Results tagged ‘ New York Yankees ’

New books on the Library shelves

By Freddy Berowski

Known as the “Master of Alternate History,” New York Times best selling author Harry Turtledove has delighted fans for decades with his fantastic “what if?” tales.

Stories such as “World War” and “Colonization,” a series of books which follow the invasion of Earth by a Race of alien lizards during World War II and the hundred years that follow (with quite a few baseball references too, including a couple of lizard middle infielders and Mickey Mantle playing in the Major Leagues against the Yankees for the Kansas City Blues) and “The House that George Built,” a novella about Babe Ruth and baseball, if the Babe never made it. 

Recently, the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library has added to its permanent collection the manuscripts for two of Harry Turtledove’s alternate history works, the aforementioned “The House that George Built” and “The Stars and Rockets.” 

The Hall of Fame Library contains more than three million documents on baseball, including a file for every player who has appeared in a major league game and thousands of books on the National Pastime.

“The House that George Built” follows an alternate timeline where the Federal League never established a presence in Baltimore in 1914, thus Orioles owner Jack Dunn never felt the need to sell Babe Ruth’s contract.  In this reality, Ruth’s role in the game’s history was flipped with that of 1920s Pacific Coast League superstar Buzz Arlett, who became the game’s “Babe Ruth” with the Babe only getting Buzz’s cup of coffee. 

“The Stars and Rockets” is a fantastical tale that connects the Roswell incident of 1947 with Joe Bauman’s 72 home run season for the Class-C Roswell Rockets in 1954, and some fans that are out of this world. 

Harry Turtledove grew up on the West Coast and began his love affair with our National Pastime when his father began taking him to Pacific Coast League games of the Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angels. His Major League allegiance was to the Yankees originally, but that changed when the Angels became an MLB franchise.

“I was a Yankee fan before the majors came to L.A.; I’ve pretty much but not entirely got over that, but still generally root for the AL over the NL. The AL Angels, I like.  Dunno why, but I do.  When they finally won the Series in 2002 . . . It’s very strange getting something in your 50s that you’ve wanted since you were eleven.”

In his critically acclaimed World War/Colonization series which began in the 1990s, among those characters featured were several members of the Decatur Commodores, a Three-I league minor league baseball team in 1942. Although he didn’t know it at the time, one of those ballplayers, Sam Yeager, would become the central character in all eight books.

“I thought it would be interesting” Turtledove said. “I didn’t know what all would happen to Sam when I started writing about him – I tend to work by the seat of my pants. And it gave me an excuse to research Minor League Baseball and actually do something with what I found out, so that was cool, too. Back in the day, of course, a lot more guys made careers of the minor leagues than happens now, but there are still a few.”

Although he has no current plans for a full length alternate history baseball novel, Mr. Turtledove says “I’ll go for it in a heartbeat” if he develops “any ideas along those lines that I think people would buy.” 

When he first got out of college, before finding his true calling, he tried to get a job in baseball with the Dodgers and Angels. Turtledove described the type of work he was searching for as “Something – anything – involving PR and stats, which were the kind of things a guy who wrote halfway decently and was a stat geek could do.  I struck out twice, but at least I struck out swinging.” 

Who knows, maybe in some other reality Harry Turtledove did get a job in baseball.

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

The Earle of Cooperstown

By Brad Horn

An American musical icon visited the home of America’s National pastime late Thursday as singer-songwriter Steve Earle toured the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, along with his band “The Dukes (and Dutchesses).”

Earle and his bandmates thoroughly enjoyed their tour on the eve of his Friday night performance in Cooperstown at nearby Brewery Ommegang, where he is headlining an Americana festival, also featuring the music of the Felice Brothers and Langhorne Slim.

For Earle, a lifelong diehard Yankees fan, despite his Texas upbringing, the trip to Cooperstown capped his affinity for the game and his fandom.

“I’m not a very good social guest at a baseball game,” Earle said as he and his bandmates viewed historic imagery in the Museum’s photo collection. “When I go to a game, I tune out everything else to focus on the action on the field. I have no problem eliminating the outside world while at a ballpark.”

Also joining the tour were Earle’s bandmate and wife, Allison Moorer, and the couple’s 18-month-old son, John Henry.

Throughout their summer musical travels, the Dukes have already caught some major baseball moments along the way, including Roy Halladay’s heat-fatigued start at Wrigley Field against the Cubs and the drama-filled Angels-Tigers clash in Detroit, featuring a near-no hitter of Justin Verlander and the ejection of Jered Weaver.

In addition to a collections visit to see the storage of three-dimensional items, Earle and the Dukes spent several hours in the Museum Thursday on a day when nearly 3,000 visitors toured Cooperstown, strolling through baseball history. Earle even got an up close view of the promissory note transaction that sent Babe Ruth from Boston to the Yankees.

Tonight, Earle and the Dukes will resume their journey down the road of Americana music, but with the inspiration of the National Game and history fueling their troubadour spirit.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Visiting hours

By Craig Muder

Ray Durham looked down at the photo on the table in the Hall of Fame’s archive – and his eyes lit up. Another photo was lying on top of the first picture, leaving only the lower half of the depicted player visible.

But Durham did not need a face to recognize his former White Sox teammate.

“That’s Frank!” said Durham, referring to two-time American League MVP Frank Thomas. “He’s the only guy who could hit while he was lifting his leg like that.”

In an instant, it was the mid-1990s all over again – when Durham and Thomas teamed up in Chicago to power one of the AL’s most potent offenses.

It was a trip back in time, courtesy of the magic of Cooperstown.

The 39-year-old Durham, who retired following the 2008 season after a 14-year big league career with the White Sox, A’s, Giants and Brewers that featured two All-Star Game selections, toured the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday with his family. But he was not the only big league connection at the Museum.

JP Ricciardi, the former Blue Jays general manager, also visited the Museum with his family – including his son Dante, who is playing in a tournament this week in Cooperstown. Ricciardi, who headed up the Jays’ front office for eight seasons between 2002 and 2009, is now a special assistant to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.

“When I was coach in the Yankees’ system in the 1980s, we lived in Oneonta (located about 20 minutes from Cooperstown, and the former home of a Yankees minor league affiliate) for a while,” Ricciardi said. “I’ve been to the Hall of Fame before, but never like this.”

Ricciardi got to hold a Babe Ruth bat as well as a Honus Wagner model, marveling at the weight of bats from the early 20th Century.

“This is incredible,” Ricciardi said. “What a day!”

From All-Stars to front-office masterminds. Just another summer day at the home of baseball.

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

Baldwin and baseball

By Bill Francis

Actor Billy Baldwin is certainly a recognizable face after starring in such films as Backdraft, Sliver and Fair Game, but on Friday he was just another fan of the New York Yankees taking in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum experience with his family.

A member of the famed acting clan that includes brothers Alec, Daniel and Stephen, Baldwin lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., but is spending part of the summer in Skaneateles, N.Y., near Syracuse. When the opportunity arose he jumped at the chance to visit Cooperstown with son Vance, a brother-in-law and two nephews.

“Last year I said, ‘We’re going to Cooperstown while we’re in Skaneateles,’ but we never got around to it,” he said while walking to lunch. “This year I said, ‘I’ll be darned if I come up here for another two or three years and we don’t get there. I am going this year.’”

Before they saw the Museum, Baldwin and his family would receive a behind-the-scenes from Senior Curator Tom Shieber, where the actor was able to hold the bat used by Ted Williams to slug his final home run. Baldwin was certainly impressive in his knowledge of the history of the national pastime, whether it be marveling at the home run prowess of Babe Ruth when measured against the other teams in the league or explaining how Joe DiMaggio’s homer production was hampered by playing his home games at Yankee Stadium. 

Baldwin, who unabashedly admits to balling his eyes out when he watches Kevin Costner play catch with his dad in Field of Dreams, also explained his love of the game that is also evident in his son.

“I don’t know how to articulate it … It’s weird because I consider myself a big baseball fan but I’m not one of those guys who sits down with a pad and pen and does all the stats of every game,” Baldwin said. “I’m a huge baseball fan and I’m a diehard Yankees fan and probably watch or listen to a portion of about 100 games a year.

“But if there’s such a thing as having a metronome for your life, for me it starts with pitchers and catchers and goes all the way through October, hopefully with the Yankees in the postseason,” he added with a grin. “In these trying times with the economy not doing well and all sorts of struggles across the country and around the globe, I don’t want to be constantly reminded of all the tough stuff that’s going on. I find that the number one anecdote for that for me is baseball.”

Thanks to a father who once was an usher at Brooklyn’s beloved Ebbets Field, the Baldwin brothers were exposed to the game at a young age. But Billy Baldwin, with a famed wrestling coach living nearby, eventually turned his attentions to the mat.

“Growing up my favorite game was baseball, and I was best at baseball, but I made a mistake when I was in 10th grade,” he recalled. “I ran with this posse of guys on my wrestling team and we all gave up everything we were doing to wrestle all year and I walked away from baseball.

“Obviously, I have the build of a small basketball player or a baseball player or a tennis player and not a wrestler,” he said jokingly. “I was a pretty good wrestler – I won more than I lost – but I was just more of a natural baseball player. I should have stuck with it.”

As for which of the Baldwin brothers was the best baseball player, Billy claimed it was pretty close between him Daniel, who he said  had “kind of like a Boog Powell type of build” before laughingly sharing stories of concussions the older sibling inflicted on him during childhood.

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

Hall Monitor: Cys, Fourths, Hitters and Winners

By Trevor Hayes

Here we are, basically at the halfway point. Many point to the All-Star break as the halfway mark, though that’s not entirely true this season. Seventeen teams are slated to play their 90th game tonight. Baltimore has the fewest games played and tonight will be the Orioles’ 86th contest. Plenty of storylines are swirling with Albert Pujols’ injury, Derek Jeter’s quest for 3,000 and much more. Here’s how the last week has gone.

The Cy Young Returns: On Sunday, the Blue Jays 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay started in Toronto, wearing a Phillies uniform. The outcome was a complete game victory for Doc in his first start as an opposing pitcher since leaving the Jays. Halladay is the sixth former Cy Young to notch a complete game “W” in his first road start against the team for which he won the Cy Young Award. The others include: Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter as a Yankee a season after leaving Oakland in 1975; Tom Seaver after being traded by the Mets to the Reds in 1977; and 300-game winner Randy Johnson in 1999 as a Diamondback against the Mariners.

First-year Oriole mashers: Before this season, Frank Robinson was the only player to collect 20 home runs by the All-Star break in his first season in Baltimore. He had 21 in 1966, the same year he won the AL MVP Award and the Triple Crown. Robinson now has company as Mark Reynolds hit two home runs on Monday, giving him 20 before the break in his first season in Birdland.

Independence Day Fun: Vance Worley led the red-white-and-blue clad Phillies to a 1-0 victory on the Fourth of July. For fans in the city that is home to the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin, they can now claim a .500 record on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. With Hall of Famers from Chuck Klein and Mike Schmidt to Pete Alexander and Steve Carlton, in 201 July 4th games since 1883, Philadelphia’s record is now 101-100.

A fellow N.L. East red-white-and-blue team, the Nationals, also won on Monday. The team in the Nation’s Capital now sports a .633 winning percentage on the Fourth of July. At 31 wins and 18 losses, it’s the best mark for any team with at least 20 Independence Day tilts. Of course, the majority of the franchise’s wins came while playing in another country powered by Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Dick Williams – though as Les Expos de Montreal, they still wore red-white-and-blue uniforms.

Verlander matching Newhouser: Tiger All-Star Justin Verlander, who’s scheduled to throw again this weekend, has been dominant this season, especially so in his last eight starts. After Tuesday, he’s thrown at least seven innings and given up two-or-fewer runs in each of his last eight. It’s rarified air for Detroit pitchers. In 1945, future Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser put together the only other streak like Verlander’s – a nine-game string en route to one of his two MVP Awards.

Youngsters walkin’ off: Mike Stanton became the third youngest player to hit a walk-off  home run when he went yard in the bottom of the 10th on Wednesday. At 21, Stanton’s game-winner gave Florida a 7-6 win over the Phillies. Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews is the youngest, when at 20-years-old he decided a game for the Boston Braves in 1952, also beating the Phillies. Fellow Marlin Alex Gonzalez hit a walk-off homer in 1998 – also 21, but slightly younger than Stanton.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Mike McCormick visits Hall of Fame

By Bill Francis

Mike McCormick had experienced much in his baseball career, from making his big league debut 55 years ago at the age of 17, to capturing the 1967 National League Cy Young Award, and surrendering Hank Aaron’s 500th career home run. But it wasn’t until this week that the longtime left-handed pitcher visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

“It’s the first time that I’ve been to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and shame on me,” McCormick said on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve heard about it, obviously, my whole career and honored to be in it in different ways, not as an elected person. It’s been a wonderful day so far and we’re looking forward to the rest of it.”

The 72-year-old McCormick is a native Californian who moved with his wife to Pinehurst, N.C. eight years ago. Now retired, he spends time on the golf course and keeping up with his beloved Giants thanks to a cable television baseball package. He was visiting Cooperstown with one of his daughters, her husband, and their two children. Soon after the family arrived, they were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum.

“You come in as the average citizen and you see the exhibits but you don’t see what’s behind those exhibits,” McCormick said. “They have some incredible things that they shared with my family and me that, had it not been under the conditions, we wouldn’t even be aware that such things existed.”

After a heralded prep career in a Los Angeles suburb in which he posted records of 49-4 in American Legion and 34-4 in high school, McCormick spent 16 seasons (1956-71) as a major league hurler. Because of the rules at the time, his reported $50,000 signing bonus from the New York Giants demanded he stay on the big league roster for his first two professional seasons.

“I wanted to be a baseball player,” McCormick recalled. “And all at once I was thrust into it at 17 and it was whole different world, let me tell you. I grew up real fast.”

While McCormick spent most of his time with the Giants, first in New York and then with San Francisco after the franchise moved in 1958, he also saw time with the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators, New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals. His career, which ended with a 134-128 won-loss record, was highlighted by his 22 wins in 1967 that helped him capture the senior circuit’s top pitching prize.

“When I was healthy, I don’t want to say I was the best but I was among the best. I just had a struggle staying healthy,” McCormick said. “I went my first six years feeling fine then all at once I ran into a sore shoulder which set me back the next three years. I stayed in the major leagues but I was really a nonproductive individual. Then I got to Washington and re-established that I had some value, where I had three or four good years, one of which one was the Cy Young Award year. But then I had back problems and had to succumb to a back operation.”

Walking through the Plaque Gallery, McCormick not only saw the bronze likenesses of such former teammates as Willie Mays, Gaylord Perry, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, but also legendary opponents like Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle.

“I’ve been blessed to have played with and against the finest in the game,” McCormick said. “I pitched in both leagues in the 1950s and ‘60s, an era I consider one of baseball’s best ever.”

Before continuing on his first-ever Hall of Fame visit, McCormick added, “It’s an incredible place. I would tell everybody that has an opportunity that this is the place to come.”

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

Eve of FanFest

By Lenny DiFranza

The All-Star Game is still five days away, but FanFest starts the entertainment tomorrow and baseball history will be there.

The Hall of Fame team is putting the finishing touches on our FanFest exhibit in Phoenix, luckily unimpeded by the remarkable dust storm that hit the city Tuesday night – a fast-moving wall of dirt that was reported as a mile high and a hundred miles wide! Safe inside the Phoenix Convention Center, the last pieces to go into place will be used for presentations.

The opportunity to explore the host city is one of the fringe benefits of working at FanFest. We’ve taken advantage of this trip by going to the Heard Museum, with exhibits demonstrating and interpreting the arts and cultures of the Native peoples of the Americas. It’s an impressive collection and inspiring for us to see how another world-class museum works.

We also visited the Arizona Latino Art and Cultural Center, a thriving studio, gallery and theater located just a block from the convention center. We’ll be bringing some new ideas with us when we return to Cooperstown.

For this year’s FanFest, we’re bringing some gems from our film archive, including highlights from the 1971 All-Star Game. Forty years ago, baseball’s best put on a memorable hitting display in Detroit, with six home runs by future Hall of Famers. We’ll also show highlights from the game 10 years later, 1981, when Gary Carter led the National League to victory. Another video program celebrates the Arizona Diamondbacks thrilling, seven-game defeat of the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series.

Our live programs include a hands-on review of the evolution of equipment, showing examples of the bats, balls, gloves and other “tools of the trade” that major leaguers have used over the game’s many years, and giving fans a chance to take a close look at the latest innovative equipment.

Our most popular live program returns this year: Hall of Fame Trivia. Fans can test their knowledge of baseball history, compete for prizes and have a lot of fun. If you are in the area for the All-Star Game, join the festivities and stop over and see the Hall of Fame team.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator of new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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