Results tagged ‘ New York Mets ’

Former big leaguer Pankovits relishes time in Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy 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.

8-1-09-Francis_Pankovits.jpg“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.”

8-1-09-Francis_PankovitsMug.jpgBetter 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.

The grand game

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

7-30-09-Berowski_LazzeriRobinson.jpgThere are 289 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Only two of them have hit two grand slams in one game: Tony Lazzeri and Frank Robinson.

But one day after Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice and Joe Gordon took their rightful place in Cooperstown, Senior Circuit batters launched an attack on several grand slam records.

The Washington Nationals’ Josh Willingham hit a record-tying two grand slam home runs in back-to-back innings. Willingham’s eight RBI on the day matched a franchise high, and it was the third time in National League history that a batter has had two grand slams in a game, the last being Fernando Tatis with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999.

7-30-09-Berowski_Willingham.jpgWhen Tatis clubbed his two grand slams on April 23, 1999, they both came in the same inning. Even more amazing is that the third inning blasts came off of the same pitcher, the Dodgers’ Chan Ho Park. Ironically, Tatis was one of three National Leaguers to hit grand slams Monday when his eighth-inning, pinch-hit shot off recently recalled Franklin Morales propelled the Mets to victory over the wild-card leading Colorado Rockies.

Alfonso Soriano added to the fireworks on Monday when his 13th-inning walk-off grand slam led the surging, first place Chicago Cubs past one of their division rivals, the Houston Astros.

According to David Vincent of the SABR Home Run Log, the National League mark of four grand slams in one day was established on  May 21, 2000.  On that day Shawn Green and Adrian Beltre of the Los Angeles Dodgers, J.T. Snow of the San Francisco Giants and Brian Hunter of the Philadelphia Phillies connected for bases-loaded round-trippers.

Coincidentally, the only time four grand slams were hit on the same day in the American League was also in 2000, when Ben Grieve, Joe Oliver, Richie Sexson and Jose Macias went deep with the bags full on July 22.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

2009 Hall of Fame Induction Blog

Light_90.jpgSteve Light, the Hall of Fame’s manager of museum programs, ran a live blog from the 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown. Readers of his live banter had the ability to comment or ask questions.

11:00 a.m. Good morning everyone, and welcome to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s official live blog for the 2009 Induction Ceremony as we get ready to induct the Hall of Fame’s newest members, Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson, and Jim Rice. My name is Steve Light, and I am the manager of museum programs here at the Hall of Fame. Right now I’m sitting on “Radio Row” here at the Induction Site – The Clark Sports Center. I’ll be bringing you live updates on the ceremony all afternoon, so stay tuned and send me your questions and comments.

The Induction Ceremony is just about two and a half hours away. Right now Hall of Fame staff and volunteers are busy wrapping up all the final preparations. Wondering about the forecast? Right now it’s mostly cloudy and 75 degrees. We do have a threat of isolated thunderstorms this afternoon, but hopefully we’ll stay dry for the ceremony.

11:10 a.m. The crowd has already started  to build here. In fact, some fans set up chairs to stake out their spots yesterday morning. If you are in or near Cooperstown, don’t forget that the ceremony is free and open to the public! If you can’t get here, you can catch live coverage on the MLB Network beginning at 12:30. We will also stream the ceremony live on our website, www.baseballhall.org

11:16 a.m. Red Sox Nation has turned out in full force this weekend to celebrate Jim Rice. Catering to the crowd, the big screen next to the stage is playing highlights from the 2004 Red Sox season.

11:35 a.m. 51 Hall of Famers have turned out to welcome their three newest members this weekend. Of course, today is not just about Jim, Joe, and Rickey. We will also honor J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Nick Peters, and Ford C. Frick Award winner Tony Kubek. Peters covered the San Francisco Giants for 47 years, 1961 – 2007. Kubek has worked as an analyst for NBC’s Game of the Week, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the New York Yankees for 30 years. He is also the first exclusively television analyst to win the Frick Award.

11:36 a.m. [Comment From Kevin Brazee]
Do you know who will speak first Henderson or Rice?

11:36 a.m. Great question Kevin! The final order has not been decided yet, but Jim Rice will likely speak first.

11:53 a.m. We’ve had a great weekend here in Cooperstown already. On Friday our annual PLAY Ball! with Ozzie Smith event raised $10,000 for the Hall of Fame’s Educational programs and gave some fans the opportunity of a lifetime to interact with Ozzie, Wade Boggs, Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Murray on Doubleday Field. Yesterday at the Clark Sports Center a crowd of over 750 people watched four families’ compete against Dick Williams, Goose Gossage and Ryne Sandberg in our annual Connecting Generations, a Family Feud-like game show. Harold Reynolds served as the host.

11:56 p.m. The gates have opened in the seated sections and fans begin to stream to their seats  as the excitement begins to build. Just about an hour and a half away.

12:04 p.m. Red Sox Nation isn’t alone here in Cooperstown this weekend. The section 3 seats directly behind me are filled  with Oakland Athletics’ gear.  Feel free to send any questions you might have about today’s Induction Ceremony, and be sure to include where you are from!

12:17 p.m. Let’s talk some stats now, starting with Rickey. Henderson is the 44th player elected on the first ballot. He received 94.8% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Henderson played in 10 All-Star games, won three silver sluggers, and was named the 1990 AL MVP. During his 25 year career he set career records for runs, stolen bases, and walks. The records for runs and stolen bases still stand. Rickey also holds the single season steals record, and led the league in steals a record 12 times.

12:22 p.m. Jim Rice was elected on his 15th year on the Baseball Writers ballot, receiving 76.4% of the vote. He joins two other famous Hall of Fame Red Sox leftfielders, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. In his 16-year major league career Rice was one of the most feared sluggers in the American League. He was an 8-time All-Star, led the league in home runs 3 times and won an AL MVP in 1978.

12:25 p.m. [Comment From C Itle]
I can’t find the stream link. Could you please post it here?

12:26 p.m. The live stream will be posted on the Hall’s website at 12:30 eastern time. Just visit www.baseballhall.org.

12:30 p.m. Nine-time All-Star Joe Gordon was elected on the pre-1943 Veterans Committee ballot. He received 10 of the 12 committee votes. Gordon was a member of five World Series winning teams, and won the 1942 Most Valuable Player Award. During his first six seasons, Gordon and the New York Yankees won five pennants and four World Series titles. He was traded to Cleveland in 1946, and helped lead the Indians to their World Series title in 1948, hitting 32 home runs and driving in 120 runs.

12:33 p.m. A lot of people are asking who is representing Joe Gordon here today. It will be Joe’s daughter, Judy Gordon.

12:35 p.m. A note for all you fans out there who might be attending a major league game today: save your tickets! The Hall will grant free admission to all fans who present a ticket stub from a major league game bearing the date July 26, 2009. This opportunity is good right up until next year’s Induction.

12:47 p.m. I’m getting some more questions about where to find the televised broadcast, so for those joining our live blog late, you can catch live coverage on the MLB Network (their broadcast has already started!) or you can stream them onto your computer via our website, www.baseballhall.org.

Casey is on stage warming up for his annual presentation of “Casey at the Bat”. That surely means the start of the ceremony is getting closer.

12:55 p.m. With Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson, and Tony Kubek all being honored today, it’s no surprise that Yankees GM Brian Cashman has arrived and is in the audience for today’s ceremony. Another notable name spotted in the audience: Keith Olberman.

Right now on the big screen, 2009 Steele Intern Daniel Sampson interviews MLB Network commentator and former major leaguer Harold Reynolds.

1:00 p.m. [Comment From Fitz – Boston]
Have you seen Freddie Lynn in the crowd? Any other Rice teammates?

1:00 p.m. Haven’t seen Fred Lynn, Fitz. But Dwight Evans is in town.

1:05 p.m. Other former teammates expected today: Dave Henderson and Bob Montgomery for Rice and Dave Stewart for Henderson.

Casey is at the bat on the Induction Stage right now, 25 minutes to go!

1:11 p.m. Can’t make it to Cooperstown today? How about tomorrow morning? We conclude our Hall of Fame Weekend festivities with our annual Legends Series event right here at the Clark Sports Center. Rickey and Jim will sit down for an interview to reflect on their experiences this weekend, which must have been a whirlwind for them. Tickets ($10) are still available by contacting the Hall of Fame’s membership department.

1:17 p.m. Well if Brian Cashman is here for the Yankee Inductees, it shouldn’t surprise you that the Red Sox’s John Henry and Larry Lucchino are here to support Jim Rice (and of course Rickey Henderson, who played for the Red Sox as well).

1:24 p.m. Five minutes to go! Who do you think will get the biggest cheers as the Hall of Famers are announced?

1:30 p.m. The Hall of Famers are on the stage, we’re just about ready to go.

1:30 p.m. And Rickey and Jim have just arrived on stage, to a great ovation from the crowd.

1:37 p.m. President Jeff Idelson and Chairman of the Board Jane Forbes Clark offer welcoming remarks. As Ms. Clark points out, 51 of the 65 living Hall of Famers are on stage today. Where else can you get such a collection of greats in one place at one time?

Now the MC of today’s ceremony is introduced, George Grande. George begins the player introductions.

1:40 p.m. George did a great job having fun with fans and introducing the Hall of Famers during the Red Carpet Arrivals event at the Museum last night as they arrived for a private reception. If you are ever in Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend that is definitely an event to check out.

1:47 p.m. [Comment From Shawn Anderson, Illinois]
Which Hall of Famer elicits the biggest hush when he enters the room? Meaning…who makes everyone stop what they are doing?

1:47 p.m. Great question Shawn! I can’t speak for everyone, but for me I am in awe any time I see Willie Mays.

1:48 p.m. Biggest ovation yet? Yaz get’s a prolonged standing O.

1:52 p.m. Juan Marichal is introduced. Juan was at the Hall of Fame earlier this year as we opened a brand new exhibit on baseball in the Caribbean called °Viva Baseball! If you haven’t seen it  make sure you  come on out to Cooperstown!

Speaking of new exhibits, the Hall also has a brand new exhibit this year entitled Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream. Hank is introduced, and the fans deliver another loud ovation.

1:58 p.m. And now this year’s Inductees are introduced, along with Judy Gordon on behalf of her father.

The Red Sox fans make their presence known as Jim Rice is introduced, while shouts of “Rickey” echo through the crowd as George Grande introduces “the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.”

2:12 p.m. A bit of rain has moved in but it hasn’t dampened any spirits. The ceremony is going to be moved along a bit however due to storms expected later this afternoon. After the invocation and national anthems, it’s Joe Gordon’s turn! Bud Selig reads the inscription on the plaque as Hall President Jeff Idelson presents it to the crowd.

2:12 p.m. Judy Gordon takes the podium.

2:16 p.m. Judy talks about how her father reached out to Larry Doby in his first ever day in the major leagues as he desegregated the American League. “This was not an isolated incident. This was how my dad lived his entire life.” She then notes that today marks the 11th anniversary of Doby’s Induction into the Hall of Fame.

2:19 p.m. Here’s an interesting story about the 1948 season with the Cleveland Indians, in which Gordon hit 32 home runs. According to Judy, he received a case of Wheaties and a case of gum for every home run he hit. Judy Gordon: “As I remember, even the dog got more athletic eating the Wheaties.”

2:24 p.m. A very touching moment and a loud standing ovation here as Judy Gordon concludes by indicating that her family considers Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame as  her father’s  final resting place where he will be  remembered forever.

Next up: Jim Rice.

2:25 p.m. Anyone have any special memories about watching Rice play? Send them along!

2:28 p.m. Jane Forbes Clark welcomes Jim to the Hall of Fame family, and Bud Selig reads the inscription on his plaque as it is presented to the crowd. Later tonight, that plaque will join Gordon’s and Henderson’s as the Hall of Fame’s curatorial staff will hang them with the other 286 in the Hall of Fame Gallery.

2:29 p.m. The crowd breaks out into a chant of “Let’s Go Red Sox!”

2:36 p.m. Where was Jim when he received the call that he had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Watching The Young and the Restless.

Jim thanks the Boston Red Sox, with whom he spent his entire major league career. Not only did he help lead them to the AL pennant in his rookie season, but from 1977-1979 he became the only player in big league history to record 35 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 200 hits for three consecutive seasons. One of those years, 1978, he hit 46 home runs and drove in 139 on his way to earning the AL MVP.

2:41 p.m. Another standing ovation for Rice as he concludes his speech, stating that he cannot think of a better place to be – with his fans and with the greatest living ballplayers.

Now, it’s time for Rickey. The fans here have been waiting for this since the announcement in December.

2:46 p.m. The cap on Rickey’s plaque? The A’s of course. The inscription on his plaque begins “Faster than a speeding bullet….” As Selig reads off all nine of Rickey’s team, a loud ovation from the crowd as the Red Sox are mentioned. Now: Rickey takes the podium. 

2:47 p.m. Any special memories of watching Rickey play? Send them along!

2:51 p.m. Rickey says that he played so long (25 seasons!) because of his love for the game of baseball. Apparently his dream was to play football for the Oakland Raiders, but his mother was afraid he would get hurt and told him to play baseball. As Rickey points out, mothers always know best.

2:53 p.m. Wondering who Rickey looked up to as a kid? Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson. Three of them are up on the stage behind him today.

2:54 p.m. Rickey’s nine teams ties him for second place among Hall of Famers with Goose Gossage and Hoyt Wilhelm. Anyone know who’s first?

2:59 p.m. The answer to that previous question: Dan Brouthers.

Rickey’s take on his nine teams – it was a great chance to meet fans all across the country. Henderson: “It is the fan who make the game fun. To the fans: Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all your support over the years.”

3:01 p.m. Rickey closes his speech by stating how humbling it is to now be considered in a class of the greatest players of all time. He receives a prolonged ovation from the fans.

3:03 p.m. Don’t go anywhere folks – we have plenty of ceremony left, and we haven’t yet heard from Tony Kubek or Nick Peters! Now on the big screen – a video of Stan Musial (who could not be in attendance tonight) playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his harmonica.

3:09 p.m. On the stage now we have George Grande and Billy Williams remembering 1969, as it is the 40th anniversary of that season. An incredible season perhaps best remembered for the Miracle Mets.

Billy Williams is the spokesman for the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program. Billy thanks all Hall of Fame members out there for supporting the Hall and helping to keep baseball’s history and tradition alive here in Cooperstown.

Now Don Sutton takes the podium to introduce this year’s Ford C. Frick Award winner, Tony Kubek. Sutton points out that his first day as a broadcaster was spent sitting alongside Kubek.

3:15 p.m. Tony’s turn. He points out Moose Skowron, his first road roommate, who is sitting just to the right of stage today.

Of course, Kubek played baseball himself, for nine seasons with the New York Yankees, making four All-Star games.

3:24 p.m. Tony speaks about how the game of baseball has pioneered so many of the changes in American culture, drawing particular attention to the racism and bigotry that Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron overcame during their playing careers, breaking down barriers in the process. This draws a loud ovation from the crowd.

As a member of the Hall’s Education department, I’m glad  to see Tony mention this. At the Hall we try to teach our visitors about how baseball has been at the forefront of many changes in American culture.

3:29 p.m. Kubek closes and Jane Forbes Clark returns to the podium to present the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, Nick Peters. Peters covered the Giants for 47 years, more years than any sports journalist in history. David O’Brien, President of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, comes to the podium to introduce Peters.

3:32 p.m. Here’s a good Rice memory:

3:32 p.m. [Comment From Scott Downer]
I was at a game in Cleveland in 1979. I saw Rice his a pitch out of old Municipal Stadium that cleared the center field wall, I’m going to say 410. The ball never got over 20 feet off the ground. I’ve never seen a shot lie this one. It must have gotten out in two seconds. Just a blast.

3:37 p.m. Nick Peters talks about listening to Red Sox games on the radio on Sunday drives with the family. His idol? Ted Williams naturally. Peters then recalls how he learned how to do math through computing batting averages and other statistics. Sounds kind of like the Batter Up math unit that the Hall of Fame uses to teach kids  across the country   using video-conferencing technology

3:42 p.m. Nick Peter’s closes by pointing out that he was able to do something he loved without every having to go too far from home or looking for another job. While he laments that the Giants never won a World Series in his 47 years covering them, he also points out that the A’s won 4 of the 6 they played in during that span.

With that, the ceremony concludes! The rain held off. One last round of applause for the class of 2009.

3:48 p.m. So don’t forget to get the 2009 Hall of Fame Weekend on your calendar now, the last weekend in July as always!

It’s never too early to start thinking ahead to next year. On this year’s ballot, Andre Dawson received 67% of the vote, with Bert Blyleven receiving 62.7%, and Roberto Alomar will be on the ballot for the first time.

3:50 p.m. The weekend isn’t over yet, as Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson will be back here tomorrow for a special Legends Series interview on the Induction Stage.

I think it’s about time for me to sign off. But before I do I’d like to thank you all for joining me this afternoon, and hope you enjoyed the coverage! Don’t forget to log onto www.baseballhall.org for more coverage of Hall of Fame Weekend 2009!

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

Bo Duke comes to Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Was that really Bo Duke?

John Schneider, who famously portrayed Bo Duke on the television series “The Dukes of Hazzard” from 1979-85, could be found on Cooperstown’s Main Street in front of the KeyBank building signing autographs on Friday.

7-24-09-Francis_Schneiders.jpg“My brother Bob lives in Cooperstown right around the corner, and he teaches people how to paint beautiful landscapes right up here at the top of the bank building,” said Schneider between posing for pictures and signing photos for fans. “I was doing a movie in Florida and Bob said, ‘Hey, you’re on the East Coast. Come through Cooperstown on your way. It’s Induction Weekend.’ I wish my 17-year-old son was here.”

Besides “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Schneider has had starring roles on such series as “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and “Smallville.” He’s even portrayed a few baseball players over the years.

“I played several baseball players, mostly knuckleball players, on television,” Schneider said. “On a show called “Grand Slam” (1990) I played a guy named Dennis Bakelenekoff and another one for Aaron Spelling I played a dead guy who was a knuckleball pitcher called “Heaven Help Us” (1994), and that didn’t last very long either.”

While he played a knuckleball pitcher, he couldn’t master the elusive pitch. But he did get to meet one of the pitch’s masters today.

7-24-09-Francis_DukesCast.jpg“Here’s the thrill of a lifetime. It’s when somebody says, ‘I’d like to shake your hand,’ and I turn and it’s (Hall of Famer) Phil Niekro,” Schneider said. “What a nice man and what an honor to have Phil Niekro want to meet me. He’s a hero. So my weekend was made right there.”

Though he was a baseball fan while growing up in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., Schneider has been away from the game for a little while.

“I played Little League as a kid. I was a first baseman and they called me Stretch. But I’ve been so busy I haven’t been following it a lot,” Schneider said. “I grew up a Tom Seaver fan, an Amazing Mets fan. We’re talking about ’69. One of the first Super 8 movies I had on my Kodak projector was called “The Amazing Mets.” In those days Gil Hodges and the gang were my favorites.”

Today, Schneider’s 17-year-old son is a big fan.

“I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame with my son a couple years ago and Chasen read every word on every plaque in that building. It was the greatest thing,” Schneider said. “We use to call him Stats because at 14 he could tell you everything about anybody.”

Schneider can be found outside the KeyBank building in Cooperstown for the rest of Induction Weekend.

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

Phillies fans celebrate World Series title in Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

6-27-09-Muder_Ring.jpgLarry Shenk has seen his share of fanatic Phillies fans. But Shenk, the longtime head of the Phillies communications department and now a team vice president, couldn’t help but be impressed with the turnout on Saturday in Cooperstown.

“It’s great to look out and see all that Phillies red,” said Shenk, who was in Cooperstown on Saturday to present a 2008 World Series ring to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “It was eight months ago today, Oct. 27, when the Phillies clinched the World Series title. And we’d like to come back and do this again next year.”

6-27-09-Muder_Trophy.jpgThe overflow crowd in the Museum’s Autumn Glory exhibit cheered Shenk’s proclamation, then took turns taking pictures of the ring Shenk presented to Hall of Fame Senior Vice President Bill Haase. The ring will become part of the Museum’s collection and will soon be displayed in the Museum’s Autumn Glory exhibit, which is dedicated to baseball’s postseason.

After the presentation, Shenk and his wife Julie — who wore her World Series pendant, given to player’s and executive’s wives — walked down to see the 2008 World Series trophy, which is on display at the Hall of Fame through Sunday, June 28.

“This is the 10th state we’ve brought the trophy to since we won it,” Shenk said. “But it’s the first time we’ve had it in New York. I think it was safer to bring it to Cooperstown, New York, than Flushing, New York — with all those Mets fans there.”

Museum visitors can view the 2008 World Series trophy until 5 p.m. on Saturday and then from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The chance to see the World Series trophy is included with regular Museum admission.

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
6-27-09-Muder_Crowd.jpg

Long enjoys Hall of Fame visit

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Terrence Long, who became accustomed to postseason baseball during big league playing career, found time during his first trip to Cooperstown to show his young family the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Thursday.

Long, his wife and four sons made the trip from their home in Montgomery, Ala., because 9-year-old Jalon has been playing in one of the local baseball camps. According to Long, Jalon, a right fielder on his 10-and-under travel team, and his brothers are all good athletes.

“They are star players on their teams,” said Long, after looking at his clippings file at the Hall of Fame Library’s A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center. “Hopefully, I rubbed off on them in some kind of way.

6-25-09-Francis_Long.jpg“They might be a little bit better than me,” said Long. “They’ve got a lot more tools than I think I had.”

Long played for eight big league seasons from 1999 to 2006, spending time with the New York Mets, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees. But it was his years in Oakland where both he and the team excelled.

For four straight seasons, from 2000 to 2003, with Long a starting outfielder, the A’s qualified for the postseason – only to get knocked out each time in the American League Division Series.

“I do miss it,” said the 33-year-old Long. “My first couple of years out of baseball I missed October baseball. I got a chance to play in October in four of my six full seasons, so that was a blessing. I do miss my teammates, but I really miss playing in October.”

In one of the more famous plays of recent postseason action, Long’s two-out double in the seventh inning against the Yankees nearly scored Oakland teammate Jeremy Giambi from first base in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS. The A’s had won the first two games of the five-game series, and were losing 1-0 in Game 3 when Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter picked up an errant throw from the outfield and flipped the ball to catcher Jorge Posada. Giambi, who didn’t slide, was tagged out on a close play.

“We had Eric Byrnes, who was probably the fastest guy on the team, ready to pinch-run,” recalled Long. “But I can’t… Jeremy was my buddy. It will be on TV forever, though.”

6-25-09-Francis_Long-Byrnes.jpgLong was a first round draft pick of the Mets in 1994, but didn’t establish himself in the majors until he was traded to the A’s for pitcher Kenny Rogers on July 23, 1999.

“It was exciting having been in the Mets organization and not getting to play much and then getting traded to Oakland. They gave me a chance to play and we had some good teams,” Long said. “Thanks to the Mets for drafting me and a special thanks to Billy Beane (A’s general manager) for giving me a chance to play. That started my career off.”

It was in 1999, the year Long made his big league debut with the Mets, that he became teammates with Rickey Henderson. Henderson will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Joe Gordon and Jim Rice on Sunday, July 26.

“I got a chance to hang out with Rickey then. It was great,” Long said. “He took care of me. He taught me a lot and that was good. He’s a great guy, teaches the game, great sense of humor. A real laid back, down to earth guy. I wish I could be here to see him get inducted.”

These days Long spends his time coaching his sons and fishing.

“Just teaching the kids the game of baseball. I enjoy it. It takes up a lot of my time,” Long said. “I never thought that I would spend eight seasons in the big leagues. Maybe one day we’ll come back and my sons will be in the majors.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for 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.

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