Results tagged ‘ Milwaukee Braves ’

Hall Monitor: Playoff Pleasures

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

10-8-10-Hayes_Larsen.jpgThe regular season is done. That means October is upon us and there is no better time to see greatness than during Autumn’s Glory.

Busy at the Hall: With the regular season over and the postseason heating up, donations are rolling into Cooperstown. On Sept. 19, Bobby Abreu clocked his 20th homer of the season, giving him nine seasons with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Only Barry and Bobby Bonds – at 10 each – have more 20/20 seasons. To commemorate the achievement, his bat is now in Cooperstown.

Also announced this week following his historic pitching performance on Wednesday, Roy Halladay’s jersey and a ball from the no-hitter will be making their way to join the artifacts from his May 29th perfect game and the items on display from Don Larsen’s 1956 perfecto – the only other no-hitter in postseason history.


10-8-10-Hayes_Sutton.jpgNot to be outdone
: Tim Lincecum of the Giants, whose 1.78 September team ERA is the lowest in the Divisional Era, proved his mettle yesterday. Like Halladay, pitching in his first postseason game, Lincecum was brilliant. The two-time Cy Young winner struck out a postseason record 14 Braves, as he tossed a complete game two-hitter. Lincecum’s mark tied Joe Coleman (1972), John Candelaria (1975), Mike Boddicker (1983) and Mike Scott (1986) for the major league record in a postseason debut.

Walking-off into infamy: Halladay threw his gem against the best offense in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds – a team which punched its first ticket to the postseason since 1995 in dramatic fashion last Tuesday. With the score tied at two, Jay Bruce smashed the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the ninth into batter’s eye grass in left-center field at Great American Ballpark. The walk-off was the fifth game-ending home run to clinch a postseason berth.

The others include Steve Finley’s grand slam for the Dodgers in 2004, Alfonso Soriano’s first career hit that sent the 1999 Yankees on to postseason glory and the famous “Shot Heard Round the World” by Bobby Thomson for the 1951 Giants. The only Hall of Famer walk-off postseason clincher came from Hank Aaron, in the 11th inning for the 1957 Milwaukee Braves.


10-8-10-Hayes_Bresnahan.jpgTrend Tracker
: Twenty-year-old rookie Jayson Heyward drew a walk against Lincecum, one of just three Braves to reach base against the Giants ace. Heyward’s walk was just an extension of the 91 he racked up during the regular season – a number surpassed at his age by only Hall of Famers Mel Ott (113 in 1929) and Ted Williams (107 in 1939).

Also look for Tampa Bay catcher John Jaso. The lefty-swinging backstop only stole four bases this season, but batted leadoff 45 times in his 88 starts. Hitting .272 with a .380 on-base percentage, if the Rays stay alive, he may get a start there again. If he hits leadoff against right-handed Colby Lewis on Saturday, he would join just two other catchers to start in the one-hole in the postseason. The others are noted speedster Jason Kendall for the 2006 Oakland A’s and Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan for the 1905 New York Giants.

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

Sept. 16, 1960: Warren Spahn tosses no-hitter

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

Warren Spahn had earned many accolades by the start of the 1960 season – the 16th of his career. He had won a Cy Young award, a World Series championship and was an 11-time all-star. He had 10 20-win seasons under his belt and a slew of other awards in his trophy case.

9-16-09-Bielefeld_Spahn.jpgYet one thing was still missing from his illustrious rsum – a no-hitter.

That void would be filled 49 years ago today: Sept. 16, 1960, when Spahn, at 39 years old, achieved baseball immortality against the Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Spahn, a crafty southpaw with a high leg kick, had been making quick work of the Phillies all evening. Coming into the top of the ninth inning, in a game that was barely two hours old, Spahn had only allowed two base runners – both of whom reached on walks.

With four runs of support from his Braves, Spahn was in a position to make history.

No. 9 hitter Bobby Gene Smith was the first to bat for the Phils in the ninth. Spahn promptly struck him out for his 14th K of the game – and proceeded to do the same to leadoff man Bobby Del Greco, elevating his total to 15 on the night.

Only one man now stood between Spahn and an accomplishment which few men achieve in a lifetime. Second baseman Bobby Malkmus stepped into the batter’s box, and just as quickly as the game had progressed up to that point, it ended – with a groundout to shortstop Johnny Logan.

9-16-09-Bielefeld_SpahnColor.jpg“He’s beyond comparison with any modern left-hander,” Hall of Famer Casey Stengel said “He has beaten every handicap – the live ball, second division teams. No one can ever say anything to deny his greatness.”

With the win, Spahn improved to 20-9 and lowered his ERA to 3.46.  He finished the season 21-10 and placed second in Cy Young award voting behind Vern Law of the Pirates.

Spahn would go on to throw his second no hitter April 28 of the following year – at 40 years old.

“I don’t think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame,” Stan Musial once said.  “He’ll never stop pitching.”

After the 1960 season, Spahn would spend four more years with the Braves before joining the New York Mets and then San Francisco Giants in 1965 — the year he played his final big league game.

Spahn finished his career with 363 wins (a record for left-handers) and remains sixth on the all-time wins list. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 in his first year of eligibility. Only 10 other pitchers have accomplished that feat.

Just add it to his rsum.

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

Classic Hall of Famers thrill packed crowd, promise more

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

There were literally no empty seats in the Grandstand Theater for the Hall of Fame Classic Voices of the Game. And this special Father’s Day edition delivered with the same impact the four Hall of Famers on stage had during their careers.

The sellout crowd listened for as Triple-Crown winner Bob Feller, 300-game winner Phil Niekro, 3,000-hit Club member Paul Molitor and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner Brooks Robinson reflected on their careers and talked about the game they love.

6-20-09-Hayes_VOG.jpgAll four legends and fellow Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins headline the signature event of the weekend, the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day at Doubleday Field.

The theme of fathers and sons has been a principal element throughout this inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Weekend and was present during Voices of the Game. Niekro spoke vividly of his relationship. As a youngster in Ohio, he looked up to his father, who taught him the weapon that would be his bread and butter in a 24 season career.

“”If it wasn’t for the knuckleball, I probably would have ended up coal mining,” Niekro said. “I didn’t know what it was. I just had fun playing knuckle ball in the back yard. Then I was able to get Little League guys out.”

His success continued and he hitched a ride to a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves. He signed for $500. Early on, Knucksie as he became known, was unsure of his talents. When the Hall’s manager of museum programs Steve Light, who moderated the event asked Niekro how he fared against the two accomplished hitters on either side of him, Knucksie started laughing.

6-20-09-Hayes_RobinsonNiekro.jpg“I faced Brooks early on during a Spring Training game,” he recalled. “One of my 77-mph fastballs got away from me and I hit him in the head.”

Robinson countered, “Didn’t hurt a bit.”

“I thought I was going to be done the next day for hitting Brooks Robinson with a fastball,” Niekro said.

Robinson’s start wasn’t something to brag about either, though he did. He played most of the 1955 season for the York (Penn.) White Roses – a B-League team in the Piedmont League. Robinson got the call at the end of the season and got two hits in his first start.

“I called home and said, ‘This is cake. Why did I play in [the minors] all year? I should have been in the big leagues.'”

He then went 0-for-18. He recovered and became one of the cornerstones of the great Orioles teams of the 1960’s and 70’s. He appeared in four World Series, winning a pair of rings. Robinson played on a lot of great teams, but he feels one of the best didn’t achieve to the level that some of his other teams might have.

6-20-09-Hayes_Robinson.jpgIn honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Miracle Mets, Light asked Robinson about the 1969 World Series.

“I thought our ’62 team was our best,” he said. “But anything can happen in a seven-game series. We beat [Hall of Famer Tom] Seaver and lost the next four, straight.”

Baltimore was back in the Series again the next season and Robinson took the MVP honors, hitting .429 against the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati. He drove in six and hit a pair of home runs. Molitor like Robinson achieved October glory by winning the MVP Award in 1993 with the Blue Jays.

During that Fall Classic, he hit .500 with a pair of doubles, a pair of triples and a pair of homers while driving in eight against the Phillies. Molitor’s best memory of that Series however, was not one of his personal achievements.

“The ’93 Series, I was on first base when Joe Carter hit that ball over the wall,” he said. “I was thinking if it goes off the wall and I hustle, I can score and end this thing, but then it went out and it was all over anyway.”

Another highlight of Molitor’s career was reaching 3,000 hits. Pure consistency throughout his career allowed The Ignitor to retire with a career .306 batting average and 3,319 hits. In 1987, he took a run at one of the game’s longest standing records, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Molitor hit safely in 39 straight.

6-20-09-Hayes_Niekro.jpg“Whether it’s milestones or streaks, players don’t really play for those, but numbers are big in baseball,” he said. “Falling 17 games short is still a long way away from that number and my perspective changed after that streak.

“I always tell people: The way you handle success is directly related to the way you handle failure, because 3,000 hits means 7,000 outs.”

Knucksie, a member of another elite club – the 300-game winners – applauded Molitor on the achievement. He said pitchers have help in winning games, but hitters are alone. 

Niekro’s 300th came in his last start of 1985 as a Yankee. It was a special moment for him and his father, who was faltering in health. Niekro was 46 at the time and at the end of his contract.

“If I didn’t win it, I would have had to wait until the next spring and he wasn’t going to hold on that long,” he said. “So really that was a blessing for both of us.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Feller.jpgFeller missed 300 wins by 34. But he recorded a career-high 27 in 1940 followed by 25 in 1941 before leaving baseball for most of four seasons to serve in the Navy during World War II. Light noted that the Grandstand Theater is a replica of Chicago’s Comiskey Park where Feller authored one of his three no-hitters and the only Opening Day no-no in the history of the game.

“Well it was 69 years ago and I remember it quite well,” the Indians ace recalled. “It wasn’t my best no-hitter. I didn’t have great stuff that day. I only struck out eight and we won 1-0. I remember that my catcher, Rollie Hemsley, hit a triple with my rommmate on base to score the only run.”

At 90, Feller’s memory is as sharp as if he were reading a box score. Light asked him about his famous high-leg kick and he laughed.

“That high leg kick…You’ve seen the picture taken in Yankee Stadium in 1936 or ’37 with my leg kicked over my head and the photographer laying flat on the ground,” Feller said. “That is all for show. It was just symbolism. But it’s the most popular picture they’ve got of me and it sells well at card shows.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Molitor.jpgAnother Feller myth was confirmed, when Light asked the former fireballer about the motorcycle and his fastball. Feller said that, that also happened in Chicago. He was wearing a tie and a dress shirt during the exhibition, but when he wound up with the motorcycle ten feet behind him, the ball beat the bike to the target. Using a timer and the vehicles speedometer, it was figured that he threw the ball 104 mph. Later a similar event was held and Feller clocked in at 107 mph.

Apparently worried by this, Molitor interrupted the story, “Can I ask him how his arm is feeling, since I have to leadoff against him tomorrow? I’ve heard stories of him hitting the first batter, so I’m just curious.”

Once the laughter subsided, and it was confirmed that Molitor would be the first batter to face the Classic’s starting pitcher – the 90-year-old Feller – Light asked Robinson how he felt knowing that he’d be the first guy to dig in against Knucksie in the bottom of the first.

6-20-09-Hayes_MolitorFeller.jpgRecalling their Spring Training encounter, Robinson looked worried and Niekro laughed, “Put your helmet on big boy, it’s coming.”

It is coming. In less than 24 hours, the legends will take the field at Doubleday and the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic will begin with Molitor facing Feller and Robinson against Niekro. Feller’s words seemed to sum up the entire weekend.

Baseball is a game of luck and there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad,” he said, noting the rain that fell on Cooperstown for most of Saturday. “We’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow, rain or shine.”

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

Perfect anniversary

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Fifty years ago today, Marcia Haddix was in Springfield, Ohio. Her husband, Harvey, was on the road with the Pittsburgh Pirates. And history was about to happen.

The phone at Marcia’s mother’s house rang, and on the other end was Marcia’s mother-in-law.

5-26-09-Muder_Haddix.jpg“She said to me: ‘Do you know that you’re husband just pitched a perfect game?’ Marcia Haddix remembered. “But the game wasn’t over. I ran around the house trying to get it on all the radios, then I went out to the car and tried that radio. Finally, I found that if I pointed the car in a certain direction, the station would come in.”

What Marcia Haddix heard on that radio has never been repeated since. Harvey Haddix, the Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher, retired the Milwaukee Braves in order in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings – giving him a remarkable 12 perfect frames.

It is possibly the greatest game ever pitched.

Haddix passed away in 1994, but his masterpiece is carved into baseball history like few other one-game performances.

Methodically, Haddix began retiring batters on May 26, 1959 in Milwaukee. The Pirates, meanwhile, threatened regularly against Braves starter Lew Burdette. But neither team scored.

After 12 scoreless innings, Burdette had allowed 11 hits but had not walked a batter. Haddix was perfect.

Then in the bottom of the 13th, Milwaukee’s Felix Mantilla led off by reaching base on an error by Pittsburgh third baseman Don Hoak. With the spell broken – but the no-hitter still alive – Eddie Mathews bunted Mantilla to second, and Haddix then walked Hank Aaron intentionally to bring up Joe Adcock. The hulking Braves’ first baseman launched a shot to center field – a home run that was eventually ruled a double when Adcock passed Aaron on the bases.

But when Mantilla crossed the plate, the game ended with a loss for Haddix and the Pirates.

Fifty years later, Haddix’s game is still the stuff of legend. The Baseball Hall of Fame has several artifacts from that night, including a ticket stub, a ball from the game autographed by Haddix and his glove from that game.

5-26-09-Muder_HaddixMug.jpgMeanwhile, Marcia Haddix remains the keeper of the memories.
 
“Harv played because he loved the game, not because of the fame or because he made millions,” Marcia Haddix said. “He loved every minute and he had so many friends.  (Former Pirates center fielder) Bill Virdon, who played in that game, stopped by last year and said: ‘I don’t think Harv ever realized just what he did.’ Then he said: ‘We just couldn’t get him any runs.’

“But Harv never thought like that. He just figured that that’s how it came out.”

For more on this story, check out the June issue of the Hall of Fame’s members magazine Memories and Dreams. To become a Member, visit www.baseballhall.org/membership.

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

Aaron remains a crowd pleaser

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

As he walked through the Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday, Hank Aaron was followed by gasps.

“Was that him?” asked one fan, craning his neck to get a glimpse of the man who remains the standard by which other players are judged.

4-25-09-Muder_Aaron.jpgIndeed, Henry Aaron still inspires awe among those who cherish the National Pastime. His numbers — 32 years after he retired — remain legendary. And yet Aaron has put all that into perspective — and did so again Saturday at the dedication of the Hall of Fame’s new exhibit Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.

“The biggest achievement in my life has nothing to do with baseball,” he told the crowd moments before the ribbon cutting. “It’s establishing the Chasing the Dream Foundation, helping children chase their dreams like I did.”

Aaron, joined by his wife of 35 years, Billye, and Braves chairman emeritus Bill Bartholomay, seemed completely at ease Saturday in a limelight he often avoids. He smiled often, telling tales of how he once bought a car from future Commissioner Bud Selig (then a successful car dealer in Wisconsin) and enjoying another well deserved moment in the sun.

“I watched you hit No. 714,” said a fan to Aaron. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”

No doubt, others left Cooperstown on Saturday feeling the same way — having witnessed living history at the Hall of Fame.

Craig Muder is director of communications 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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