Results tagged ‘ New York-Penn League ’

Forty years ago, Rick Wise made history

By Bill Francis

Rick Wise was the starting second baseman for The Knucksies in the 2011 Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday, but exactly 40 years ago today he was the toast of baseball.

On June 23, 1971, the 25-year-old Wise pitched a no-hitter and added two home runs to lead the visiting Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-0 over the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. In his nine-inning stint, the righty faced just 28 batters, walked one (Dave Concepcion with one out in the sixth inning), struck out two, and raised his record to 8-4 on the way to a 17-win season.

After serving as an instructor during Saturday’s Legends for Youth Skills Clinic at Doubleday Field, Wise talk about that memorable day from four decades ago.

“I was coming off the flu and I felt very weak,” said Wise, after taking a seat in the third base dugout. “And it was hot, too. It was Cincinnati and the heat was coming off the carpet there. Man, it was smoking. But I think it sweated it out of me. I remember warming up and it seemed like the ball was stopping about halfway to the catcher. I said to myself, ‘Man, I better locate my pitches because this team with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez can do some severe damage with their hitters.’

“But I had a good tempo and they were putting the ball in play early. I only made 94 pitches that day and it has an hour and 53 minutes. And only six balls were hit out of the infield, and I wasn’t a groundball pitcher either. I was a fly ball pitcher.”

Now 65, Wise ended his 18-year big league playing career in 1982 before embarking on a couple dozen seasons as a coach at almost every level of baseball before retiring in 2008. Sporting a ring given to members of the 1975 American League champion Boston Red Sox (Wise was the wining pitcher in Game 6 of the ’75 World Series in which Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk hit his memorable home run), he delighted in stating that he is one of the few people to appear in a Little League World Series, a Babe Ruth League World Series and Major League Baseball World Series. 

Proud of his hitting, Wise finished the 1971 season twice hitting two home runs in a game.

“But that was the National League game. My first nine years were in the National League – seven with the Phillies and two with the Cardinals – and I had 15 home runs after nine years,” Wise recalled.  “Then I went to the American League for six years and never picked up a bat again. My final team was San Diego but by that time my skills were completely diminished as far as hand-eye coordination.”

According to Wise, when he was coaching in the New York-Penn League, he brought his Auburn, N.Y. team from nearby Oneonta to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and donated from his no-hitter game the bat, his glove and a ball to the Cooperstown institution. The bat can currently be seen in the Museum’s newest exhibit, One for the Books: Baseball Record and the Stories Behind Them.

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

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.

Sun shines on Induction Weekend

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Another Hall of Fame Weekend is in the books and by all accounts, it was a rousing success. Our staff was well prepared and ready to assure that each and every guest – from the returning Hall of Famers to the invited guests to the 21,000 fans who support the game we all love so much by attending the Induction – had the best possible experience possible.

7-29-09-Idelson_Berra.jpgEach year our staff agrees to control everything we can to assure success and be as prepared as humanly possible for elements we can’t. For the past five or six years, the weather patterns have been suspect and we have yet to have a completely dry four consecutive days of Hall of Fame Weekend. 

A few years ago, I was sitting on the back porch of the Otesaga on Friday morning of Hall of Fame Weekend in rocking chairs with Yogi Berra. He looked at me and said, “Hey Jeff, how come it rains a little bit on Hall of Fame Weekend all the time?” I explained Cooperstown is nestled between two mountain ranges – the Catskills and Adirondacks – and situated at the base of nine mile-long Otesgo Lake, making weather somewhat unpredictable. “Why don’t you move Hall of Fame Weekend to a different one when it’s not raining?” he said. I scratched my head, had a sip of coffee, and scratched my head again. End of conversation.

Mother Nature has a pretty good streak of being kind to us. Sure, we get some serious snow in the winter and spring can be cool. But when the chips are down (Hall of Fame Weekend), she is as interested in seeing the stars shine as much as we do. We’ve not had to move ceremony inside since 1990.

This year, it rained most of Friday, but Mother Nature gave us windows of decent weather when it mattered most, allowing us to stage our two Doubleday Field events – Play Ball with Ozzie Smith in the morning, and our Legends for Youth Skills Clinic.  

7-29-09-Idelson_Boggs.jpgSaturday was beautiful all day – cool and dry. The Hall of Fame golf tournament proceeded seamlessly, the annual New York-Penn League game was played without a hint of delay, and fans could leisurely walk Main Street and enjoy all the village of Cooperstown has to offer. It sprinkled for just a few minutes before our version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame – the annual Red Carpet Ceremony where the game’s living legends arrive at the Hall of Fame by trolley for an evening reception.

Sunday, on the other hand, was dicey, as rain clouds threatened from the minute I woke at 7 a.m.  By 11 a.m, we were monitoring Doppler Radar and beginning to run through the various “what if” scenarios. 

Each year we prepare four versions of the Induction Ceremony with the ultimate goal, to stay outdoors for every fan to enjoy. The versions include (1) regular run of show; (2) delay; (3) reverse order with elements cut, and; (4) indoors. The final version, not needed since 1990, only comes into play when the weather dictates the potential for disaster, such as lightening or hail.

The forecast looked ominous at 12:30 p.m, as Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Clark, security chief Evan Chase and I looked at the various forecasts. The weather was OK enough to not have to go indoors, but it was going to deteriorate as the day progressed, so going to a delay was not an option either. We made the decision to go with the “reverse order” ceremony, which is why we started with the inductees and ended with the award winners. Thankfully, our new broadcast partner, the MLB Network, was able to air the ceremony live, in its entirety.

7-29-09-Idelson_HendersonRice.jpgAs we boarded buses at 1 p.m to head from the Otesaga Resort Hotel to the Clark Sports Center, we knew we might get pelted with rain. The forecast was showing a large rain cell in Binghamton, N.Y., south and west of Cooperstown, and heading directly toward us. We knew there was a good chance of a soaking rain around 2 p.m, but with the unpredictability of central New York weather, there was reason to hope.

Well, Mother Nature must not be a very good bowler, as she delivered a 7-10 split.  The winds starting howling and some light rain ensued, but the storm split, as it does sometimes, going north and south of us and leaving us dry for the Ceremony.

We were able to complete the Induction, but as I looked out the window from the Hall of Fame members’ dinner that evening, I saw sheets of rain streaming down on the lake. I was glad we made the right call.

Mother Nature got it out of her system. Monday was gorgeous as the Weekend concluded with our annual Legends Series event with our new inductees, Rickey and Jim.

And for the 19th consecutive year, Mother Nature did her part. Maybe we should give her a plaque.

Jeff Idelson is president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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