Results tagged ‘ Orlando Cepeda ’

Perez at home in Puerto Rico

By Brad Horn

A very special surprise awaited Tony Perez on Friday night during the opening ceremonies of the Puerto Rico plaque tour at the Museo del Deporte de Puerto Rico in Guaynabo.

Joined by fellow Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Orlando Cepeda, along with Vera Clemente, the widow of Roberto Clemente, Perez was soaking in an evening of great baseball memories for Museum supporters and the unveiling of the Hall of Fame plaques on loan from Cooperstown, N.Y., for four days here in the baseball-rich island commonwealth when the surprise announcement came.

With both of his sons – Eduardo, the former major leaguer, and Victor, an actor presently living in London – in attendance, Perez received an unexpected recognition during the ceremony, as Henry Neumann, Secretary of the Department of Sports and Recreation for Puerto Rico, brought a special declaration from Governor Luis Fortuno.

Neumann read the proclamation of Tony Perez as an official “native son” of Puerto Rico, recognizing him for his dedication to the commonwealth as a family and community member, and for his impressive baseball accolades achieved while representing the island.

“We thank Tony for all that his adopted Puerto Rican man has done for Puerto Rican sports, for his native homeland, and for his children’s homeland,” said Neumann.

For Perez, who immigrated to Puerto Rico from Cuba at age 16, the honor was beyond emotional.

“It is not too easy to talk today,” said Perez to the audience of dignitaries and Museum supporters. “Since I have lived here, I feel like a Puerto Rican. I was welcomed with open arms when I got here. My wife (Pituka) has been welcomed here, my children were born here. My friends live here. This is my home.”

Following the ceremony, the plaques were unveiled and on Saturday morning, visitors began filing into the Museo del Deporte to see the plaques of their Puerto Rican heroes – Perez included – on display from Cooperstown.

Long-considered a Puerto Rican at heart, Tony Perez celebrated Friday night with the formal recognition from his adopted homeland as one of their own.

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

A Night of Baseball before Hitting the Road

By Brad Horn

Throughout the day on Saturday, a steady stream of visitors from around the island made their way to Guaynabo to see the Hall of Fame plaques of the four Puerto Rican Hall of Fame legends.

At the Museo de Deporte del Puerto Rico, thousands filed through all day, just waiting to catch a glimpse of the Cooperstown representations of their island heroes.

One Museo visitor, Hector from nearby Bayamon, came to see Orlando Cepeda’s plaque. Hector loves the Yankees and has long-followed another Puerto Rican baseball hero, Bernie Williams.

Following the public display at the Museo on Saturday night, the Hall of Fame team was treated to a night at the ballpark, as the Gigantes de Carolina hosted the Indios de Mayaguez in Puerto Rican Winter League action at Roberto Clemente Stadium.

The evening was arranged by Puerto Rican baseball historian and author Jorge Colon Delgado. A great friend to the Hall of Fame, Jorge has been one of the several islanders who made this experience seamless for us in Cooperstown.

Colon, one of the foremost historians on baseball in Puerto Rico and the statistician of the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues, has his fingers on the pulse of baseball on the island.

On Saturday night, he made our evening a very memorable experience, providing an inside look at baseball in the Caribbean leagues.

Upon arrival at the beautiful – and I mean truly beautiful – Roberto Clemente Stadium, a 12,000-seat treasure for the city of Carolina and the people of Puerto Rico, we headed right to the home clubhouse to see manager Edwin Rodriguez, who guided the Florida Marlins for the first half of the 2011 season.

Edwin, and his coaching staff of major league veterans, including Orlando Merced, Tome Cruz and others, were putting the final touches on their pre-game plan against Mayaguez, but took out time to share stories and pass along the plaque postcards of the four Puerto Rican Hall of Famers to their team.

Moments later, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson was introduced and whisked to the mound to deliver the ceremonial first pitch. This was a very important moment to the people of Puerto Rico, as it marked the first time a representative from Cooperstown has thrown out a first pitch. As expected, without any preparation, Jeff displayed extreme coolness and confidence in delivering a strike to Carolina catcher Rene Rivera, who appeared in 27 games for the Minnesota Twins in 2011.

Both rosters were highlighted with current and former major league stars, ranging from Carolina’s Pedro Valdes, who is someone of a local icon in Carolina by virtue of playing for the same Carolina club for many years in a career that included stints in Texas and Seattle, to Brendan Harris, Hiram Boccachica, Alex Cintron and Jesus Feliciano, among others.

During the game, we were showered with kindness from the Giagantes staff, sampling the local fare including empanadillas, carne frittas and the Puerto Rican version of chicken tacos.

We left Carolina with a full diet of local fare and flair, resting for two days of travels, starting Sunday morning, with the visits of the plaques to Guayama, Salinas and Ponce still on tap for the next 36 hours.

We were so thankful to the kind people of Carolina for making our evening possible, especially to Hector, Guillermo, Angelica, Edwin and everyone we met. Thanks to Jorge and his ever-lasting kindness, the game provided the ultimate transition halfway through our journey.

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

Baseball royalty in the Commonwealth

By Brad Horn

Here in Guaynabo, the opening ceremonies for the Puerto Rico plaque tour got under way on Friday night.

On stage, Hall of Famers Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda and Robbie Alomar were joined by Vera Clemente in a festive reception at the Museum del Deporte de Puerto Rico.

Hall of Fame plaques of the three living Puerto Rican stars, along with the plaque of Roberto Clemente, are making their way around the island this weekend.

Other baseball dignitaries in attendance on Friday included Robbie’s father, Sandy, and Tony’s son, Eduardo, both former major league stars, along with former big league pitcher Ed Figueroa. Former wrestler Alvin Lopez, aka Barabas, was also in attendance.

Students from the Guaynabo School for the Arts also performed traditional Puerto Rican musical entertainment.

The festivities continue with the public viewing of the plaques today here at the Museo.

On Sunday, the plaques will visit Guyama in the morning and Salinas in the afternoon. The tour concludes Monday in Ponce.

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

A trip to the Island

By Erik Strohl

On Friday morning, Hall of Fame director of security Evan Chase and I were picked up at our hotel and driven to the Sports Museum of Puerto Rico in Guaynabo by local baseball historian extraordinaire Jorge Colon Delgado. Jorge also met us at the airport on arrival Thursday night, and he has been exuding excitement about our visit from the first minute.

Bringing the Hall of Fame plaques of Roberto Alomar, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente and Tony Perez to Puerto Rico has everyone connected to the Museum feeling giddy. They have been working hard for months in anticipation of our visit. It is obvious that much time has been spent in preparation for this event.

When we arrived at the Museum shortly after 10 a.m. on Friday, we were greeted by Rafi Serrano and a number of his staff who were working hard in final preparation for this evening’s extravaganza. The purpose of our morning’s visit was to supervise the installation of the four plaques.

It is obvious much care has been taken in order for the presentation of the plaques to look topnotch. The Museum constructed four sided wooden pillars about seven feet high. One side contains the plaque, while the opposite side will house a TV showing highlights from each player. The other two sides contain photos from each player’s career from both their time in Puerto Rico as well as the major leagues. One of these pillars has been built for each of the four Hall of Famers.

Several employees jumped right in as the sound of power tools and the sight of screwdrivers became immediately prevalent. The employees all gathered around in excitement as each of the plaques was installed in succession. Everyone was taking photos and each staff member was pitching in. It was a fun moment and obvious to us that just participating in this pre-event was a special moment for each one of our hosts. The installation took about 15 minutes or so for each plaque, finishing up the job in a little over an hour.

Tonight will be the main event and we are all very excited. It is hopeful that the Governor of Puerto Rico will be able to attend, as well as many other local mayors and other dignitaries. And of course Alomar, Cepeda, and Perez will be present, along with Vera Clemente and other members of the Clemente family. It is sure to be a fun-filled evening and an unbridled celebration of Puerto Rican baseball.

The people here are so passionate about the game. Just hearing them talk about their heroes and the anticipation for this evening is enough to make any baseball fan feel humbled, including members of the Hall of Fame staff like myself. It is a reminder what a powerful hold baseball has on many people of various localities around the world. We have been here less than 24 hours and we already feel so very special because of the unbelievable hospitality we have received.

I can’t wait for tonight. It is sure to be one special evening filled with smiles, laughter, and perhaps even a few tears. It is wonderful to see how much this game and its history mean to the people of Puerto Rico.

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

Homeland heroes

By Jeff Idelson

Twelve years ago, the Hall of Fame corrected a faux pas. At the time of it’s origination, it was barely noticed, but in today’s world was considered a glaring mistake. 

In 1973, when he was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame after a tragic plane crash took his life, his plaque read “Roberto Walker Clemente” when it should have been “Roberto Clemente Walker.” 

At the time, the concern was that fans would not understand the Latino tradition of one having your mother’s maiden name follow your father’s last name. In 1999 we felt it was important to correct this cultural mistake, which truly was done for the right reasons in 1973, but today would appear to be insensitive.

We brought the new plaque to San Juan, Carolina, the home town of Roberto Clemente, and a few other places in 2000. I had Clemente’s plaque postcard translated into Spanish. We handed them out to children in Puerto Rico. It was an unabashed hit.

This year we worked closely with the Museo del Deporte in Guyanabo and its director, Rafi Serrano, to bring 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Roberto Alomar’s plaque to Puerto Rico so that those from his native land who could not be in Cooperstown, would have a chance to see it. We extended the concept to honor all three Puerto Rican Hall of Famers, Alomar, Orlando Cepeda and Clemente, as well as adopted Puerto Rican son, Tany Perez, who moved to the Island from Cuba when he was 16.

We left Cooperstown Thursday, traveling from Syracuse, through JFK Airport in New York, to San Juan. Traveling with four plaques is not easy. Each one, with the backing and case, weighs close to 40 pounds. Four of us each took one as carry on luggage.

Walking through airport security, we had many quizzical looks and then there were smiles as proud central New Yorkers working security thought it was great that plaques from their home region were traveling abroad.

The flights were easy. We were met upon arrival by a delegate from the Museum here in Puerto Rico who took us to the Museum to secure the four plaques for the evening.

After checking into the hotel, we walked over to Lupi’s, a restaurant owned by former pitching great Ed Figueroa. Our group sat at a long table with Ed and had a wonderful evening catching on baseball. He was glad to see us. Dinner was terrific.

Jeff Idelson is the President of 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.

Hall Monitor: The Final Tallies Are In

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

We’ve had a champion for several weeks now, but with last week’s announcement of the final major BBWAA Awards, the 2010 season is complete. Now it’s time to look back a little and then move on to 2011. During the next few weeks, we should see a flurry of free agent activity, starting with the Winter Meetings, which begin this weekend in Orlando.

Less can be more: Last week, Josh Hamilton handily won the AL MVP Award. Hobbled by broken ribs and playing in 133 games, he’s only the second position player over the last 30 years to play in that few games (with the exception of strike-shortened seasons) and be named league MVP. 12-03-10-Hayes_BrettMantleStargell.jpgIn fact, he’s only the fifth player to ever earn the Award after playing 133 or fewer during a full 162 game season. The others are the Giants’ Barry Bonds in 2003, the Royals’ George Brett in 1980, the Pirates’ Willie Stargell in 1979 and the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle in 1962. Like Hamilton, Brett and Mantle both suffered injuries that held them out for long periods of time, while Bonds and Stargell were slowed by age.

Twice as nice: With Awards Season coming to a close, the AL champion Rangers now boast the hardware to back-up the run to their first-ever World Series appearance. Josh Hamilton’s MVP Award and Neftali Feliz’s Rookie of the Year Award, make them the 13th pair of teammates to sweep both Awards in a year – not including 1975 and 2001 when Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki won both Awards, respectively.

Of the 13 pairs, Hamilton and Feliz join eight others in reaching the World Series. The others were Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe (1949 Dodgers), Yogi Berra and Gil McDougald (1951 Yankees), Roy Campanella and Jim Gilliam (1953 Dodgers), Mickey Mantle and Tony Kubek (1957 Yankees), Mantle and Tom Tresh (1962 Yankees), Joe Morgan and Pat Zachry (1975 Reds), Willie McGee and Vince Coleman (1985 Cardinals) and Jose Canseco and Walt Weiss (1988 A’s).

 12-03-10-Hayes_CinMVP.jpgIt should also be noted that Lynn’s 1975 Red Sox made the World Series and Suzuki’s 2001 Mariners finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, but lost in the ALCS.

Joey joins Reds’ best: Ten different Cincinnati Reds have been honored with the National League’s MVP Award. Joey Votto became the 10th last week after he denied Albert Pujols his fourth Award, which would have put the Cardinal slugger into rarified air as only the second player to collect more than three MVPs.

Votto’s honor links his name with Reds MVPs like Hall of Famers like Johnny Bench (1970, 1972), Joe Morgan (1975-76), Frank Robinson (1961) and Ernie Lombardi (1938).

Vlad and Texas heaping it on: It’s not a major award, but some major names have been attached to it. This year’s recipient of the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award, Vladimir Guerrero, gave the Rangers yet another piece of hardware last Wednesday to celebrate 2010.

12-03-10-Hayes_Ripken.jpgRenamed after Edgar Martinez in 2004, the list of former winners extends beyond the longtime Mariners legend. Among the Hall of Famers to take home the honor are inaugural winner Orlando Cepeda (1973), Jim Rice (1977), Dave Winfield (1992) and Paul Molitor (1993, 1996).

150 Million Dollar Man: Troy Tulowitzki will be staying in Colorado for the next 10 years and that’s just fine with the slugging shortstop. Not only did he sign a deal this week that will pay him an average of $15 million a year until 2020, but he’s now got a shot to be like his idol, Hall of Famer and Oriole legend Cal Ripken Jr., and stay with one team for his entire career. Of the 292 Hall of Famers, 47 spent their entire playing career with one team. Aside from Ripken, the only other shortstops in that group were the White Sox’s Luke Appling, the Cubs’ Ernie Banks, the New York Giants’ Travis Jackson, the Yankees’ Phil Rizzuto, the Pirates’ Honus Wagner and the Brewers’ Robin Yount.

Hall of Famers around town: Bob Costas brings three more Hall of Fame names to his show tonight on MLB Network. Big Red Machine cogs Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, will be Studio 42 tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

I12-03-10-Hayes_PerezHerzog.jpgn other Reds news, the team’s annual winter celebration, Redsfest, will feature tributes to Sparky Anderson. More than 60 current and former Reds players will be on hand tonight and tomorrow at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati.

Tomorrow, Tigers legend Al Kaline will be at the Comerica Park Retail Shop. The Hall of Famer will be promoting and signing copies of his book “SIX: A Salute to Al Kaline.”

And as the Winter Meetinsg convene this weekend, several Hall of Famers will be in Orlando to participate in the Expansion Era Committee’s Hall of Fame Induction voting. The 16-person committee will vote on Sunday and includes Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith. Results will be announced on Monday at baseballhall.org.

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

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