Results tagged ‘ Roberto Clemente ’

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.

Lessons during Spring Break

By Samantha Carr

On Tuesday, a man donning a familiar Pittsburgh Pirates uniform No. 21 stood before a crowd of fans at the Hall of Fame and told the story of his life.

No, it wasn’t the real Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash while bringing relief supplies to Nicaragua following an earthquake in 1972. Instead, actor Greg Kenney performed his family-friendly performance of Roberto: Chat with an Angel.

“After a while, the powers that be allow you to come back and tell your story – as an angel of course,” he said.

The program is part of Youth Baseball Week at the Baseball Hall of Fame. With many kids out of school for Spring Break, the Museum has provided daily educational programs for kids of all ages through Friday.

Kenney who writes and performs about figures in history as part of Educate Us Productions has presented in 12 states over the past 11 years. At the Hall of Fame on Monday, Kenney told the story of Jackie Robinson in “Jackie: Cross the Line.”

Other programs throughout the week will allow visitors to recreate a baseball game radio broadcast, virtually connect to the Louisville Slugger Museum and learn about the science behind the game.

“I was known for my basket-style catch and my rocket arm,” Kenney said as Clemente.

Kenney told the story of Clemente’s upbringing, how he was faced with racism, and his successful career as a Hall of Fame baseball player. The wide-range of topics and stories showed kids and adults alike how Clemente overcame challenges to earn respect.

“My wife Vera gave me some advice when I first wanted to quit baseball,” said Kenney. “She told me ‘You never quit when you’re down – you have to give it one more try’. And that advice I want to pass along to my young friends at the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

A packed room in the brand new Learning Center at the Museum took those words to heart and learned about a man who not only won four batting crowns and smacked 3,000 hits, but was known for his humanitarianism, integrity and smile.

“There was one thing that made me very happy about playing Major League Baseball…the fans,” said Kenney. “The kids were the ones who truly made me happy because the kids really love baseball.”

Known for signing autographs for hours and always earning admiration from his teammates, Clemente won the hearts of baseball lovers during his career as Kenney won them all over again with his program. For kids on break from school, there are still important lessons to learn – and Kenney used baseball and the story of one of its legends to teach kids one on Tuesday.

“You have to keep on working to reach the goals you set for yourself in your life.”

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

Cooperstown credentials

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

When all-time saves king Trevor Hoffman announced his retirement on Wednesday, it marked the end of a brilliant career.

It also started the clock running on his Hall of Fame candidacy, which is scheduled to begin in 2016.

01-12-11-Muder_Hoffman.jpgIt seems like a long time from now. But by the time we reach fifth United States presidential election of the new millennium, the Hall of Fame may be in the midst of a historic run of inductees.

Since the Baseball Writers’ Association of America began electing Hall of Fame candidates in 1936, 44 players have won election in their first year of eligibility. This includes the first five of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner in 1936, but does not represent the elections of Lou Gehrig (elected by acclimation) in 1939 or Roberto Clemente (elected by special election) in 1973.

Starting in 1936, the BBWAA has conducted 68 Hall of Fame elections. And only once – 1989-90 – have at least two first-ballot candidates been elected in back-to-back years. Those elections featured Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski in 1989, followed by Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer in 1990.

But beginning in 2013, the BBWAA could easily select multiple first-ballot candidates in four straight elections.

Two years from now, the Hall of Fame ballot will feature players like Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling for the first time. The following year, in 2014, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas will debut on the ballot.

01-12-11-Muder_Hoffman2.jpgIn 2015, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz are all eligible for the first time. And in 2016, Hoffman will join Ken Griffey Jr. on the ballot.

Since the selection of the first class, the 1999 election marked the only time as many as three first-ballot candidates were elected in the same year. In that time, only seven other elections (1962, 1982, 1989, 1990, 2001, 2004, 2007) featured as many as two first-ballot electees.

But with the above list featuring the likes of four 300-game winners, three members of the 500-home run club, a member of the 3,000-hit club and the all-time saves leader, we could see a couple years with three-or-more electees and as many as four years with multiple enshrines.

Predicting the BBWAA vote is never easy. But the talent set to become Hall of Fame-eligible in the next five years in undeniable.

As for 2017 and beyond, consider the likes of Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera, Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel – all of whom are likely to retire in the next few seasons. The streak could easily reach five or six years with multiple first-ballot electees.

Bottom line: Baseball was filled with shining stars in the 1990s and 2000s. And thanks to those players, Cooperstown is going to be one busy place this decade.

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

Hall Monitor: Award Season Begins

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Awards, prizes, honors. No matter what you call them, they serve as validation for a year of hard work on the diamond.

First up were the Gold Glove Awards on Tuesday and Wednesday and the Silver Sluggers yesterday.


11-12-10-Hayes_70sReds.jpgRolen along
: Reds third baseman Scott Rolen won his eighth Gold Glove on Wednesday. Now only two third basemen have won the award more than Cincy’s man at the hot corner, Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10).

Meanwhile the New Red Machine, which reached the playoffs for the first time since 1995, placed two other Reds among this season’s Gold Glove winners. Second baseman Brandon Phillips earned his second award and pitcher Bronson Arroyo won his first. The last time Cincinnati had more than one Gold Glove was over four straight years when the quartet of center fielder Cesar Geronimo, shortstop Dave Concepcion and future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench (catcher) and Joe Morgan (second baseman) won the awards from 1974 to 1977.


11-12-10-Hayes_ClementeMays.jpgJoining the greats
: Ichiro Suzuki has played 10 years in the majors and his numbers seem automatic: 10 All-Star selections, 10 200-hit seasons, 10 seasons with 30-plus stolen bases, 10 seasons with an average over .300 and now 10 Gold Gloves. Among outfielders, only two men have more Gold Gloves and just three others have received 10 trophies from Rawlings. Matching Ichiro at 10 apiece are Andruw Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., and Hall of Famer Al Kaline. But Ichiro is still looking up at Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente, who each earned the award 12 times.

Carl among select in left: Also on Tuesday, the Rays’ Carl Crawford won his first Gold Glove – and he did it as a left fielder. Over the last three decades in the American League, center fielders have dominated the Gold Glove Awards, with right fielders earning sporadic recognition (aside from Ichiro Suzuki’s 10 straight). Since 1958, when the Award was separated by league, nine men have earned 18 Gold Gloves as a left fielder – seven of which went to Carl Yastrazemski. Over the last 30 years, just four men have taken home the honor. The last before Crawford was Darin Erstad in 2000. Before him were Hall of Famers Dave Winfield (two straight in 1982 and 1983) and Rickey Henderson (1981).


11-12-10-Hayes_Niehaus.jpg“Fly away”
: 2008 Ford C. Frick Award winner Dave Niehaus passed away Wednesday night at the age of 75. For fans in the Seattle area, there will be an open house at Safeco Field from noon to 3 p.m. PT Saturday for fans to gather and reflect upon the Voice of the Seattle Mariners. There will be no formal program, but fans are invited to sign a remembrance book for the Niehaus family. There is also an online tribute page for available at www.mariners.com/dave, where fans can post messages and see highlights of his career.

No. 5 on Studio 42: Bob Costas’ MLB Network show Studio 42, which revisits baseball great moments through interviews with key players and Hall of Famers alike, premieres tonight. The first episode will feature George Brett, who will join Costas in an hour-long conversation starting at 8 p.m. ET to talk about his career. Topics will include Brett’s chase for .400, the pine tar incident, the Royals 1985 Championship along with their rivalry with the Yankees and more. Included during the program will be thoughts on Brett from fellow Hall of Famer and longtime nemesis on the diamond, Goose Gossage – the bulldog relief pitcher who faced Brett during several memorable battles.

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

Hall Monitor: World Series Special

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The World Series is upon us. The whole season comes down to this, and like the previous 105, this one is already living up to the name Fall Classic.


10-29-10-Hayes_DrysdaleKoufax.jpgTexas Three-Step?
: Just two of the previous seven teams to dig a hole like Texas’ current deficit – losing the first two games, each by at least four runs – have come back to win the World Series. The last team to create such a predicament was the 2001 Yankees, who forced a seventh game but ultimately lost to the Diamondbacks. The pair to overcome similarly lopsided losses: Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale’s 1965 Dodgers, who rallied against the Twins, and the 1996 Yankees, who defeated the Braves.

Record line: In three career postseason starts, San Francisco’s Matt Cain has given up just one run – an unearned blemish in the sixth inning of the NLDS against the Braves. Cain has compiled a 2-0 record after blanking the Rangers in Game Two. Few other players have begun their postseason careers with three straight games in which they didn’t allow an earnie. Giants legends and Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson began his postseason career with what may be the most impressive performance ever: Three straight complete game shutouts in the 1905 World Series – going on three days rest and then two days for the final two. Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt allowed two unearned runs in three starts for the 1921 Yankees- going 2-1 in his first foray into postseason play. And Jon Matlack allowed three unearned while going 2-1 in his first three games before eventually ending with a 2-2 record during the Mets’ postseason run in 1973 – his only career postseason.

10-29-10-Hayes_Mathewson.jpgCain’s 21.1 innings without an earned run to start his postseason career is the sixth longest mark. He sits behind Hoyt (34 innings), Mathewson (28 innings), Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon  (26.1 innings), Matlack  (25 innings) and another Giant Hall of Famer, Carl Hubbell  (22 innings).

End of the run: Cliff Lee went 4.2 innings and gave up seven runs in Game One on Wednesday. His numbers are so astounding because he was on an unbelievable run. Before Wednesday’s aberration, his career 1.26 postseason ERA ranked third among pitchers with at least five starts. Just Sandy Koufax and Christy Mathewson held an edge over Lee’s dominance. As it is now, he still holds a 1.96 ERA and a 7-1 record in nine starts during his playoff career.

Big hits: Nine times in World Series history, a Giant has collected four hits in a game. After his 4-for-5 night in game one, Freddy Sanchez became the latest. The previously four before him is a good group to be in: Hall of Famers Ross Youngs (1923), Fred Lindstrom (1924), Mel Ott (1933) and Monte Irvin (1951).

Pivotal Pitching: The Phils “Feared the Beard” during the NLCS, as Brian Wilson recorded a win or a save in each of the Giants victories. With three saves and a win, he’s just the fourth pitcher since saves became an official stat in 1969 to wreak that kind of havoc on an opponent. Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, with four saves and an MVP Award 1988 ALCS leads the group, followed by Mitch Williams (two wins and two saves in the 1993 NLCS) and John Wetteland (four saves and an MVP Award in the 1996 World Series).

10-29-10-Hayes_Ryan.jpgCheckup up on the stars: Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster and 2003 Ford C. Frick Award winner Bob Uecker was released from the hospital after undergoing successful heart surgery last Tuesday. The broadcaster received a valve replacement earlier this season before surgery to repair a tear at the replacement site earlier this month.

Throughout the postseason, several Hall of Famers have tossed several ceremonial first pitches. Game One of the World Series was no different with Orlando Cepeda, Monte Irvin, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry tossing the first ball. In Texas, Saturday’s game will likewise feature a living legend as Rangers President Nolan Ryan reprises the role after he and Fergie Jenkins took the honors in Game One and Two of the ALCS, respectively.

For a good cause: Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was honored before Thursday’s game with the Roberto Clemente Award. Beating out nominees from the other 29 clubs in his eighth year of being nominated, Wakefield is honored for combining dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field.

Wakefield was honored by Commissioner Bud Selig, widow Clemente’s Vera Clemente and his sons Roberto Jr. and Luis. Of the 27 eligible former winners of the Award, 13 are Hall of Famers.

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

Unforgettable character

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The fans were lined up at the ticket booth, waiting to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame on a perfect Saturday morning in Cooperstown.

10-9-10-Muder_DawsonC&C.jpgWithout warning, into the foyer walked Andre Dawson for a photo opportunity.

Exactly 26 seconds later, you could hear the hushed gasp: “That’s Andre Dawson!”

Correction: That’s Andre Dawson, Hall of Famer.

“I can’t go too many places any more without being appreciated, so that’s one of the biggest changes since I was elected to the Hall of Fame,” Dawson said. “It has opened my eyes to the fact that I did something that people really appreciated.”

Appreciation for Dawson’s talent and work ethic were on display Saturday as a near-capacity crowd in the Hall of Fame’s Grandstand Theater welcomed him to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame’s Character and Courage Weekend. Dawson participated in a Voices of the Game program where he recounted his career path and discussed the character that resulted in his stellar 21-season big league career.

10-9-10-Muder_Dawson.jpg“I knew I wasn’t flashy, but I wanted to leave it all on the field,” said Dawson, looking fit and relaxed in his first return to Cooperstown since his July 25 induction. “Once someone said that I was like Roberto Clemente – only with bad knees. That’s a huge compliment.”

Clemente is one of three Hall of Famers – along with Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson – who are represented in the Museum’s Character and Courage exhibit. Made possible by through a gift from Hall of Fame supporter Bob Crotty, the permanent exhibit celebrates character and courage on and off the baseball field. The Hall of Fame celebrates character and courage annually during Columbus Day Weekend.

Dawson, who had 12 knee surgeries during a career that saw him become one of baseball’s leading citizens, drew several thunderous ovations during the program while discussing his legendary career.

“I’m not as old as I pretend to be, but I’m very content where I am right now,” said the 56-year-old former outfielder for the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins. “This is a way of life now, and I’m thankful for every opportunity.”

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

Nov. 18, 1966: Koufax calls it quits

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

When Sandy Koufax called it quits 43 years ago today — Nov. 18, 1966 — he ended a six-year run that scouts only dream about.

It was a six-year run good enough for a place in Cooperstown.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Koufax.jpgKoufax, who grew up in Brooklyn playing in the city’s “Ice Cream Leagues,” debuted with his hometown Dodgers in 1955. He posted five wins and a 3.02 ERA in his rookie year. The powerful lefty averaged only six wins per year for the first half of his career, but in 1961 Koufax began quite possibly the most impressive six-year span for a pitcher.

Koufax led the bigs in wins in 1963 (25), 1965 (26) and 1966 (27). His average ERA during his tyranny on National League hitters was an exceptional 1.99.

“I can see how he won 25 games,” said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra of Koufax’s 1963 season. “What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”

In 1963, Koufax also became just the second pitcher to ever take home an MVP and a Cy Young in the same season – after Don Newcombe did it with Brooklyn in the first year of the Cy Young award of 1956. Only six have earned that dual honor since (Vida Blue, Roger Clemens, Willie Hernndez, Denny McLain and Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Bob Gibson).

And it wasn’t just soft-hitting utility men that had trouble with the mighty southpaw. Try a Hall of Famer with 475 career home runs.

“Hitting against Sandy Koufax is like drinking coffee with a fork,” said Pirates’ slugger Willie Stargell.

11-18-09-Lawrence_KoufaxNoHitters.jpgHarry Hooper, a four-time champion with the early 20th century Red Sox, echoed Stargell’s sentiments.

“You name a better left-hander in the history of baseball and I’ll eat my hat,” he said, referring to Koufax.

Koufax also became the first pitcher to reach four career no-hitters on Sept. 25, 1965, surpassing Larry Corcoran, Cy Young and Bob Feller. He is also one of only six pitchers to toss a perfect game and a regular no-hitter, along with Young, Jim Bunning, Addie Joss, Randy Johnson and the newest member Mark Buehrle.

It was severe arthritis in the once-in-a-generation left arm of Koufax that led to the demise of his young career. In fact, in April of 1966 Koufax was told that he couldn’t go another season, but he did – winning a career high 27 games with a career-best 1.73 ERA.

“Sandy pitches in extreme pain that can only be overcome by his motivational urge,” said team physician Dr. Robert Kerlan, according to an article in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgAnd despite this mental resolve that allowed the vaunted ace to pitch through immense pain, he was a gentleman of the highest order.

“There is hardly a strong enough word for the way the other players feel about Koufax,” said Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. “It almost goes beyond affection… for a man so gentle he seems misplaced in a jock shop.”

Koufax was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, just the 10th player (at the time) to be inducted in his first year of eligibility.

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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