the next to last day of the season, Oct. 2, 1920, and third place, as well as a share of the World Series receipts, was on the line. Four future Hall of Famers would compete in Major League Baseball’s last triple-header, including a little-known 21-year-old shortstop named Pie Traynor – who was 1-for-7 with a run scored and a hit by pitch in two games.  

Going into the day, the Pirates sat three and a half games behind the Reds in the standings and needed a sweep in order to have a shot at securing third place on the season’s final day.  By the end of the first game, third place was decided. The Reds’ clean-up hitter, future Hall of Famer Edd Roush, was 2-for-6 with a double in Cincinnati’s 13-4 rout of Pittsburgh. Roush would get the rest of the day off, but the Reds would still take the second game 7-3, a game in which the Reds started two pitchers in the outfield and one at first base. The Pirates won game three, a six-inning affair that was called due to darkness. The three games took exactly five hours to play. Future Hall of Famers Max Carey and Billy Southworth also saw action in the triple-header.   

Ironically, all three tripleheaders in Major League history have a Pittsburgh Pirates connection. The first one, played on Labor Day 1890, saw Brooklyn sweep Pittsburgh.  The second took place on Labor Day 1896 and saw the Baltimore Orioles sweep the Louisville Colonels, the team that would merge with the Pirates in 1900.

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

New acquisition helps tell story of replacement players

Cox_90.jpgBy Matt Cox

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum tells the story of the greatest players to ever take the field. But the Museum is also dedicated to preserving the entire history of the National Pastime.

That’s where a recent donation comes in.

8-31-09-Cox_ReplacementBall.jpgBy early 1995, the stalemate between players and Major League Baseball, which led to the cancellation of over 900 baseball games during the 1994 season, was threatening the start of a new season. Teams recruited replacement players from outside the Major League Baseball Players Association to prepare for the scheduled campaign.

The introduction of replacement players created a division among fans, the media and others associated with the game. Some saw the strikebreakers as ushering in what then sports commentator Keith Olbermann called, “a post-apocalyptic nuclear vision of baseball,” while to others it was simply players trying to fulfill boyhood dreams. Despite the controversy, most replacement players never played a major league game. Federal judge Sonia Sotomayor, who was recently appointed to the United States Supreme Court, issued a preliminary injunction against Major League Baseball and the strike ended on April 2, 1995, one day before the start of the season.

Even though the 1995 season would see the return of Major League Players Association members before a regular season game was played, history was still made.

8-31-09-Cox_Runnells.jpgThis baseball was signed by members of the Detroit Tigers replacement team during spring training 1995. Spring training that year was particularly chaotic as more players were brought in for tryouts than usual and many used fake names to avoid harassment from disgruntled fans. Among the 19 signatures on the ball is that of Tom Runnells, the interim manager for the Tigers. Runnells, who had previously managed the Montreal Expos, was the manager for Detroit’s Triple-A team, the Toledo Mud Hens. When Tigers manager Sparky Anderson refused to work with replacement players, Runnells was called up to the big leagues. When the strike ended, he went back to managing minor league teams, but has recently made it back to the majors as bench coach for the Colorado Rockies.

The ball was donated by Karen and John Schenkenfelder, who received it from Willy Finnegan, a business associate who quit his job as a bond trader to play for the Tigers. Finnegan was a pitcher for University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a handful of minor league teams in the 1980s, but never played for a major league club. Then in 1995, the Tigers invited the 35-year-old Finnegan to spring training as a replacement player. Finnegan jumped at the opportunity – and fondly remembers the younger players calling him “Pops” and having a cup of coffee with Hall of Famer Al Kaline on his first day in camp.

The stories to be preserved are not always milestones or records to be documented in Cooperstown. This particular ball will be a useful tool in examining labor issues and the relationship between fans and ballplayers. It will be on display this fall in the new acquisitions case, located in the Cooperstown Room here at the Hall of Fame.

Matt Cox was a curatorial intern in the Class of 2009 Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A little anniversary: Veeck sent Gaedel to bat 58 years ago

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

Bill Veeck always found ways to lure fans to the ballpark, using elaborate giveaways and exploding scoreboards.

Yet perhaps the most well-known stunt of his career as baseball executive could hardly be seen by the fans in the upper deck. The memory of that promotion, however, will live forever in baseball lore.

Veeck, then the owner of the St. Louis Browns, sent 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to bat 58 years ago today.

8-19-09-Bielefeld_Veeck.jpgThe American League was celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1951, and Veeck wanted to do something memorable. He partnered with a local brewery to deliver a big crowd, and they came through. The Browns recorded their highest attendance mark in four years, as 18,369 fans crammed into Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis for an August 19 doubleheader between the last place Detroit Tigers and the eventual cellar dwellers, the Browns.

He also hired Gaedel -a 26-year-old stunt performer. To keep his plan a secret, Veeck sent the contract to the league office late on Saturday, Aug. 18 – knowing it would not be delivered until Monday.

Between games Gaedel – sporting No. 1/8 – jumped out of a large papier-mâché cake and scurried into the Browns dugout. Little did the fans know at the time – nor did anyone from the league office – that Veeck had discretely signed Gaedel to a major league contract. Gaedel, given strict orders from Veeck not to swing the bat, swapped his elf-like shoes for a pair of cleats.  

“When he heard what I wanted him to do, he was a little dubious,” Veeck wrote in his autobiography, Veeck – As in Wreck.  “I had to give him a sales pitch.  I said, ‘Eddie, you’ll be the only midget in the history of the game. You’ll be appearing before thousands of people. Your name will go in the record books for all-time. You’ll be famous, Eddie. You’ll be immortal.'”

Gaedel waited in the Browns tunnel until the bottom of the first inning, he heard public address announcer Bernie Ebert boom, “Batting for Frank Saucier, No. 1/8, Eddie Gaedel.”

8-19-09-Bielefeld_Keeler.jpgAs he approached the batters’ box, home plate umpire Ed Hurley summoned Browns manager Zack Taylor. Prepared by Veeck, Taylor brought with him a copy of Gaedel’s contract and a roster – proving they had room for him on the team. Appeased, Hurley called for play to resume.

“When Eddie went into that crouch, his strike zone was just about visible to the naked eye,” Veeck wrote. “I picked up a ruler and measured it for posterity. It was 1.5 inches.” 

Tigers pitcher Bob Cain walked Gaedel on four pitches – all high. At first base, Gaedel was lifted for pinch runner Jim Delsing and left to a roaring ovation from the crowd.

“For a minute, I felt like Babe Ruth,” Gaedel said after the game. 

American League president Will Harridge was not amused. He banned Gaedel from Major League Baseball and implemented a rule stating that all player contracts must be approved by the president prior to that player appearing in a game.

Gaedel’s walk also was expunged from the record books in 1951, but was later restored. His career stat line reads one game, one plate appearance, one walk and an on-base percentage of 1.000.

Veeck would own the Browns for two more seasons before selling. In 1959, he purchased the White Sox and would have two separate stints as the team’s owner. He passed away in 1986 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Bridget Bielefeld is the 2009 public relations intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Former Atlanta Brave Brian Hunter gets his turn in Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Brian Hunter peered into the Braves’ locker in the Hall of Fame’s Today’s Game exhibit and stared right into history.

“Look, Smoltzie’s shoes,” said Hunter of the cleats belonging to former Braves teammate John Smoltz. “And there’s (a photo of Rafael) Furcal. And Andruw Jones’ bat. I was there with all of them.”

8-17-09-Carr_Hunter.jpgHunter was more than “there.” The nine-year major league vet, who spent parts of five seasons with the Braves, appeared in three World Series with Atlanta and played a role in the Braves’ remarkable run through the 1990s.

Hunter toured the Hall of Fame on Monday as part of a team from the Cooperstown All Star Village. Hunter, along with former Minnesota Twins farmhand Vern Hildebrandt, serve as coaches for the team.

Hunter, now 41 but still looking every bit the athlete, broke into the majors in 1991 and finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, He hit .333 in the Braves’ win over Pittsburgh in the NLCS, then scored two runs and drove in three more while playing in all seven games of the World Series. Hunter appeared in the 1992 World Series with Atlanta, then — after being traded to Pittsburgh in following the 1993 season — wrapped up his big league career with stints with the Pirates, Reds, Mariners, Cardinals, Braves (again) and the Phillies.

It was Hunter’s first trip to the Hall of Fame, but — on paper — he’s been here since his big league debut in 1991. Hunter, just like every one of the 17,000-plus men who have played Major League Baseball, has a file in the Hall of Fame’s Library. When shown a file story recounting Hunter’s brush with a beanball, his youth baseball team let out a big “Ooohhhh.”

“This is amazing,” said Hunter while poring over a few of the three million documents in the Hall of Fame’s Library. “It’s all here.”

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

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