Results tagged ‘ Paul Molitor ’

Pierre chasing Hall of Famers

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Juan Pierre is on the move again – but this time it’s not on the basepaths.

Pierre, the active career steals leader with 459 whose playing time was limited over the last year and a half due to the Dodgers’ acquisition of Manny Ramirez, was dealt on Tuesday to the Chicago White Sox, where he will become their new left fielder and leadoff man. It will be Pierre’s fifth team in what will be his 11th big league season.

12-16-09-Berowski_Pierre.jpg“Juan always put the Dodgers first, even when it wasn’t in his personal best interest,” said Dodgers GM Ned Colleti.

Pierre currently ranks 47th all-time on Major League Baseball’s stolen base list. At 32 years of age, before all is said and done, Pierre should have no problem moving up considerably on that list. But the question remains, how many more steals are left in those legs?

At 1,406 steals, Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is baseball’s all-time stolen base king, and the only player in history to steal more than 1,000 bases. When Henderson was 32, he was ready to begin his 13th major league campaign and was only two steals shy of Lou Brock’s then record 938 steals. Rickey went on to play 25 seasons with nine different teams before hanging up his spikes for good and ultimately earning enshrinement in Cooperstown this past summer.

Pierre might not match Rickey’s mark of 1,406, but he could pass several Hall of Famers while moving up the all-time steals list. Pierre has averaged 45 steals per year since 2001 and should pass Hall of Famers Tommy McCarthy and Willie Keeler in 2010. He may also pass Hall members Paul Molitor, Fred Clarke and Luis Aparicio next season as well if he stays healthy.

One thing Pierre has going for him is his work ethic.

“I’ve never seen anyone who works like him – never” said Pierre’s former batting coach with the Marlins, Bill Robinson, “He’s hungry for knowledge, hungry to learn, hungry to play. It’s beautiful. He’s a delight.”

If Pierre maintains a stolen base rate close to his average over the next three seasons, by 2013 he will have also passed several more Hall of Famers: Bid McPhee, Hugh Duffy and Ozzie Smith, and in the process crack the top 20 on the all-time list.

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

Feller joins Club 91

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

11-2-09-Muder_Feller.jpgAt little more than four months ago, Bob Feller was standing on the mound at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown – preparing to throw the first pitch of the Baseball Hall of Fame Classic.

Today, Feller will celebrate his 91st birthday. And the man who has been a Hall of Famer longer than any other shows no signs of slowing down.

Feller, born Nov. 3, 1918, in Van Meter, Iowa, becomes the 12th Hall of Famer to reach his 91st birthday. He is the third-oldest living Hall of Famer – behind 92-year-old Lee MacPhail and 91-year-old Bobby Doerr, who is a little more than six months older than Feller

11-2-09-Muder_Chart.jpgA little perspective: Feller was born eight days before the end of World War I. And at the June 21 Hall of Fame Classic, Feller faced Hall of Famer Paul Molitor – who was born in 1956, Feller’s final year in the major leagues.

Feller, MacPhail, Doerr and Monte Irvin are the only living Hall of Famers who have reached their 90th birthday (Irvin turned 90 on Feb, 25, 2009). Stan Musial will be the next Hall of Famer to turn 90 when he celebrates his birthday on Nov. 21, 2010.

Al Lopez remains the oldest Hall of Famer, having reached the age of 97 before passing away on Oct. 30, 2005.

Feller was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, meaning he has lived more years as a Hall of Famer (47) than not (44). No one has worn the title of “Hall of Famer” with more pride.

Happy birthday, Bob Feller!

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

Sept. 9, 1992: Yount records 3,000th hit

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

Seventeen years ago today — Sept. 9, 1992 — Robin Yount joined one of baseball’s most exclusive fraternities: The 3,000-hit club.

But for Yount, the milestone proved to be a rarity within a rarity.

9-9-09-Lawrence_Yount.jpgYount, the longtime Milwaukee Brewer, was on the verge of his 3,000th career hit in a game against Josť Mesa and the Cleveland Indians. Mesa thwarted Yount in his first three at-bats – forcing a groundout in the first and striking him out in consecutive innings in the third and fourth.

But when Yount stepped up to the plate against Mesa in the bottom of the seventh inning at Milwaukee County Stadium, the hard-driving Brewers outfielder would not be denied.

Utilizing his renowned baserunning intensity, Yount managed an infield single against Mesa – making him the 17th player to join the 3,000-hit club. He became only the second player at the time to notch his 3,000th hit on an infield single. The first was Cardinals great and Hall of Famer Lou Brock against Dennis Lamp and the Cubs on Aug.13, 1979.

Ironically, twenty-one days after Yount reached No. 3,000, George Brett did the same. Seven years later, Brett and Yount were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 1999.

Yount is still the only player to reach 3,000 hits in a Brewers uniform, as Paul Molitor – the other notable Brewer in the club – did so when he was with the Twins. In fact, Yount is only one of eight players in the history of the game to grind out all 3,000 hits with a single team; all eight are Hall of Famers.

Molitor, a teammate of Yount’s on the Brew Crew for 15 seasons, was mentored by Yount when he broke into the big leagues in 1978.

9-9-09-Lawrence_YountSlide.jpg“In retrospect, I can say playing with him (Yount) for 15 years was one of the best things that was part of my experience of being a Brewer,” said Molitor, who joined the 3,000 hit-club on Sept. 16, 1996.

Besides his legendary career totals, Yount is best remembered for his 1982 season – one when he led the Brewers to a 95-67 record and their first American League pennant.

Yount exploded onto the national scene that season, leading the major leagues in hits (210), doubles (46), slugging percentage (.578) and total bases (367). For his efforts, Yount took home the American League MVP award, a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove at shortstop.

He earned his second MVP award with the 1989 Milwaukee club when he hit .318 as the Brewers’ center fielder – making him only the third player to win MVPs at two separate positions.

Yount retired after the 1993 season with 3,142 hits and 583 doubles – which both rank 17th-best all-time.

9-9-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgIn 1999, he became just the 34th player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first time on the ballot.

“I gave it everything I had every time I went out there,” Yount said. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern 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.

Classic Hall of Famers thrill packed crowd, promise more

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

There were literally no empty seats in the Grandstand Theater for the Hall of Fame Classic Voices of the Game. And this special Father’s Day edition delivered with the same impact the four Hall of Famers on stage had during their careers.

The sellout crowd listened for as Triple-Crown winner Bob Feller, 300-game winner Phil Niekro, 3,000-hit Club member Paul Molitor and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner Brooks Robinson reflected on their careers and talked about the game they love.

6-20-09-Hayes_VOG.jpgAll four legends and fellow Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins headline the signature event of the weekend, the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day at Doubleday Field.

The theme of fathers and sons has been a principal element throughout this inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Weekend and was present during Voices of the Game. Niekro spoke vividly of his relationship. As a youngster in Ohio, he looked up to his father, who taught him the weapon that would be his bread and butter in a 24 season career.

“”If it wasn’t for the knuckleball, I probably would have ended up coal mining,” Niekro said. “I didn’t know what it was. I just had fun playing knuckle ball in the back yard. Then I was able to get Little League guys out.”

His success continued and he hitched a ride to a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves. He signed for $500. Early on, Knucksie as he became known, was unsure of his talents. When the Hall’s manager of museum programs Steve Light, who moderated the event asked Niekro how he fared against the two accomplished hitters on either side of him, Knucksie started laughing.

6-20-09-Hayes_RobinsonNiekro.jpg“I faced Brooks early on during a Spring Training game,” he recalled. “One of my 77-mph fastballs got away from me and I hit him in the head.”

Robinson countered, “Didn’t hurt a bit.”

“I thought I was going to be done the next day for hitting Brooks Robinson with a fastball,” Niekro said.

Robinson’s start wasn’t something to brag about either, though he did. He played most of the 1955 season for the York (Penn.) White Roses – a B-League team in the Piedmont League. Robinson got the call at the end of the season and got two hits in his first start.

“I called home and said, ‘This is cake. Why did I play in [the minors] all year? I should have been in the big leagues.'”

He then went 0-for-18. He recovered and became one of the cornerstones of the great Orioles teams of the 1960’s and 70’s. He appeared in four World Series, winning a pair of rings. Robinson played on a lot of great teams, but he feels one of the best didn’t achieve to the level that some of his other teams might have.

6-20-09-Hayes_Robinson.jpgIn honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Miracle Mets, Light asked Robinson about the 1969 World Series.

“I thought our ’62 team was our best,” he said. “But anything can happen in a seven-game series. We beat [Hall of Famer Tom] Seaver and lost the next four, straight.”

Baltimore was back in the Series again the next season and Robinson took the MVP honors, hitting .429 against the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati. He drove in six and hit a pair of home runs. Molitor like Robinson achieved October glory by winning the MVP Award in 1993 with the Blue Jays.

During that Fall Classic, he hit .500 with a pair of doubles, a pair of triples and a pair of homers while driving in eight against the Phillies. Molitor’s best memory of that Series however, was not one of his personal achievements.

“The ’93 Series, I was on first base when Joe Carter hit that ball over the wall,” he said. “I was thinking if it goes off the wall and I hustle, I can score and end this thing, but then it went out and it was all over anyway.”

Another highlight of Molitor’s career was reaching 3,000 hits. Pure consistency throughout his career allowed The Ignitor to retire with a career .306 batting average and 3,319 hits. In 1987, he took a run at one of the game’s longest standing records, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Molitor hit safely in 39 straight.

6-20-09-Hayes_Niekro.jpg“Whether it’s milestones or streaks, players don’t really play for those, but numbers are big in baseball,” he said. “Falling 17 games short is still a long way away from that number and my perspective changed after that streak.

“I always tell people: The way you handle success is directly related to the way you handle failure, because 3,000 hits means 7,000 outs.”

Knucksie, a member of another elite club – the 300-game winners – applauded Molitor on the achievement. He said pitchers have help in winning games, but hitters are alone. 

Niekro’s 300th came in his last start of 1985 as a Yankee. It was a special moment for him and his father, who was faltering in health. Niekro was 46 at the time and at the end of his contract.

“If I didn’t win it, I would have had to wait until the next spring and he wasn’t going to hold on that long,” he said. “So really that was a blessing for both of us.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Feller.jpgFeller missed 300 wins by 34. But he recorded a career-high 27 in 1940 followed by 25 in 1941 before leaving baseball for most of four seasons to serve in the Navy during World War II. Light noted that the Grandstand Theater is a replica of Chicago’s Comiskey Park where Feller authored one of his three no-hitters and the only Opening Day no-no in the history of the game.

“Well it was 69 years ago and I remember it quite well,” the Indians ace recalled. “It wasn’t my best no-hitter. I didn’t have great stuff that day. I only struck out eight and we won 1-0. I remember that my catcher, Rollie Hemsley, hit a triple with my rommmate on base to score the only run.”

At 90, Feller’s memory is as sharp as if he were reading a box score. Light asked him about his famous high-leg kick and he laughed.

“That high leg kick…You’ve seen the picture taken in Yankee Stadium in 1936 or ’37 with my leg kicked over my head and the photographer laying flat on the ground,” Feller said. “That is all for show. It was just symbolism. But it’s the most popular picture they’ve got of me and it sells well at card shows.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Molitor.jpgAnother Feller myth was confirmed, when Light asked the former fireballer about the motorcycle and his fastball. Feller said that, that also happened in Chicago. He was wearing a tie and a dress shirt during the exhibition, but when he wound up with the motorcycle ten feet behind him, the ball beat the bike to the target. Using a timer and the vehicles speedometer, it was figured that he threw the ball 104 mph. Later a similar event was held and Feller clocked in at 107 mph.

Apparently worried by this, Molitor interrupted the story, “Can I ask him how his arm is feeling, since I have to leadoff against him tomorrow? I’ve heard stories of him hitting the first batter, so I’m just curious.”

Once the laughter subsided, and it was confirmed that Molitor would be the first batter to face the Classic’s starting pitcher – the 90-year-old Feller – Light asked Robinson how he felt knowing that he’d be the first guy to dig in against Knucksie in the bottom of the first.

6-20-09-Hayes_MolitorFeller.jpgRecalling their Spring Training encounter, Robinson looked worried and Niekro laughed, “Put your helmet on big boy, it’s coming.”

It is coming. In less than 24 hours, the legends will take the field at Doubleday and the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic will begin with Molitor facing Feller and Robinson against Niekro. Feller’s words seemed to sum up the entire weekend.

Baseball is a game of luck and there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad,” he said, noting the rain that fell on Cooperstown for most of Saturday. “We’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow, rain or shine.”

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

The Felice Brothers are coming to Cooperstown

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

Stars from the music industry will head to Cooperstown on Sunday to join the stars of baseball at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.

6-19-09-Horn_Felice.jpgBefore Sunday’s Baseball Hall of Fame Classic, Catskill Mountain natives The Felice Brothers, a band with folk, rock and country roots, will perform the American National Anthem. Band members Greg Farley, Josh Rawson, Jeremy Backofen will join brothers Ian and James Felice in the Father’s Day performance.

The band is home following a successful tour and will leave soon for another national tour.

Tickets for the Classic — which features Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Fergie Jenkins, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro and Brooks Robinson, along with 21 other former Major Leaguers — are $12.50 for infield seats, $11 for outfield seats and are available through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hall of Fame’s Museum Store. Starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, tickets will be available at Doubleday Field.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Getting Excited for the Classic

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

I work at the Baseball Hall of Fame and am surrounded by some of the greatest baseball minds and scholars in the world on a daily basis. But the other night when I was watching a ballgame on TV and had a question, I still picked up the phone and called my dad.

The bond we have was only strengthened over the years as my father coached me in Little League, just as he had my brother and sister before me. He never missed a game in high school or college and was always there to give me advice on my swing. Although my playing days are behind me, my dad is still always there for me to fix my computer or find out why my car is making that funny noise. Now that all of his kids are coaches, you can still find him at the diamond, showing his support and sharing tips.

6-11-09-Carr_Classic.jpgBaseball runs in my family. My dad’s father loved the game and his older brother does too. My dad passed that love on to us. This Father’s Day, my family is coming to Cooperstown to celebrate Dad and watch some legends of my childhood, and his, compete at Doubleday Field.

We are excited to watch Phil Niekro dazzle hitters again with his knuckleball, and see Bob Feller prove that at 90 years old, he’s still got it. Not to mention the chance to meet Brooks Robinson, Fergie Jenkins and Paul Molitor. It will be fun to see a few players who just recently retired like Jeff Kent, Mike Timlin and Steve Finley – and I know my dad will be happy to see some Yankee greats like Mike Pagliarulo and Kevin Maas.

People are always in awe of my job because I get to work in baseball and meet some legendary players. But June 21st will be pretty special this year – because I get to share it all with my dad.

For tickets to the June 21 Hall of Fame Classic, call 1-888-Hall-of-Fame weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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

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