Results tagged ‘ Rickey Henderson ’

The grand game

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

7-30-09-Berowski_LazzeriRobinson.jpgThere are 289 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Only two of them have hit two grand slams in one game: Tony Lazzeri and Frank Robinson.

But one day after Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice and Joe Gordon took their rightful place in Cooperstown, Senior Circuit batters launched an attack on several grand slam records.

The Washington Nationals’ Josh Willingham hit a record-tying two grand slam home runs in back-to-back innings. Willingham’s eight RBI on the day matched a franchise high, and it was the third time in National League history that a batter has had two grand slams in a game, the last being Fernando Tatis with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999.

7-30-09-Berowski_Willingham.jpgWhen Tatis clubbed his two grand slams on April 23, 1999, they both came in the same inning. Even more amazing is that the third inning blasts came off of the same pitcher, the Dodgers’ Chan Ho Park. Ironically, Tatis was one of three National Leaguers to hit grand slams Monday when his eighth-inning, pinch-hit shot off recently recalled Franklin Morales propelled the Mets to victory over the wild-card leading Colorado Rockies.

Alfonso Soriano added to the fireworks on Monday when his 13th-inning walk-off grand slam led the surging, first place Chicago Cubs past one of their division rivals, the Houston Astros.

According to David Vincent of the SABR Home Run Log, the National League mark of four grand slams in one day was established on  May 21, 2000.  On that day Shawn Green and Adrian Beltre of the Los Angeles Dodgers, J.T. Snow of the San Francisco Giants and Brian Hunter of the Philadelphia Phillies connected for bases-loaded round-trippers.

Coincidentally, the only time four grand slams were hit on the same day in the American League was also in 2000, when Ben Grieve, Joe Oliver, Richie Sexson and Jose Macias went deep with the bags full on July 22.

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

Sun shines on Induction Weekend

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Another Hall of Fame Weekend is in the books and by all accounts, it was a rousing success. Our staff was well prepared and ready to assure that each and every guest – from the returning Hall of Famers to the invited guests to the 21,000 fans who support the game we all love so much by attending the Induction – had the best possible experience possible.

7-29-09-Idelson_Berra.jpgEach year our staff agrees to control everything we can to assure success and be as prepared as humanly possible for elements we can’t. For the past five or six years, the weather patterns have been suspect and we have yet to have a completely dry four consecutive days of Hall of Fame Weekend. 

A few years ago, I was sitting on the back porch of the Otesaga on Friday morning of Hall of Fame Weekend in rocking chairs with Yogi Berra. He looked at me and said, “Hey Jeff, how come it rains a little bit on Hall of Fame Weekend all the time?” I explained Cooperstown is nestled between two mountain ranges – the Catskills and Adirondacks – and situated at the base of nine mile-long Otesgo Lake, making weather somewhat unpredictable. “Why don’t you move Hall of Fame Weekend to a different one when it’s not raining?” he said. I scratched my head, had a sip of coffee, and scratched my head again. End of conversation.

Mother Nature has a pretty good streak of being kind to us. Sure, we get some serious snow in the winter and spring can be cool. But when the chips are down (Hall of Fame Weekend), she is as interested in seeing the stars shine as much as we do. We’ve not had to move ceremony inside since 1990.

This year, it rained most of Friday, but Mother Nature gave us windows of decent weather when it mattered most, allowing us to stage our two Doubleday Field events – Play Ball with Ozzie Smith in the morning, and our Legends for Youth Skills Clinic.  

7-29-09-Idelson_Boggs.jpgSaturday was beautiful all day – cool and dry. The Hall of Fame golf tournament proceeded seamlessly, the annual New York-Penn League game was played without a hint of delay, and fans could leisurely walk Main Street and enjoy all the village of Cooperstown has to offer. It sprinkled for just a few minutes before our version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame – the annual Red Carpet Ceremony where the game’s living legends arrive at the Hall of Fame by trolley for an evening reception.

Sunday, on the other hand, was dicey, as rain clouds threatened from the minute I woke at 7 a.m.  By 11 a.m, we were monitoring Doppler Radar and beginning to run through the various “what if” scenarios. 

Each year we prepare four versions of the Induction Ceremony with the ultimate goal, to stay outdoors for every fan to enjoy. The versions include (1) regular run of show; (2) delay; (3) reverse order with elements cut, and; (4) indoors. The final version, not needed since 1990, only comes into play when the weather dictates the potential for disaster, such as lightening or hail.

The forecast looked ominous at 12:30 p.m, as Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Clark, security chief Evan Chase and I looked at the various forecasts. The weather was OK enough to not have to go indoors, but it was going to deteriorate as the day progressed, so going to a delay was not an option either. We made the decision to go with the “reverse order” ceremony, which is why we started with the inductees and ended with the award winners. Thankfully, our new broadcast partner, the MLB Network, was able to air the ceremony live, in its entirety.

7-29-09-Idelson_HendersonRice.jpgAs we boarded buses at 1 p.m to head from the Otesaga Resort Hotel to the Clark Sports Center, we knew we might get pelted with rain. The forecast was showing a large rain cell in Binghamton, N.Y., south and west of Cooperstown, and heading directly toward us. We knew there was a good chance of a soaking rain around 2 p.m, but with the unpredictability of central New York weather, there was reason to hope.

Well, Mother Nature must not be a very good bowler, as she delivered a 7-10 split.  The winds starting howling and some light rain ensued, but the storm split, as it does sometimes, going north and south of us and leaving us dry for the Ceremony.

We were able to complete the Induction, but as I looked out the window from the Hall of Fame members’ dinner that evening, I saw sheets of rain streaming down on the lake. I was glad we made the right call.

Mother Nature got it out of her system. Monday was gorgeous as the Weekend concluded with our annual Legends Series event with our new inductees, Rickey and Jim.

And for the 19th consecutive year, Mother Nature did her part. Maybe we should give her a plaque.

Jeff Idelson is president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

2009 Hall of Fame Induction Blog

Light_90.jpgSteve Light, the Hall of Fame’s manager of museum programs, ran a live blog from the 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown. Readers of his live banter had the ability to comment or ask questions.

11:00 a.m. Good morning everyone, and welcome to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s official live blog for the 2009 Induction Ceremony as we get ready to induct the Hall of Fame’s newest members, Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson, and Jim Rice. My name is Steve Light, and I am the manager of museum programs here at the Hall of Fame. Right now I’m sitting on “Radio Row” here at the Induction Site – The Clark Sports Center. I’ll be bringing you live updates on the ceremony all afternoon, so stay tuned and send me your questions and comments.

The Induction Ceremony is just about two and a half hours away. Right now Hall of Fame staff and volunteers are busy wrapping up all the final preparations. Wondering about the forecast? Right now it’s mostly cloudy and 75 degrees. We do have a threat of isolated thunderstorms this afternoon, but hopefully we’ll stay dry for the ceremony.

11:10 a.m. The crowd has already started  to build here. In fact, some fans set up chairs to stake out their spots yesterday morning. If you are in or near Cooperstown, don’t forget that the ceremony is free and open to the public! If you can’t get here, you can catch live coverage on the MLB Network beginning at 12:30. We will also stream the ceremony live on our website, www.baseballhall.org

11:16 a.m. Red Sox Nation has turned out in full force this weekend to celebrate Jim Rice. Catering to the crowd, the big screen next to the stage is playing highlights from the 2004 Red Sox season.

11:35 a.m. 51 Hall of Famers have turned out to welcome their three newest members this weekend. Of course, today is not just about Jim, Joe, and Rickey. We will also honor J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Nick Peters, and Ford C. Frick Award winner Tony Kubek. Peters covered the San Francisco Giants for 47 years, 1961 – 2007. Kubek has worked as an analyst for NBC’s Game of the Week, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the New York Yankees for 30 years. He is also the first exclusively television analyst to win the Frick Award.

11:36 a.m. [Comment From Kevin Brazee]
Do you know who will speak first Henderson or Rice?

11:36 a.m. Great question Kevin! The final order has not been decided yet, but Jim Rice will likely speak first.

11:53 a.m. We’ve had a great weekend here in Cooperstown already. On Friday our annual PLAY Ball! with Ozzie Smith event raised $10,000 for the Hall of Fame’s Educational programs and gave some fans the opportunity of a lifetime to interact with Ozzie, Wade Boggs, Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Murray on Doubleday Field. Yesterday at the Clark Sports Center a crowd of over 750 people watched four families’ compete against Dick Williams, Goose Gossage and Ryne Sandberg in our annual Connecting Generations, a Family Feud-like game show. Harold Reynolds served as the host.

11:56 p.m. The gates have opened in the seated sections and fans begin to stream to their seats  as the excitement begins to build. Just about an hour and a half away.

12:04 p.m. Red Sox Nation isn’t alone here in Cooperstown this weekend. The section 3 seats directly behind me are filled  with Oakland Athletics’ gear.  Feel free to send any questions you might have about today’s Induction Ceremony, and be sure to include where you are from!

12:17 p.m. Let’s talk some stats now, starting with Rickey. Henderson is the 44th player elected on the first ballot. He received 94.8% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Henderson played in 10 All-Star games, won three silver sluggers, and was named the 1990 AL MVP. During his 25 year career he set career records for runs, stolen bases, and walks. The records for runs and stolen bases still stand. Rickey also holds the single season steals record, and led the league in steals a record 12 times.

12:22 p.m. Jim Rice was elected on his 15th year on the Baseball Writers ballot, receiving 76.4% of the vote. He joins two other famous Hall of Fame Red Sox leftfielders, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. In his 16-year major league career Rice was one of the most feared sluggers in the American League. He was an 8-time All-Star, led the league in home runs 3 times and won an AL MVP in 1978.

12:25 p.m. [Comment From C Itle]
I can’t find the stream link. Could you please post it here?

12:26 p.m. The live stream will be posted on the Hall’s website at 12:30 eastern time. Just visit www.baseballhall.org.

12:30 p.m. Nine-time All-Star Joe Gordon was elected on the pre-1943 Veterans Committee ballot. He received 10 of the 12 committee votes. Gordon was a member of five World Series winning teams, and won the 1942 Most Valuable Player Award. During his first six seasons, Gordon and the New York Yankees won five pennants and four World Series titles. He was traded to Cleveland in 1946, and helped lead the Indians to their World Series title in 1948, hitting 32 home runs and driving in 120 runs.

12:33 p.m. A lot of people are asking who is representing Joe Gordon here today. It will be Joe’s daughter, Judy Gordon.

12:35 p.m. A note for all you fans out there who might be attending a major league game today: save your tickets! The Hall will grant free admission to all fans who present a ticket stub from a major league game bearing the date July 26, 2009. This opportunity is good right up until next year’s Induction.

12:47 p.m. I’m getting some more questions about where to find the televised broadcast, so for those joining our live blog late, you can catch live coverage on the MLB Network (their broadcast has already started!) or you can stream them onto your computer via our website, www.baseballhall.org.

Casey is on stage warming up for his annual presentation of “Casey at the Bat”. That surely means the start of the ceremony is getting closer.

12:55 p.m. With Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson, and Tony Kubek all being honored today, it’s no surprise that Yankees GM Brian Cashman has arrived and is in the audience for today’s ceremony. Another notable name spotted in the audience: Keith Olberman.

Right now on the big screen, 2009 Steele Intern Daniel Sampson interviews MLB Network commentator and former major leaguer Harold Reynolds.

1:00 p.m. [Comment From Fitz - Boston]
Have you seen Freddie Lynn in the crowd? Any other Rice teammates?

1:00 p.m. Haven’t seen Fred Lynn, Fitz. But Dwight Evans is in town.

1:05 p.m. Other former teammates expected today: Dave Henderson and Bob Montgomery for Rice and Dave Stewart for Henderson.

Casey is at the bat on the Induction Stage right now, 25 minutes to go!

1:11 p.m. Can’t make it to Cooperstown today? How about tomorrow morning? We conclude our Hall of Fame Weekend festivities with our annual Legends Series event right here at the Clark Sports Center. Rickey and Jim will sit down for an interview to reflect on their experiences this weekend, which must have been a whirlwind for them. Tickets ($10) are still available by contacting the Hall of Fame’s membership department.

1:17 p.m. Well if Brian Cashman is here for the Yankee Inductees, it shouldn’t surprise you that the Red Sox’s John Henry and Larry Lucchino are here to support Jim Rice (and of course Rickey Henderson, who played for the Red Sox as well).

1:24 p.m. Five minutes to go! Who do you think will get the biggest cheers as the Hall of Famers are announced?

1:30 p.m. The Hall of Famers are on the stage, we’re just about ready to go.

1:30 p.m. And Rickey and Jim have just arrived on stage, to a great ovation from the crowd.

1:37 p.m. President Jeff Idelson and Chairman of the Board Jane Forbes Clark offer welcoming remarks. As Ms. Clark points out, 51 of the 65 living Hall of Famers are on stage today. Where else can you get such a collection of greats in one place at one time?

Now the MC of today’s ceremony is introduced, George Grande. George begins the player introductions.

1:40 p.m. George did a great job having fun with fans and introducing the Hall of Famers during the Red Carpet Arrivals event at the Museum last night as they arrived for a private reception. If you are ever in Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend that is definitely an event to check out.

1:47 p.m. [Comment From Shawn Anderson, Illinois]
Which Hall of Famer elicits the biggest hush when he enters the room? Meaning…who makes everyone stop what they are doing?

1:47 p.m. Great question Shawn! I can’t speak for everyone, but for me I am in awe any time I see Willie Mays.

1:48 p.m. Biggest ovation yet? Yaz get’s a prolonged standing O.

1:52 p.m. Juan Marichal is introduced. Juan was at the Hall of Fame earlier this year as we opened a brand new exhibit on baseball in the Caribbean called Viva Baseball! If you haven’t seen it  make sure you  come on out to Cooperstown!

Speaking of new exhibits, the Hall also has a brand new exhibit this year entitled Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream. Hank is introduced, and the fans deliver another loud ovation.

1:58 p.m. And now this year’s Inductees are introduced, along with Judy Gordon on behalf of her father.

The Red Sox fans make their presence known as Jim Rice is introduced, while shouts of “Rickey” echo through the crowd as George Grande introduces “the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.”

2:12 p.m. A bit of rain has moved in but it hasn’t dampened any spirits. The ceremony is going to be moved along a bit however due to storms expected later this afternoon. After the invocation and national anthems, it’s Joe Gordon’s turn! Bud Selig reads the inscription on the plaque as Hall President Jeff Idelson presents it to the crowd.

2:12 p.m. Judy Gordon takes the podium.

2:16 p.m. Judy talks about how her father reached out to Larry Doby in his first ever day in the major leagues as he desegregated the American League. “This was not an isolated incident. This was how my dad lived his entire life.” She then notes that today marks the 11th anniversary of Doby’s Induction into the Hall of Fame.

2:19 p.m. Here’s an interesting story about the 1948 season with the Cleveland Indians, in which Gordon hit 32 home runs. According to Judy, he received a case of Wheaties and a case of gum for every home run he hit. Judy Gordon: “As I remember, even the dog got more athletic eating the Wheaties.”

2:24 p.m. A very touching moment and a loud standing ovation here as Judy Gordon concludes by indicating that her family considers Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame as  her father’s  final resting place where he will be  remembered forever.

Next up: Jim Rice.

2:25 p.m. Anyone have any special memories about watching Rice play? Send them along!

2:28 p.m. Jane Forbes Clark welcomes Jim to the Hall of Fame family, and Bud Selig reads the inscription on his plaque as it is presented to the crowd. Later tonight, that plaque will join Gordon’s and Henderson’s as the Hall of Fame’s curatorial staff will hang them with the other 286 in the Hall of Fame Gallery.

2:29 p.m. The crowd breaks out into a chant of “Let’s Go Red Sox!”

2:36 p.m. Where was Jim when he received the call that he had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Watching The Young and the Restless.

Jim thanks the Boston Red Sox, with whom he spent his entire major league career. Not only did he help lead them to the AL pennant in his rookie season, but from 1977-1979 he became the only player in big league history to record 35 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 200 hits for three consecutive seasons. One of those years, 1978, he hit 46 home runs and drove in 139 on his way to earning the AL MVP.

2:41 p.m. Another standing ovation for Rice as he concludes his speech, stating that he cannot think of a better place to be – with his fans and with the greatest living ballplayers.

Now, it’s time for Rickey. The fans here have been waiting for this since the announcement in December.

2:46 p.m. The cap on Rickey’s plaque? The A’s of course. The inscription on his plaque begins “Faster than a speeding bullet….” As Selig reads off all nine of Rickey’s team, a loud ovation from the crowd as the Red Sox are mentioned. Now: Rickey takes the podium. 

2:47 p.m. Any special memories of watching Rickey play? Send them along!

2:51 p.m. Rickey says that he played so long (25 seasons!) because of his love for the game of baseball. Apparently his dream was to play football for the Oakland Raiders, but his mother was afraid he would get hurt and told him to play baseball. As Rickey points out, mothers always know best.

2:53 p.m. Wondering who Rickey looked up to as a kid? Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson. Three of them are up on the stage behind him today.

2:54 p.m. Rickey’s nine teams ties him for second place among Hall of Famers with Goose Gossage and Hoyt Wilhelm. Anyone know who’s first?

2:59 p.m. The answer to that previous question: Dan Brouthers.

Rickey’s take on his nine teams – it was a great chance to meet fans all across the country. Henderson: “It is the fan who make the game fun. To the fans: Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all your support over the years.”

3:01 p.m. Rickey closes his speech by stating how humbling it is to now be considered in a class of the greatest players of all time. He receives a prolonged ovation from the fans.

3:03 p.m. Don’t go anywhere folks – we have plenty of ceremony left, and we haven’t yet heard from Tony Kubek or Nick Peters! Now on the big screen – a video of Stan Musial (who could not be in attendance tonight) playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his harmonica.

3:09 p.m. On the stage now we have George Grande and Billy Williams remembering 1969, as it is the 40th anniversary of that season. An incredible season perhaps best remembered for the Miracle Mets.

Billy Williams is the spokesman for the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program. Billy thanks all Hall of Fame members out there for supporting the Hall and helping to keep baseball’s history and tradition alive here in Cooperstown.

Now Don Sutton takes the podium to introduce this year’s Ford C. Frick Award winner, Tony Kubek. Sutton points out that his first day as a broadcaster was spent sitting alongside Kubek.

3:15 p.m. Tony’s turn. He points out Moose Skowron, his first road roommate, who is sitting just to the right of stage today.

Of course, Kubek played baseball himself, for nine seasons with the New York Yankees, making four All-Star games.

3:24 p.m. Tony speaks about how the game of baseball has pioneered so many of the changes in American culture, drawing particular attention to the racism and bigotry that Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron overcame during their playing careers, breaking down barriers in the process. This draws a loud ovation from the crowd.

As a member of the Hall’s Education department, I’m glad  to see Tony mention this. At the Hall we try to teach our visitors about how baseball has been at the forefront of many changes in American culture.

3:29 p.m. Kubek closes and Jane Forbes Clark returns to the podium to present the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, Nick Peters. Peters covered the Giants for 47 years, more years than any sports journalist in history. David O’Brien, President of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, comes to the podium to introduce Peters.

3:32 p.m. Here’s a good Rice memory:

3:32 p.m. [Comment From Scott Downer]
I was at a game in Cleveland in 1979. I saw Rice his a pitch out of old Municipal Stadium that cleared the center field wall, I’m going to say 410. The ball never got over 20 feet off the ground. I’ve never seen a shot lie this one. It must have gotten out in two seconds. Just a blast.

3:37 p.m. Nick Peters talks about listening to Red Sox games on the radio on Sunday drives with the family. His idol? Ted Williams naturally. Peters then recalls how he learned how to do math through computing batting averages and other statistics. Sounds kind of like the Batter Up math unit that the Hall of Fame uses to teach kids  across the country   using video-conferencing technology

3:42 p.m. Nick Peter’s closes by pointing out that he was able to do something he loved without every having to go too far from home or looking for another job. While he laments that the Giants never won a World Series in his 47 years covering them, he also points out that the A’s won 4 of the 6 they played in during that span.

With that, the ceremony concludes! The rain held off. One last round of applause for the class of 2009.

3:48 p.m. So don’t forget to get the 2009 Hall of Fame Weekend on your calendar now, the last weekend in July as always!

It’s never too early to start thinking ahead to next year. On this year’s ballot, Andre Dawson received 67% of the vote, with Bert Blyleven receiving 62.7%, and Roberto Alomar will be on the ballot for the first time.

3:50 p.m. The weekend isn’t over yet, as Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson will be back here tomorrow for a special Legends Series interview on the Induction Stage.

I think it’s about time for me to sign off. But before I do I’d like to thank you all for joining me this afternoon, and hope you enjoyed the coverage! Don’t forget to log onto www.baseballhall.org for more coverage of Hall of Fame Weekend 2009!

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

Rookies of the Year

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder
 
Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice are rookies all over again.

7-25-09-Muder_HendersonRice.jpgHenderson and Rice, members of the Class of 2009 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, met the media on Saturday afternoon for the last time before Sunday’s Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown. Neither seemed nervous about their induction speeches, and both have enjoyed every minute of their time in the limelight.

Even — it seems — when their soon-to-be fellow Hall of Famers are reminding them of their non-veteran status in Cooperstown.

“They told us we were going to have to sing Sunday night at dinner,” Henderson said. “I can’t sing. Are you singing, Jim?”

Rice, accustomed to vocal exhibitions in his announcing job with NESN, wanted no part of a sing-along.

“We’re not doing that,” said Rice while exchanging a solidarity handshake with his fellow Class of 2009 electee. “If that’s the tradition, then we’re starting a new one.”

However, the returning Hall of Famers — including Bob Feller, who has been an enshrined Hall of Famer for more than half of his 90 years — can be very persuasive.

“The big thing everyone told us about Sunday is not to go long,” Rice said of his Hall of Fame speech. “I think we’ll both be keeping it short.”

7-25-09-Muder_Gordon.jpgHowever, everyone wanted to hear what Rice and Henderson had to say on Saturday — as national media ranging from the New York Times to ESPN came to Cooperstown. Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. Induction Ceremony — carried live by MLB Network, simulcast at www.baseballhall.org and open to the public for free at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown — also promises to be a must-see.

“Being in front of all those Hall of Famers on that stage — with your family and friends in the audience — that’s even more pressure than coming to the plate with a runner on second with two outs,” Rice said. “But everything here has been great all weekend. There’s no reason to expect it will change tomorrow.”

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

Baseball legends enjoy small ball

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr
 
7-25-09-Carr_Smith.jpgWade Boggs turned to the crowd along Lake Avenue and asked them to cheer.
 
“What a shot!” said Boggs of his foursome teammate, who was playing in Saturday morning Hall of Fame Golf Invitational in Cooperstown. “C’mon, let me hear it!”

Boggs, Hall of Fame Class of 2005, was soaking up his fifth Hall of Fame Weekend while playing with 23 other Hall of Famers at the legendary Leatherstocking Golf Course on a sunny Induction Weekend morning in Cooperstown. After receiving a huge cheer from the fans along Lake Avenue – which parallels the No. 5 fairway – Boggs signed autographs before heading for the No. 6 tee to speak with about 40 assembled media members.

7-25-09-Carr_Rice.jpgClass of 2009 member Jim Rice, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday along with Rickey Henderson and Joe Gordon, played in a group just after Boggs. Sporting a yellow shirt that was almost as bright as the smile he has worn since being elected in January, Rice used his prodigious strength to bash several long drives.

“The guy could break his bat on a check swing, he’s that strong,” said fellow Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers who believed Rice would have the longest drive of the day.

Fingers also remembered how much he enjoyed watching Rice slowly walk back to the dugout after Fingers struck him out.

“It didn’t happen very often, but when it did, I enjoyed watching him the whole way.”

Fingers struck Rice out seven times in 21 plate appearances, but Rice does have a home run and a .368 batting average against him.

Goose Gossage, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008, also remembers Rice’s strength.

“I always said nobody scared me, but Jim came the closest,” he said.

7-25-09-Carr_HendersonGordon.jpgGossage is the one guy that can relate to the nerves Rice and Henderson are feeling – because he went through it all just last year.

“It still doesn’t quite sink in being here,” Gossage said. “I am more relaxed this year, but I don’t know how many years it will take before it sinks in.”

Not everyone can hit the ball as far as Rice, but it didn’t stop them from some good old fashion fooling around among the Hall of Famers.

Lou Brock told onlookers to look away as he drove off the first tee. After hitting his shot, he announced that everyone was OK to look again because they can’t see where the ball went.

Dave Winfield talked about him teammate – and Class of 2009 electee – Rickey Henderson and what a leader he was on the field. When asked about Rickey’s speech, Winfield showed confidence.

“I think he’ll do fine. He is nice and relaxed this weekend and he’ll be fine.”

Of course, all the Hall of Famers gave speech advice to Rice and Henderson and it was all the same advice – keep it short.

The advice of Hall of Famers is always welcome to the newcomers.

“It’s great to be out here with these guys, some of them I played with and know well and some of them I really admire,” said Rice.

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

Hall of Famers, fans get together to PLAY Ball

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Richard Mole and his son Kevin drove more than 300 miles to play ball with the legends on Friday. So there was no way a little rain was going to slow them down.

“This is so great – I’m here listening to Wade Boggs and Ozzie Smith,” said Richard Mole, an Andover, Ohio, resident who participated in the Hall of Fame’s PLAY Ball event on Friday morning at Doubleday Field. “That’s amazing! I can’t believe I’m actually here.”

7-24-09-Muder_Boggs.jpgMole, a participant in the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program, promised his son more than 20 years ago that they would come to Cooperstown when Rickey Henderson was inducted.

Promise made, promise kept.

PLAY Ball, which raises money for the diversity scholarships for the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program, gave participants the chance to interact with host Ozzie Smith and fellow Hall of Famers Wade Boggs, Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Murray. Though the skies were cloudy, smiles were everywhere as fans listened to stories from the Hall of Famers and played ball on Doubleday Field.

And a surprise guest visited, too. Tony Kubek, winner of the 2009 Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence, stopped by Doubleday Field and signed autographs for fans. It was a moment that only happens in Cooperstown.

PLAY Ball kicked off Induction Weekend, which features family-friendly events throughout the weekend. For a complete list of events, visit us at www.baseballhall.org.

Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as the Class of 2009 at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.

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

Joe, Jim, Rickey … and Tom Burgmeier?

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Longtime big league pitcher Tom Burgmeier’s baseball career includes almost 750 games played, over 100 saves, and one All-Star Game. But when it comes to the 2009 Hall of Fame electees, he holds a special place amongst all other players.   

7-24-09-Francis_Burgmeier.jpgWhile baserunning phenom Rickey Henderson, slugging outfielder Jim Rice and slick-fielding and powerful second baseman Joe Gordon will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this Sunday, Burgmeier has the distinction of being the only major leaguer to have been teammates of both Henderson and Rice and to have played under Gordon when he was a manager.

In his fourth season as the pitching coach for the Omaha Royals, the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, Burgmeier reflected on his unique connection to the Class of 2009.

“Actually, we were talking about it the other day,” said Burgmeier, whose past visits to Cooperstown came via the Hall of Fame Game, first as a player with the Twins in 1977 and later as a coach with the Royals in 1999. “Somebody mentioned Joe Gordon and said, ‘Gee, you played under him and you played with the other two. I wonder if you’re the only person who did that?'”

Burgmeier enjoyed a 17-year big league playing career (1968-1984), spent mostly as a relief pitcher, with the California Angels, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s. The lefty finished with a 79-55 record, 102 saves and a 3.23 ERA.

7-24-09-Francis_Gordon.jpgA fourth-round selection by the Royals in the expansion draft, Burgmeier played under manager Joe Gordon in 1969. Following his stellar 11-year playing career with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians, Gordon served managerial stints with the Indians (1958-1960), Detroit Tigers (1960), Kansas City Athletics (1961) and Royals (1969).

“Joe was very vibrant and was a good manager. We had a lot of fun and for an expansion team we actually won a few games, too,” said Burgmeier, of the 69-73 Royals. “He was a heck of a player and a good manager and I really enjoyed playing for him.”

Burgmeier would finish the 1969 season with a 3-1 record in 31 games. “What’s that baseball clich? He was a players’ manager,” Burgmeier said. “What I mean is you get the players, you put them in the lineup, and if they do well, you become a good manager.”

Sometimes Gordon would talk to the players about his career as a nine-time All-Star and winner of five World Series crowns. “But I don’t think that happens as much anymore: guys sitting around the clubhouse after the game talking about old times. And that’s too bad,” Burgmeier said.

In February of 1978, after four seasons with Minnesota, Burgmeier signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. “I was with the Twins in 1974 and we were playing Boston. I had some friends of mine on the Red Sox and I was standing in the bullpen and asked them, ‘Hey, do have any good players in the minor leagues?’ I’ll never forget that they said, ‘Yeah, we have a couple kids probably be up next year. We got this kid Rice and this Freddy Lynn.’ I said, ‘Do they hit pretty good?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, they’re good minor league players. They’ll probably make the team next year.’ Well, the rest is history.”

7-24-09-Francis_Rice.jpgBurgmeier and Rice were Red Sox teammates for five seasons (1978 to 1982).

“Jim hated to come out of the lineup. Any kind of minor injury didn’t get him out of the lineup — there had to be a bone sticking out or he’d have to be bleeding to where they’d have to bandage him up,” Burgmeier said. “He was a funny guy around the clubhouse. He liked to have a good time and loved to play golf in his off days. We did that a lot on the road.

“If he was in a little slump, which everybody goes through, he’d always tell the press to talk to him at the end of the year. I remember there was one stretch he went a few weeks without hitting a home run and I remember him telling a guy, ‘Don’t talk to me now. Just talk to me at the end of the year and see how I’m doing.'”

Rice was arguably the top right-handed hitter of his era. Against Burgmeier, Rice batted .357 (5-for-14) with one homer.

“He struck fear in the hearts of many a pitcher, especially in Fenway. He (Rice) could hit them as far as anybody — right field, center field, left field,” Burgmeier recalled. “And like anybody else who’s a good hitter, it’s the same basic thing: keep the ball down, stay away from him, pitch inside a little bit. It’s a formula that has been around for 130 years.”

7-24-09-Francis_Henderson.jpgBurgmeier spent his final two major league seasons (1983 and 1984) with the Oakland A’s. During that stretch, Rickey Henderson stole 174 bases.

“Rickey was one of the best base stealers of all time. The score or who was catching or who was pitching really didn’t make a difference,” said Burgmeier, who lockered next to Henderson. “If he was going to steal, he was going to steal. And not only second, but steal third, too. The years I was there he was well into being one of the best ever as far as not being able to throw him out.”

Though Burgmeier faced Henderson only five times in his career, he got to experience the threat the future Hall of Famer posed.

“What sticks out is that because of his speed, when he got on, you knew you had to do all of the things to combat that. And even if you did, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to run anyway,” Burgmeier said. “You had to slide step more and throw over more. But did it stop him from running? No, he still ran. He was as fast as anybody going today.”

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

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