Results tagged ‘ Mariano Rivera ’

Prepare 4 October in Cooperstown: New York Yankees

By Trevor Hayes

While the heartbeat of baseball can be found in Cooperstown throughout the year, there’s no better time to reconnect with the National Pastime than when legends are being made. As the postseason approaches, fans all over the country can connect with the Hall of Fame to get in the fall spirit.

Bronx Bombers fans have a heavily beaten path from New York City to Cooperstown, the Yankees are a short drive from the Home of Baseball, where they are well represented with a record 27 World Championships.

The team’s legacy goes back almost a full century with 48 Hall of Famers tied to the interlocking NY, while 25 have made their careers on the field while wearing the pinstripes of baseball’s winningest franchise. From the early days of Wee Willie and Happy Jack to the Babe, the Iron Horse, the Clipper, the Mick, Casey, Yogi and Whitey followed by Catfish, Goose and Mr. October and more recently Bernie, Mr. November, Mo and A-Rod; the Yanks have been blessed with stardom. All of which is detailed in a special exhibit from the Associated Press at the Hall of Fame called Pinstripe Pictures.

During first two years of the American League’s existence, there was no team in New York, but the Baltimore Orioles moved to the Big Apple and became the Highlanders. While stars like Jack Chesbro, whose record 41st win of the 1904 season is celebrated with the record-setting ball in One for the Books, came first, it wasn’t however until adopting a new nickname and buying Babe Ruth from their rivals in Beantown that the Yankees really came into their own.

Ruth, of course, is one of the greatest players of all-time and as such, is honored for his record-setting career as a home run hitter in One for the Books and The Babe Ruth Room which is found within the Baseball Timeline and is dedicated to telling his story. The Yankees of the 1920s and 30s were molded in Ruth’s image, taking on the moniker Murderer’s Row with future Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri – who is noted as the first player to hit two grand slams in a single game with a scorebook showing his feat in One for the Books – leading the lineup while Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock were the stalwarts on the mound.

In 1928, the Bronx Bombers boasted nine future Hall of Famers with another baseball legend, Miller Huggins at the helm. By 1930, they’d reached six World Series and won three. Within the Timeline are items presented to Hoyt after the 1928 season in which he went 23-7 and won two games in the Series; a jacket, cap and mitt used by Pennock; spikes belonging to leadoff hitter and speedster Combs; and a pocket watch and warm-up sweater worn by Huggins

While Ruth aged and Gehrig came in to his prime, manager Joe McCarthy took over in 1931. The team once again was led by a future Hall of Famer and featured nine on the field for three seasons with names like Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. As the Yanks won five more Championships in the 1930s, the team carved a larger place within baseball history and therefore in the Timeline, where Gehrig’s original Yankee Stadium locker, trophies and his uniform are on display, while a 1939 uniform from his final season in One for the Books marks the end of his consecutive games played streak – once considered an unbreakable record.

Transitioning from the Iron Horse to the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio became the on field leader. In the 1940s New York took home four more Championships and five AL pennants, despite a small dip during World War II when the team sent several stars to the military like DiMaggio, 2009 Hall of Fame Inductee Joe Gordon, catcher Bill Dickey, and shortstop and future Voice of the Yankees Phil Rizzuto, whose popular catchphrase “Holy Cow!” inspired an exhibit that now greets visitors near the lobby at the Hall of Fame.

Within the Hall, DiMaggio has a presence within One for the Books where his record 56-game hitting streak is celebrated with an interactive video monitor inside his original Yankee Stadium locker.

As the 1950s arrived stars like Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra joined DiMaggio and the Bombers, while the legendary Professor Casey Stengel took over the reigns in 1949, capturing a record five straight Titles from 1949-53. Stengel left the team after the 1960 season, failing to reach the World Series in 1954 and 1959 – winning seven times. During this time, Don Larsen authored the lone perfect game in World Series history, which is preserved in Autumn Glory with several artifacts.

The mitt worn by Larsen’s receiver, Berra, is on display in One for the Books, while the backstop’s 1951 MVP Award – one of three he earned – along with Rizzuto’s glove and batting helmet; Stengel’s warm-up jacket and spikes; items from team architects George Weiss and Lee MacPhail and jerseys from Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle can be found in the Timeline. Mantle also has artifacts like the ball he hit for his 522nd homer, passing Ted Williams are also in the Timeline, while the bat he used to hit his 500th home run and the bat he used to hit an estimated 565-foot home run are on display in One for the Books. Also during this time period Mantle and two-time MVP  Roger Maris unleashed an assault on Ruth’s home run record, with Maris breaking the mark in 1961 by hitting 61. A score sheet from the historic game, Maris’ bat and the ball from No. 61 call One for the Books their home. In Baseball at the Movies, as part of the 50th celebration of this event, there are also a number of artifacts from the movie 61* about the 1961 season including an autographed shooting script from director Billy Crystal.

After losing the 1964 World Series, it wouldn’t be until 1976 that the Bombers would make it back to the promised land and not until 1977 that they’d capture another crown. With a new crop of future Inductees, the Yankees won back-to-back titles with a team referred to as the Bronx Zoo. In the Hall of Fame’s Timeline this era is represented by Reggie Jackson’s bat from 1977, the season he earned his Mr. October nickname; a mitt and mask used by captain and catcher Thurman Munson; and Goose Gossage’s 1982 jersey, in which he struck out 102 batters in 93 innings and saved 30 games.

While the 1980s were the first decade since the Teens that the Yankees failed to win a championship, stars like captain Don Mattingly and future Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro and Dave Winfield wore the pinstripes. Each of them craved their own niche in baseball history – with Niekro and Mattingly’s record-setting time noted in One for the Books. Mattingly’s sixth grand slam bat and his eighth consecutive game with a home run bat, both from the 1987 season, appear there along with Niekro’s interlocking NY cap worn during his 3,000th career strikeout.

The Yankees reloaded and began their next dynasty in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s, the players making history continued to be generous in donations. Among items the Hall has collected since the 90s began are one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott’s 1993 no-hitter cap (One for the Books); a bat used by Paul O’Neill’s during his 1994 batting title; a bat used by the second most prolific postseason home run hitter of all-time Bernie Williams during the 1996 Title run; manager Joe Torre’s 1998 World Series jersey; David Cone’s perfect game jersey from 1999 (all in the Timeline); and Hideki Matsui’s bat from the 2003 World Series when he became the first Japanese-born player to homer in the Fall Classic (Today’s Game).

Moving from old to new, the Bronx Bombers’ winning tradition is marked in One for the Books where a replica of the 1996 World Series trophy is on display, donated by former team owner George Steinbrenner – who led the team to seven World Championships.

The Yankees squads of today – some of whom were around for the beginning of the 90s renaissance – have staked out their spot inside the Hall of Fame as well. In his climb up the home run leader boards, Alex Rodriguez has donated his 500th home run helmet (One for the Books); his 2009 jersey from when he tied the AL record for 30 home run and 100 RBI seasons with 13 (Today’s Game); and  to  600th career home run spikes (Today’s Game). Artifacts from current captain Derek Jeter include his 1996 World Series jersey (Autumn Glory); 1998 World Series spikes (Timeline); the batting gloves he wore to become the Yankees all-time hits leader, passing Gehrig (Today’s Game); and his 3,000th hit batting gloves and helmet from earlier this year (Today’s Game). And Panamanian-born closer Mariano Rivera – who just this week reached 600 career saves – donated among other items, his cap from save No. 400 (Today’s Game), the 1999 World Series spikes in which he recorded two of his 23 consecutive saves (¡Viva Baseball!) and his 2009 two-save World Series cap.

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

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Gonzalez shaping baseball’s stars of tomorrow

By Trevor Hayes

He doesn’t strike the average onlooker as a former Major Leaguer. But the impact Luis Gonzalez made on the game of baseball is unmistakable, his place in history is secure and – despite his unassuming looks – he is a recognizable figure for fans.

Fans know him as the offensive star of the 2001 World Champion Diamondbacks – the man with 57 home runs and the Game 7 game-winning hit off Mariano Rivera. They remember his 30 game-hitting streak (a bat from which resides in Cooperstown along with his Game 7 bat). In Arizona, he’s the first player to have his number retired and he’s now immortalized each during each D-backs home game as the racing Gonzo – a more than eight-foot tall caricature of the 19-year vet – that competes in against Mark Grace, Randy Johnson and Matt Williams.

This summer he’ll serve as the All-Star Game Ambassador when the Mid-Summer Classic heads to Chase Field in Phoenix. But on Monday, Gonzo sported a little gray stubble on his face and an Arizona T-Rex’s T-shirt while at the Hall of Fame with his son’s Little League team for the second straight year.

 

“There are a lot of hopes and dreams in baseball,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why it’s so exciting to bring the kids. It’s exciting to be able to show them your artifacts and show them you actually did something in the game.”

Gonzalez, his brother Rex and a former minor league teammate of Rex’s coach the T-Rexes who are competing in a weeklong tournament at nearby Cooperstown Dreams Park. Like last summer, Gonzalez and the T-Rexes met with Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson before touring the Museum.

Idelson briefed the team on the Hall’s history and purpose before telling them about the importance of character, integrity and good sportsmanship in baseball. After posing for a few photos with the young ballplayers, Idelson wished them luck for the remainder of their week in Cooperstown and told them to enjoy the Museum.

“It gives these young kids a chance to come out and see the history,” Gonzalez said. “When they leave here, it’s amazing to see how they appreciate everything. This is the history of the game and it means a lot to them.”

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

Dan Quisenberry: Fireman of the Year

By Trevor Hayes

Dan Quisenberry was never the type to grab headlines and national attention. He was a solid performer and a reliable closer. He won a World Series and appeared in every game of another Fall Classic. He pitched 12 seasons in the Majors, but he was anything but a typical ballplayer.

Quiz wrote poetry. He was a shutdown reliever, but he relied not on a blow-away fastball but pinpoint control, deception and a submarine delivery that confused hitters and earned him the nickname “The Australian,” because he came from down under.

He might have been the wackiest guy to play for the Royals – though with personalities like “The Mad Hungarian” Al Hrabosky having worn a K.C. uniform that might be a tough title to hold. But in Kansas City, everyone who slots into the back of the Royals bullpen must live up to Quiz.

Growing up in Kansas City, I’ve gotten a steady diet of two things – bad baseball to watch and plenty of chatter about the team’s successful past. Quisenberry is talked about with great respect. I was at his Induction to the Royals Hall of Fame and remember the sadness throughout the Metro area when he passed away after a bought with brain cancer.

A unique personality off the field, when Quisenberry took the mound hitters could expect a fight and lots of strikes. Using the solid defense behind him, he picked away at the zone. He gave up just 11 walks in 1983 and 12 in 1984 over a combined 268 innings, and was runnerup for the Cy Young Award in both years.

As guys like Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter began to define the modern day closer, in some ways Quisenberry was right there. He set the single season record for saves in 1983 with 45 – a mark that is still tied for tops in the Royals record books. It was the first time any pitcher had reached 40 saves in a single season. In 1984 Quiz threatened his own record, ending the season with 44, while Sutter saved 45. The two shared the mark until Dave Righetti got 46 in 1986. Jeff Reardon joined Quisenberry as the only pitchers with a pair of 40-save seasons in 1988 and then in 1992, he broke Quiz’s AL saves record, a mark he’d held since passing Fingers in 1987.

As the position of closer evolved in the 1980s, several pitchers put their stamp on the game, but today’s advanced metrics show how good Quisenberry was. His Adjusted ERA+ (which factors ballpark tendencies and season averages) of 146 ties him for fifth all-time. The names above him: Mariano Rivera, Pedro Martinez, Jim Devlin and Lefty Grove. He’s tied with Water Johnson and Hoyt Wilhelm. His career rate of 1.4 walks per nine innings pitched is the lowest since 1926 and fifth lowest since 1901.

One lasting impression Quiz holds on the closer position is his ties to the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award (originally called Fireman of the Year). From 1980 to 1985, he earned five gold-plated firefighter’s helmets, including four in a row. During that span he yeilded only the 1981 honors to Fingers (who won four in his career). Rivera is the only pitcher to match Quiz’s five Awards and noone has won more than two in a row.

Through the years, Quiz has become one of my favorite players, and the bobblehead of him wearing a fireman’s hat that sits on my desk is one of my favorite pieces of memorabilia not only because of the record it represents, but the player and story behind it. The Hall of Fame’s newest exhibit, One for the Books, which opens May 28, is focused on that exact concept. It seeks to not only glorify the game’s greatest records, but the rich stories behind the records.

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

Enter Sandman

Light_90.jpgBy Steve Light

03-16-11-Light_Rivera.jpgMy favorite record seems to get further out of reach for all who might one day chase it each October. That’s because the man who owns it, keeps raising (or is it lowering?) the bar when the autumn chill returns to the Bronx, year after year.

As all baseball fans know – seasons come and go, and teams change. Players grow old, or leave, or are traded away. Next year’s team might very well look nothing like the last. But as a Yankees fan, it seems like Mariano Rivera never changes. I feel like I’ve followed Rivera my whole life. He broke in with the Yankees in 1995, when I was just 12, and became a dominating pitcher one year later.

So many of his career moments are engrained into my memory: I remember the sinking feeling as I watched Luis Gonzalez’s blooper in 2001 and the euphoric feeling I felt as Mo sprinted to the mound and collapsed with joy as Aaron Boone rounded the bases in 2003. I even had the chance to fulfill a life-long dream and witness the Yankees clinch the AL pennant in 2009 at Yankee Stadium, with Mo, of course, on the mound. Now in 2011, can I be blamed for assuming that the Yankee’s 9th inning will always belong to him?

03-16-11-Light_Yankee.jpgWhen Mo finally calls it quits – which given recent performances could be many years away – he will undoubtedly leave the game as one of the greatest postseason performers in baseball history. Numbers don’t lie, and Rivera’s record-setting postseason ERA of 0.71 serves as a testament not only to his excellence, but his consistency.

Rivera, who will soon kick off his 17th season in a major league uniform, is the closest thing baseball has to a sure thing: Batters know what he’s throwing, and fans know the game is already over.  In the postseason, his achievements are nothing short of stunning. He has recorded his historic 0.71 ERA over the course of 139.2 innings. To put that into perspective, throughout his career Mo has averaged 79 innings per season. That means he has recorded a 0.71 ERA over nearly two full regular seasons worth of postseason ball. In other words, as good as Mariano is in regular season play (2.23 ERA), he is one and a half runs per game better in the postseason.

On the postseason ERA leader board, Mo keeps company with some impressive names: the top ten includes Hall of Famers Eddie Plank, Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson, and yes, Babe Ruth. One may strongly suspect that when Rivera finally leaves the mound, it won’t be long before they keep him company here in Cooperstown as well. This, however, is one Yankee fan who hopes that those days are still many years away.

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

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

Cooperstown credentials

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

When all-time saves king Trevor Hoffman announced his retirement on Wednesday, it marked the end of a brilliant career.

It also started the clock running on his Hall of Fame candidacy, which is scheduled to begin in 2016.

01-12-11-Muder_Hoffman.jpgIt seems like a long time from now. But by the time we reach fifth United States presidential election of the new millennium, the Hall of Fame may be in the midst of a historic run of inductees.

Since the Baseball Writers’ Association of America began electing Hall of Fame candidates in 1936, 44 players have won election in their first year of eligibility. This includes the first five of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner in 1936, but does not represent the elections of Lou Gehrig (elected by acclimation) in 1939 or Roberto Clemente (elected by special election) in 1973.

Starting in 1936, the BBWAA has conducted 68 Hall of Fame elections. And only once – 1989-90 – have at least two first-ballot candidates been elected in back-to-back years. Those elections featured Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski in 1989, followed by Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer in 1990.

But beginning in 2013, the BBWAA could easily select multiple first-ballot candidates in four straight elections.

Two years from now, the Hall of Fame ballot will feature players like Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling for the first time. The following year, in 2014, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas will debut on the ballot.

01-12-11-Muder_Hoffman2.jpgIn 2015, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz are all eligible for the first time. And in 2016, Hoffman will join Ken Griffey Jr. on the ballot.

Since the selection of the first class, the 1999 election marked the only time as many as three first-ballot candidates were elected in the same year. In that time, only seven other elections (1962, 1982, 1989, 1990, 2001, 2004, 2007) featured as many as two first-ballot electees.

But with the above list featuring the likes of four 300-game winners, three members of the 500-home run club, a member of the 3,000-hit club and the all-time saves leader, we could see a couple years with three-or-more electees and as many as four years with multiple enshrines.

Predicting the BBWAA vote is never easy. But the talent set to become Hall of Fame-eligible in the next five years in undeniable.

As for 2017 and beyond, consider the likes of Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera, Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel – all of whom are likely to retire in the next few seasons. The streak could easily reach five or six years with multiple first-ballot electees.

Bottom line: Baseball was filled with shining stars in the 1990s and 2000s. And thanks to those players, Cooperstown is going to be one busy place this decade.

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

Going Gonzo for Cooperstown

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Winning a World Series is the goal of every major league player from the time they enter the big leagues. Luis Gonzalez not only has a ring, but helped his team in dramatic fashion with a walk-off hit in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the premier closer of his generation, the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera.

 
07-28-10-Carr-GonzalezLuis.jpgThe 2001 World Series was special because it was the Diamondbacks’ first and the first ever to be played in Arizona – but more so because it came two months after the September 11th attacks.

“There was so much going on in the world at that time that baseball was a release for people. Especially being played in New York where the attacks took place. They could forget about all the trouble and enjoy America’s Pastime,” said Gonzalez, who is in Cooperstown this week coaching his son Jacob’s travel team at Cooperstown Dreams Park.

“Gonzo” donated the bat he used from that 2001 game to the Hall of Fame, and it is on display in the Autumn Glory exhibit on the third floor of the Museum.

“It was dramatic, in Game 7 and definitely a memorable World Series,” he said.

Gonzalez’s team is 5-1 so far this week – and the players visited the Museum on Wednesday after meeting Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, who gave them a sneak peak at one of the newest Hall acquisitions – the cap Arizona’s Edwin Jackson wore during his June 25 no-hitter.

Gonzalez retired in 2009, and he will have his number retired by the Diamondbacks on Aug. 7 – the first player to receive that honor.

“I’ve been enjoying my time coaching my son and taking the team to Cooperstown,” Gonzalez said. “It is great to take them through the Museum so they can dream – just as I did as a kid.”

Gonzalez will be eligible for Hall of Fame election in 2014 and with five All-Star appearances, 354 home runs, 596 doubles (15th on the all-time list) and a lifetime .283 batting average over 19 seasons he is likely to get some consideration.

“The Hall of Fame is every kid’s dream when you start playing baseball,” said Gonzalez. “You just hope that I did as much as I could in the game, that I helped with community service and that I did enough on and off the field.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Grapefruit stories

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I’m sitting in Tampa International Airport awaiting the one non-stop Southwest Airlines flight back to Albany, having just concluded my Grapefruit League spring training jaunt. My Spring Training mission each year is to visit with those who are close to the Museum – current players and management, Hall of Famers, owners and supporters.

03-24-10-Idelson_DawsonPerez.jpgHaving spent eight years combined in the Red Sox and Yankee front offices before being hired in Cooperstown in 1994, my knowledge was limited to Florida Spring Training: the Yankees were in Ft. Lauderdale and the Red Sox in Winter Haven. Since, I have traveled to the desert, too.

The differences are stark: The air is markedly drier in Arizona, because of the elevation. The ballparks in Arizona are surrounded by mountains; most of the ones in Florida, by water. Thirteen of 15 ballparks in Arizona are within 60 miles of each other. In Florida, they span across the state. I spent seven nights in one hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona; I was in six different places in six nights in Florida and flew in and out of airports across the state from each other.

The one similarity? I had a game rained out in each state.

I had a chance to visit with a number of our Hall of Famers. Andre Dawson and I had dinner in North Miami Beach, near his home. He’s already made great progress on his speech and is getting ready for Induction. “I’ll try not to get too emotional,” the stoic “Hawk” told me. I let him know that if he did not get emotional, I would be worried. Almost every speech I have heard since 1994 has been emotional. 

Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Clark, Ken Meifert from the Hall, and I, saw Mike Schmidt and his wife Donna in Palm Beach Gardens. We talked about a variety of topics, from baseball to bull riding to music to living in Florida. Mike is very excited about our inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Golf tournament in June, in which he will participate. He was thrilled to know that a number of the 28 spots available are already filled.

03-24-10-Idelson_Jupiter.jpgLast Saturday, we hosted our Hall of Fame Champions in Jupiter. John and Kathy Greenthal became the first Champions in Hall of Fame history to attend events in both Spring Training states. Jim and Tina Collias made the trip over from Naples to Jupiter, and Dan Glazer also joined us. Hall of Fame Board member Bill DeWitt, owner of the Cardinals, was generous in hosting us for his team’s game with the Mets. Spring Training games are usually not that interesting, but this one featured the Mets scoring three runs in the 9th, the last on an Ike Davis game-tying home run, only to have Ruben Gotay lead off the bottom of the 9th with a walk-off home run.

Speaking of walk-off home runs, we dined with Dennis and Jennifer Eckersley after the game. I asked Dennis what he thought of Doug Harvey. “He was behind the plate for Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series,” Dennis reminded me, as I began to suffer the symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease. He still thought Harvey was an excellent arbiter. 

I headed across the state to Yankee camp and saw many old friends in the clubhouse before the game: Billy Connors, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, Steve Donohue, the team athletic trainer, Joe Girardi, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, whom we drafted when I worked for the team. The game was rained out as Gene Michael, his minor league teammate and Tigers broadcaster, Jim Price, and I had lunch. Also saw Tiger friends Dave Dombrowski and Al Aliva in the dining room and learned more about the Tigers.

Dinner that night was with Wade and Debbie Boggs and Reggie Jackson. Eddie Fastook, the team’s traveling security director and a long-time friend, also joined us. 

Unbeknownst to me, Boggs grew up a big Reggie Jackson fan, even wearing No. 9 in honor, the number Reggie wore early in his career in Oakland. Wade told the story of how in the mid 1980s, Reggie gave him one of his bats to use in 1985. “I used it for 33 straight games and hit five home runs,” said Wade. “I loved that bat and then I broke it on a Dave Stieb pitch,” a dejected Wade recalled.

03-24-10-Idelson_Zimmer.jpgThe next morning, I visited City of Palms Park in Fort Myers to see the Red Sox and the Rays. I met up with Don Zimmer, who is very bullish on the Rays this year. “The best club we’ve had in my seven years with them,” Zim said.

Zim told me how much he admired Dawson and Ryne Sandberg when he managed the Cubs. “Two guys who led by example,” he said. “The other players watched these guys and saw greatness in the making.”

I told Don I would be seeing Jim Rice and Bob Montgomery later that day. 

“Monty was the best hit-and-run guy I ever had,” recalled Zim. “I remember in a game with Cleveland, the bases were loaded. They had a sinker-baller on the mound so I rolled the dice and gave (coach) Eddie Yost the hit-and-run sign on a 3-2 count. Monty put the bat on the ball and we stayed out of the double play. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, but I really thought it would work, and it did.”

Rice later told me that he believed Thurman Munson and Lou Piniella were among the best hit-and-run guys he saw when he played.

I concluded my trip with dinner at Carlton and Linda Fisk’s home in the Sarasota area. We had a wonderful visit and a great dinner. Pudge joked about how some of the evenings in Florida this year were as cold as those he experienced growing up in New Hampshire.

I’ve had my fill. Let the regular season begin.

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

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