Results tagged ‘ National League Championship Series ’
By Thomas Lawrence
Thirty-seven years ago Wednesday, Roberto Clemente recorded a career milestone.
On Sept. 30, 1972, Clemente and the defending world champion Pirates were taking on Yogi Berra‘s Mets at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, was hitting an impressive .311 heading into the season finale against New York.
Batting third against Mets starter Jon Matlack, the eventual National League Rookie of the Year, Clemente looked to push his career hit total of 2,999 into an historic category. At the time, only 10 other players were members of the 3,000-hit club, and only three — Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial — had done so in the latter half of the 20th century.
Clemente, aside from being a world-renowned humanitarian, had a chance to become the first Latin ballplayer to reach 3,000 hits.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Clemente led off against Matlack after striking out in his first at-bat. Clemente promptly roped a double to the Three Rivers outfield — the 3,000th and last regular-season hit of his exceptional career.
But it wouldn’t be his last impact on Major League Baseball. The Pirates won the National League East and were set to take on Sparky Anderson‘s Reds in the league’s championship series. Clemente only had four hits in the five-game series loss, which officially unseated the 1971 world champions, but a double and a home run were among the four hits.
After 18 magical seasons of watching Clemente control the diamond as few ever did, the world was dealt a huge blow when Clemente was killed on Dec. 31. Flying to Nicaragua to deliver goods to earthquake victims, Clemente was the victim of a plane crash that took his life at the young age of 38.
But to dwell on Clemente’s tragic passing is a disservice to the incredible life he led — one which began on Aug. 18, 1934, in Carolina, Puerto Rico. One of more than 200 Puerto Rican players to play in the big leagues, Clemente remains the commonwealth’s all-time hits leader, 276 in front of runner-up Roberto Alomar.
Clemente became the first Latin American player to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, and dozens of artifacts from Clemente’s life are housed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. In the brand-new ˇViva Baseball! exhibit, which celebrates the Latin influence on the game, Clemente is recognized alongside other Latin American stars.
A No. 21 Pirates jersey retired on Opening Day 1973, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings covering his untimely passing and the “Roberto Clemente Memorial Album” vinyl record are all on display in ˇViva Baseball!.
“Roberto Clemente touched us all,” Pirates pitcher Steve Blass once said. “We’re all better players and people for having known him.”
Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By Trevor Hayes
A few names and numbers from the week that was in baseball:
Bobby’s World: With two home runs against the Orioles last weekend, the Angels’ Bobby Abreu became the fifth player with 11 10 home run/20 stolen base seasons, joining Barry and Bobby Bonds and Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Joe Morgan.
Last week, Abreu hit his 250th career homer, which placed him with Willie Mays as the only players in baseball history with 250-plus homers, 300-plus steals and a .300 or better career average. He also became one of only six players in major league history with 2,000 hits, 250 home runs, 1,000 runs scored, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases. The other five are Henderson, Mays, Morgan, Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio.
Mauer power: On Tuesday night, Joe Mauer collected three hits – including two homers – finishing the night with 25 homers and a .383 batting average. Hall of Famers Ted Williams (1941 and 1957), Joe DiMaggio (1939), Lou Gehrig (1930 and 1936) and Babe Ruth (1931) were the last four AL players prior to Mauer with at least 25 home runs and a .380 batting average through 119 games.
.300 Angels: The Angels accomplished a feat on Tuesday at Cleveland which hadn’t been seen since 1934. A quick scan of the box score Wednesday morning showed a .300 average or better for each player in the lineup. With Mike Napoli and Maicer Izturis, a super-substitute, each ending the night with a .300 average, the Angels matched the 1934 Tigers as the last team to sport that kind of arsenal in a lineup 100 games into the season.
The Tigers included Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin and Hank Greenberg. Pitcher Schoolboy Rowe even joined the cause with a .302 average.
Celebration: The summer of ’69 and ’79 are remembered rather fondly in two National League cities. And this weekend, both the Pirates and the Mets will celebrate their good times.
The Pirates are remembering their last World Championship with “We Are Fam-A-Lee Weekend.” Breakout the polyester because 1979 throwbacks will be worn by the Pirates and their opponents, the Reds, on Friday and Saturday and a ceremony will be held on Saturday honoring the 22 players and staff who are attending, including Margaret Stargell (wife of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell), Dave Parker, Phil Garner, Bert Blyleven and Dale Berra.
Also on Saturday The Miracle Mets will celebrate their amazing World Series victory. Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Yogi Berra are scheduled to be on the field with several other key members of that magic season, including the widow of manager Gil Hodges.
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By 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.”
Hunter 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.
By Bill Francis
It’s not uncommon for someone to walk into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center requesting to look at a clipping or photo file on a favorite player. But rarely does someone walk in the door whose adult life is on file.
Such was the case Friday afternoon when former big league player Jim Pankovits stopped by as part of a larger visit. Pankovits is in his first year managing the New York-Penn League’s Tri-City ValleyCats, a short-season Single-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, and before Friday’s scheduled game against the Oneonta Tigers he and his team made a trip to Cooperstown.
“I’d imagine most every team that comes in town to play the Tigers tries to make a trip over here and this was our only opportunity,” Pankovits said. “I think knowing the history of the game is very important for the players in their appreciation of what they’re doing and what they’re trying to achieve.”
According to Pankovits, his roster consists of about a half dozen Latin American players as well as college players selected in this year’s amateur draft.
“And I know, especially the kids from out West don’t get the opportunity to get over here, that they’re especially excited to be here,” Pankovits said. “We’re very fortunately in that the owner of our team, Bill Gladstone, is on the Board of Directors here at the Hall of Fame.”
The ValleyCats got a taste of what it’s like in Cooperstown in the summertime when they played a game against the Tigers at historic Doubleday Field last Saturday, the day before this year’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
“The hustle and bustle of the town was real exciting,” said Pankovits, “and I think the kids got a real good feel for what it’s like to come here and how special it is.”
Prior to this year, Pankovits’ only previous Hall of Fame visit came in 1985 when his Astros played the Boston Red Sox in the Hall of Fame Game.
“We had a group tour of the Hall as a team and it was my first exposure. I’ll tell you what, I was very excited, having played a long time in the minor leagues and obviously growing up a baseball fan,” Pankovits said. “I was always wondering when I’d get a chance to come back, and I’m sorry to say it took 25 years, but I guess it’s better late than never.”
Better late than never may characterize Pankovits’ big league playing career. Drafted by the Astros in 1976, the versatile bench player didn’t make his big league debut until 1984. He would spend five years with the Houston (1984-88) before his major league career came to an end with a two-game cup of coffee with the Red Sox in 1990.
“It took me eight years to get to the big leagues so I really appreciated being there,” Pankovits said. “We had a couple of good teams in Houston, one notably in ’86 when the Mets beat us in the playoffs. That would obviously be the highlight of my big league career, but it was a blur to be honest with you. It just goes so fast, even though it was five years. As everyone does, I look back on those experiences with a lot of enthusiasm and thanks.”
In looking back at the 1986 National League Championship Series against the Mets, Pankovits immediately recalled the famous Game 6 that went 16 innings before New York won 7-6.
“That Game 6 I’ll never forget. It seems like I can remember every pitch,” Pankovits said. “I thought we had it won winning 3-0, but they came back and tied it with three in the top of the ninth. Then they took the lead in the 14th, but Billy Hatcher hits a home run to tie it for us. Then they score three in the 16th and we score two and have the tying run on second.
“In Game 6, if we’d have won that one, Mike Scott (who would go on to win the 1986 Cy Young Award) had already beaten them twice in the series and he was scheduled to throw Game 7,” he added. “It wasn’t meant to be, I guess, but it was exciting, no doubt about it.”
Pankovits, who turns 54 on Aug. 6, finished his major league playing career with 318 games played – mostly as a second baseman – a .250 batting average in 567 at bats and a lifetime of memories.
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.