Results tagged ‘ NCAA ’

California dreams, Cooperstown memories

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

After 34 successful years as head coach of the Stanford University baseball team, it’s still all about the dream for Mark Marquess.

“When you are in the backyard and playing ball pretending to by Mickey Mantle or A-Rod, you dream to be a major league player – and I get these kids on their path to that dream,” Marquess said Thursday during a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

07-08-10-Carr_Marquess1.jpgMarquess and his wife, Susan, were visiting their youngest daughter, Maureen, in Manhattan, and they decided to make their first trip to Cooperstown.

“If you are a baseball fan, and even if you’re not, it’s just so American,” said Marquess. “The Museum is a special place, and the town is so quaint, we could stay here for a week.”

A Stanford alum, Marquess played baseball and football during his college days. An All-American first baseman, he was drafted by the White Sox and spent four seasons in their system before returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach. Five years later, he took over the team and since has posted a 1,356-694-7 record. That puts him in the top 10 in NCAA Division-I baseball history in wins.

He has led the team to two NCAA Championships and is a member of the Stanford University Athletic Hall of Fame and the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. He is a three-time NCAA Coach of the Year recipient. He has also served as President of USA Baseball and earned a Gold Medal as the head coach of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team.

“Baseball is still our National Pastime, but it is very much becoming a world game,” said Marquess. “You travel to Latin American countries and some of those kids don’t have much, but they are playing baseball.”

Susan Marquess is a counselor at St. Francis High School in Palo Alto, Calif., and each year sees kids that dream of being a major league player, but are taking the steps of going to college and getting an education too.

07-08-10-Carr_Marquess2.jpg“I think the exposure of the College World Series is helping a lot,” she said. “It becomes part of the dream.”

Division I baseball is very competitive, but unlike at the professional level, a coach’s job is not just win games.

“The difference is teaching,” said Marquess. “These kids are bright and can do so many things, but their focus is to be a major league player. I need to make sure they are getting an education and on track to graduate.”

Marquess has taught players like Mike Mussina, who achieved their dream that began as a kid on a diamond. But the percentage of players who see that kind of success in the game is small.

“It is just as rewarding for me, and sometimes more so when a second-string player who is now a successful heart surgeon comes back and donates money to our program because of his memories at Stanford. They don’t make their dream, but it is a different kind of reward.”

Susan is already making plans to come back to Cooperstown and bring their four grandkids with them. And after 34 years of coaching, I don’t doubt that Marquess will pass on his passion for the game to the next generation.

“Being here,” Marquess said, “reminds you of the dream.”

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

Hoop madness comes to Cooperstown

Light_90.jpgBy Steve Light

Spring training is in full swing, but the eyes of the sports world this week are fixed on the college basketball tournaments. While we all wait for the Cinderella team that will make our brackets fall to pieces, let’s not forget that many of baseball’s brightest stars have stepped on the court in college, and even in the NBA.

The most famous crossover player – Michael Jordan – perhaps had a better handle on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament than he did the curve ball. The former North Carolina star hit the game winning shot in the championship game against Georgetown in 1982, but in his one season with the Double-A Birmingham Barons Jordan hit .202 with three home runs, 51 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.

Yet MJ wasn’t the only basketball star to take the field. Another basketball Hall of Famer, Dave DeBusschere, pitched for the Chicago White Sox in 1962 and 1963, compiling a 3-4 record with a 2.90 ERA over 36 games. And when former Celtic, Trail Blazer, and Phoenix Sun Danny Ainge led his BYU team to the regional finals in 1981, he had already made it to the majors. Drafted in 1977 by the Toronto Blue Jays, Ainge made his big league debut on May 21, 1979. In three seasons with the Jays, Ainge batted .220 with two home runs, 37 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. Perhaps spurred on by his tournament success – his coast-to-coast drive with seven seconds left sunk second seeded Notre Dame in the regional semifinals – Ainge quit baseball following the 1981 season and focused on his basketball career.

On the flip side, many baseball stars have found success on the basketball court as well. Point guard Kenny Lofton helped the Arizona Wildcats make it to the Final Four in the 1988 tournament before being drafted by the Houston Astros that summer. Even Hall of Famers have gotten in on the act, Robin Roberts starred on the court for the Michigan State Spartans, while Tony Gwynn was San Diego State’s floor general in his college career. Gwynn still holds school records for assists in a single season and assists in a career. He was even drafted by the San Diego Clippers of the NBA, but luckily for us, chose baseball instead.

03-18-10-Light_GwynnRobertsWinfield.jpgSix-foot-six Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was a standout baseball and basketball player for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Winfield and the Gophers made it to the tournament in 1972 and even earned a first round bye. The Gophers lost their first game in the Midwest Region to eventual national-runner up Florida Sate, 70 – 56, with Winfield playing all 40 minutes and chipping in eight points and eight rebounds. In the regional third-place game, the Gophers bounced back to beat Marquette 77 – 72, with Winfield compiling 16 points and nine rebounds. Scouts so highly rated Winfield’s athletic ability that he was not only drafted by the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Utah Stars of the ABA, but also his hometown Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. He had not even played college football.

As the regional semifinals and finals come to nearby Syracuse March 25 and 27, the Hall of Fame will celebrate the connections between baseball and basketball on Friday, March 26 with a full day of programs, including special trivia contests that test our visitor’s knowledge of baseball and the NCAA tournament.

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

Lloyd Monsen: left wing and pitcher at the 1952 Olympics

Shieber_90.jpgBy Tom Shieber

We’re unveiling a new exhibit titled Olympic Baseball. As you might guess, it is a celebration of the history of baseball in the Olympics. What you may not know is that our national pastime has been played at the Olympics for almost 100 years, starting with a pair of exhibition games at the 1912 Games in Stockholm.

Baseball was also played at the 1936 Games in Berlin, the ’56 Games in Melbourne, Australia, and the ’64 Games in Tokyo. But perhaps the most surprising and obscure appearance of baseball in the Olympics took place at the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland.

That summer, the Olympics featured an exhibition of pespallo, a popular Finnish game adapted from our game of baseball. Famed sportswriter and future J.G. Taylor Spink Award-winner Red Smith witnessed the game and wrote: “[Pespallo] was invented by Lauri Pihkala, a professor who wears a hearing aid and believes his game was modeled on baseball. Somebody must have described baseball to him when his battery was dead.”

4-27-09-Shieber_Olympics.jpgApparently, the local Olympic organizing committee invited the U.S. to play a game of baseball (the original game, not the Finnish version) against a champion team from Finland. Walter Giesler, coach of the U.S. soccer team and a future Soccer Hall of Famer, was tasked with organizing the baseball team. With his soccer team quickly eliminated from the Olympics, bowing to the Italians, 8-0 ,on July 16, he had a surplus of top athletes with little to do. Why not play baseball?

The U.S. played a practice game against Venezuela on July 29, posting a 14-6 victory, then followed that up with the main contest against the Finns, a 19-1 drubbing played at Helsinki Football Stadium on Aug. 5.

As lead curator of the exhibit, I wanted to make sure that we featured artifacts from each Olympiad in which baseball was played. The one hole was the Helsinki contests. I immediately set to work trying to track down some of the soccer players from the 1952 U.S. team in hopes that they might provide some leads.

Finding out who was on the U.S. soccer squad was no problem, as the team is well-documented and featured quite a few “name” players. Besides Coach Giesler, the team featured five other future Soccer Hall of Famers: Charlie Colombo, Harry Keough, Lloyd Monsen, Willy Schaller and John Souza.

Of these greats, four — Colombo, Giesler, Keough and Souza — were members of the famed U.S. soccer team that stunned England, 1-0, at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. The victory is considered by many to be the greatest moment in U.S. soccer history … and the worst in the storied history of English soccer.

Working my way alphabetically through the list of six Hall of Famers, I turned my attention to Colombo. Like many others on the Olympic soccer team, Colombo hailed from St. Louis, a city that has long been a hotbed of soccer talent. Like baseball legends Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola, Colombo grew up in St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood known as “Dago Hill,” today referred to as simply “The Hill.” But Colombo passed away over 20 years ago, so I turned my attention to Harry Keough.

Harry was, and still is, a legend in St. Louis. Not only did he win a national junior championship, play on the 1950 U.S. team that toppled England and participate in two Olympic Games (1952 and ’56), but he also went on to coach the St. Louis University Billikens to five NCAA men’s soccer championships. Fortunately, I was able to contact his son Ty, a great player in his own right as well as a television soccer analyst. Unfortunately, my timing was off. Ty informed me that his father was out of the country.

Next: Lloyd Monsen.

Monsen, who played left wing for U.S. Olympic soccer team, was born and raised in Brooklyn. Some cursory research led me to believe that he might still be living in the area, but in checking on the Web, I found that not only was there no “Lloyd Monsen” listed in Brooklyn, there was no one by that name in the entire state of New York. I decided to “go for it” and searched for any Lloyd Monsen in the country … and found just one!

I made the cold call to Clearwater, Fla., and when a man answered the phone, I introduced myself and asked if this was Lloyd Monsen.

“Yes.”

Was this the same Lloyd Monsen who played soccer at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki?

“Yes.”

Did he know anything about the baseball games that were played that summer in Finland?

“Not only did I play in those games, I was the starting pitcher.”

Unbelievable! Lloyd was, and is, as sharp as a tack and went on to describe the baseball games in surprising detail. He recalled that U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. threw out the first pitch before the game against Finland, and noted that the host country supplied all the baseball equipment.

Thankfully, Lloyd kept quite a few souvenirs from his Olympic experience in Finland, and he has graciously loaned us the patch from his team jacket along with his official Olympic ID for our exhibit. These wonderful artifacts are just two of over 50 that are featured in our Olympic Baseball exhibit, now open on the second floor of the Museum.

Tom Shieber is senior curator of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Japan a true world champion

Gates_90.jpgBy Jim Gates

I enjoyed watching the World Baseball Classic and was not particularly surprised to see Japan playing for the championship once again. Baseball in Japan has a long history, and there is as much baseball folklore and tradition on this island nation as exists in any
4-9-09-Gates_JapanvAmerica.jpg
 
 country. The national high school tournament is conducted with the same fervor as Americans attach to the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Japanese major leagues have some of the most vocal fans on the planet.

An American expatriate educator named Horace Wilson is credited with introducing the Japanese to baseball in the early 1870s, and we have tried to reflect this nation’s long history in our collection. As I go through the files in our archive, I often come across artifacts that relate to the relationship between Japan, the United States and the game of baseball. Among the hundred of items from Japan, one of my favorites is a program from the 1931 Major League tour featuring Lou Gehrig, Frankie Frisch, Lefty Grove, Rabbit Maranville and Mickey Cochrane, who together compiled a record of 17-0. I wonder if they ever thought that baseball would become such an international sport and that the Japanese would become such a baseball power?

The Japanese have had a chance to fully develop their own baseball history, and this has led to a strong sense of pride in their game and to the players that have been introduced to the rest of the world. This includes the Olympic Games, the World Baseball Classic and right into Major league Baseball. It will be interesting to see what type of artifacts and documents we acquire in future years relating to this element of the game.

Jim Gates is librarian of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

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