Results tagged ‘ Mark McGwire ’

A wild night

Wiles_90.jpgBy Tim Wiles

I will always remember exactly where I was when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run, eclipsing the record held by Roger Maris for 37 years.

02-22-11-Wiles_McGwire.jpgThe date was Sept, 8, 1998, and I was one of 33,409 lucky people sitting in Fenway Park, watching a terrific matchup between David Cone of the Yankees and Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first ever matchup between two pitchers with 18 or more victories and with winning percentages of at least .783 (Cone 18-5). Martinez was at .818. (18-4)

There was a charged playoff atmosphere, despite the fact that the first-place Yankees entered the game at 100-41, 18.5 games ahead of their archrivals, who themselves were 22 games above .500 at 82-60. The Red Sox, who had won the night before, were trying to stave off a Yankee clincher in their home park.

The game was tight, and was tied 1-1 going into the Yankee eighth. 

The leadoff hitter was Joe Girardi. I always enjoyed watching Joe play, as we had grown up together and been basketball teammates in Peoria, Ill. He singled to lead off the inning.

02-22-11-Wiles_Fenway.jpgFrom my vantage point down the right field line, I thought I saw Girardi take off on a steal attempt, not out of the question for a catcher with better than average wheels, but certainly an exciting gambit in a tie game on the road. Subsequent research tells me I was watching first base too closely – he actually took off on a wild pitch.

As Girardi popped up from his slide into second, Fenway Park erupted in a standing ovation. I watched him jerk his head in several directions trying to figure out why the Boston fans were so happy that he had safely arrived at second.

Then both his eyes and mine landed on the scoreboard in center field, which said something like “Mark McGwire has just hit his 62nd home run, breaking Roger Maris’ record. Congratulations, Mark!”

Girardi went on to score and the Yankees took a 3-1 lead en route to a 3-2 victory. Their victory in the third and final game of the series the next night clinched the pennant.

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

Tim Wiles is the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Famous faces in St. Louis

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

ST. LOUIS — The stars were out this week at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and the Baseball Hall of Fame was on the mind of many of the most famous people in sports and entertainment:


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NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, who played in the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game Sunday night: “I’m really excited to get to meet (Hall of Fame shortstop) Ozzie Smith. We’ve been trying to meet up today. He’s out there managing the game that’s going on. I hear he’s a little upset at me for stealing his back flip, but we can hopefully work that out and shake hands over it. I’m really excited to meet him.”

Actor Billy Bob Thornton, on meeting Hall of Famer Stan Musial: “I’d have to say out of all my experiences out of meeting baseball players in my lifetime when I got to meet Mr. Musial, which I have to call him that, that was probably the biggest thrill I ever had.

7-14-09-Francis_Thornton.jpg“But Bob Gibson (like Musial, a Hall of Famer) is my guy. I threw the first pitch out in 1998 here (in St. Louis), we were playing the Braves, Tom Glavine was pitching for the Braves. I’ll never forget this. I was in the clubhouse with (Cardinals manager) Tony (La Russa), (Mark) McGwire, and Bobby Knight, and we were all taking pictures together, and Gibson comes in and so we took some with him. And of course I was thrilled already, that was the first time I met him. And Tony said, ‘Bob, you’re the guy’s hero. Why don’t you catch the ball today?’ I wanted to say, ‘Tony, don’t make me throw it to him.’ So we were on the mound and Gibson knew I had been a pitcher so I had to throw him something. I learned my slider from Gibson’s instructional book in the ’60s when I was a kid. So I threw him a slider, and it was a good one, about two inches off the plate, it was a strike, and Gibson comes out and hands me the ball and he goes, ‘Where did you get that pitch?’ And I said, ‘Out of your book.’ And he goes, ‘You’re kidding me. That old book from the ’60s?’ After that he just warmed up to me just in a great way. Since then I’ve seen him a bunch of times and he’s always really gracious to me.”


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Dodgers manager Joe Torre, a National League All-Star coach, on the Class of 2009 at the Hall of Fame: “Jim Rice, I’m really pleased for him, Rickey Henderson was a no-brainer, obviously. Jim Rice waited a long time and he put some pretty impressive numbers up. I’m just happy for Jim Rice. A class act, he was a player that really was a no-nonsense guy, just got up there and did what he did. I’m really pleased for Jimmy. Rickey, his ability spoke for itself. He put all those base-stealing records and leadoff home runs in his hip pocket.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2009 – Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice – will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 26.

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

A perfect storm

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The White Sox can slug. Last season they hit 235 home runs, tops in the Majors and 21 ahead of the world champion Phillies. This season, they’ve hit 10 — tied for ninth at the moment, with the Rangers leading the way with 17 homers in this young season.

But Chicago has a fearsome heart of the order with Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and then Paul Konerko. And their bats are coming alive. Quentin deposited a pair of balls over the outfield wall at Comerica Park on Monday, and it was the team’s first four-homer game of 2009. They had 11 last year.

The story of Monday’s Tigers-White Sox game was, of course, two men making history by hitting their 300th career home runs in back-to-back at-bats. Dye and Konerko became the first teammates to reach a century milestone of at least 300 in the same game, let alone doing so in back-to-back fashion.

4-15-09-Hayes_KonerkoDye.jpgIt was the fifth time in Major League history that two men have reached a century milestone of at least 300 in the same day, and Thome has been involved in two of those events. The others are Mark McGwire (400) and Andres Galarraga (300) on May 8, 1998; Albert Belle (300) and Rafael Palmeiro (300) on July 17, 1998; Juan Gonzalez (400) and Thome (300) on June 5, 2002; and Thome (500) and Todd Helton on Sept. 16, 2007.

Thome, Dye and Koneko have been together since 2006 and are fairly well represented at the Hall of Fame. Dye’s jersey from Game 4 of his Most Valuable Player performance during the 2005 World Series is here, as are the jersey Thome wore when he hit his 400th career home-run on June 29, 2004, and his 500th home-run ball. In fact, Thome came to Cooperstown last August and presented the ball to the Hall’s chief curator, Ted Spencer.

Something to think about as the Sox home-run machine gets its engines turning is this: With Dye in right field, Konerko at first base and Thome as the designated hitter, the White Sox have 1,143 career home runs in their lineup between just three men. Of course dropping Dye or Konerko for Ken Griffey Jr. at the end of last 2008 considerably ups the total. Both Konerko and Dye ended 2008 with 298 and Thome ended with 541, while Griffey had 611 for an unreal total of 1,450 home runs. That kind of slugging is historic in nature.

An incomplete look at some of the great home-run hitting trios in baseball history turns up very few teams featuring a lineup with that much pop. I was only able to find one team that can overtake the current Sox. In 2006, the Yankees had Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. Those three Bronx Bombers finished the season with a combined 1,269 career homers (Rodriguez at 464, Sheffield at 455 and Giambi at 350). The next season, Sheffield was traded to Detroit, breaking up the unit.

Many teams have come close. Mr. Cub’s Lovable Losers fall just short of their Windy City successors. In Hall of Famer Ernie Banks‘ final year, the North Siders had 1,131 career homers between their three top sluggers. Banks had 512, Hall of Famer Billy Williams had 319 and Ron Santo had 300.

Babe Ruth‘s final year with the Yankees, 1934, was another homer-happy squad, but even they can’t match the Sox mashers despite having three prominent Hall of Famers. With Ruth at 708 and Lou Gehrig at 348, the two sluggers had 1,056. Like many teams however, they fell short of finding a third player. Bill Dickey‘s 62 give the 1934 Yankees a combined 1,118 career home runs.

The 1971 Giants, featuring two Hall of Famers with a 40-year-old Willie Mays at 646 and Willie McCovey at 370, also had a young Bobby Bonds with 100 career homer runs, combining for a total of 1,116.

Eddie Murray played in Baltimore for many years and came back at the tail end of 1996 with 474 homers at the end of the season and teamed with Cal Ripken Jr. (353) and Palmeiro (233) for 1,060 total home runs. 

4-15-09-Hayes_MantleAaron.jpgThe ’04 Cubs had Slammin’ Sammy Sosa with 543, Moises Alou at 278 and Derrek Lee with 162 for a total of 983. That team also featured Aramis Ramirez with 127 at the time.

The hardest part of finding a team with over 1,000 career homers between three players is finding three prolific hitters at that point in their careers. 2009 inductee Jim Rice and Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams all played in Boston and overlapped each other’s tenures, but they never played together that late in their careers.

The Milwaukee Braves of the late ’50s and ’60s were known for their slugging threesome. In 1962, the Braves featured Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews at 399, Hall of Famer and eventual home-run king Hank Aaron at 298 and Joe Adcock with 270 for a 967 total. Four years later, Adcock was gone, but by then Mathews (493) and Aaron (442) had come a long way. Felipe Alou’s 148 give the new threesome 935 homers in 1966.

Mickey Mantle ran into the same problem. He played with Joe DiMaggio as a youngster and Yogi Berra for a long period of time. By 1963, Mantle had 419 longballs, Berra had 358 and slugger Roger Maris contributed 214 for a total of 991.

It takes the perfect storm to put 1,143 career home runs into one lineup. Right now, the White Sox have it, and it’s fun to watch.

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

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