Results tagged ‘ Oakland A's ’

Nov. 25, 1981: Rollie Fingers becomes first relief pitcher in AL history to win MVP

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

When Oakland A’s manager Dick Williams sent Rollie Fingers to the bullpen in 1971 after several sub-par outings as a starter, Fingers thought his short major league run had come to an end.

“Williams threw me out to the bullpen and I thought: ‘Well that’s the end of that,’” Fingers said in an interview with the New York Post. “My baseball career was over. I figured the handwriting was on the wall.”

11-25-09-Bielefeld_Fingers.jpg“No kid ever dreams of being a reliever,” Fingers further explained. “Everybody wants to be a starter, and I was no different.”

However, the transition proved to be a blessing in disguise for Fingers – who, during his 17-year major league career with the A’s, Padres and Brewers, became one of the greatest relief pitchers the game has ever seen.

The pinnacle of his illustrious bullpen career came 28 years ago today when, on Nov. 25, 1981, just days after winning his first Cy Young Award, Fingers became only the second relief pitcher in major league history to win a Most Valuable Player Award and the first to do so in the American League.

In his 14th year in the majors, Fingers posted a 6-3 record, racked up an AL leading 28 saves and sported an infinitesimal 1.04 ERA. Utilizing his fastball and sharp slider, he struck out 61 men while walking only 13 in 78 innings pitched.

Fingers was especially dominant in the second half of the ’81 season. After the Brewers got off to a lackluster start, the club rallied, emerging as second half champions and climbing to first place in the AL East.

11-25-09-Bielefeld_Chart.jpg“He’s the type of pitcher who has command of all of his pitches,” said former Brewers skipper Rene Lachemann, who managed Fingers in 1984. “He knows he’s going to get [batters] out. He gives me a lot of confidence when he’s out there.”

While the 1981 Brewers would ultimately lose in the AL Division Series, Fingers was no stranger to October success. In his career, he pitched in 16 World Series games – winning three consecutive titles with the Athletics from 1972-74.

When Fingers retired in 1985, he was the all-time saves king with 341. Today, he is 10th on the all-time list.

Fingers, along with his famed handlebar mustache, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. Shortly after his enshrinement in Cooperstown, the Brewers retired No. 34 – Fingers’ jersey number – to commemorate his four-year tenure with the team and his MVP accomplishment.

Bridget Bielefeld was the 2009 public relations intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sept. 23, 1984: Anderson becomes first skipper with 100-win seasons in both leagues

Lawrence_90.jpgBy  Thomas Lawrence

Sparky Anderson had a knack for making good teams better. The result was four 100-win seasons – and a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Twenty-five years ago today, on Sept. 23, 1984, Anderson’s eventual world champion Detroit Tigers won their 100th game of the season. Not only did this give Anderson his fourth 100-win season, but it also made him the first manager to do so in both leagues. Since then, Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa have joined that exclusive club.

9-23-09-Lawrence_Anderson.jpgSparky did it with the 1970 Cincinnati Reds the first time, and led the Reds to 100 wins twice more (1975 and 1976) before bringing his winning ways to the Motor City.

“Sparky’s got style and charisma…” said his former outfielder Champ Summers, who played for him in both Cincinnati and Detroit, “…and knows how to manage and get the best out of his players.”

Against the Yankees on that September day in 1984, Anderson’s Tigers pulled out a 4-1 win led by a six-inning, scoreless performance by starter Jack Morris. The win was Morris’ 19th and final regular-season win of his 1984 All-Star campaign.

Solo homers by third baseman Marty Castillo and slugging right fielder Kirk Gibson also helped Detroit’s cause.

9-23-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgIt was Anderson’s 1,338th win out of an eventual 2,194, which is sixth all-time behind current titans Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, as well as John McGraw and all-time leader Connie Mack. When Anderson retired, he was third on the all-time wins list.

In his years as skipper, Anderson took home five league pennants, three World Series rings and two Manager of the Year awards – with the 1984 and 1987 Tigers.

Anderson retired after the 1995 season and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

The Cubs are a hit

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Tuesday, the Cubs got off to a great start, connecting for eight straight hits off Pirates ace Zach Duke. While most of the balls were not hit particularly hard, they managed to find the right landing spots.

As Cubs leadoff batter Ryan Theriot put it, “The ball was bouncing our way and it was in our favor in the first inning for sure.”

9-10-09-Berowski_Jenkins.jpg With those eight hits, the Cubs tied the major league record for consecutive hits for a team at the start of their half of the first inning, a mark that they established on April 21, 1973 – ironically, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Six times since, a major league team has matched this mark.

The seven-run first inning on Tuesday was all the Cubs would need as they cruised to a 9-4 victory, but it wasn’t that easy for them back in ’73. Future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins started for the Cubs at home and the Pirates jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The Cubs bounced back in their half of the first with eight straight hits, including one by another future Hall of Famer, Billy Williams, chasing Pirates starter Nelson Briles before he could even record an out. But Fergie didn’t fare that well either.

Despite having six straight 20 win seasons under his belt, Jenkins hadn’t beaten the Pirates in his previous seven starts against them, and had only three wins in his previous 15 games against them. Fergie lamented after the game, “Guess some clubs gotta have your number.”  Fergie was pulled after just 4 1/3 innings, and didn’t factor in the decision. The Cubs would hang on for a 10-9 victory.

Other teams to match the mark established by the Cubs were the 1975 Phillies with future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, the 1975 Pirates featuring future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, the 1981 Athletics lead by future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and the 1990 Yankees.

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

Records falling before leaves

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

August is ending, the postseason is around the corner, records are starting to fall and today’s stars are joining the legends of yesteryear.


8-28-09-Hayes_WinfieldGuerrero.jpgBack in the News:
Two weeks after becoming the sixth player to belt 400 homers with a .320 average, Vladimir Guerrero recorded his 1,000th hit for the Angels – the eighth player in franchise history to do so. With 1,215 hits as an Expo, he’s the second player to collect 1,000 hits for a single team in both leagues. As a Padre and then a Yankee, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was the first. Aside from Guerrero, Manny Ramirez is the only active player with 1,000 for two teams (Indians and Red Sox).

Also this week – at 34 years, 194 days old – Guerrero recorded his 1,300th RBI. Since divisional play began in 1969, only eight players have reached the mark at a younger age: Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Ramirez, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Bagwell along with Hall of Famers Jim Rice and Eddie Murray.


8-28-09-Hayes_Sox-Yanks.jpgSox-Yanks:
Baseball’s premiere rivalry provided an offensive showcase last weekend. Friday’s 20-11 slugfest was significant. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the two clubs combined 31 runs, was the most in a single game in the over 100 year history of the rivalry. The previous mark was July 29, 1903, with the Highlanders beating the Americans 15-14 at Huntington Avenue Grounds – almost nine years before Fenway Park opened.

Hideki Matsui paced New York’s 23-hit attack with a pair of three-run jacks and seven RBI. It was the most by a Yankee at Fenway since Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig in 1930.

Not to be outdone, the Sox fired back. Kevin Youkilis contributed two homers and six RBI in a 14-1 victory over the Yankees on Saturday. Over the last 70 years, only Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk has hit two home runs and driven in at least six against the Bronx Bombers. Pudge did it on April 6, 1973 in a 15-5 rout at Fenway.


8-28-09-Hayes_Greinke.jpgA good start:
The Royals Zack Greinke is a long way away from 3,000 strikeouts, but on Tuesday night he recorded a performance that four of the members of the 3,000 strikeout club never did. Greinke sat down 15 Indians to break a single-game club record en route to recording his 700th career strikeout. And while 705 career strikeouts isn’t even a quarter of the way to 3,000, the 15 strikeouts for the 25-year-old Greinke represent a single-game feat Hall of Famers Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Ferguson Jenkins and recent retiree Greg Maddux – all members of the 3,000 strikeout club – never accomplished.

Arms race: John Smoltz will make his second start as a Cardinal tonight. When he debuted last Sunday, he became the ninth former Cy Young Award winner to play under Tony La Russa. Between the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals, La Russa has had two Cy Young winners make it to the Hall of Fame: Dennis Eckersley and Tom Seaver. Joe Torre is the only other manager with nine or more Cy Young winners on his staffs.

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

Caught in the draft

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Monday night, mere moments before the deadline for teams to sign their 2009 amateur draft picks, the Washington Nationals agreed to a record-setting contract with the first overall pick in the draft.

8-19-09-Berowski_StrasburgJackson.jpgAfter failing to sign their first round pick the previous year, the Nationals inked San Diego State fireballing junior Stephen Strasburg to a four-year contract worth in excess of $15 million, smashing the previous record for an amateur contract by nearly five million. If Strasburg had failed to sign with the Nats, he still had several options open, including a return to the Aztecs. His college coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, said: “I wanted him to sign. If he didn’t, he had a place to go. But he had nothing else to prove in college baseball. It was time for him to start his pro career.”

But being the first overall selection in the annual amateur draft is by no means a guarantee of success in the major leagues. Since the draft began in 1965, only 19 No. 1 picks have made an All-Star team, and none have been elected to the Hall of Fame. In fact, three players drafted No. 1 prior to 2005 failed to make the major leagues, including Brien Taylor, a hard-throwing high school pitcher selected by the Yankees in 1991 who drew comparisons to Dwight Gooden.

Only four players drafted in the top 10 have been elected to the Hall of Fame. In 1966, the Mets passed on Reggie Jackson and selected catcher Steve Chilcott out of Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, California. Chilcott never made it past Triple-A. Jackson was taken with the second pick by the Kansas City A’s and is the highest draft pick to earn election to the Hall.

Rounding out the foursome of top ten picks elected to the Hall of Fame are Robin Yount and Dave Winfield, selected with the third and fourth picks respectively in the 1973 draft, and Paul Molitor, taken third overall in 1977.

Moments that make the Game

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

For some baseball fans, stats can be the lifeblood of the season, but we can’t forget that the individuals in this game and the moments they create make it worth watching.


8-14-09-Hayes_Mantle.jpgRemembering the Mantles:
The Hall of Fame’s condolences go out to the Mantle family. On Monday, Mickey Mantle‘s wife, Merlyn passed away at the age of 77. Merlyn, who married Mickey after his rookie season in 1951, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She passed just three days before the 14th anniversary of Mickey’s death on Thursday. The three-time MVP and Yankee legend died in 1995 of liver cancer at the age of 63. They were married 43 years and will be buried next to each other at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.

Ninth = Second: Alex Rodriguez passed Harmon Killebrew earlier this week with his 574th home run, moving into sole possession of ninth on the all-time list. Rodriguez’s total is the second highest among active players (behind Ken Griffey Jr.) and by passing the Killer, he is behind Babe Ruth‘s 708 bombs in American League history.


8-14-09-Hayes_Guerrero.jpgJoining a select club:
On Monday, Vladimir Guerrero smashed his 399th and 400th career homers, becoming the 45th player in baseball history to reach the mark. More impressively however, Guerrero currently sports a .322 career batting average. Only five players hit 400 home runs and finished their careers with a .320 average or better. They are Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Not bad company to keep.

Throwback weekend: The Mets will honor their city’s National League heritage when the Giants come to town this weekend. Throughout the series, the Mets will don white jerseys featuring a blue “NY,” hearkening back to the days of the New York Giants, who wore similar uniforms in 1904, 1907 and 1917-1918. The Giants moved to San Francisco after 1957, but won five World Championships and 14 pennants in New York. During their 75 years in Manhattan, the Giants/Gothams fielded 46 Hall of Famers including 10 who bear the team’s logo on their plaque like Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, Christy Mathewson and John McGraw.

8-14-09-Hayes_1929Athletics.gifOn Sunday, the Athletics franchise will celebrate the 80th anniversary of its 1929 World Championship. Oakland will exchange their trademark green and gold for Philly A’s blue and white to mark the occasion. Four Hall of Famers played for the 1929 champs including Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove. They were run by longtime manager Connie Mack, who steered them to a 104-46 record and a victory of the Cubs in the Series. Relatives of Foxx and Mack will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitches.

To see the uniforms being used as a basis for this weekend’s throwbacks, check-out the online Hall’s uniform exhibit: Dressed to the Nines.

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

Side retired

Berowski_90.jpg8-5-09-Berowski_Henderson.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

“He’s a player Major League history will never forget. His records will never be broken. There will never be another Rickey Henderson.”

These were the words spoken by Rickey Henderson’s best friend Dave Stewart last Saturday. Less than one week after his induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Oakland Athletics retired Rickey Henderson’s No. 24 in a pregame ceremony that Master of Ceremonies Ray Fosse called “the start of Rickey Henderson Month.”

8-5-09-Berowski_Rice.jpgOnly four days earlier, another member of the Hall of Fame’s class of 2009 also had his uniform number retired.  In a pregame ceremony, the man Red Sox manager Terry Francona called “one of the most dominating offensive players in the game,” Jim Rice, had his No. 14 retired by the Boston Red Sox, the team he spent his entire career with. Among those in attendance were Rice’s family and many of his former teammates, including fellow Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley and Carlton Fisk. Boston Mayor Tom Menino dubbed June 28, 2009 as “Jim Rice Day” throughout the city.

Unlike the specific rules for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, there are no specific guidelines provided by Major League Baseball for the honoring of an individual by retiring his uniform number. That decision – with the exception of the universal retirement of Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 – is left entirely up to the teams.

The practice of retiring a number to honor a player began in 1939, 10 years after permanent uniform numbers were first introduced by the New York Yankees. Ironically, it was the Yankees that first retired Lou Gehrig’s No. 4 in honor of their fatally ill Captain. The Yankees have retired 15 numbers to honor 16 players – No. 8 was retired in honor of both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra – a Major League high.

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

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