Results tagged ‘ San Francisco Giants ’

Era ends, but history lives

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

For baseball fans born between 1960 and 1980, his story was the first you committed to memory.

“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

On Monday, that story ended with the death of Bobby Thomson. But the legend lives forever.

08-17-10_Muder_ThomsonB.jpgI can still see the pages of my dog-eared copy of the David S. Neft & Richard M. Cohen World Series encyclopedia. A Christmas gift from my parents in 1979, it provided my first taste of the baseball statistics that would one day fill my mind. In that book, each Fall Classic from 1903 through 1978 is preserved – along with season stats from the two Series teams.

But as a bonus, Neft & Cohen provided box scores and play-by-play of season tiebreakers, including the most famous of them all: The 1951 three-game classic between the Giants and the Dodgers.

It was like finding a dollar in the couch cushions – something extra to be devoured. I poured through those box scores over and over, dreaming of becoming Thomson while agonizing over the fate of Ralph Branca.

No matter what the future holds for baseball, the past will always remain king. That time, that city, that moment, that comeback… It was all too perfect – a scene never to be repeated.

The Autumn Glory exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame serves as a monument to Thomson’s pennant-winning homer with an exhibit dedicated to the Oct. 3, 1951 Shot Heard ‘Round the World. Thomson’s bat, cap and spikes from that day are on display, as well as a rosin bag used by Branca. They serve as a reminder of the greatest homer ever struck in major league competition.

The Museum’s Library also contains a copy of that Neft & Cohen chronology, a book that started so many on the path to baseball adoration.

In so many ways, that path began with a home run by Bobby Thomson.

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

Classic dream fulfilled

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

A defensive whiz on par with the game’s greatest of all time, longtime center fielder Paul Blair fielded numerous questions pertaining to his distinguished big league career when he recently sat down for an interview with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

03-29-10-Francis_Blair1.jpgIn Cooperstown on March 20 to greet visitors in line to buy tickets for the second annual Hall of Fame Classic, the 66-year-old Blair will trade in his beloved golf clubs for another chance to get out on the field in the June 20 legends game. Tickets for the Classic are on sale at www.baseballhall.org or by calling 1-866-849-7770.

During a 17-year big league career, spent mainly with the great Baltimore Orioles teams of the late 1960s and 1970s, the eight-time Gold Glove Award winner and four-time World Series champion was known for his play in center field. But, surprisingly, Blair was a shortstop until he signed his first professional contract.

“I went to my first spring training the manager said, ‘Everybody go to their positions.’ Seven guys went to short – I was going to be the eighth shortstop,” Blair recalled. “They had two in left, two in center and one in right, and I saw (the player in right field) running and throwing and I knew I could beat him out, so I went to right field and became an outfielder. It just came natural to me for some reason.”

Known as the premier center fielder of his era, Blair was renowned for how shallow he played.

03-29-10-Francis_Blair3.jpg“What I tried to do was play where most of the balls were going to be hit. I didn’t play guys like Harmon Killebrew and Reggie Jackson or the big home run hitters right behind second base, but most guys can’t hit the ball straightaway center field out of the ballpark. If they hit balls to center field they are basically going to be line drives or high pops,” Blair said. “The line drives are not going to go out of the ballpark, so what I tried to do was take some of those line drives away. I wanted to be the best center fielder, head and shoulders, over anybody on my team. That way those pitchers would make the manager play me.”

Raised in Los Angeles, Blair was a Dodgers fan but Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays of the hated San Francisco Giants was his idol.

“Whenever the Giants played the Dodgers, I would hope Mays would get four hits but the Dodgers would win,” Blair said. “When I was growing up I used to do the basket catch even though I was at shortstop, but when I became a professional I thought I better do my own thing and not copy Willie because if I ever droped one then it’s going to be heck to pay.”

A star athlete in high school, Blair’s decision to pursue baseball as a profession was influenced by another Hall of Famer.

“I guess that came from Jackie (Robinson),” Blair said. “As long as I can remember, since I was eight years old, I wanted to be a major league baseball player. That was my one desire, my one goal, and I was just fortunate that I had some athletic ability.”

Blair became a regular with the O’s at the tender age of 21 in 1965 and appeared in the postseason six times with Baltimore over his 13 seasons with the club.

03-29-10-Francis_Blair2.jpg“Our whole thing, and it came from (Hall of Fame manager) Earl (Weaver) and he was the catalyst of those ball clubs, is that you went out there and you played great defense, you pitched well, and you played the whole game,” Blair said. “The team came first. You did everything you possibly could to help win a ballgame.

 “We already had a very good ball club but then (future Hall of Famer) Frank (Robinson) came in 1966 that really put us over the top. He was that big gun that all the other pitchers had to concentrate on. The rest of us just had to do our thing. When Frank said, ‘Let’s go,’ we just followed him.”

Looking back on his baseball career, Blair says that he is proudest of the fact that he got to play in the big leagues for 17 years.

“It’s a very big achievement for me because that’s something I always wanted to do, and it’s the only thing I ever want to do,” Blair said. “The bonus was winning the eight Gold Gloves and the four World Series championships.

“I was very fortunate being on the teams that I played on. I played on 10 first place teams. Every time I went to spring training I knew I had a chance to be in a World Series. I wound up getting in eight playoffs, six World Series, and we won four of them. Hopefully I did my part and contributed to us winning. That was very important to me.”

Bill Francis is a library associate 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.

A visit with history

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

The job requirements that come with being president of the Hall of Fame are diverse, but one of the great elements is staying in touch with our Hall of Fame members.

12-07-09-Idelson_Seaver.jpgWe have 65 living legends, many of whom I see several times annually. It’s important for the Hall of Fame that I maintain and grow these relationships, as they are the lifeblood of the Hall of Fame. These are the men who bestow the virtues of Cooperstown upon fans across the country.

Just before Thanksgiving, I made a trip west to see Tom Seaver, Willie McCovey and Bobby Doerr. I met McCovey at his home south of San Francisco in the Peninsula area, and then had dinner with Willie and his friend of 50 years, Rocky Dudem, near Willie Mac’s home. We talked about the state of the Giants, what’s new in Cooperstown and how much Willie missed attending Hall of Fame Weekend this year.

A few days later I ventured north to Napa Valley to visit with Tom and Nancy Seaver. Tom’s added a new chapter to his life as a wine maker. GTS Vineyards bottles Cabernet and is terrific. For Tom, he approaches his new career as he did his playing career. “It’s all about the journey,” No. 41 said to me as he greeted me in blue jeans and a work shirt with a pair of pruning shears in his back pocket.  As we walked the vineyard, it became obvious that creating the product was as – if not more – important than distributing the wine.

12-07-09-Idelson_Doerr.jpgA quick flight to Portland, Ore., the following morning, followed by a two-hour drive south on I-5 to Junction City, brought me to the home of Bobby Doerr. Getting to Bobby’s house reminded me of driving in central New York. “Take the 5 south, take a right at a stop sign, go over a bridge for 5 miles, and a left will get you to my house,” said Doerr prior to my visit.

A man of great character, the 91-year old Doerr — the Hall of Fame’s oldest living player — greeted me with a big smile. As we sat in the living room of his modest ranch-style home amidst 150 acres of virgin farm land, Doerr reveled how he and his father-in-law had built the home he shared with his late wife Monica two years after he retired in 1951. He proudly showed me a recent picture he found, one of Bobby in his Little League uniform, with his dad and brother.

After lunch in an area restaurant that used to be a bank, I dropped Bobby home and headed north to Portland.

Seeing our Hall of Famers in the natural surroundings reminded me that these men are just like any of us. They care about their community, are proud and have a great zest for life outside of baseball — as they did when playing.

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

Frey’s history is alive Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder
 
The black and white photograph speaks of another time, before televised games, multiyear contracts and franchises west of the Mississippi.

And yet the man in that photograph, Lonny Frey, lived to see all of those — and more. His memory lives on in Cooperstown.

9-18-09-Muder_Frey.jpgFrey, an infielder for the Dodgers, Cubs, Reds, Yankees and Giants, died Sunday at the age of 99 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He was the second-oldest living ex-major leaguer behind only Tony Malinosky, who will turn 100 in 17 days.

Ironically, Frey’s trade from the Dodgers to the Cubs following the 1936 season helped open an infield spot in Brooklyn for Malinosky, who appeared in all of his 35 major league games with the Dodgers in 1937.

Frey, meanwhile, spent 14 seasons in the big leagues and was named to the All-Star team in 1939, 1941 and 1943. He was the oldest living World Series veteran, having appeared in the 1939 and 1940 Fall Classic with the Reds and the 1947 World Series with the Yankees. That title now falls to former Yankee Tommy Henrich.

Frey was also the last surviving player to have suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and New York Yankees.

Several photos of Frey are housed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s collection, which contains more than half a million photographs. Among the Museum’s 35,000 three-dimensional artifacts is a ball Frey signed — along with several other players like Hall of Famers Ernie Lombardi, Gabby Hartnett, Joe Medwick, Bill Terry and Billy Herman — during an old-timers reunion in the 1960s.

It is all a part of the Museum’s charge to preserve baseball history for generations to come — history that lives on in Cooperstown.

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

Sept. 16, 1960: Warren Spahn tosses no-hitter

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

Warren Spahn had earned many accolades by the start of the 1960 season – the 16th of his career. He had won a Cy Young award, a World Series championship and was an 11-time all-star. He had 10 20-win seasons under his belt and a slew of other awards in his trophy case.

9-16-09-Bielefeld_Spahn.jpgYet one thing was still missing from his illustrious rsum – a no-hitter.

That void would be filled 49 years ago today: Sept. 16, 1960, when Spahn, at 39 years old, achieved baseball immortality against the Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Spahn, a crafty southpaw with a high leg kick, had been making quick work of the Phillies all evening. Coming into the top of the ninth inning, in a game that was barely two hours old, Spahn had only allowed two base runners – both of whom reached on walks.

With four runs of support from his Braves, Spahn was in a position to make history.

No. 9 hitter Bobby Gene Smith was the first to bat for the Phils in the ninth. Spahn promptly struck him out for his 14th K of the game – and proceeded to do the same to leadoff man Bobby Del Greco, elevating his total to 15 on the night.

Only one man now stood between Spahn and an accomplishment which few men achieve in a lifetime. Second baseman Bobby Malkmus stepped into the batter’s box, and just as quickly as the game had progressed up to that point, it ended – with a groundout to shortstop Johnny Logan.

9-16-09-Bielefeld_SpahnColor.jpg“He’s beyond comparison with any modern left-hander,” Hall of Famer Casey Stengel said “He has beaten every handicap – the live ball, second division teams. No one can ever say anything to deny his greatness.”

With the win, Spahn improved to 20-9 and lowered his ERA to 3.46.  He finished the season 21-10 and placed second in Cy Young award voting behind Vern Law of the Pirates.

Spahn would go on to throw his second no hitter April 28 of the following year – at 40 years old.

“I don’t think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame,” Stan Musial once said.  “He’ll never stop pitching.”

After the 1960 season, Spahn would spend four more years with the Braves before joining the New York Mets and then San Francisco Giants in 1965 — the year he played his final big league game.

Spahn finished his career with 363 wins (a record for left-handers) and remains sixth on the all-time wins list. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 in his first year of eligibility. Only 10 other pitchers have accomplished that feat.

Just add it to his rsum.

Bridget Bielefeld was the 2009 public relations intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Moments that make the Game

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

For some baseball fans, stats can be the lifeblood of the season, but we can’t forget that the individuals in this game and the moments they create make it worth watching.


8-14-09-Hayes_Mantle.jpgRemembering the Mantles:
The Hall of Fame’s condolences go out to the Mantle family. On Monday, Mickey Mantle‘s wife, Merlyn passed away at the age of 77. Merlyn, who married Mickey after his rookie season in 1951, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She passed just three days before the 14th anniversary of Mickey’s death on Thursday. The three-time MVP and Yankee legend died in 1995 of liver cancer at the age of 63. They were married 43 years and will be buried next to each other at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.

Ninth = Second: Alex Rodriguez passed Harmon Killebrew earlier this week with his 574th home run, moving into sole possession of ninth on the all-time list. Rodriguez’s total is the second highest among active players (behind Ken Griffey Jr.) and by passing the Killer, he is behind Babe Ruth‘s 708 bombs in American League history.


8-14-09-Hayes_Guerrero.jpgJoining a select club:
On Monday, Vladimir Guerrero smashed his 399th and 400th career homers, becoming the 45th player in baseball history to reach the mark. More impressively however, Guerrero currently sports a .322 career batting average. Only five players hit 400 home runs and finished their careers with a .320 average or better. They are Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Not bad company to keep.

Throwback weekend: The Mets will honor their city’s National League heritage when the Giants come to town this weekend. Throughout the series, the Mets will don white jerseys featuring a blue “NY,” hearkening back to the days of the New York Giants, who wore similar uniforms in 1904, 1907 and 1917-1918. The Giants moved to San Francisco after 1957, but won five World Championships and 14 pennants in New York. During their 75 years in Manhattan, the Giants/Gothams fielded 46 Hall of Famers including 10 who bear the team’s logo on their plaque like Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, Christy Mathewson and John McGraw.

8-14-09-Hayes_1929Athletics.gifOn Sunday, the Athletics franchise will celebrate the 80th anniversary of its 1929 World Championship. Oakland will exchange their trademark green and gold for Philly A’s blue and white to mark the occasion. Four Hall of Famers played for the 1929 champs including Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove. They were run by longtime manager Connie Mack, who steered them to a 104-46 record and a victory of the Cubs in the Series. Relatives of Foxx and Mack will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitches.

To see the uniforms being used as a basis for this weekend’s throwbacks, check-out the online Hall’s uniform exhibit: Dressed to the Nines.

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

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