Results tagged ‘ Rookie of the Year ’

McRae giving back in Cooperstown

By Trevor Hayes

It’s always a thrill when you get to meet a boyhood hero. And at the annual New York State Baseball Coaches Association Clinic at the Hall of Fame on Friday, I got to do just that.

My family moved to back to Kansas City in 1993, just in time for me to catch Brian McRae’s last two seasons as a Royal. Both of those seasons were the formative years when I chose players from the team being managed by Brian’s dad Hal – a fellow Royals legend – to be my “favorites.” During that two year span, I proudly declared notables like the younger McRae, Mike MacFarlane and 1994 Rookie of the Year Bob “The Hammer” Hamelin (and his coke-bottle glasses) as my favorites.

Retired for 13 years now McRae, now 44, lives in Kansas City and was in Cooperstown to talk to New York State coaches about their practices, approaches to the season and share tips that he used to play 10 seasons in the majors.

McRae said it had been since 2003 or 2004 since he’s been back to the Hall of Fame – a place he’d visited three times before. His favorite part?

“The Buck O’Neil statue, with me being a Kansas City guy and having a good relationship with Buck O’Neil during his time in Kansas City and I’ve spent time at the Negro Leagues Museum, so that’s kind of a neat thing,” he said. “That was once of the first things I saw when I came in. That was neat seeing that and Buck’s legacy will stand for as long as people are talking about baseball.”

During the clinic McRae talked hitting, defense, fundamentals and drills. He related his experiences to the coaches, giving them examples of what made him successful, for example McRae was an infielder-turned-outfielder. So when asked about how to keep young high school outfielders involved and interested, he said he brought his infielder mindset to the outfield.

“Every inning, I thought the ball was going to be hit to me,” he said. “I’m out here because I can do a job. I don’t want to be caught off guard. When the game is over, I’m mentally drained because I just calculated 150 pitches I thought were going to be hit to me.”

Aside from emphasizing defense – caring about your work in the field and not just at the plate – McRae talked about how he lets players use their natural talents and only highlights fundamentals such as making sure the batter is taking the shortest distance to the ball in order to square up, but he won’t mess with a player’s hands. Plenty of players have found success without “proper” mechanics, like Gary Sheffield’s wiggling bat or Kevin Youkilis’ bat held over his head.

“They found a way,” McRae said. “You wouldn’t teach that, but as you can see there are a lot of ways that you can be successful, there’s not a textbook way. So I don’t like the cookie-cutter way that everybody has to stand this way and everybody has to hold their hands this way. Because people have different shapes, sizes skill sets and you just have to find a way to work from there.”

For the former center fielder, clinics like Friday’s are almost par for the course – in some form helping younger players improve. While last week’s event was all about helping the coaches improve their programs, McRae runs a non-profit baseball organization in Kansas City called the Kansas City Sluggers, does speaking engagements through the Royals Alumni and this summer will coach a summer league team in the Coastal Plains League in Moorhead City, N.C.

“I enjoy working with the high school-age kids, college-age kids,” McRae said. “That’s where I feel I can relate the most and get the most out of them and where I feel my expertise fits. It keeps me fresh and keeps me young.”

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

Hall Monitor: Pitching and Home Runs

By Trevor Hayes

The last Hall Monitor topic of two 600 home run hitters squaring off in the same game seems so long ago after the week’s events. But to follow-up, it did happen on Sunday. Alex Rodriguez and the Yanks met Jim Thome and the Twins marked the A.L.’s first 600 vs. 600. Here’s what’s happened since:

These go to 11: Just arrived in Cooperstown: Albert Pujols’ batting gloves and bat from his 30th home run of 2011 made it to their final destination at the beginning of the week. Pujols deposited his 30th into the PNC Park bleachers on Aug. 16. That historic stroke made the man known as The Machine the first player to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first 11 seasons.

A pair of sevens: The American League Cy Young favorite is arguably Justin Verlander, and on Monday night he extended a winning streak to seven starts for the second time this season. The Tigers’ ace also compiled seven straight victories from May 29 to June 30. Over the last 50, years only three other pitchers have had two streaks of seven or more in the same season. Each led their league in wins and earned the Cy Young Award. Fellow Tiger Denny McLain did it in the first of his back-to-back Cy Young seasons while winning 31 in 1968. Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson did it in 1970 with 23 wins and the Twins’ Frank Viola did it in 1988, winning 24.

Movin’ on up: Baseball’s active strikeout leader inched his way a little further up the all-time list on Wednesday as the Marlins’ Javier Vazquez passed Don Drysdale for 30th place. By striking out 11 Reds, the 34-year-old Vazquez now has 2,494 K’s. When Drysdale retied in 1969 he was eighth with 2,486 behind Hall of Fame names like Johnson, Young, Bunning, Spahn, Feller and Keefe. Vazquez should be able to reach 29th this season as Christy Mathewson is just 13 strikeouts away.

Rookie Backstop Power: The Tigers’ Rudy York and Matt Nokes, Red Sox Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, the Dodgers’ Mike Piazza and the Cubs’ Geovany Soto did it – and now the Blue Jays’ J.P Arencibia has too. In a loss to Kansas City Thursday, Arencibia became the sixth rookie to hit 20 home runs as a catcher, joining good company that includes 32 All-Star selections, 14 Silver Sluggers, three Rookie of the Year Award and of course, a Hall of Famer.

A grand old game in the Bronx: Lastly we have an MLB first. Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Ganderson literally slammed the Yankees into the record books Thursday when the three made the Bronx Bombers the first team to hit three grand slams in a game. The 22-9 drubbing of the A’s made history in a lot of ways.

History notes other than the grand trio include from yesterday’s massacre: The Yanks tied a record by having three players with at least five RBIs; they matched the record for largest winning margin by a team which trailed by at least six; they became the fourth team to score at least four runs in four consecutive innings; and Martin is just the second catcher and third Pinstriper, regardless of position, to go 5-for-5 with two home runs and five or more RBIs. He joins current Tigers backstop Victor Martinez who did it as an Indian in 2004 and fellow Yankees Joe DiMaggio (July 9, 1937) and Danny Tartabull (Sept. 8, 1992).

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

Hall Monitor: The Final Tallies Are In

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

We’ve had a champion for several weeks now, but with last week’s announcement of the final major BBWAA Awards, the 2010 season is complete. Now it’s time to look back a little and then move on to 2011. During the next few weeks, we should see a flurry of free agent activity, starting with the Winter Meetings, which begin this weekend in Orlando.

Less can be more: Last week, Josh Hamilton handily won the AL MVP Award. Hobbled by broken ribs and playing in 133 games, he’s only the second position player over the last 30 years to play in that few games (with the exception of strike-shortened seasons) and be named league MVP. 12-03-10-Hayes_BrettMantleStargell.jpgIn fact, he’s only the fifth player to ever earn the Award after playing 133 or fewer during a full 162 game season. The others are the Giants’ Barry Bonds in 2003, the Royals’ George Brett in 1980, the Pirates’ Willie Stargell in 1979 and the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle in 1962. Like Hamilton, Brett and Mantle both suffered injuries that held them out for long periods of time, while Bonds and Stargell were slowed by age.

Twice as nice: With Awards Season coming to a close, the AL champion Rangers now boast the hardware to back-up the run to their first-ever World Series appearance. Josh Hamilton’s MVP Award and Neftali Feliz’s Rookie of the Year Award, make them the 13th pair of teammates to sweep both Awards in a year – not including 1975 and 2001 when Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki won both Awards, respectively.

Of the 13 pairs, Hamilton and Feliz join eight others in reaching the World Series. The others were Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe (1949 Dodgers), Yogi Berra and Gil McDougald (1951 Yankees), Roy Campanella and Jim Gilliam (1953 Dodgers), Mickey Mantle and Tony Kubek (1957 Yankees), Mantle and Tom Tresh (1962 Yankees), Joe Morgan and Pat Zachry (1975 Reds), Willie McGee and Vince Coleman (1985 Cardinals) and Jose Canseco and Walt Weiss (1988 A’s).

 12-03-10-Hayes_CinMVP.jpgIt should also be noted that Lynn’s 1975 Red Sox made the World Series and Suzuki’s 2001 Mariners finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, but lost in the ALCS.

Joey joins Reds’ best: Ten different Cincinnati Reds have been honored with the National League’s MVP Award. Joey Votto became the 10th last week after he denied Albert Pujols his fourth Award, which would have put the Cardinal slugger into rarified air as only the second player to collect more than three MVPs.

Votto’s honor links his name with Reds MVPs like Hall of Famers like Johnny Bench (1970, 1972), Joe Morgan (1975-76), Frank Robinson (1961) and Ernie Lombardi (1938).

Vlad and Texas heaping it on: It’s not a major award, but some major names have been attached to it. This year’s recipient of the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award, Vladimir Guerrero, gave the Rangers yet another piece of hardware last Wednesday to celebrate 2010.

12-03-10-Hayes_Ripken.jpgRenamed after Edgar Martinez in 2004, the list of former winners extends beyond the longtime Mariners legend. Among the Hall of Famers to take home the honor are inaugural winner Orlando Cepeda (1973), Jim Rice (1977), Dave Winfield (1992) and Paul Molitor (1993, 1996).

150 Million Dollar Man: Troy Tulowitzki will be staying in Colorado for the next 10 years and that’s just fine with the slugging shortstop. Not only did he sign a deal this week that will pay him an average of $15 million a year until 2020, but he’s now got a shot to be like his idol, Hall of Famer and Oriole legend Cal Ripken Jr., and stay with one team for his entire career. Of the 292 Hall of Famers, 47 spent their entire playing career with one team. Aside from Ripken, the only other shortstops in that group were the White Sox’s Luke Appling, the Cubs’ Ernie Banks, the New York Giants’ Travis Jackson, the Yankees’ Phil Rizzuto, the Pirates’ Honus Wagner and the Brewers’ Robin Yount.

Hall of Famers around town: Bob Costas brings three more Hall of Fame names to his show tonight on MLB Network. Big Red Machine cogs Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, will be Studio 42 tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

I12-03-10-Hayes_PerezHerzog.jpgn other Reds news, the team’s annual winter celebration, Redsfest, will feature tributes to Sparky Anderson. More than 60 current and former Reds players will be on hand tonight and tomorrow at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati.

Tomorrow, Tigers legend Al Kaline will be at the Comerica Park Retail Shop. The Hall of Famer will be promoting and signing copies of his book “SIX: A Salute to Al Kaline.”

And as the Winter Meetinsg convene this weekend, several Hall of Famers will be in Orlando to participate in the Expansion Era Committee’s Hall of Fame Induction voting. The 16-person committee will vote on Sunday and includes Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith. Results will be announced on Monday at baseballhall.org.

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

Ichiro, Phat Albert become Hall of Fame-eligible

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Someday – 10 to 15 years from now – Monday will be known as the day it became official. The day when the clock started ticking. The day two legends truly began their journey to Cooperstown.

04-07-10-Muder_Pujols.jpgMonday was the day that Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki first became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Now, don’t go marking calendars just yet. Phat Albert and Ichiro have a lot of baseball left to play, and their Hall of Fame eligibility doesn’t officially begin until they’ve been retired for five years. At 36, Ichiro looks like he could play for at least 10 more years. And Pujols just turned 30, leaving him with a real chance to take a crack at 700 home runs and 3,000 hits in the latter part of this decade.

But barring the totally unforeseen, Ichiro and Albert are headed for Cooperstown. And on Opening Day, they cleared their primary eligibility hurdle when they appeared in a game in their 10th season of Major League Baseball.

Both Pujols and Suzuki broke into the majors in 2001, and both became instant stars. Each won their respective league’s Rookie of the Year awards that season, and it’s been virtually a non-stop success ride from there.

04-07-10-Muder_Suzuki.jpgIchiro has been named to nine straight All-Star Games, has won nine straight Gold Gloves in right field and was the AL MVP in 2001. He set the all-time single-season hit record in 2004 with 262 base hits, and owns nine straight 200-hit seasons – another big league record.

Pujols has been named to eight All-Star Games, has won three NL MVPs (including the last two in a row), owns a Gold Glove at first base and helped the Cardinals win the 2006 World Series.

But until Monday – when Pujols led his Cardinals over the Reds with two home runs and Ichiro went 1-for-4 for the Mariners in their win against the A’s, the pair had not satisfied the Hall of Fame requirement of playing at least 10 big league seasons.

It would appear to be the last hurdle on a path that will likely take both to Cooperstown.

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

Birthday Sunday

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Jan. 31, the Hall of Fame will wish Happy Birthday to three of our own. 

Ernie Banks will turn 79. Although his beloved Cubbies, a perennial second-division team during his tenure there, never made it to the World Series, it was not because of Mr. Cub, who did everything he could year after year to try to get them there. A 12-time All-Star and two-time NL MVP, Banks hit more than 500 home runs and drove in more than 1,600 runs in his 19 seasons playing first base and shortstop with Chicago’s North-Siders.

01-29-10-Berowski_BanksRyanRobinson.jpgAlso celebrating his birthday is the all-time Major League strikeout king, and current president of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express will celebrate his 63rd birthday. Although his birthday is officially January 31, Ryan seems to have received an early birthday present when his ownership group was recently selected to purchase his home state’s AL franchise, the Texas Rangers. 

Rounding out the trio of birthday boys is Jackie Robinson. The only man with his uniform number retired across Major League Baseball, Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Although he passed away in 1972, Jackie Robinson will be remembered by many on what would have been his 91st birthday.

There are 292 Hall of Famers and 365 days in a calendar year, yet there are more than a dozen dates on the calendar that celebrate the birthday of three Hall of Famers. In fact, May 14 is the day of the year with the most Hall of Famer birthdays: Ed Walsh, Earle Combs, Tony Perez, JL Wilkinson and Alex Pompez. 

October is the month that has the most Hall of Famer birthdays – 36. And three Hall of Famers passed away on their birthday – Joe Tinker, Gabby Hartnett and Bucky Harris. 

A pair of baseball’s former home run kings will have the anniversaries of their births marked next week. Hank Aaron will turn 76 Feb, 5, and Feb. 6 will mark 115th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s birth.

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

Oct. 7, 1950: Ford gets first of six rings

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

The Chairman of the Board emphatically shut the door on Philly’s 59 years ago today — Oct. 7, 1950.


10-7-09-Lawrence_FordPitch.jpgWhitey Ford
, dubbed the “Chairman of the Board” by teammates, is the all-time World Series leader in wins (10) and strikeouts (94). It all began in Game 4 of the 1950 Fall Classic, as his Yankees were looking for a sweep of manger Eddie Sawyer’s Philadelphia Phillies.

On a Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, in front of more than 68,000 fans, Ford had the ball opposite Phils hurler Bob Miller with a chance to earn the Bombers’ 13th World Series title.

Ford, as a rookie, went a sterling 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA in 1950 – finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting to the Red Sox’ Walt Dropo.

The Yankees were defending champions, after taking the ’49 series against cross-town rival Brooklyn under new manager Casey Stengel.

Ford might not have had Game 7 pressure on him, with the Yankees’ three-game cushion, but nonetheless the rookie faced a daunting task at the age of 21. And while it didn’t hurt to have future Hall of Famers like Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Mize on his side, Ford was fearless every time he toed the rubber.

10-7-09-Lawrence_Ford.jpg“He was my banty rooster,” said Stengel. “He used to puff his chest out, like this, and walk out to the mound against any of those big pitchers.”

Despite that “rooster” persona, Ford was a pensive pitcher who chose deception over brute force. Ford promptly demoralized the Phils on Oct. 7, twirling 8.2 innings of brilliant baseball – giving up only two unearned runs.

A native of New York City, Ford went on to those record-setting 10 World Series wins as well as a fantastic postseason ERA of 2.71.

Ford not only owned October in the win column, but the 20th century as well. His 236-106 record makes him the most consistent victor — among pitchers with at least 200 wins — during those years, with a .690 winning percentage.

10-7-09-Lawrence_NYYSeriesChart.jpg“I don’t care what the situation was, how high the stakes were… it never bothered Whitey Ford,” said Yankee great Mickey Mantle. “He pitched his game. Cool. Crafty. Nerves of steel.”

In fact, Ford harnessed those “nerves of steel” to toss 33 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play, another signature “Chairman” mark. Ford also had seven complete games in the Classic, good for fifth all-time, and was part of six Yankees championship teams.

Ford was welcomed into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1974.

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

Sept. 30, 1972: Clemente records 3,000th hit

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

Thirty-seven years ago Wednesday, Roberto Clemente recorded a career milestone.

On Sept. 30, 1972, Clemente and the defending world champion Pirates were taking on Yogi Berra‘s Mets at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, was hitting an impressive .311 heading into the season finale against New York.

9-30-09-Lawrence_Clemente.jpgBatting third against Mets starter Jon Matlack, the eventual National League Rookie of the Year, Clemente looked to push his career hit total of 2,999 into an historic category. At the time, only 10 other players were members of the 3,000-hit club, and only three — Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial — had done so in the latter half of the 20th century.

Clemente, aside from being a world-renowned humanitarian, had a chance to become the first Latin ballplayer to reach 3,000 hits.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Clemente led off against Matlack after striking out in his first at-bat. Clemente promptly roped a double to the Three Rivers outfield — the 3,000th and last regular-season hit of his exceptional career.

But it wouldn’t be his last impact on Major League Baseball. The Pirates won the National League East and were set to take on Sparky Anderson‘s Reds in the league’s championship series. Clemente only had four hits in the five-game series loss, which officially unseated the 1971 world champions, but a double and a home run were among the four hits.

9-30-09-Lawrence_ClementeHit.jpgAfter 18 magical seasons of watching Clemente control the diamond as few ever did, the world was dealt a huge blow when Clemente was killed on Dec. 31. Flying to Nicaragua to deliver goods to earthquake victims, Clemente was the victim of a plane crash that took his life at the young age of 38.

But to dwell on Clemente’s tragic passing is a disservice to the incredible life he led — one which began on Aug. 18, 1934, in Carolina, Puerto Rico. One of more than 200 Puerto Rican players to play in the big leagues, Clemente remains the commonwealth’s all-time hits leader, 276 in front of runner-up Roberto Alomar.

Clemente became the first Latin American player to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, and dozens of artifacts from Clemente’s life are housed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. In the brand-new Viva Baseball! exhibit, which celebrates the Latin influence on the game, Clemente is recognized alongside other Latin American stars.

9-30-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgA No. 21 Pirates jersey retired on Opening Day 1973, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings covering his untimely passing and the “Roberto Clemente Memorial Album” vinyl record are all on display in Viva Baseball!.

“Roberto Clemente touched us all,” Pirates pitcher Steve Blass once said. “We’re all better players and people for having known him.”

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

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