Results tagged ‘ Rollie Fingers ’

Van Gundys’ Visit

By Bill Francis

Despite the fact that Stan and Jeff Van Gundy have made their names in basketball, the brothers’ affection for a game that uses a much smaller ball was evident with their visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday.

“We’ve been meaning to come here for awhile,” said Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who also brought with him his 16-year-old son Michael. “With work schedules and we both have families and other things around it was hard, but finally Jeff just said, ‘Get a date and I’ll go,’ so we came up with a date.”

While Stan was making his first visit to Cooperstown, Jeff Van Gundy, who coached the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets prior to his current gig broadcasting the NBA for ABC/ESPN, thinks he might have come years ago, adding, “I think I was here before once when I was in high school but now I’m not totally clear.”

But what was clear was how much the siblings were enjoying their Hall of Fame visit.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Stan Van Gundy said. “We’ve been baseball fans since we were little kids and been meaning to come here for years and years and years. It’s incredible how much stuff is here and how much history is here. You really feel connected to it. There’s just an overwhelming amount of … things.”

With a father who was a basketball coach, the Van Gundy brothers were exposed to that game from an early age. But as Stan explained, baseball brought with it a special family dynamic.

“We’re all involved in basketball and so we weren’t really together at a lot of games. We were watching my dad’s team or watching Jeff play a game or watching me play a game or whatever, but baseball’s something you can do together,” Stan said. “And it’s been the same way with me and my son. He may come to my games or I might go to his games but we’re rarely at a basketball game together. Baseball we can share. It’s a family experience. I remember going to baseball games with my family, so I think that’s been a big part of it.”

For Jeff Van Gundy, an A’s fan whose family lived in the Bay area in the 1970s, an early baseball memory comes from the 1972 World Series between Oakland pitcher Rollie Fingers and Reds batter Johnny Bench.

“I still remember vividly (A’s manager) Dick Williams walking out to the mound and calling for an intentional walk and they throw the strike. It was one of the great memories of my life,” Jeff said. “And I can still remember that we used to go out for a dollar and sit in the bleachers (in Oakland).”

Having lived in Florida for many years, Stan Van Gundy now roots for the Marlins.

“The 2003 World Series with the Marlins, we were living in Miami and got to know some of those guys,” Stan said. “And probably my biggest baseball memory is Jeff Conine throwing J.T. Snow out at home plate in the first round of the playoffs. The only time a play at the plate ended a series. And J.T. Snow tries to run Pudge Rodriguez over and he comes up with the ball.

“Baseball’s so many memories for all of us. And to be here, where there’s memories from the entire history of the game… It’s really overwhelming.”

While the National Football League settled its lockout this week, the National Baseball Association is currently embroiled on one of its own. When asked for their thoughts on the current impasse, Stan Van Gundy politely demurred, explaining that he could be fined by the league for making a comment. But brother Jeff was under no restrictions.

“I think it’ll work out eventually,” Jeff said. “Obviously it’ll involve compromise, the owners will win, and it will start late. And it will harm everybody and everything. What’s always forgotten in these is the person who is just striving to live paycheck to paycheck and gotten laid off. That’s the unfortunate thing about all these things. We talk about what’s in it for the owners or for the players but we often forget so many of the other people that are impacted by these types of lockouts.”

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

Dan Quisenberry: Fireman of the Year

By Trevor Hayes

Dan Quisenberry was never the type to grab headlines and national attention. He was a solid performer and a reliable closer. He won a World Series and appeared in every game of another Fall Classic. He pitched 12 seasons in the Majors, but he was anything but a typical ballplayer.

Quiz wrote poetry. He was a shutdown reliever, but he relied not on a blow-away fastball but pinpoint control, deception and a submarine delivery that confused hitters and earned him the nickname “The Australian,” because he came from down under.

He might have been the wackiest guy to play for the Royals – though with personalities like “The Mad Hungarian” Al Hrabosky having worn a K.C. uniform that might be a tough title to hold. But in Kansas City, everyone who slots into the back of the Royals bullpen must live up to Quiz.

Growing up in Kansas City, I’ve gotten a steady diet of two things – bad baseball to watch and plenty of chatter about the team’s successful past. Quisenberry is talked about with great respect. I was at his Induction to the Royals Hall of Fame and remember the sadness throughout the Metro area when he passed away after a bought with brain cancer.

A unique personality off the field, when Quisenberry took the mound hitters could expect a fight and lots of strikes. Using the solid defense behind him, he picked away at the zone. He gave up just 11 walks in 1983 and 12 in 1984 over a combined 268 innings, and was runnerup for the Cy Young Award in both years.

As guys like Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter began to define the modern day closer, in some ways Quisenberry was right there. He set the single season record for saves in 1983 with 45 – a mark that is still tied for tops in the Royals record books. It was the first time any pitcher had reached 40 saves in a single season. In 1984 Quiz threatened his own record, ending the season with 44, while Sutter saved 45. The two shared the mark until Dave Righetti got 46 in 1986. Jeff Reardon joined Quisenberry as the only pitchers with a pair of 40-save seasons in 1988 and then in 1992, he broke Quiz’s AL saves record, a mark he’d held since passing Fingers in 1987.

As the position of closer evolved in the 1980s, several pitchers put their stamp on the game, but today’s advanced metrics show how good Quisenberry was. His Adjusted ERA+ (which factors ballpark tendencies and season averages) of 146 ties him for fifth all-time. The names above him: Mariano Rivera, Pedro Martinez, Jim Devlin and Lefty Grove. He’s tied with Water Johnson and Hoyt Wilhelm. His career rate of 1.4 walks per nine innings pitched is the lowest since 1926 and fifth lowest since 1901.

One lasting impression Quiz holds on the closer position is his ties to the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award (originally called Fireman of the Year). From 1980 to 1985, he earned five gold-plated firefighter’s helmets, including four in a row. During that span he yeilded only the 1981 honors to Fingers (who won four in his career). Rivera is the only pitcher to match Quiz’s five Awards and noone has won more than two in a row.

Through the years, Quiz has become one of my favorite players, and the bobblehead of him wearing a fireman’s hat that sits on my desk is one of my favorite pieces of memorabilia not only because of the record it represents, but the player and story behind it. The Hall of Fame’s newest exhibit, One for the Books, which opens May 28, is focused on that exact concept. It seeks to not only glorify the game’s greatest records, but the rich stories behind the records.

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

The 600 Club: The Loneliest Man in Baseball

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

There are over 1,000 men who have 600 major league hits, 987 who have recorded 600 strikeouts, 22 with 600 games started, 17 with 600 stolen bases, 14 with 600 doubles and seven with 600 home runs. But only one man has 600 saves.

09-09-10-Hayes_Artifacts.jpgTwo nights ago, Trevor Hoffman created baseball’s most elite club by collecting his 600th career save against the Cardinals. Today, his cap from the historic event arrived at the Hall of Fame, adding to his generous list of donated artifacts already in Cooperstown.

A milestone 18 years in the making, Hoffman saved his first career game on April 29, 1993 with the Florida Marlins. His third career save came in August 1993 – his first with the Padres, for whom he collected 551 more. After 16 years in San Diego, Hoffman joined the Brewers to amass 46 saves en route to 600.

Forty-one years after the save became an official statistic, the 42-year-old Hoffman has become the master. In a few weeks, he will have held the title of all-time saves leader for four full years. After recording save No. 479 on Sept. 24, 2006 against the Pirates – passing Lee Smith for the all-time lead – Hoffman donated the final-out ball, along with his cap, jersey and spikes from the game, to the Hall of Fame.

 A seven-time All-Star, his ascension was slow at first, before he ramped up his dominance toward the end of the 1990s. It took him four years to reach 100. But numbers 200, 300 and 500 each fell just two seasons after his last century milestone marker. His journey from No. 300 to No. 400 took a detour because of two shoulder surgeries, but he rebounded, accumulating 248 saves after not recording a single save in 2003.

Since Hoyt Wilhelm became the first pitcher who was primarily a reliever elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985, Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Goose Gossage (2008) all have gained admittance to Cooperstown. Among the group, Wilhelm and Fingers were once the all-time saves leader. Sutter held the single season record and Gossage for a period of time was the active leader. None of them, however, come within 200 saves of Hoffman’s mark.

During his journey to 600, Hoffman has had history and the Hall of Fame in mind. Along with his 479th save donation, he also sent his jersey, spikes and a ball from save No. 400. In the Padres locker of the Museum’s Today’s Game exhibit, save final-out ball and his jersey, cap, glove and spikes can be found from his 500th. Once accessioned into the collection, the 600 save cap will also go on display in Today’s Game on the second floor of the Museum.

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

Fun and games

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Seven Hall of Famers, heroes all.

They range in age from 55 to 91, but they remain kids at heart. And on Saturday – the day before the Father’s Day Hall of Fame Classic – they were all thinking about their dad.

06-19-10-Muder_VOG.jpgIn front of a capacity crowd of more than 500 fans at Cooperstown High School, the seven Hall of Famers who will appear at Sunday’s Hall of Fame Classic reminisced about their playing days and told stories about one another.

Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, Goose Gossage, Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, Phil Niekro and Gary Carter brought the house down several times with one-liners – and drew applause when remembering their fathers.

“I think all of us on this stage remember when we played catch with our dads,” Smith said. “To be here in the Mecca of baseball on this weekend is very special for me.”

Just being around their former teammates and opponents was pretty special, too. The jokes flowed quickly from the stage – much to the delight of the audience.

06-19-10-Muder_Box.jpg“Phil, you better get some rest,” said Carter to Niekro when Knucksie was told he’ll be starting in Sunday’s Classic.

“Why?” deadpanned Niekro. “I never did when I played.”

After an hour, it was over – the legends were gone. To be continued on Sunday at Doubleday Field. Where the legends live forever.

“I’ve always loved it in Cooperstown,” said Gossage. “To be elected to the Hall of Fame and to play in this game, I still can’t put into words what it means to me.”

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

Classic stories from Paul Blair

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The gold ring on his pinkie finger sparkled in the morning sun as Paul Blair signed one autograph after another.

03-19-10-Muder_Blair.jpgSome remembered Blair as the Gold Glove centerfielder of the 1960s and 70s Baltimore Orioles. Others recalled him as the super-sub on the New York Yankees’ title teams of 1977 and 1978.

But all the fans who lined up to purchase tickets for the Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday enjoyed listening to Blair’s stories – and eagerly anticipated his appearance in the Father’s Day legends game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.

Blair, who will join Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Harmon Killebrew, Phil Niekro and Ozzie Smith at the June 20 Classic, posed for pictures and signed balls and caps for fans waiting to purchase tickets at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The four-time World Series champion was easily identifiable with his 1978 World Series ring, but admitted that the 1966 title he won as a member of the Orioles is his favorite baseball memory.

“We beat the Dodgers, not by scoring a bunch of runs but by playing winning baseball,” said Blair, an eight-time Gold Glove centerfielder. “We shut them out for the final 33 innings of that World Series because our pitchers had two goals when they went to the mound: Don’t walk anyone, and keep the ball in the ballpark. They knew if they did that, we’d make the plays behind them.”

03-22-10-Muder_Blair2.jpgBlair’s fifth-inning home run in Game 3 of the 1966 World Series provided the only run in a 1-0 Orioles’ win, putting Baltimore up 3-games-to-0 and effectively clinching the Series. He would finish his 17-year big league career with two All-Star Game appearances and more than 1,500 hits. Only seven players have ever won more Gold Gloves for their outfield play.

This summer, however, Blair expects to man the infield at the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day.

“I started as an infielder, and that’s where I’m playing now,” said the 66-year-old Blair, who today carries a six handicap on the golf course. “I’m looking forward to coming back in June.”

Participants the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program can purchase tickets for the June 20 Hall of Fame Classic exclusively through March 28 by calling 1-866-849-7770 or visiting www.baseballhall.org. For more information about becoming a Member, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org.

Any tickets remaining on March 29 will be made available to the general public.

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

Tales from the Cactus League

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I am so glad Spring Training is here, even if it was warmer in Cooperstown than in the desert for a few of the days I visited Arizona last week. Boy did I miss baseball. And in my job, I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to rub elbows with so many of the game’s greats, bringing them closer to the Hall of Fame.

 
03-12-10-Idelson_KoufaxPalmer.jpgI got to see the Giants, Brewers, White Sox, Mariners, Indians, Reds, Royals and Rangers all play.

It was great to see the two reigning Cy Young award winners – Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke – pitch. I brought Tim plaque postcards of Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer. Why? They are the only Hall of Famers to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards. Perhaps they will help inspire Tim, not that he needs inspiration.

Before the Cactus League opener in Peoria, I visited my friends in the Mariners clubhouse: Head athletic trainer Rick Griffin and I talked about the health of his players; Ken Griffey Jr. told me he expected Ichiro to get twice as many regular season hits as he would – including spring training.  “I’m aiming for 150 hits,” said Junior.  “Have you seen Ichiro get hot?  You turn around, and he’s gone 15-for-25. If anyone can get 300 hits, it’s him.” I don’t doubt Griffey’s sense of logic, having seen Ichiro play so many times.

 Did you ever take an advanced or AP class in high school? I took AP Baseball last week with Professor Ryan. Nolan and I sat together for the Rangers-Royals game, where he gave me a breakdown of every player on the field. I had a similar experience a few days later with White Sox owner and Hall of Fame Board member Jerry Reinsdorf, who invited me to sit with him, his vice chairman, Eddie Einhorn, and his special assistant, Dennis Gilbert, the former agent for George Brett. I now know where the White Sox’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Bobby Brett, George’s brother, joined us.

03-12-10-Idelson_Ryan.jpgWe held our annual Cactus League Champions event in Goodyear, where the Indians and Reds train. It’s a great complex. The Indians were very generous in hosting our Champions, those who support us with an annual donation of $5,000 or more.

Team President Paul Dolan and assistant GM Chris Antonetti addressed our group and let them know what to expect from the Indians this year. After the game, we all had dinner with Bob Feller and Fergie Jenkins, where they regaled the group with stories, photos and autographs.

Speaking of dinners, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie and their wives joined me for dinner the night before. We toasted to a good 2010 Cubs team and the Williams’ 50th wedding anniversary. Quite a feat for the Williamses, a lovely couple.

On my first night in Arizona, I was joined by Mickey Morabito and Steve Vucinich from the A’s, Gary Hughes, the Cubs scout, Roland Hemond, the long-time Bill Veeck disciple who works for the Diamondbacks, and veteran writers Bob Nightengale, of USA Today, and Spink Award winner Tracy Ringolsby. We get together each spring to talk about scouting and the game today. We used to dine each year at the Pink Pony, a popular old-school steakhouse on North Scottsdale Road that finally closed its doors. We miss the Pony.

03-12-10-Idelson_CactusLeague.jpgOn my final evening, I hosted the dinner to end all dinners, at Don & Charlie’s, a popular Scottsdale hangout with great steaks and ribs. We had a large group that included Bob Uecker, Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount and his brother Larry, George Brett and his guest Joe Randa, Mike Murphy, the Giants’ clubhouse man since Day One in San Francisco, Brad Ziegler, my friend who pitches in the A’s bullpen, Jerry, Eddie and Dennis from the White Sox, and Bob Crotty, who is a generous Hall of Fame supporter and owner of Green Diamonds Gallery in Cincinnati, an exquisite baseball gallery of artifacts and art.

Just before we were getting ready to sit down to dinner, Uecker calls me from his cell phone to let me know he invited two other mutual friends – Bob Costas and Joe Torre.

We had a great dinner and talked about the Dodgers impending trip to Taiwan, told Yogi stories, heard all about the Olympics, and tried to recollect if Torre and Fingers ever faced each other. “Did I ever face you?” Joe asked? “I can’t recall,” was Rollie’s response.

So, I emailed Freddy Berowski in the Hall of Fame Library. Sorry Joe: You faced Rollie one time in the regular season, on May 1, 1977, and struck out. You also faced him in the 1973 All-Star Game and popped out in the 9th. None-the-less, you remain one the game’s greatest players, managers and ambassadors and it’s hard to imagine you won’t be in Cooperstown one day.

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

Golf with Goose

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

For 22 big league seasons, Goose Gossage scared big league batters like no other pitcher.

03-01-10-Muder_Gossage.jpgBut put Gossage on a golf course, and the fearsome reliever turned into a terrified rookie.

“I never golfed – or rarely golfed – when I was a player,” Gossage said. “I didn’t want to be on a golf course all day and then come to the park and screw up a game. But I remember the first golf tournament I ever played in was a day off in Chicago with White Sox. I duck-hooked a ball – I used to swing from my butt – and I hit a ball right over Whitey Ford’s head in the other fairway. I was petrified. If it had hit him, I’d have killed him.”

Ford, a Hall of Famer like Gossage, survived his brush with fate. And this summer, a few lucky fans will share their moment with a legend when Gossage and six other Hall of Famers play in the Cooperstown Golf Classic June 19 at the Leatherstocking Golf Course.

The Cooperstown Golf Classic, a fundraiser for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, is part of Hall of Fame Classic Weekend. The Classic, to be held on Father’s Day at historic Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, will feature seven Hall of Famers along with more than 20 recently retired major leaguers in a legends game.

03-01-10-Muder_GossageGolf.jpgThe Cooperstown Golf Classic will be held the day before on June 19 and will feature Gary Carter, Rollie Fingers, Harmon Killebrew, Phil Niekro, Mike Schmidt, Ozzie Smith and Gossage. Limited to just 28 golfers, participants will have a chance to team with a Hall of Famer and share in the camaraderie with golfers of all skill level in a scramble format.

“I really didn’t start golfing until I left baseball in 1994, but now I’m out there all the time,” said Gossage, a Spring Training instructor with the Yankees who has spent time on the golf course recently with players like Andy Pettitte. “At this stage of my life, golf is one of the only things left to challenge you. It’s going to be a lot of fun to golf in Cooperstown. I can’t wait to get out there with the guys.”

For information and to reserve your spot for the Cooperstown Golf Classic, call 607-547-0310 or visit us online.

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

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