Results tagged ‘ One for the Books ’

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.

Unveiling History

By Samantha Carr

Over the history of the game, ballplayers have gotten bigger and stronger, the equipment used for protection has improved and the skills that are considered important have changed.

Today, greater emphasis is put on players getting on base and driving in runs rather than walking or stealing bases like a hundred years ago. But Hall of Famer Joe Morgan doesn’t think these differences matter too much when it comes to the level of play in the major leagues.

“If you were a great player in the past, you’d be a great player today – and if you’re a great player today, you’d be a great player in the past,” he said.

Morgan visited Cooperstown Saturday along with fellow Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Phil Niekro to celebrate the opening of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s brand new exhibit One for the Books: Baseball Records and the Stories Behind Them.

“Numbers give us something to compare players of different eras – something for players to chase,” said Morgan. “They serve as a measuring stick, but they don’t tell the whole story.”

That is true for Phil Niekro.

Niekro earned his 3,000th strikeout while with the New York Yankees on July 4, 1984. His strike-three knuckleball flew by a swinging Rangers hitter, Larry Parrish, and also by his catcher Butch Wynegar. Parrish reached base safely on a drop-third strike, but the K still counted. The cap Niekro was wearing is on display in One for the Books.

Stories like these are told in the third-floor exhibit that features more than 200 artifacts representing records in batting, home runs, pitching, base running, fielding, team records and a seventh category that includes tallest, oldest, most seasons played and records held by umpires.

“It’s all here,” said Niekro. “It blows my mind to see what the exhibit really is. To know that these guys actually did this and set these records. I don’t know if guys try to break records until they get real close to it and say: ‘Gee, I’ve really got a chance to break this.’”

The exhibit is the most technologically advanced in the Museum’s history and is the first to be funded by a wide-spread capital campaign. The majority of records that are represented are from the Major Leagues, but also celebrated are records from the minor leagues, Negro leagues, All American Girls Professional Baseball League, Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan and even Little League Baseball.

“I’m not a big record guy,” Niekro said. “But when you come and see them all like this, you really see what these guys accomplished.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

At home at the Hall

By Craig Muder

Joe Morgan and Phil Niekro walked into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Friday like two old friends returning home.

Niekro, with his ever-present smile and twinkling eyes; Morgan, with his deep baritone ringing out against the Museum walls.

Time, as always, stands still in Cooperstown.

But Morgan and Niekro were on hand to help the Hall of Fame look toward the future with the opening of the Museum’s new One for the Books exhibit. Friday evening featured a sneak preview of the groundbreaking salute to records, and Saturday will bring the official opening along with a 1 p.m. Voices of the Game program with Morgan, Niekro and Cal Ripken at Cooperstown Central School. A handful of tickets remain for the event and can be purchased at the Museum on Saturday.

Morgan, Vice Chairman of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, still reacts with wonder during his trips to Cooperstown.

“I had never really been here until I was elected in 1990, but now every time I come I see something different,” Morgan said. “It’s just amazing to see all the artifacts in person. I really get a little chill inside when I see Babe Ruth’s bat or Ted Williams’ jersey.

“I’m still amazed every time I come here.”

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

A “bench”-mark record

By Bill Francis

Working at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, you never know who you might bump into, whether it be a star or a journeyman. In this case, it was Jeff Manto, your prototypical journeyman, a ballplayer who spent time with eight different big league teams over a nine-year career.

But unlike most who have toiled at the end of a major league roster, Manto had one three-game stretch in which he accomplished something that few in the game can lay claim to. As a member of the Baltimore Orioles in 1995, Manto tied a major league record, joining such legendary names as Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Jimmie Foxx, Mike Schmidt, Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols, when he became the 20th player to hit four home runs in four consecutive at-bats.

Manto was awestruck when he and his family visited the Museum in November 1997 for another look at the bat he used for his rare feat, an artifact that at the time was on exhibit.

“I’ve got my youngest child with me and I want to make sure I get a picture with her with the bat,” said Manto some 14 years ago. “Plus, it’s nice to get away from home (the Philadelphia suburb of Langhorn) and Cooperstown is a great place to visit. We had a five-hour drive with the kids, but we lucked out and we had a van with videos, so we survived.”

According to Manto, currently the roving minor league hitting instructor for the Chicago White Sox, it was “truly humbling” when the Hall of Fame initially asked for the bat.

“In 1995 when the Hall of Fame called down to Baltimore to ask for the bat, I almost got goose bumps,” Manto recalled. “To be a part of the Hall of Fame, and to reach some kind of immortality in the game that you love, is something special that I’ll cherish for a long time. Hopefully, my family beyond me will cherish it also.”

While names like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Cy Young and Nolan Ryan dominate the national pastime’s record book, it was great to see the look on the face of a utility player with 164 career hits, 31 homers and a .230 batting average who made the pilgrimage to Cooperstown in order to share his shining moment on the diamond with the ones closest to him.

More stories like this can be found in the Museum’s new exhibit, One for the Books: Baseball Records and the Stories Behind Them, which opens on Saturday.

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Dan Quisenberry: Fireman of the Year

By Trevor Hayes

Dan Quisenberry was never the type to grab headlines and national attention. He was a solid performer and a reliable closer. He won a World Series and appeared in every game of another Fall Classic. He pitched 12 seasons in the Majors, but he was anything but a typical ballplayer.

Quiz wrote poetry. He was a shutdown reliever, but he relied not on a blow-away fastball but pinpoint control, deception and a submarine delivery that confused hitters and earned him the nickname “The Australian,” because he came from down under.

He might have been the wackiest guy to play for the Royals – though with personalities like “The Mad Hungarian” Al Hrabosky having worn a K.C. uniform that might be a tough title to hold. But in Kansas City, everyone who slots into the back of the Royals bullpen must live up to Quiz.

Growing up in Kansas City, I’ve gotten a steady diet of two things – bad baseball to watch and plenty of chatter about the team’s successful past. Quisenberry is talked about with great respect. I was at his Induction to the Royals Hall of Fame and remember the sadness throughout the Metro area when he passed away after a bought with brain cancer.

A unique personality off the field, when Quisenberry took the mound hitters could expect a fight and lots of strikes. Using the solid defense behind him, he picked away at the zone. He gave up just 11 walks in 1983 and 12 in 1984 over a combined 268 innings, and was runnerup for the Cy Young Award in both years.

As guys like Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter began to define the modern day closer, in some ways Quisenberry was right there. He set the single season record for saves in 1983 with 45 – a mark that is still tied for tops in the Royals record books. It was the first time any pitcher had reached 40 saves in a single season. In 1984 Quiz threatened his own record, ending the season with 44, while Sutter saved 45. The two shared the mark until Dave Righetti got 46 in 1986. Jeff Reardon joined Quisenberry as the only pitchers with a pair of 40-save seasons in 1988 and then in 1992, he broke Quiz’s AL saves record, a mark he’d held since passing Fingers in 1987.

As the position of closer evolved in the 1980s, several pitchers put their stamp on the game, but today’s advanced metrics show how good Quisenberry was. His Adjusted ERA+ (which factors ballpark tendencies and season averages) of 146 ties him for fifth all-time. The names above him: Mariano Rivera, Pedro Martinez, Jim Devlin and Lefty Grove. He’s tied with Water Johnson and Hoyt Wilhelm. His career rate of 1.4 walks per nine innings pitched is the lowest since 1926 and fifth lowest since 1901.

One lasting impression Quiz holds on the closer position is his ties to the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award (originally called Fireman of the Year). From 1980 to 1985, he earned five gold-plated firefighter’s helmets, including four in a row. During that span he yeilded only the 1981 honors to Fingers (who won four in his career). Rivera is the only pitcher to match Quiz’s five Awards and noone has won more than two in a row.

Through the years, Quiz has become one of my favorite players, and the bobblehead of him wearing a fireman’s hat that sits on my desk is one of my favorite pieces of memorabilia not only because of the record it represents, but the player and story behind it. The Hall of Fame’s newest exhibit, One for the Books, which opens May 28, is focused on that exact concept. It seeks to not only glorify the game’s greatest records, but the rich stories behind the records.

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

Building history

By Craig Muder

The player’s face was obscured by the in-progress construction of the Hall of Fame’s new One for the Books exhibit. But his chiseled lower body left little doubt about the man depicted holding a base over his head.

If there was any question about his identity, it was removed when the “1,406” came into view. As records go, Rickey Henderson’s stolen base mark may be one of the safest in all of baseball.

One for the Books: Baseball Records and the Stories Behind Them will feature the exploits of the stolen base king along with hundreds of other stories in an exhibit that will open May 28 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. One for the Books, located adjacent to Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream on the Museum’s third floor, will be the Hall’s most technologically advanced exhibit yet – allowing visitors an interactive experience as they learn the stories behind the game’s iconic records.

But at its heart, the exhibit is about the people who created these records through talent and determination. The Hall of Fame will welcome many of those record holders to Cooperstown May 28 for a special Voices of the Game program as part of the exhibit opening.

Henderson, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009 after a career where set standards in stolen bases (1,406), unintentional walks (2,129) and runs (2,295), will join fellow Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Joe Morgan and Cal Ripken Jr. on stage for the program.

Museum members can reserve seats, which cost $10 for adults and $5 for children, now by calling 607-547-0397. For more information about becoming a Museum member, click here.

Just 16 days till a historic exhibit opening – and a chance to listen to the stories behind that history – in Cooperstown. Until then, Rickey’s face may be hidden, but his story remains for all to see at the Hall of Fame.

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

Run, Rickey, run

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

I remember May 1, 1991 as a bright Northern California day with a clear blue sky. That’s not unusual; time has tinted a lot of my memories with postcard-colors. But this day is fixed in my mind because I was on hand for the A’s game when Rickey Henderson passed Lou Brock’s all-time record for stolen bases. I’ve been thinking about that day as I researched the game for our new exhibit – One for the Books: Baseball Records and the Stories Behind Them.

03-23-11-DiFranza_Henderson.jpgIt was a big crowd with every reason to expect an Oakland victory. The first-place A’s, who had played in three straight World Series, were facing a New York Yankees squad that had sunk to last in the AL East. Henderson was a more interesting story as he entered the game tied with Brock at 938 steals.

In the top of the first, Henderson ran out to his post in left and waved as we hooted and shouted his name form the centerfield bleachers. After he took first with a walk in his first at bat in the bottom of the inning, we joined the Coliseum crowd getting louder and louder through three pitches and breaking into a roar as Henderson took off for second and the record books. The catcher’s throw beat him to the bag and we quietly took our seats.

To be a great base stealer, you need more than explosive speed: You need patience, opportunity and timing. Henderson reached on an error to lead off the fourth. Everyone knew he’d run, but Dave Henderson moved the runner up with an infield single and on the next pitch Jos Canseco hit a fly to right. We pleaded “run Rickey run!” as Harold Baines came up. On the second pitch, Henderson finally took off for third with a few quick strides and dove as the throw arrived. The ump signaled safe.

03-23-11-DiFranza_HendersonGloves.jpgSafe! It was done and we celebrated. The game stopped and Henderson hoisted third base over his head. Lou Brock said a few words – with class, as always. Henderson took the microphone and pointed out what we already knew. He was now “the greatest of all time.”

In 2009, Henderson joined Brock on the Hall of Fame roster.

It was a beautiful day and I had a great time with friends taking in a nice win for Oakland. But because I was lucky enough to see baseball history being made, it’s a day I’ll never forget. And it’ll come to life for me and countless others when we see the gloves Rickey Henderson used to grab third base in the One for the Books exhibit at the Hall of Fame. The exhibit opens May 28 in Cooperstown.

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

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