Results tagged ‘ Rollie Fingers ’

On the road at TwinsFest

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

I spent the last weekend of January representing the Baseball Hall of Fame at TwinsFest in the Metrodome, one of baseball’s largest fan fests. It’s great to celebrate the National Pastime in the dead of winter as the baseball world turns its attention from hot stove planning to spring training.

02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest.jpgTwinsFest, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Twins Community Fund begun in 1989, has raised millions of dollars for local organizations. Many fans stopped by our spot in right field to see the artifacts we brought and to say hello, weigh Bert Blyleven’s chances for election to the Hall next year, talk about trips to Cooperstown and sign up for our membership program.

Many Twins fans, young and old, enjoyed over 50 artifacts from the Hall’s collection, like Ty Cobb’s small glove, Lou Gehrig’s jersey from his final season in pinstripes and a tunic from a 1940s Michigan team in the women’s pro league, the AAGPBL. But the most popular items were from Twins history, including the ball Dave Kingman hit into the Dome’s roof in 1984, the ball Gene Larkin knocked into left-center to win the 1991 World Series, hometown hero Joe Mauer’s bats from each of the three seasons he won the AL batting crown and the Hall of Fame plaque of Harmon Killebrew.

Many current Twins were on hand such as Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and new Twin Jim Thome, as well as former greats Blyleven, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Tony Oliva. Bob Feller had Frank Howard and Denny McLain at his booth, while Fergie Jenkins led Rollie Fingers and other players raising money for Haitian relief.
 
02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest2.jpgThough the Twins have hosted the Hall at TwinsFest for many years, it was my first trip to the Twin Cities. I was impressed by the friendly folks and fantastic food. I only got lost a few times in the downtown skyways and enjoyed a tour of the Twins new outdoor home, Target Field, which looks like a great place to see a game.

After a thrilling season last year and a new ballpark in 2010, I sensed a lot of excitement from the Twins and their fans. It turned out to be one of the biggest TwinsFests they’ve ever had.

Our thanks to Jackie Hoff and the team from the Science Museum of Minnesota, who installed the exhibit and showed me the ropes. The Twins’ staff was great, especially Heidi Sammon, Glo Westerdahl, and their new curator, Clyde Doepner. I hope the Twins and their fans have a great 2010.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator for new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Nov. 25, 1981: Rollie Fingers becomes first relief pitcher in AL history to win MVP

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

When Oakland A’s manager Dick Williams sent Rollie Fingers to the bullpen in 1971 after several sub-par outings as a starter, Fingers thought his short major league run had come to an end.

“Williams threw me out to the bullpen and I thought: ‘Well that’s the end of that,'” Fingers said in an interview with the New York Post. “My baseball career was over. I figured the handwriting was on the wall.”

11-25-09-Bielefeld_Fingers.jpg“No kid ever dreams of being a reliever,” Fingers further explained. “Everybody wants to be a starter, and I was no different.”

However, the transition proved to be a blessing in disguise for Fingers – who, during his 17-year major league career with the A’s, Padres and Brewers, became one of the greatest relief pitchers the game has ever seen.

The pinnacle of his illustrious bullpen career came 28 years ago today when, on Nov. 25, 1981, just days after winning his first Cy Young Award, Fingers became only the second relief pitcher in major league history to win a Most Valuable Player Award and the first to do so in the American League.

In his 14th year in the majors, Fingers posted a 6-3 record, racked up an AL leading 28 saves and sported an infinitesimal 1.04 ERA. Utilizing his fastball and sharp slider, he struck out 61 men while walking only 13 in 78 innings pitched.

Fingers was especially dominant in the second half of the ’81 season. After the Brewers got off to a lackluster start, the club rallied, emerging as second half champions and climbing to first place in the AL East.

11-25-09-Bielefeld_Chart.jpg“He’s the type of pitcher who has command of all of his pitches,” said former Brewers skipper Rene Lachemann, who managed Fingers in 1984. “He knows he’s going to get [batters] out. He gives me a lot of confidence when he’s out there.”

While the 1981 Brewers would ultimately lose in the AL Division Series, Fingers was no stranger to October success. In his career, he pitched in 16 World Series games – winning three consecutive titles with the Athletics from 1972-74.

When Fingers retired in 1985, he was the all-time saves king with 341. Today, he is 10th on the all-time list.

Fingers, along with his famed handlebar mustache, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. Shortly after his enshrinement in Cooperstown, the Brewers retired No. 34 – Fingers’ jersey number – to commemorate his four-year tenure with the team and his MVP accomplishment.

Bridget Bielefeld was the 2009 public relations intern at 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 HernŠndez, 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.

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.

Induction Week Memories

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

After this Sunday’s Induction Ceremony at 1:30 p.m. EDT, nine men who have worn the San Diego Padres uniform will have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Of those nine, Lillian Edmondson and Ann Spraker will have seen eight.

7-21-09-Hayes_InductionWeek.jpgThe two women have seen Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Tony Gwynn, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith, Dick Williams and Dave Winfield grace the stage at Clark Sports Center after making the cross-country pilgrimage from San Diego to Cooperstown. Spraker, who is originally from Upstate New York, always made an annual trip, but 20 years ago Edmondson started coming along as well.

“We come to Cooperstown every year because it’s a beautiful place,” Edmondson said on Tuesday. “And the Hall of Fame is great.”

This year the two will see their eighth Padre inducted into the Hall of Fame – they missed the induction of Willie McCovey in 1986 – when Rickey Henderson joins Jim Rice and Joe Gordon as the Induction Class of 2009.

“We had Rickey for a little while and then we traded him, but then he came back and when he came back, he made the game fun, lively and interesting,” Edmondson said. “When Rickey was on base, look out. You never knew what was going to happen.”

Henderson holds a place in Edmondson and Spraker’s hearts, but one man stands above the rest: Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn. Now with Tony Gwynn Jr. playing in San Diego, it’s a bit of a trip back in time.

“It’s fun when you look up at the scoreboard and see a Tony Gwynn batting,” Edmondson said. “We had to be here the year Tony went in as well as Cal Ripken – two very high-class individuals.”

That summer they enrolled in the Hall of Fame Membership Program for the first time – something they’ve done every year since. Spraker said they wanted to make sure they weren’t going to miss out on any of the events.

“We wanted to be sure we didn’t miss out on anything,” Spraker said. “It was the most fantastic week. Everyone was wearing clothes of both teams and just being courteous to each other.”

As veterans of several Inductions prior to 2007, they knew Hall of Fame Weekend provides a lot to do, but a few events are exclusive for members. There are still tickets for a few of this year’s the Member events, including:


7-21-09-Hayes_PLAYBall.jpgFriday July 24 -
PLAY Ball! with Ozzie Smith, an opportunity to interact at Doubleday Field with the Wizard and fellow Hall of Famers Wade Boggs, Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Murray. (8:30 a.m.)

The Legends for Youth Skills Clinic gives children (5 to 12) a chance to enhance their baseball skills with former major leaguers on historic Doubleday Field. (1:30 p.m.)

Saturday July 25 -
At Connecting Generations, audience participants will compete with Goose Gossage, Ryne Sandberg and Dick Williams in a trivia contest moderated by former major leaguer and MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds. (3 p.m., Clark Sports Center)

Monday July 27 -
The Legends Series Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice relive the memories from their playing careers. (10:30 a.m., Clark Sports Center)

To become a member click here and to reserve tickets for Member exclusive Induction Weekend events call 607.547.0397.

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

Famous faces in St. Louis

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

ST. LOUIS — The stars were out this week at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and the Baseball Hall of Fame was on the mind of many of the most famous people in sports and entertainment:


7-14-09-Francis_Edwards.jpg
NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, who played in the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game Sunday night: “I’m really excited to get to meet (Hall of Fame shortstop) Ozzie Smith. We’ve been trying to meet up today. He’s out there managing the game that’s going on. I hear he’s a little upset at me for stealing his back flip, but we can hopefully work that out and shake hands over it. I’m really excited to meet him.”

Actor Billy Bob Thornton, on meeting Hall of Famer Stan Musial: “I’d have to say out of all my experiences out of meeting baseball players in my lifetime when I got to meet Mr. Musial, which I have to call him that, that was probably the biggest thrill I ever had.

7-14-09-Francis_Thornton.jpg“But Bob Gibson (like Musial, a Hall of Famer) is my guy. I threw the first pitch out in 1998 here (in St. Louis), we were playing the Braves, Tom Glavine was pitching for the Braves. I’ll never forget this. I was in the clubhouse with (Cardinals manager) Tony (La Russa), (Mark) McGwire, and Bobby Knight, and we were all taking pictures together, and Gibson comes in and so we took some with him. And of course I was thrilled already, that was the first time I met him. And Tony said, ‘Bob, you’re the guy’s hero. Why don’t you catch the ball today?’ I wanted to say, ‘Tony, don’t make me throw it to him.’ So we were on the mound and Gibson knew I had been a pitcher so I had to throw him something. I learned my slider from Gibson’s instructional book in the ’60s when I was a kid. So I threw him a slider, and it was a good one, about two inches off the plate, it was a strike, and Gibson comes out and hands me the ball and he goes, ‘Where did you get that pitch?’ And I said, ‘Out of your book.’ And he goes, ‘You’re kidding me. That old book from the ’60s?’ After that he just warmed up to me just in a great way. Since then I’ve seen him a bunch of times and he’s always really gracious to me.”


7-14-09-Francis_Torre.jpg
Dodgers manager Joe Torre, a National League All-Star coach, on the Class of 2009 at the Hall of Fame: “Jim Rice, I’m really pleased for him, Rickey Henderson was a no-brainer, obviously. Jim Rice waited a long time and he put some pretty impressive numbers up. I’m just happy for Jim Rice. A class act, he was a player that really was a no-nonsense guy, just got up there and did what he did. I’m really pleased for Jimmy. Rickey, his ability spoke for itself. He put all those base-stealing records and leadoff home runs in his hip pocket.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2009 – Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice – will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 26.

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

Stars Come in All Forms

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

ST. LOUIS — The All-Star Game has come to represent so much more than just the top 30 or so players from each league who are having the best seasons to date.

7-13-09-Horn_Smith.jpgThrough an All-Star Week — featuring the XM All-Star Futures Game, the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game and the ever-popular State Farm Home Run Derby — baseball fans have more and more reasons with each passing year to become immersed in All-Star extravagance.

This year is no different. Before the “All-Stars” had even arrived in St. Louis late Sunday night, many other Stars took centerstage. Hall of Famers Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Ernie Banks, Rollie Fingers and Ozzie Smith were on the diamond at Busch Stadium on Sunday evening. And fellow Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Luis Aparicio, Dick Williams, Brooks Robinson, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Gaylord Perry were just a few members of the baseball royalty out and about downtown and at FanFest.

The biggest star on Sunday? None other than Rene Tosoni, of course.

An outfielder by trade for the Minnesota Twins’ Double-A affiliate, the not-to-far-down-the-road-from-Cooperstown New Britain (Conn.) Rock Cats, Tosoni, who hails from Coquitlam, British Columbia, was pleased to be a part of the World Team in the Futures Game on Sunday. He just wanted to get in the game. But after a 4-hour rain delay, time seemed to be running out as the game reached the final inning — the top of the 7th — with his team down 5-3. 

7-13-09-Horn_Tosoni.jpgThen, in the blink of an eye, Tosoni finds himself this All-Star Monday morning on the way back to Connecticut — with his bat from his pinch-hit, two-run double on its way to Cooperstown. 

“Wow,” uttered Tosoni moments after being presented the MVP Award on Sunday night outside the visitor dugout — and learning his bat would join other Futures Game MVPs in Cooperstown, a tradition started with the very first Futures Game MVP, Alfonso Soriano, in 1999.

Tosoni has never been to Cooperstown, but his bat — brand new, with just one hit to its resume — will soon be on display. Tosoni may not be the best known star from Sunday, but he is the quintessential All-Star among us who represents what baseball can bring you: An unexpected spot in history, on any given day.

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

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