Results tagged ‘ Nolan Ryan ’

Halls of Fenway

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I spent last night in Fenway Park enjoying the final game of a three-game series between the Red Sox and their rival, the New York Yankees. There’s no bigger rivalry in baseball and it ranks among the all-time greats in professional sports.

There were four Hall of Famers in the house: Joe Morgan, in town to broadcast on ESPN with 2010 Ford C. Frick Award winner Jon Miller; Jim Rice, a fixture at Fenway as a pre and post-game analyst for the Red Sox’ cable rightsholder, NESN; Pudge Fisk, in town to spend a few days in the Red Sox Legends Suite, entertaining clients for the Red Sox, and Orlando Cepeda.

 
 
05-10-10-Idelson-Fenway.jpgOrlando, or Cha-Cha as he’s known in baseball circles, was in town for an event with EMC2, a worldwide leader in digital data storage. Orlando flew cross country from the Bay Area and made his first visit to the Fenway since 1987, 14 years after making history as the first designated hitter in Red Sox history in 1973.

Since he was already at the ballpark, Cha-Cha was asked to participate in a pre-game ceremony on Mother’s Day Sunday. He was to don a Red Sox jersey – with his number, 25, on the back, and a dark blue Red Sox cap — and escort a cancer-surviving mom to the mound and deliver the first pitch baseball to her so she could throw it out prior to the game.

Before the event, Orlando, Pudge, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Hall of Fame PR Chief Brad Horn and I sat in the dugout for a few minutes and exchanged some banter.

“Orlando! What are you doing here? Can you still hit?” Francona asked the 1999 Hall of Fame inductee who hit 20 home runs in 1973 for Boston.  “I don’t think so, my knee is not too good,” Cepeda said smiling. “How about you Pudge? Can you catch a few innings?” Fisk just rolled his eyes and chuckled.

Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez came out of the tunnel, and Francona introduced his starting catcher to the two legends. Martinez’ eyes lit up. 

Next was Kevin Youkilis. “What size bat did you use, Orlando?” asked Youk. When told that he swung a Louisville Slugger B83 model, weighing 40-ounces, the Red Sox infielder raised his eyebrows in disbelief, then turned to Francona and said: “Can you imagine swinging something that big against the fireballer (Nefti Feliz) from Texas?”

Francona wanted to know who the fastest pitcher was that Cepeda faced. Without thinking twice, Cha-Cha stated, “Nolan Ryan, but there were so many others.  Bob Veale.  So many.”

 “How about Marichal?” asked Francona.  “He threw around 92,” Cepeda replied.

Fisk swung Youkilis’s Mother’s Day pink bat and marveled at the feel of it.

Cepeda walked down the dugout to meet Dustin Pedroia, who grew up near his home in Fairfield, Calif. They talked about living in the Bay Area.  Then David Oritz came into the dugout and the two power hitters exchanged hugs. 

“I loved to watch your dad, Tito, hit,” Cepeda told Francona.

Francona smiled and told Orlando: “He loved watching you hit too. You and Rico Carty were the two guys who really could hit the ball hard.”  “And Yaz,” said Cepeda.  “He swung harder than anyone I know.”

As the pregame ceremony started, Orlando left the dugout for the field. I wondered if the 15 minutes of levity helped the Red Sox at all as the team salvaged the final game of the Series with New York.

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

Tales from the Cactus League

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I am so glad Spring Training is here, even if it was warmer in Cooperstown than in the desert for a few of the days I visited Arizona last week. Boy did I miss baseball. And in my job, I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to rub elbows with so many of the game’s greats, bringing them closer to the Hall of Fame.

 
03-12-10-Idelson_KoufaxPalmer.jpgI got to see the Giants, Brewers, White Sox, Mariners, Indians, Reds, Royals and Rangers all play.

It was great to see the two reigning Cy Young award winners – Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke – pitch. I brought Tim plaque postcards of Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer. Why? They are the only Hall of Famers to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards. Perhaps they will help inspire Tim, not that he needs inspiration.

Before the Cactus League opener in Peoria, I visited my friends in the Mariners clubhouse: Head athletic trainer Rick Griffin and I talked about the health of his players; Ken Griffey Jr. told me he expected Ichiro to get twice as many regular season hits as he would – including spring training.  “I’m aiming for 150 hits,” said Junior.  “Have you seen Ichiro get hot?  You turn around, and he’s gone 15-for-25. If anyone can get 300 hits, it’s him.” I don’t doubt Griffey’s sense of logic, having seen Ichiro play so many times.

 Did you ever take an advanced or AP class in high school? I took AP Baseball last week with Professor Ryan. Nolan and I sat together for the Rangers-Royals game, where he gave me a breakdown of every player on the field. I had a similar experience a few days later with White Sox owner and Hall of Fame Board member Jerry Reinsdorf, who invited me to sit with him, his vice chairman, Eddie Einhorn, and his special assistant, Dennis Gilbert, the former agent for George Brett. I now know where the White Sox’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Bobby Brett, George’s brother, joined us.

03-12-10-Idelson_Ryan.jpgWe held our annual Cactus League Champions event in Goodyear, where the Indians and Reds train. It’s a great complex. The Indians were very generous in hosting our Champions, those who support us with an annual donation of $5,000 or more.

Team President Paul Dolan and assistant GM Chris Antonetti addressed our group and let them know what to expect from the Indians this year. After the game, we all had dinner with Bob Feller and Fergie Jenkins, where they regaled the group with stories, photos and autographs.

Speaking of dinners, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie and their wives joined me for dinner the night before. We toasted to a good 2010 Cubs team and the Williams’ 50th wedding anniversary. Quite a feat for the Williamses, a lovely couple.

On my first night in Arizona, I was joined by Mickey Morabito and Steve Vucinich from the A’s, Gary Hughes, the Cubs scout, Roland Hemond, the long-time Bill Veeck disciple who works for the Diamondbacks, and veteran writers Bob Nightengale, of USA Today, and Spink Award winner Tracy Ringolsby. We get together each spring to talk about scouting and the game today. We used to dine each year at the Pink Pony, a popular old-school steakhouse on North Scottsdale Road that finally closed its doors. We miss the Pony.

03-12-10-Idelson_CactusLeague.jpgOn my final evening, I hosted the dinner to end all dinners, at Don & Charlie’s, a popular Scottsdale hangout with great steaks and ribs. We had a large group that included Bob Uecker, Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount and his brother Larry, George Brett and his guest Joe Randa, Mike Murphy, the Giants’ clubhouse man since Day One in San Francisco, Brad Ziegler, my friend who pitches in the A’s bullpen, Jerry, Eddie and Dennis from the White Sox, and Bob Crotty, who is a generous Hall of Fame supporter and owner of Green Diamonds Gallery in Cincinnati, an exquisite baseball gallery of artifacts and art.

Just before we were getting ready to sit down to dinner, Uecker calls me from his cell phone to let me know he invited two other mutual friends – Bob Costas and Joe Torre.

We had a great dinner and talked about the Dodgers impending trip to Taiwan, told Yogi stories, heard all about the Olympics, and tried to recollect if Torre and Fingers ever faced each other. “Did I ever face you?” Joe asked? “I can’t recall,” was Rollie’s response.

So, I emailed Freddy Berowski in the Hall of Fame Library. Sorry Joe: You faced Rollie one time in the regular season, on May 1, 1977, and struck out. You also faced him in the 1973 All-Star Game and popped out in the 9th. None-the-less, you remain one the game’s greatest players, managers and ambassadors and it’s hard to imagine you won’t be in Cooperstown one day.

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

Birthday Sunday

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Jan. 31, the Hall of Fame will wish Happy Birthday to three of our own. 

Ernie Banks will turn 79. Although his beloved Cubbies, a perennial second-division team during his tenure there, never made it to the World Series, it was not because of Mr. Cub, who did everything he could year after year to try to get them there. A 12-time All-Star and two-time NL MVP, Banks hit more than 500 home runs and drove in more than 1,600 runs in his 19 seasons playing first base and shortstop with Chicago’s North-Siders.

01-29-10-Berowski_BanksRyanRobinson.jpgAlso celebrating his birthday is the all-time Major League strikeout king, and current president of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express will celebrate his 63rd birthday. Although his birthday is officially January 31, Ryan seems to have received an early birthday present when his ownership group was recently selected to purchase his home state’s AL franchise, the Texas Rangers. 

Rounding out the trio of birthday boys is Jackie Robinson. The only man with his uniform number retired across Major League Baseball, Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Although he passed away in 1972, Jackie Robinson will be remembered by many on what would have been his 91st birthday.

There are 292 Hall of Famers and 365 days in a calendar year, yet there are more than a dozen dates on the calendar that celebrate the birthday of three Hall of Famers. In fact, May 14 is the day of the year with the most Hall of Famer birthdays: Ed Walsh, Earle Combs, Tony Perez, JL Wilkinson and Alex Pompez. 

October is the month that has the most Hall of Famer birthdays – 36. And three Hall of Famers passed away on their birthday – Joe Tinker, Gabby Hartnett and Bucky Harris. 

A pair of baseball’s former home run kings will have the anniversaries of their births marked next week. Hank Aaron will turn 76 Feb, 5, and Feb. 6 will mark 115th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s birth.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at 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.

Making a name

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

A few names and numbers from the week that was in baseball:


8-21-09-Hayes_AbreuHenderson.jpgBobby’s World:
With two home runs against the Orioles last weekend, the Angels’ Bobby Abreu became the fifth player with 11 10 home run/20 stolen base seasons, joining Barry and Bobby Bonds and Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Joe Morgan.

Last week, Abreu hit his 250th career homer, which placed him with Willie Mays as the only players in baseball history with 250-plus homers, 300-plus steals and a .300 or better career average. He also became one of only six players in major league history with 2,000 hits, 250 home runs, 1,000 runs scored, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases. The other five are Henderson, Mays, Morgan, Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio.

Mauer power: On Tuesday night, Joe Mauer collected three hits – including two homers – finishing the night with 25 homers and a .383 batting average. Hall of Famers Ted Williams (1941 and 1957), Joe DiMaggio (1939), Lou Gehrig (1930 and 1936) and Babe Ruth (1931) were the last four AL players prior to Mauer with at least 25 home runs and a .380 batting average through 119 games.

.300 Angels: The Angels accomplished a feat on Tuesday at Cleveland which hadn’t been seen since 1934. A quick scan of the box score Wednesday morning showed a .300 average or better for each player in the lineup. With Mike Napoli and Maicer Izturis, a super-substitute, each ending the night with a .300 average, the Angels matched the 1934 Tigers as the last team to sport that kind of arsenal in a lineup 100 games into the season.
 
The Tigers included Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin and Hank Greenberg. Pitcher Schoolboy Rowe even joined the cause with a .302 average.


8-21-09-Hayes_Stargell.jpgCelebration:
The summer of ’69 and ’79 are remembered rather fondly in two National League cities. And this weekend, both the Pirates and the Mets will celebrate their good times.

The Pirates are remembering their last World Championship with “We Are Fam-A-Lee Weekend.” Breakout the polyester because 1979 throwbacks will be worn by the Pirates and their opponents, the Reds, on Friday and Saturday and a ceremony will be held on Saturday honoring the 22 players and staff who are attending, including  Margaret Stargell (wife of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell), Dave Parker, Phil Garner, Bert Blyleven and Dale Berra.

Also on Saturday The Miracle Mets will celebrate their amazing World Series victory. Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Yogi Berra are scheduled to be on the field with several other key members of that magic season, including the widow of manager Gil Hodges.

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

As American as baseball and apple pie

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. – Terence Mann

As demonstrated in this iconic quote from the film Field of Dreams, our National Pastime has reflected and often shaped American culture. It is woven into the very fabric that makes up America. Baseball has a connection and an undeniable relevance to this country, which can be seen simply by looking back at the history of baseball on Independence Day.

7-2-09-Carr_Gehrig.jpgToday, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. – Lou Gehrig

Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig stood in front of a crowd at Yankee Stadium and uttered these now famous words seventy years ago Saturday. The speech took place on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, about a month after he learned of his terminal diagnosis. Less than two years later, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – a disease that would one day bear his name – would claim the life of the Iron Horse, who played 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees.

The July 4, 1939, ceremony was held between games of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators in front of fans, dignitaries and former teammates. The Yankees retired his uniform No. 4 – making Gehrig the first player ever afforded that honor. The crowd stood and applauded for two straight minutes following Gehrig’s speech.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum houses numerous artifacts in its collection from both Gehrig’s career and that special day in 1939 – including a 21 Ĺ inch silver trophy given to Gehrig by his 1939 Yankee teammates. But the connection between July 4 and baseball spans much more than one special day.

The Museum’s collection also contains a glove used by future Hall of Famer Rube Waddell in a 1905 pitching matchup with fellow Hall of Famer Cy Young; and a ball and Yankees cap from Dave Righetti’s no-hitter in 1983.

7-2-09-Carr_RyanNiekro.jpgFor almost 100 years, future Hall of Famers have recorded historic performances on July 4. In 1925, the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia A’s in a classic pitching duel between two future Hall of Famers. Herb Pennock of the Yankees retired the final 21 batters he faced to beat Lefty Grove.

And two soon-to-be Hall of Famers, Nolan Ryan and Phil Niekro, recorded their 3,000th strikeouts on July 4th. Ryan struck out Cesar Geronimo in 1980 and Niekro sat down Larry Parrish in 1984.

Baseball is forever tied to our nation’s history, and as we fire up the grills and make some of our own baseball memories on July 4, it is clear that those ties will not soon be broken.

Happy 4th of July!

You can find the history of any day in baseball on our Web site.

For more on Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech, check out the Induction issue of the Hall of Fame’s Members magazine Memories and Dreams. To become a Member, please click here.

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

300-game winners just keep coming

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

For a generation of baseball fans, Randy Johnson’s win over Washington on Thursday night marks a moment they may not see again.

But history suggests that — while another 300-win pitcher may be at least a decade away — Johnson will not be the last man to reach pitching’s holy grail.

6-5-09-Muder_Johnson.jpgJohnson became just the 24th pitcher to record 300 big league victories, and his countdown to immortality has officially started. Of the 23 other pitchers with 300 wins, 20 are enshrined at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The other three — Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux — are not yet eligible.

But along with the comparisons to baseball’s best-ever pitchers, Johnson’s milestone has brought out the naysayers: Those who insist that this 300-game winner will be the last.

After five pitchers — Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton — joined the 300-club in the 1980s, many pundits insisted that they were the last of their breed. The decline of the complete game combined with the rise of relief pitchers would surely mean the end of the 300-winner, they said. 

And yet, the 300-game winners kept coming. Nolan Ryan in 1990. Roger Clemens in 2003. Greg Maddux in 2004. And Tom Glavine in 2007.

In fact, the four pitchers to reach the milestone since 2000 represent the most for any decade — save the 1980s (5) and the 1890s (4) — in baseball history.

6-5-09-Muder_JohnsonAction.jpgSure, a few years may pass before the next 300-game winner emerges. Jamie Moyer is second behind Johnson on the active list with 250 wins, but Moyer is already 46 years old. Next up is 36-year-old Andy Pettitte with 220 wins. In fact, only two active pitchers under the age of 30 have at least 100 victories: Jon Garland and CC Sabathia.

Yet baseball history is full of long gaps between 300-game winners — even back in the complete-game era. From 1964-1981, no pitcher joined the 300-win club. And in the 36-year span from 1925-1960, only Lefty Grove reached the milestone.

So while Randy Johnson’s performance on Thursday should be celebrated, it should also be a reminder. History happens every day in baseball — something that won’t change any time soon.

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

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