Results tagged ‘ Phil Niekro ’

Happy Holidays

By Samantha Carr

In the spirit of the Holidays, here is my baseball wish list:

10. Health and happiness to all baseball fans, players, and youth. That means fewer injuries for key players on my favorite team – and I guess yours too.

9. Lots of new artifacts from baseball history to be donated to our collection in Cooperstown. It is like Christmas morning all year long when we unwrap them.

8. For my all-time favorite player to get the 75% of the BBWAA vote and earn election to the Hall of Fame. I could get this good news soon – as he is on this year’s ballot!

7. New records, new feats and new faces for the upcoming baseball season. Who doesn’t love waking up each morning to follow a hitting streak or home run watch on the television baseball highlights? It just makes mornings easier.

6. Sunny weather – but not too hot – on July 22 in Cooperstown. Enough to make it warm and beautiful – but not turn me into a lobster.

5. A World Series Championship for my favorite team. Pretty, pretty please!

4. A fun weekend with my family while we watch as some of the game’s greatest play in the Hall of Fame Classic over Father’s Day Weekend. My family loved meeting Phil Niekro last year!

3. For the 2012 season to bring as much excitement in the second-half and postseason as 2011. I thought there couldn’t be a more exciting day than the last day of the regular season – then Game 6 of the World Series came along.

2. For a fun new year through programming and education at the Baseball Hall of Fame where we will welcome the newest additions to our family – Ron Santo and any other electees that come out of the BBWAA election on Jan. 9. My favorite time of year is when all the Hall of Famers are back home in Cooperstown.

1. I love the holidays, but once they are over, I hope for February to come quick so pitchers and catchers can report. Bring on Spring Training!

I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season – and get ready to PLAY BALL!

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

Prepare 4 October in Cooperstown: New York Yankees

By Trevor Hayes

While the heartbeat of baseball can be found in Cooperstown throughout the year, there’s no better time to reconnect with the National Pastime than when legends are being made. As the postseason approaches, fans all over the country can connect with the Hall of Fame to get in the fall spirit.

Bronx Bombers fans have a heavily beaten path from New York City to Cooperstown, the Yankees are a short drive from the Home of Baseball, where they are well represented with a record 27 World Championships.

The team’s legacy goes back almost a full century with 48 Hall of Famers tied to the interlocking NY, while 25 have made their careers on the field while wearing the pinstripes of baseball’s winningest franchise. From the early days of Wee Willie and Happy Jack to the Babe, the Iron Horse, the Clipper, the Mick, Casey, Yogi and Whitey followed by Catfish, Goose and Mr. October and more recently Bernie, Mr. November, Mo and A-Rod; the Yanks have been blessed with stardom. All of which is detailed in a special exhibit from the Associated Press at the Hall of Fame called Pinstripe Pictures.

During first two years of the American League’s existence, there was no team in New York, but the Baltimore Orioles moved to the Big Apple and became the Highlanders. While stars like Jack Chesbro, whose record 41st win of the 1904 season is celebrated with the record-setting ball in One for the Books, came first, it wasn’t however until adopting a new nickname and buying Babe Ruth from their rivals in Beantown that the Yankees really came into their own.

Ruth, of course, is one of the greatest players of all-time and as such, is honored for his record-setting career as a home run hitter in One for the Books and The Babe Ruth Room which is found within the Baseball Timeline and is dedicated to telling his story. The Yankees of the 1920s and 30s were molded in Ruth’s image, taking on the moniker Murderer’s Row with future Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri – who is noted as the first player to hit two grand slams in a single game with a scorebook showing his feat in One for the Books – leading the lineup while Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock were the stalwarts on the mound.

In 1928, the Bronx Bombers boasted nine future Hall of Famers with another baseball legend, Miller Huggins at the helm. By 1930, they’d reached six World Series and won three. Within the Timeline are items presented to Hoyt after the 1928 season in which he went 23-7 and won two games in the Series; a jacket, cap and mitt used by Pennock; spikes belonging to leadoff hitter and speedster Combs; and a pocket watch and warm-up sweater worn by Huggins

While Ruth aged and Gehrig came in to his prime, manager Joe McCarthy took over in 1931. The team once again was led by a future Hall of Famer and featured nine on the field for three seasons with names like Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. As the Yanks won five more Championships in the 1930s, the team carved a larger place within baseball history and therefore in the Timeline, where Gehrig’s original Yankee Stadium locker, trophies and his uniform are on display, while a 1939 uniform from his final season in One for the Books marks the end of his consecutive games played streak – once considered an unbreakable record.

Transitioning from the Iron Horse to the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio became the on field leader. In the 1940s New York took home four more Championships and five AL pennants, despite a small dip during World War II when the team sent several stars to the military like DiMaggio, 2009 Hall of Fame Inductee Joe Gordon, catcher Bill Dickey, and shortstop and future Voice of the Yankees Phil Rizzuto, whose popular catchphrase “Holy Cow!” inspired an exhibit that now greets visitors near the lobby at the Hall of Fame.

Within the Hall, DiMaggio has a presence within One for the Books where his record 56-game hitting streak is celebrated with an interactive video monitor inside his original Yankee Stadium locker.

As the 1950s arrived stars like Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra joined DiMaggio and the Bombers, while the legendary Professor Casey Stengel took over the reigns in 1949, capturing a record five straight Titles from 1949-53. Stengel left the team after the 1960 season, failing to reach the World Series in 1954 and 1959 – winning seven times. During this time, Don Larsen authored the lone perfect game in World Series history, which is preserved in Autumn Glory with several artifacts.

The mitt worn by Larsen’s receiver, Berra, is on display in One for the Books, while the backstop’s 1951 MVP Award – one of three he earned – along with Rizzuto’s glove and batting helmet; Stengel’s warm-up jacket and spikes; items from team architects George Weiss and Lee MacPhail and jerseys from Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle can be found in the Timeline. Mantle also has artifacts like the ball he hit for his 522nd homer, passing Ted Williams are also in the Timeline, while the bat he used to hit his 500th home run and the bat he used to hit an estimated 565-foot home run are on display in One for the Books. Also during this time period Mantle and two-time MVP  Roger Maris unleashed an assault on Ruth’s home run record, with Maris breaking the mark in 1961 by hitting 61. A score sheet from the historic game, Maris’ bat and the ball from No. 61 call One for the Books their home. In Baseball at the Movies, as part of the 50th celebration of this event, there are also a number of artifacts from the movie 61* about the 1961 season including an autographed shooting script from director Billy Crystal.

After losing the 1964 World Series, it wouldn’t be until 1976 that the Bombers would make it back to the promised land and not until 1977 that they’d capture another crown. With a new crop of future Inductees, the Yankees won back-to-back titles with a team referred to as the Bronx Zoo. In the Hall of Fame’s Timeline this era is represented by Reggie Jackson’s bat from 1977, the season he earned his Mr. October nickname; a mitt and mask used by captain and catcher Thurman Munson; and Goose Gossage’s 1982 jersey, in which he struck out 102 batters in 93 innings and saved 30 games.

While the 1980s were the first decade since the Teens that the Yankees failed to win a championship, stars like captain Don Mattingly and future Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro and Dave Winfield wore the pinstripes. Each of them craved their own niche in baseball history – with Niekro and Mattingly’s record-setting time noted in One for the Books. Mattingly’s sixth grand slam bat and his eighth consecutive game with a home run bat, both from the 1987 season, appear there along with Niekro’s interlocking NY cap worn during his 3,000th career strikeout.

The Yankees reloaded and began their next dynasty in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s, the players making history continued to be generous in donations. Among items the Hall has collected since the 90s began are one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott’s 1993 no-hitter cap (One for the Books); a bat used by Paul O’Neill’s during his 1994 batting title; a bat used by the second most prolific postseason home run hitter of all-time Bernie Williams during the 1996 Title run; manager Joe Torre’s 1998 World Series jersey; David Cone’s perfect game jersey from 1999 (all in the Timeline); and Hideki Matsui’s bat from the 2003 World Series when he became the first Japanese-born player to homer in the Fall Classic (Today’s Game).

Moving from old to new, the Bronx Bombers’ winning tradition is marked in One for the Books where a replica of the 1996 World Series trophy is on display, donated by former team owner George Steinbrenner – who led the team to seven World Championships.

The Yankees squads of today – some of whom were around for the beginning of the 90s renaissance – have staked out their spot inside the Hall of Fame as well. In his climb up the home run leader boards, Alex Rodriguez has donated his 500th home run helmet (One for the Books); his 2009 jersey from when he tied the AL record for 30 home run and 100 RBI seasons with 13 (Today’s Game); and  to  600th career home run spikes (Today’s Game). Artifacts from current captain Derek Jeter include his 1996 World Series jersey (Autumn Glory); 1998 World Series spikes (Timeline); the batting gloves he wore to become the Yankees all-time hits leader, passing Gehrig (Today’s Game); and his 3,000th hit batting gloves and helmet from earlier this year (Today’s Game). And Panamanian-born closer Mariano Rivera – who just this week reached 600 career saves – donated among other items, his cap from save No. 400 (Today’s Game), the 1999 World Series spikes in which he recorded two of his 23 consecutive saves (¡Viva Baseball!) and his 2009 two-save World Series cap.

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

Comment on this post

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.

Line forms here

By Craig Muder

They came from all over the Northeast, claiming their annual spots at the front of the line.

They came from all over Otsego County, Cooperstown friends and neighbors wanting to be a part of the Father’s Day fun.

They came for tickets for the June 19 Hall of Fame Classic. They left with future memories in hand.

Fans began lining up at the Baseball Hall of Fame for the annual Hall of Fame Classic Ticket Sale in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning, braving a chilly April day with hot coffee, portable chairs and winter coats. They’ll return to Cooperstown for the June 18-19 Hall of Fame Classic Weekend, assured of their place at what is fast becoming baseball’s newest must-see event.

Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Goose Gossage, Phil Niekro, Tony Pérez, Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith and Dick Williams will headline the Classic, with former big leaguers Frank Catalanotto, Steve Garvey, Doug Glanville, Bill Lee, Dale Murphy, Willie Wilson, Rick Wise and Dmitri Young also scheduled to appear.

Following Saturday’s one-day sale, tickets will be available exclusively to participants in the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program from April 17-24 at http://www.baseballhall.org or by calling 1-866-849-7770. Starting April 25, any remaining tickets will be made available to the general public.

Just 63 day to go until the perfect Father’s Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

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

Home run trip

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

01-31-11-Carr_Lopez.jpgIn March 2008, I was finishing up my Master’s Degree and found out that my baseball hero, Javy Lopez, was attempting to make a comeback with the Atlanta Braves, my favorite team. More importantly, Lopez would appear in Spring Training.

When I told my mom the news, she simply said, “We have to go!”

I had never seen Lopez play in person, although I had been to a Braves game and Spring Training before. I either caught the team on his rest day or after he had left as a free agent. So I had to settle for watching him take BP and getting a wave before the game.

We left the winter of upstate New York for the sunny ballfields of Florida, scheduled to watch 5 games in 7 days. For a kid who grew up playing softball in New York, there is something about seeing the dirt and grass for the first time that makes you feel good. Baseball season is here.

At our first game at Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Hall of Fame legend Phil Niekro brought the lineup card to the umpire at home plate for the Braves.

Standing in awe as the knuckleballer waved to the crowd, little did I know that a short time later I would consider Niekro one of our guys at the Hall of Fame – someone who I would meet and get to know in Cooperstown.

01-31-11-Carr_Niekro.jpgMy parents and I spent the week enjoying the sunshine and catching ballgames each day. We’d keep score, eat hot dogs and argue over who was going to be better this year, the Braves or my parents’ favorite team, the Yankees.

In the first at-bat I would ever see Lopez take, he homered over the left field fence. As I jumped up and cheered, my parents and I both figured it was for me. I had patiently waited to watch him all these years.

Although Lopez retired before completing Spring Training and ended his comeback bid, I could now say I saw him play. As we headed back to the winter-like north, I couldn’t help but think that most 22-year olds can think of a better way to spend a spring break than a week in Florida with their parents. But not me. It was the trip of a lifetime with memories I will keep forever of both my baseball hero and sharing the game with the two people who taught me to love it.

What could be better than that?

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

No-spin zone

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

The brotherhood of big league knuckleball pitchers is relatively small, but one of its former practitioners could be seen floating through the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Monday.

Steve Sparks made a name for himself tossing a baseball with no spin to bewildered hitters during a nine-year big league career spent with the Milwaukee Brewers (1995-96), Anaheim Angels (1998-99), Detroit Tigers (2000-03), Oakland A’s (2003) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2004). The right-hander made the trip from his home outside Houston in Sugar Land, Texas, with his 14-year-old son Blake.

07-20-10-Francis_Sparks.jpg“Blake and I have talked about coming to the Hall of Fame for four or five years now,” Spark said. “He’s going into high school next year and just thought with his schedule this might be our last chance for awhile, so we decided to make the trip this year.

“His sisters are in camp for the month of July so this is a chance for him and me to get out and do something by ourselves.”

This was Sparks’ first trip to the Hall of Fame.

“I’d never been here before, so I was very anxious. It’s a dream come true just seeing all the artifacts. I’ve always been enthralled by the game’s history,” Sparks said. “I grew up reading books about the history of the game, and I work with Fox Sports in Houston doing the pre- and post-game shows for the Houston Astros, so I’ve stayed in it and I’ve always enjoyed it. So for Blake and me to enjoy this together has been a lot of fun.”

Sparks, who turned 45 on July 2, ended his major league with a 59-76 record, highlighted by a 14-9 mark with the 2001 Tigers, and a 4.88 ERA.

“I was in my 40s and I just felt like I was ready to be home with my family,” Sparks said. “And the hitters let me know it was time to get out of the game, too.”

While the Hall of Fame boasts two knuckleball pitchers – Hoyt Wilhelm and Phil Niekro – the game has seen at least 250, but fewer than 90 who threw it regularly. This year, only Boston’s Tim Wakefield, R.A. Dickey of the Mets and Los Angeles Dodger Charlie Haeger are regulars at it.

Sparks was your regular fastball, curveball, slider, changeup pitcher before the Brewers approached him about making a radical change.

“I played professionally for 19 years but my first five or six years I was a conventional pitcher,” Sparks said. “I was kind of stalling out at the Double-A level, and the Milwaukee Brewers, the team I was with in the minor leagues at that point, felt like I might be a good candidate for the knuckleball because being shorter in stature helps (he’s 6-feet tall) and also I had pretty clean mechanics.

“They gave me a three-year plan and I started back over in Single-A, and by the end of that three years I was knocking on the door.”

According to Sparks, it was a lot of trial and error in the beginning, but eventually a coach hooked him up with big league knuckleballer Tom Candiotti.

“I had about five pages worth of questions to ask him over the telephone,” Sparks said. “And then actually got a chance to meet him at the Houston Astrodome at the tail end of one of his seasons with the Dodgers and that was very beneficial. It’s a very close fraternity of knuckleball pitchers, and Candiotti, for myself, was probably the most helpful. He was kind of a hybrid knuckleball pitcher, where he threw a lot of curves and sliders and fastballs, and that’s what I did a lot.

“The biggest luxury for me at the major league level was the bounce back factor. You didn’t have to rely on velocity three or four days after you pitched. You could go out there, and as long as you had good feel and took the spin off the ball you had a chance to be successful.”

And while Sparks played with and against a number of Hall of Famers over the years, he grew up in Tulsa, Okla., with fellow pitcher Tom Seaver as his favorite player.

“In 1969 I was five years old and my father taught me how to read the box scores,” Sparks said. “That was the year the Mets had their miracle season, Tom Seaver was the best player on that team at that time, and that’s who I stuck with.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers