Results tagged ‘ National League ’

Whitey and Donnie

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

INDIANAPOLIS — Whitey Herzog was in the middle of a story when the unassuming man with the dark eyes walked into the hotel lobby.

Herzog, who 11 hours earlier learned he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, had shaken countless hands and seen countless faces throughout Monday afternoon. But Whitey didn’t need to look twice to know that Donnie Baseball had just entered the room.

12-08-09-Muder_HerzogMattingly.jpg“I just had to stop and say congratulations,” said Don Mattingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ batting coach and an Indiana native in town for baseball’s Winter Meetings.

A beaming Herzog shook Mattingly’s hand and exchanged a few pleasantries. And just like that, Mattingly was gone.

But for Herzog, the memories came flooding back.

“That guy was a heckuva player,” said Herzog, who never managed a regular-season game against Mattingly’s Yankees during Mattingly’s career — and yet clearly appreciated the Yankee captain’s skills. “For four or five years — until the back injury got him — he was as good as there was in the game.”

Mattingly will make his 10th appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot this year.

Herzog, meanwhile, is already a Hall of Famer — having been named to the Class of 2010 along with umpire Doug Harvey by the Veterans Committee on Monday.

For two of baseball’s biggest names of the 1980s, it was a fitting — if all-too-brief — reunion.

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

Nov. 18, 1966: Koufax calls it quits

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

When Sandy Koufax called it quits 43 years ago today — Nov. 18, 1966 — he ended a six-year run that scouts only dream about.

It was a six-year run good enough for a place in Cooperstown.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Koufax.jpgKoufax, who grew up in Brooklyn playing in the city’s “Ice Cream Leagues,” debuted with his hometown Dodgers in 1955. He posted five wins and a 3.02 ERA in his rookie year. The powerful lefty averaged only six wins per year for the first half of his career, but in 1961 Koufax began quite possibly the most impressive six-year span for a pitcher.

Koufax led the bigs in wins in 1963 (25), 1965 (26) and 1966 (27). His average ERA during his tyranny on National League hitters was an exceptional 1.99.

“I can see how he won 25 games,” said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra of Koufax’s 1963 season. “What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”

In 1963, Koufax also became just the second pitcher to ever take home an MVP and a Cy Young in the same season – after Don Newcombe did it with Brooklyn in the first year of the Cy Young award of 1956. Only six have earned that dual honor since (Vida Blue, Roger Clemens, Willie HernŠndez, Denny McLain and Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Bob Gibson).

And it wasn’t just soft-hitting utility men that had trouble with the mighty southpaw. Try a Hall of Famer with 475 career home runs.

“Hitting against Sandy Koufax is like drinking coffee with a fork,” said Pirates’ slugger Willie Stargell.

11-18-09-Lawrence_KoufaxNoHitters.jpgHarry Hooper, a four-time champion with the early 20th century Red Sox, echoed Stargell’s sentiments.

“You name a better left-hander in the history of baseball and I’ll eat my hat,” he said, referring to Koufax.

Koufax also became the first pitcher to reach four career no-hitters on Sept. 25, 1965, surpassing Larry Corcoran, Cy Young and Bob Feller. He is also one of only six pitchers to toss a perfect game and a regular no-hitter, along with Young, Jim Bunning, Addie Joss, Randy Johnson and the newest member Mark Buehrle.

It was severe arthritis in the once-in-a-generation left arm of Koufax that led to the demise of his young career. In fact, in April of 1966 Koufax was told that he couldn’t go another season, but he did – winning a career high 27 games with a career-best 1.73 ERA.

“Sandy pitches in extreme pain that can only be overcome by his motivational urge,” said team physician Dr. Robert Kerlan, according to an article in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgAnd despite this mental resolve that allowed the vaunted ace to pitch through immense pain, he was a gentleman of the highest order.

“There is hardly a strong enough word for the way the other players feel about Koufax,” said Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. “It almost goes beyond affection… for a man so gentle he seems misplaced in a jock shop.”

Koufax was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, just the 10th player (at the time) to be inducted in his first year of eligibility.

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

Oct. 14, 1905: Christy Mathewson throws third shutout in Series to lead Giants to title

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

Long before Reggie Jackson earned the title “Mr. October” for his dominance in the Fall Classic, Christy Mathewson’s 1905 World Series performance epitomized postseason supremacy.

Mathewson, dubbed “Big Six” by teammates, was coming off a stellar regular season for the New York Giants. At 31-9, he led the National League in wins, strikeouts (206) and ERA (1.28).

10-14-09-Bielefeld_Mathewson.jpgHis efforts propelled the Giants to the top of the NL leader board and earned the team a coveted place in the 1905 Fall Classic against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. The postseason appearance marked the first for the 25-year-old pitcher.

In Games 1 and 3, Mathewson stifled the A’s – pitching a combined 18 shutout innings and striking out 14 men. The A’s were pushed to the precipice of defeat in Game 4, as the Giants increased their lead in the Series 3-games-to-1.

Game 5 was slated for Oct. 14, 1905, and Mathewson, on two days rest, was scheduled to take the mound once again. In a blistering one hour and 35 minutes, Mathewson utilized his famed fadeaway pitch and blanked the A’s 2-0 – throwing his third complete game shutout in a mere five days. No pitcher has ever matched that feat in a World Series.

With the victory, the Giants locked up the World Series, topping the A’s four-games-to-one.

“Mathewson was the greatest pitcher who ever lived,” Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack said. “He had knowledge, judgment, perfect control and form. It was wonderful to watch him pitch – when he wasn’t pitching against you.”

10-14-09-Bielefeld_Chart.jpgThe Bucknell University alum holds the record for most National League wins with 373 – along with Grover Cleveland Alexander – and is third on the all-time list behind only Cy Young and Walter Johnson.

“Mathewson pitched against Cincinnati yesterday,” writer Damon Runyon once said. “Another way of putting it is that Cincinnati lost a game of baseball. The first statement means the same as the second.”

Those winning ways earned Mathewson a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1936. Along with Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner, they make up the first class of inductees.

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

Cox could be approaching a date in Cooperstown

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Bobby Cox has set the date for his retirement. If he remains on schedule, it will likely mean a date in Cooperstown as well.

After years of speculation, the Braves skipper has announced that 2010 will be his final year as a manager. He will continue to serve the organization as a consultant beyond next season.

9-24-09-Carr_MackMcGrawCox.jpg“I’m thrilled and happy to be coming back next year,” Cox told MLB.com. “The retirement, it’s time in my life that I do that.”

Cox ranks fourth all-time on baseball’s all-time managerial wins list with 2,409. He trails only Hall of Famers Connie Mack and John McGraw, and Tony La Russa, who is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame.

“Bobby loves the game. It’s in his blood,” La Russa said. “He always had his team ready to play.”

If he follows through on his retirement, Cox will be eligible for Hall of Fame Veterans Committee consideration in time for the Class of 2012. Among first-time eligible players up for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America election in 2012 are former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams and long-time Braves catcher Javy Lopez.

Next year will mark Cox’s 25th year as the Braves manager, his 29th overall. Cox began his managerial career in Atlanta from 1978-1981 and then managed for four years in Toronto from 1982-1985. After a stint as general manager, Cox became the Braves skipper again in 1991.

The 68-year-old manager led the Braves to 14 straight postseason appearances (1991-2005) and a World Series crown in 1995. He has a .556 winning percentage and five NL pennants to his credit.

And he shows his passion on the diamond. Cox has been ejected from a ballgame a record 150 times.

“He’s one of the greatest – not only managers, but people,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “He’s a Hall of Famer.”

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Lasorda: Portrait of a winner

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

He was part of a historic stretch in Cooperstown, where six managers were inducted in seven years.

9-22-09-Muder_Lasorda.jpgBut in any group, Tommy Lasorda always stands apart.

The former Dodgers manager — and skipper of the 2000 United States gold medal-winning Olympic baseball team — turns 82 today. He is one of only 19 managers, out of more than 1,000 in the history of pro baseball, enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Lasorda, who won two World Series, four National League pennants and eight NL West titles in his 21 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, remains one of baseball’s most popular figures — and one of the world’s most recognizable faces. Today, a portrait of Lasorda will go on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Painted by renown artist Everett Raymond Kinstler, the portrait — measuring 60 inches by 50 inches — was commissioned to commemorate Lasorda’s legacy as part of the Dodgers’ organization.

Fitting, since Lasorda has always been bigger than life.

9-22-09-Muder_LasordaMug.jpgAs a Hall of Fame manager, Lasorda belongs to one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs — a group that has welcomed only two new members since 2000, when Sparky Anderson became the sixth manager inducted in seven years. But starting this fall, the four living Hall of Famer managers — Earl Weaver, Dick Williams, Anderson and Lasorda — may have some company.

The Veterans Committee considers managers, umpires and executives this year — with the results of the election being announced at the Dec. 7-10 Winter Meetings in Indianapolis. Two years from now — the fall of 2011 — it is possible that at least one of the legendary troika of Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre could be retired and ready for the next Veterans Committee vote on managers.

But whatever the result of future elections, Lasorda’s place in history is secure.

He may bleed Dodger Blue, but his legacy is one of red, white and blue.

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

Hands down, Schmidt among greatest ever

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

His hands settled around the shaft of the golf club, then drew back for his practice swing.

Swish!

The power of that swing — the legendary power of Michael Jack Schmidt — was still apparent, even if the familiar baseball bat had been replaced by the metal wood.

Those hands — an unforgettable instinct.

9-8-09-Muder_Schmidt.jpgSchmidt, who will turn 60 in less than three weeks, is still fit and trim. The once-red hair is now gray, but the body looks to be not far removed from his playing days with the Phillies. At the very least, it would be easy to picture Schmidt on the Champions Tour.

The Hall of Fame third baseman was in Cooperstown this weekend, and on Tuesday he teed off at the Pro-Am for the Otesaga Hotel Seniors Open. Schmidt served as the celebrity host of the tournament, which benefits Pathfinder Village, located in nearby Edmeston, N.Y., a residential community dedicated to children and adults with Down syndrome. The tournament also benefits the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“No charity I’ve ever been associated with is more deserving of a tournament like this,” said Schmidt of Pathfinder Village. “I’ve played in this tournament a couple times now, and it’s always great to come back.”

Schmidt spent 18 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1972-89, winning eight National League home run titles and three NL MVP awards.

But his greatest thrill as a pro athlete just might have come on the famous Leatherstocking Golf Course in Cooperstown.

“I’m not playing in the Seniors Open this year, but I did a couple years ago and actually finished third in my flight. I got a check for $700. When you’re up against competition like this — great senior pros from around the country — that’s pretty good.”

Craig Muder is director of communications for 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.

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