Results tagged ‘ One for the Books ’

A Grand Slam: Connected through Lou

Pregent_90.jpgBy Ryan Pregent

Lou Gehrig has been my favorite baseball player since I can remember the game. He was my dad’s favorite player, so he became my favorite player. When I became more knowledgeable on the game and its history, Gehrig only became a bigger hero of mine.

03-21-11-Pregent_RipkenGehrig.jpgGehrig is one of baseball’s great tragic stories. He is a role model for all in any walk of life. Everyone knows about how he went to work for 2,130 straight games. He played through aches pains and broken bones. One of my most vivid baseball memories growing up was watching Cal Ripken Jr. break Gehrig consecutive games streaks. As my dad and I watched, it was a bittersweet moment for me. I watched a great player accomplish a feat that may never be achieved again, but Gehrig was no longer baseball’s Iron Man.

Lou still has one career record, though, that most probably don’t realize. Gehrig hit 23 grand slams – the most in a single career. Everyone knows the all-time leaders in hits, home runs and steals, but the grand slam record isn’t paid much attention.

03-21-11-Pregent_Gehrig.jpgIt’s an amazing record to hold after all these years. Some may argue that grand slam depends too much on circumstance. When talking about a player being clutch, there probably is no better statistic than grand slams. The player is delivering at the most efficient and opportune time, giving their team the maximum production with four runs. The grand slam is a game changer, whether ahead or behind, it shows performance when needed most. Twenty-three over a career is remarkable, not to mention a career shortened by the disease that now bares Gehrig’s name.

Like his consecutive game streak, Lou’s grand slam record could be broken. Both Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez have 21 career grand slams. But whether he holds any records or not, my dad and I will always call Gehrig our favorite player.

Thanks to Lou, baseball has connected us. One of the great things about working here at the Hall of Fame is the third part of our mission to connect generations. My hope is when families come to our new One for the Books exhibit, which opens Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown, they find a player or record that helps them connect.

Ryan Pregent is a membership associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Perfectly Perfect

 
Odell_90(2).jpgBy John Odell

One of my favorite records is not from the pros; it wasn’t even set by an adult. It is a Little League record. The Hall of Fame rarely calls out such marks because there are so many games taking place, encompassing so many levels of competition, that the leagues themselves do not even keep track of them.

03-17-11-Odell_DiamondDreams.jpgOccasionally, though, a youth league accomplishment is so astounding that we learn about it here in Cooperstown. On May 14, 2005, 11-year-old Katie Brownell, the pitcher for the Dodgers in the Oakfield (N.Y.) Little League and the only girl in her entire league, set such a record.

Exceptional Little League pitching performances, while uncommon, are nowhere near as rare as they are in the majors. In youth leagues, the combination of talent imbalances and six-inning games means that good pitchers often strike out many batters.

But on this day, Katie was unhittable in a way I had never heard of before. She struck out every batter she faced in all six innings of the regulation game. Eighteen up, eighteen down. A perfect game. And more than that in my mind, because this was the best performance a pitcher could ever imagine. Striking everyone out in a game is the stuff of daydreams and legends. For a pitcher, this was a perfect perfect game. At our request, she donated the jersey she wore on that day.

Several aspects of this record make it special for me. First, if this record doesn’t make your jaw drop, whether a boy or a girl accomplished it, then you haven’t suffered through the agony of a youth league pitcher walking half a team around the bases, or surrendering hits when he (or she!) keeps the ball around the plate.

03-17-11-Odell_Johnston.jpgSecond, Katie was playing baseball because she loved to play baseball. Nothing against other bat and ball games, but if you are a baseball player, there is no substitute. As the curator for Diamond Dreams, our permanent exhibition about the history of women in baseball, I am especially attuned to the challenges girls and women have faced in order to play our National Pastime, even to the point of going to court.

As a culture, we no longer discourage kids from playing baseball because of their skin color or because of a differing ability that puts them at a physical disadvantage to their peers, and I believe that we should not discourage someone from playing simply because she is a girl. In this respect, I think that Katie’s performance shows how our love for baseball can be a uniting force, something that draws us together. 

Regardless of how many times other Little Leaguers may have reached this mark of perfection, either before or since, I am thrilled that we can illustrate Katie Brownell’s accomplishment for our visitors in our new exhibit One for the Books.

It’s memories like these that will be brought to life in One for the Books. The exhibit opens Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

John Odell is the curator of history and research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Enter Sandman

Light_90.jpgBy Steve Light

03-16-11-Light_Rivera.jpgMy favorite record seems to get further out of reach for all who might one day chase it each October. That’s because the man who owns it, keeps raising (or is it lowering?) the bar when the autumn chill returns to the Bronx, year after year.

As all baseball fans know – seasons come and go, and teams change. Players grow old, or leave, or are traded away. Next year’s team might very well look nothing like the last. But as a Yankees fan, it seems like Mariano Rivera never changes. I feel like I’ve followed Rivera my whole life. He broke in with the Yankees in 1995, when I was just 12, and became a dominating pitcher one year later.

So many of his career moments are engrained into my memory: I remember the sinking feeling as I watched Luis Gonzalez’s blooper in 2001 and the euphoric feeling I felt as Mo sprinted to the mound and collapsed with joy as Aaron Boone rounded the bases in 2003. I even had the chance to fulfill a life-long dream and witness the Yankees clinch the AL pennant in 2009 at Yankee Stadium, with Mo, of course, on the mound. Now in 2011, can I be blamed for assuming that the Yankee’s 9th inning will always belong to him?

03-16-11-Light_Yankee.jpgWhen Mo finally calls it quits – which given recent performances could be many years away – he will undoubtedly leave the game as one of the greatest postseason performers in baseball history. Numbers don’t lie, and Rivera’s record-setting postseason ERA of 0.71 serves as a testament not only to his excellence, but his consistency.

Rivera, who will soon kick off his 17th season in a major league uniform, is the closest thing baseball has to a sure thing: Batters know what he’s throwing, and fans know the game is already over.  In the postseason, his achievements are nothing short of stunning. He has recorded his historic 0.71 ERA over the course of 139.2 innings. To put that into perspective, throughout his career Mo has averaged 79 innings per season. That means he has recorded a 0.71 ERA over nearly two full regular seasons worth of postseason ball. In other words, as good as Mariano is in regular season play (2.23 ERA), he is one and a half runs per game better in the postseason.

On the postseason ERA leader board, Mo keeps company with some impressive names: the top ten includes Hall of Famers Eddie Plank, Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson, and yes, Babe Ruth. One may strongly suspect that when Rivera finally leaves the mound, it won’t be long before they keep him company here in Cooperstown as well. This, however, is one Yankee fan who hopes that those days are still many years away.

It’s memories like these that will be brought to life in the Hall of Fame’s new One for the Books. The exhibit opens Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

Steve Light is the manager of museum programs at the the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A wild night

Wiles_90.jpgBy Tim Wiles

I will always remember exactly where I was when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run, eclipsing the record held by Roger Maris for 37 years.

02-22-11-Wiles_McGwire.jpgThe date was Sept, 8, 1998, and I was one of 33,409 lucky people sitting in Fenway Park, watching a terrific matchup between David Cone of the Yankees and Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first ever matchup between two pitchers with 18 or more victories and with winning percentages of at least .783 (Cone 18-5). Martinez was at .818. (18-4)

There was a charged playoff atmosphere, despite the fact that the first-place Yankees entered the game at 100-41, 18.5 games ahead of their archrivals, who themselves were 22 games above .500 at 82-60. The Red Sox, who had won the night before, were trying to stave off a Yankee clincher in their home park.

The game was tight, and was tied 1-1 going into the Yankee eighth. 

The leadoff hitter was Joe Girardi. I always enjoyed watching Joe play, as we had grown up together and been basketball teammates in Peoria, Ill. He singled to lead off the inning.

02-22-11-Wiles_Fenway.jpgFrom my vantage point down the right field line, I thought I saw Girardi take off on a steal attempt, not out of the question for a catcher with better than average wheels, but certainly an exciting gambit in a tie game on the road. Subsequent research tells me I was watching first base too closely – he actually took off on a wild pitch.

As Girardi popped up from his slide into second, Fenway Park erupted in a standing ovation. I watched him jerk his head in several directions trying to figure out why the Boston fans were so happy that he had safely arrived at second.

Then both his eyes and mine landed on the scoreboard in center field, which said something like “Mark McGwire has just hit his 62nd home run, breaking Roger Maris’ record. Congratulations, Mark!”

Girardi went on to score and the Yankees took a 3-1 lead en route to a 3-2 victory. Their victory in the third and final game of the series the next night clinched the pennant.

It’s moments like these that will be brought to life in the Hall of Fame’s new One for the Books exhibit. The exhibit opens Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

Tim Wiles is the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Play it again, Phil

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Records, they say, are made to be broken. But my favorite record has never been surpassed.

02-18-11-Muder_Garner.jpgIt has, however, been tied… more than 20 times.

Exclusive? Hardly. But Phil Garner’s 1978 mark of back-to-back games with a grand slam home run will always have a special place with me. Because I was there to see it.

Sept. 15, 1978… My dad took me to my second major league game, which was also my first night game. I remember walking around gigantic Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, bounding down the left-field box seats to the bullpen edge. There, before the Expos-Pirates game, I leaned over with my program and got Ed Ott’s signature. Ott, the Pirates’ catcher against right-handed starters, was off that night because lefty Woodie Fryman was pitching for Montreal. Duffy Dyer was the Bucs’ right-handed hitting platoon catcher.

02-18-11-Muder_ThreeRivers.jpgGarner’s home run cleared the bases in the bottom of the first, giving him two grand salamis in two nights following his shot against the Cardinals the night before. Scrap Iron was already one of my father’s favorite players, and I recall Dad jumping out of his seat when the ball cleared the fence.

At that point, it was safe to say, I was hooked on baseball.

It seems inconceivable that in the more than 100 years of pro ball prior to that game – and the 32 years since – no one has hit grand slams in three straight games. But there it is, in the record books and in my memory.

These are the moments that will come alive this spring at the Hall of Fame’s new One for the Books exhibit. The stories, the records… the connection that bonds us to baseball. It’s what makes the National Pastime unique.

It’s what makes us love the game.

Someday, the record may fall. But Garner’s effort – and that night with my Dad – will remain forever.

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

Record builders

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Anyone who has ever purchased a piece of furniture and then couldn’t fit it through a door in their house knows that how you picture something isn’t always how it turns out.

02-03-11-Carr_OFTB.jpgSo on Thursday, a group of curators, exhibit designers and exhibit installers met on the third floor of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to view a mockup of an interactive display that will appear in the One for the Books exhibit opening May 27-28 in Cooperstown.

The process is called prototyping. Essentially, the process includes using a placeholder for a piece of an exhibit to see what it will be like when the real thing arrives. This week, the curators created a panel that was the same shape and size with similar graphics as a new interactive display that will explain top 10 record holders in the exhibit.

“We can have great ideas on paper, but there is no substitute for bringing the ideas to the exhibit space and working out the details,” said Tom Shieber, senior curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame. “We have to make sure that something like this, that is interactive, functions but also attracts people, is useful to the user and for other visitors in the room.”

One for the Books will celebrate the sacred records of baseball and the stories behind them. The exhibit will be the most technologically advanced permanent exhibit in the Museum’s 71-year history. It will feature an interactive visitor experience with multi-media elements and be located on the second floor of the Museum in the Hank Aaron Gallery. For the first time in the Hall of Fame’s history, the Museum is inviting fans to help support an exhibit by honoring their favorite record holder.

02-03-11-Carr_Aaron.jpgWhille the Hall of Fame’s curatorial team prepares for the exhibit opening, design and aesthetic elements are very important. The process of prototyping allows the curators to see how an exhibit will interact with the space, lighting, and shape of the room. For instance, in the case of this interactive, some of the lighting trusses that attach to the ceiling and lights the exhibit will hang too low over the interactive and be in the way. The team will have to remove the grid directly in front or find another solution.

Many times this practice will not change the substance of an exhibit, like the artifact or information in it, but it can change how the artifact is presented. Everything from colors, lighting, shadows and pillars need to be taken into account so that the curators can determine how a visitor will see the exhibit best.

“This is really an easy, early way to get a feel for problems you may encounter in the exhibit,” said John Odell, curator of history and research at the Hall of Fame. “We can look at something on paper, or on a computer, but being in the space makes a big difference.”

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

By the numbers

Strohl_90.jpgBy Erik Strohl

The Hall of Fame curatorial/exhibits team has been working on our new permanent exhibit, One for the Books, for more than a year now. Scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend 2011, it will take an in-depth look at baseball records and the stories behind them.

02-01-11-Strohl_OFTB.jpgBaseball records reflect the pinnacles of achievement in the game and allow us to note the best players throughout time, whether it is in single seasons or over whole careers. But they also tell us much more about the game itself and how it is viewed by American culture.

Some baseball records have attained an almost sacred status. Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs in 1927, when he outhomered every other team in the American League. Ted Williams’ .406 batting average in 1941.

Records seem to resonate with baseball fans more than with fans of other sports, and I think this is likely because of baseball’s long history and because the compilation of statistics (and hence records) has had a prominent place in the history of the game. These magic numbers have been memorized and recited by legions of fans for generations, and I know this will continue.

Baseball is ripe with amazing feats, milestones, and records. Some of my personal favorites include:

  • Cy Young’s career record 749 complete games (yes, folks, complete games)
  • Stan Musial’s 3,630 career hits (good for fourth on the all-time hits list) can be split equally into 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road
  •  If you took away all of Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs (the longstanding record from 1974 until 2007), he would still have over 3,000 hits (3,016 to be exact)
  • Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn’s 59 pitching victories (the single-season record) in 1884 (he also had 73 complete games!!)

02-01-11-Strohl_Young.jpgBaseball records also provide for endless debate, and encourage us to compare the achievements of players from different eras. I think what you will find, however, is that statistics from different eras only offer an illusion of comparison. What the study of numbers and records will illustrate is the differences in the game over time and that there are countless variables throughout the history of the sport that help determine the parameters of statistics and records, from ballpark dimensions to playing rules to changes in technology.

We are very excited about the potential for this brand new exhibit and look forward to sharing it with the public. Featuring about 200 artifacts related to batting, pitching, fielding, base running, and team records, the exhibit will also utilize many new technological and interactive elements. I am positive there will be something of interest to all baseball fans, whether you want to learn about perfect games, team-winning streaks, or the home run champion before Babe Ruth.

Please plan to come to Cooperstown to see artifacts for your favorite records and record-holders and to explore this exciting topic in depth. To find out how you can support One for the Books, click here.

Erik Strohl is the senior director of exhibitions and collections for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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