Results tagged ‘ San Francisco Giants ’

The grand game

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

7-30-09-Berowski_LazzeriRobinson.jpgThere are 289 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Only two of them have hit two grand slams in one game: Tony Lazzeri and Frank Robinson.

But one day after Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice and Joe Gordon took their rightful place in Cooperstown, Senior Circuit batters launched an attack on several grand slam records.

The Washington Nationals’ Josh Willingham hit a record-tying two grand slam home runs in back-to-back innings. Willingham’s eight RBI on the day matched a franchise high, and it was the third time in National League history that a batter has had two grand slams in a game, the last being Fernando Tatis with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999.

7-30-09-Berowski_Willingham.jpgWhen Tatis clubbed his two grand slams on April 23, 1999, they both came in the same inning. Even more amazing is that the third inning blasts came off of the same pitcher, the Dodgers’ Chan Ho Park. Ironically, Tatis was one of three National Leaguers to hit grand slams Monday when his eighth-inning, pinch-hit shot off recently recalled Franklin Morales propelled the Mets to victory over the wild-card leading Colorado Rockies.

Alfonso Soriano added to the fireworks on Monday when his 13th-inning walk-off grand slam led the surging, first place Chicago Cubs past one of their division rivals, the Houston Astros.

According to David Vincent of the SABR Home Run Log, the National League mark of four grand slams in one day was established on  May 21, 2000.  On that day Shawn Green and Adrian Beltre of the Los Angeles Dodgers, J.T. Snow of the San Francisco Giants and Brian Hunter of the Philadelphia Phillies connected for bases-loaded round-trippers.

Coincidentally, the only time four grand slams were hit on the same day in the American League was also in 2000, when Ben Grieve, Joe Oliver, Richie Sexson and Jose Macias went deep with the bags full on July 22.

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

2009 Hall of Fame Induction Blog

Light_90.jpgSteve Light, the Hall of Fame’s manager of museum programs, ran a live blog from the 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown. Readers of his live banter had the ability to comment or ask questions.

11:00 a.m. Good morning everyone, and welcome to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s official live blog for the 2009 Induction Ceremony as we get ready to induct the Hall of Fame’s newest members, Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson, and Jim Rice. My name is Steve Light, and I am the manager of museum programs here at the Hall of Fame. Right now I’m sitting on “Radio Row” here at the Induction Site – The Clark Sports Center. I’ll be bringing you live updates on the ceremony all afternoon, so stay tuned and send me your questions and comments.

The Induction Ceremony is just about two and a half hours away. Right now Hall of Fame staff and volunteers are busy wrapping up all the final preparations. Wondering about the forecast? Right now it’s mostly cloudy and 75 degrees. We do have a threat of isolated thunderstorms this afternoon, but hopefully we’ll stay dry for the ceremony.

11:10 a.m. The crowd has already started  to build here. In fact, some fans set up chairs to stake out their spots yesterday morning. If you are in or near Cooperstown, don’t forget that the ceremony is free and open to the public! If you can’t get here, you can catch live coverage on the MLB Network beginning at 12:30. We will also stream the ceremony live on our website, www.baseballhall.org

11:16 a.m. Red Sox Nation has turned out in full force this weekend to celebrate Jim Rice. Catering to the crowd, the big screen next to the stage is playing highlights from the 2004 Red Sox season.

11:35 a.m. 51 Hall of Famers have turned out to welcome their three newest members this weekend. Of course, today is not just about Jim, Joe, and Rickey. We will also honor J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Nick Peters, and Ford C. Frick Award winner Tony Kubek. Peters covered the San Francisco Giants for 47 years, 1961 – 2007. Kubek has worked as an analyst for NBC’s Game of the Week, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the New York Yankees for 30 years. He is also the first exclusively television analyst to win the Frick Award.

11:36 a.m. [Comment From Kevin Brazee]
Do you know who will speak first Henderson or Rice?

11:36 a.m. Great question Kevin! The final order has not been decided yet, but Jim Rice will likely speak first.

11:53 a.m. We’ve had a great weekend here in Cooperstown already. On Friday our annual PLAY Ball! with Ozzie Smith event raised $10,000 for the Hall of Fame’s Educational programs and gave some fans the opportunity of a lifetime to interact with Ozzie, Wade Boggs, Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Murray on Doubleday Field. Yesterday at the Clark Sports Center a crowd of over 750 people watched four families’ compete against Dick Williams, Goose Gossage and Ryne Sandberg in our annual Connecting Generations, a Family Feud-like game show. Harold Reynolds served as the host.

11:56 p.m. The gates have opened in the seated sections and fans begin to stream to their seats  as the excitement begins to build. Just about an hour and a half away.

12:04 p.m. Red Sox Nation isn’t alone here in Cooperstown this weekend. The section 3 seats directly behind me are filled  with Oakland Athletics’ gear.  Feel free to send any questions you might have about today’s Induction Ceremony, and be sure to include where you are from!

12:17 p.m. Let’s talk some stats now, starting with Rickey. Henderson is the 44th player elected on the first ballot. He received 94.8% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Henderson played in 10 All-Star games, won three silver sluggers, and was named the 1990 AL MVP. During his 25 year career he set career records for runs, stolen bases, and walks. The records for runs and stolen bases still stand. Rickey also holds the single season steals record, and led the league in steals a record 12 times.

12:22 p.m. Jim Rice was elected on his 15th year on the Baseball Writers ballot, receiving 76.4% of the vote. He joins two other famous Hall of Fame Red Sox leftfielders, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. In his 16-year major league career Rice was one of the most feared sluggers in the American League. He was an 8-time All-Star, led the league in home runs 3 times and won an AL MVP in 1978.

12:25 p.m. [Comment From C Itle]
I can’t find the stream link. Could you please post it here?

12:26 p.m. The live stream will be posted on the Hall’s website at 12:30 eastern time. Just visit www.baseballhall.org.

12:30 p.m. Nine-time All-Star Joe Gordon was elected on the pre-1943 Veterans Committee ballot. He received 10 of the 12 committee votes. Gordon was a member of five World Series winning teams, and won the 1942 Most Valuable Player Award. During his first six seasons, Gordon and the New York Yankees won five pennants and four World Series titles. He was traded to Cleveland in 1946, and helped lead the Indians to their World Series title in 1948, hitting 32 home runs and driving in 120 runs.

12:33 p.m. A lot of people are asking who is representing Joe Gordon here today. It will be Joe’s daughter, Judy Gordon.

12:35 p.m. A note for all you fans out there who might be attending a major league game today: save your tickets! The Hall will grant free admission to all fans who present a ticket stub from a major league game bearing the date July 26, 2009. This opportunity is good right up until next year’s Induction.

12:47 p.m. I’m getting some more questions about where to find the televised broadcast, so for those joining our live blog late, you can catch live coverage on the MLB Network (their broadcast has already started!) or you can stream them onto your computer via our website, www.baseballhall.org.

Casey is on stage warming up for his annual presentation of “Casey at the Bat”. That surely means the start of the ceremony is getting closer.

12:55 p.m. With Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson, and Tony Kubek all being honored today, it’s no surprise that Yankees GM Brian Cashman has arrived and is in the audience for today’s ceremony. Another notable name spotted in the audience: Keith Olberman.

Right now on the big screen, 2009 Steele Intern Daniel Sampson interviews MLB Network commentator and former major leaguer Harold Reynolds.

1:00 p.m. [Comment From Fitz - Boston]
Have you seen Freddie Lynn in the crowd? Any other Rice teammates?

1:00 p.m. Haven’t seen Fred Lynn, Fitz. But Dwight Evans is in town.

1:05 p.m. Other former teammates expected today: Dave Henderson and Bob Montgomery for Rice and Dave Stewart for Henderson.

Casey is at the bat on the Induction Stage right now, 25 minutes to go!

1:11 p.m. Can’t make it to Cooperstown today? How about tomorrow morning? We conclude our Hall of Fame Weekend festivities with our annual Legends Series event right here at the Clark Sports Center. Rickey and Jim will sit down for an interview to reflect on their experiences this weekend, which must have been a whirlwind for them. Tickets ($10) are still available by contacting the Hall of Fame’s membership department.

1:17 p.m. Well if Brian Cashman is here for the Yankee Inductees, it shouldn’t surprise you that the Red Sox’s John Henry and Larry Lucchino are here to support Jim Rice (and of course Rickey Henderson, who played for the Red Sox as well).

1:24 p.m. Five minutes to go! Who do you think will get the biggest cheers as the Hall of Famers are announced?

1:30 p.m. The Hall of Famers are on the stage, we’re just about ready to go.

1:30 p.m. And Rickey and Jim have just arrived on stage, to a great ovation from the crowd.

1:37 p.m. President Jeff Idelson and Chairman of the Board Jane Forbes Clark offer welcoming remarks. As Ms. Clark points out, 51 of the 65 living Hall of Famers are on stage today. Where else can you get such a collection of greats in one place at one time?

Now the MC of today’s ceremony is introduced, George Grande. George begins the player introductions.

1:40 p.m. George did a great job having fun with fans and introducing the Hall of Famers during the Red Carpet Arrivals event at the Museum last night as they arrived for a private reception. If you are ever in Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend that is definitely an event to check out.

1:47 p.m. [Comment From Shawn Anderson, Illinois]
Which Hall of Famer elicits the biggest hush when he enters the room? Meaning…who makes everyone stop what they are doing?

1:47 p.m. Great question Shawn! I can’t speak for everyone, but for me I am in awe any time I see Willie Mays.

1:48 p.m. Biggest ovation yet? Yaz get’s a prolonged standing O.

1:52 p.m. Juan Marichal is introduced. Juan was at the Hall of Fame earlier this year as we opened a brand new exhibit on baseball in the Caribbean called Viva Baseball! If you haven’t seen it  make sure you  come on out to Cooperstown!

Speaking of new exhibits, the Hall also has a brand new exhibit this year entitled Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream. Hank is introduced, and the fans deliver another loud ovation.

1:58 p.m. And now this year’s Inductees are introduced, along with Judy Gordon on behalf of her father.

The Red Sox fans make their presence known as Jim Rice is introduced, while shouts of “Rickey” echo through the crowd as George Grande introduces “the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.”

2:12 p.m. A bit of rain has moved in but it hasn’t dampened any spirits. The ceremony is going to be moved along a bit however due to storms expected later this afternoon. After the invocation and national anthems, it’s Joe Gordon’s turn! Bud Selig reads the inscription on the plaque as Hall President Jeff Idelson presents it to the crowd.

2:12 p.m. Judy Gordon takes the podium.

2:16 p.m. Judy talks about how her father reached out to Larry Doby in his first ever day in the major leagues as he desegregated the American League. “This was not an isolated incident. This was how my dad lived his entire life.” She then notes that today marks the 11th anniversary of Doby’s Induction into the Hall of Fame.

2:19 p.m. Here’s an interesting story about the 1948 season with the Cleveland Indians, in which Gordon hit 32 home runs. According to Judy, he received a case of Wheaties and a case of gum for every home run he hit. Judy Gordon: “As I remember, even the dog got more athletic eating the Wheaties.”

2:24 p.m. A very touching moment and a loud standing ovation here as Judy Gordon concludes by indicating that her family considers Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame as  her father’s  final resting place where he will be  remembered forever.

Next up: Jim Rice.

2:25 p.m. Anyone have any special memories about watching Rice play? Send them along!

2:28 p.m. Jane Forbes Clark welcomes Jim to the Hall of Fame family, and Bud Selig reads the inscription on his plaque as it is presented to the crowd. Later tonight, that plaque will join Gordon’s and Henderson’s as the Hall of Fame’s curatorial staff will hang them with the other 286 in the Hall of Fame Gallery.

2:29 p.m. The crowd breaks out into a chant of “Let’s Go Red Sox!”

2:36 p.m. Where was Jim when he received the call that he had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Watching The Young and the Restless.

Jim thanks the Boston Red Sox, with whom he spent his entire major league career. Not only did he help lead them to the AL pennant in his rookie season, but from 1977-1979 he became the only player in big league history to record 35 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 200 hits for three consecutive seasons. One of those years, 1978, he hit 46 home runs and drove in 139 on his way to earning the AL MVP.

2:41 p.m. Another standing ovation for Rice as he concludes his speech, stating that he cannot think of a better place to be – with his fans and with the greatest living ballplayers.

Now, it’s time for Rickey. The fans here have been waiting for this since the announcement in December.

2:46 p.m. The cap on Rickey’s plaque? The A’s of course. The inscription on his plaque begins “Faster than a speeding bullet….” As Selig reads off all nine of Rickey’s team, a loud ovation from the crowd as the Red Sox are mentioned. Now: Rickey takes the podium. 

2:47 p.m. Any special memories of watching Rickey play? Send them along!

2:51 p.m. Rickey says that he played so long (25 seasons!) because of his love for the game of baseball. Apparently his dream was to play football for the Oakland Raiders, but his mother was afraid he would get hurt and told him to play baseball. As Rickey points out, mothers always know best.

2:53 p.m. Wondering who Rickey looked up to as a kid? Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson. Three of them are up on the stage behind him today.

2:54 p.m. Rickey’s nine teams ties him for second place among Hall of Famers with Goose Gossage and Hoyt Wilhelm. Anyone know who’s first?

2:59 p.m. The answer to that previous question: Dan Brouthers.

Rickey’s take on his nine teams – it was a great chance to meet fans all across the country. Henderson: “It is the fan who make the game fun. To the fans: Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all your support over the years.”

3:01 p.m. Rickey closes his speech by stating how humbling it is to now be considered in a class of the greatest players of all time. He receives a prolonged ovation from the fans.

3:03 p.m. Don’t go anywhere folks – we have plenty of ceremony left, and we haven’t yet heard from Tony Kubek or Nick Peters! Now on the big screen – a video of Stan Musial (who could not be in attendance tonight) playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his harmonica.

3:09 p.m. On the stage now we have George Grande and Billy Williams remembering 1969, as it is the 40th anniversary of that season. An incredible season perhaps best remembered for the Miracle Mets.

Billy Williams is the spokesman for the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program. Billy thanks all Hall of Fame members out there for supporting the Hall and helping to keep baseball’s history and tradition alive here in Cooperstown.

Now Don Sutton takes the podium to introduce this year’s Ford C. Frick Award winner, Tony Kubek. Sutton points out that his first day as a broadcaster was spent sitting alongside Kubek.

3:15 p.m. Tony’s turn. He points out Moose Skowron, his first road roommate, who is sitting just to the right of stage today.

Of course, Kubek played baseball himself, for nine seasons with the New York Yankees, making four All-Star games.

3:24 p.m. Tony speaks about how the game of baseball has pioneered so many of the changes in American culture, drawing particular attention to the racism and bigotry that Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron overcame during their playing careers, breaking down barriers in the process. This draws a loud ovation from the crowd.

As a member of the Hall’s Education department, I’m glad  to see Tony mention this. At the Hall we try to teach our visitors about how baseball has been at the forefront of many changes in American culture.

3:29 p.m. Kubek closes and Jane Forbes Clark returns to the podium to present the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, Nick Peters. Peters covered the Giants for 47 years, more years than any sports journalist in history. David O’Brien, President of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, comes to the podium to introduce Peters.

3:32 p.m. Here’s a good Rice memory:

3:32 p.m. [Comment From Scott Downer]
I was at a game in Cleveland in 1979. I saw Rice his a pitch out of old Municipal Stadium that cleared the center field wall, I’m going to say 410. The ball never got over 20 feet off the ground. I’ve never seen a shot lie this one. It must have gotten out in two seconds. Just a blast.

3:37 p.m. Nick Peters talks about listening to Red Sox games on the radio on Sunday drives with the family. His idol? Ted Williams naturally. Peters then recalls how he learned how to do math through computing batting averages and other statistics. Sounds kind of like the Batter Up math unit that the Hall of Fame uses to teach kids  across the country   using video-conferencing technology

3:42 p.m. Nick Peter’s closes by pointing out that he was able to do something he loved without every having to go too far from home or looking for another job. While he laments that the Giants never won a World Series in his 47 years covering them, he also points out that the A’s won 4 of the 6 they played in during that span.

With that, the ceremony concludes! The rain held off. One last round of applause for the class of 2009.

3:48 p.m. So don’t forget to get the 2009 Hall of Fame Weekend on your calendar now, the last weekend in July as always!

It’s never too early to start thinking ahead to next year. On this year’s ballot, Andre Dawson received 67% of the vote, with Bert Blyleven receiving 62.7%, and Roberto Alomar will be on the ballot for the first time.

3:50 p.m. The weekend isn’t over yet, as Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson will be back here tomorrow for a special Legends Series interview on the Induction Stage.

I think it’s about time for me to sign off. But before I do I’d like to thank you all for joining me this afternoon, and hope you enjoyed the coverage! Don’t forget to log onto www.baseballhall.org for more coverage of Hall of Fame Weekend 2009!

Stephen Light is manager of museum programs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

300-game winners just keep coming

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

For a generation of baseball fans, Randy Johnson’s win over Washington on Thursday night marks a moment they may not see again.

But history suggests that — while another 300-win pitcher may be at least a decade away — Johnson will not be the last man to reach pitching’s holy grail.

6-5-09-Muder_Johnson.jpgJohnson became just the 24th pitcher to record 300 big league victories, and his countdown to immortality has officially started. Of the 23 other pitchers with 300 wins, 20 are enshrined at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The other three — Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux — are not yet eligible.

But along with the comparisons to baseball’s best-ever pitchers, Johnson’s milestone has brought out the naysayers: Those who insist that this 300-game winner will be the last.

After five pitchers — Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton — joined the 300-club in the 1980s, many pundits insisted that they were the last of their breed. The decline of the complete game combined with the rise of relief pitchers would surely mean the end of the 300-winner, they said. 

And yet, the 300-game winners kept coming. Nolan Ryan in 1990. Roger Clemens in 2003. Greg Maddux in 2004. And Tom Glavine in 2007.

In fact, the four pitchers to reach the milestone since 2000 represent the most for any decade — save the 1980s (5) and the 1890s (4) — in baseball history.

6-5-09-Muder_JohnsonAction.jpgSure, a few years may pass before the next 300-game winner emerges. Jamie Moyer is second behind Johnson on the active list with 250 wins, but Moyer is already 46 years old. Next up is 36-year-old Andy Pettitte with 220 wins. In fact, only two active pitchers under the age of 30 have at least 100 victories: Jon Garland and CC Sabathia.

Yet baseball history is full of long gaps between 300-game winners — even back in the complete-game era. From 1964-1981, no pitcher joined the 300-win club. And in the 36-year span from 1925-1960, only Lefty Grove reached the milestone.

So while Randy Johnson’s performance on Thursday should be celebrated, it should also be a reminder. History happens every day in baseball — something that won’t change any time soon.

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

Culture Clubs

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

If baseball and cricket aren’t brothers, they are probably distant cousins. And sometimes visiting relatives, when they get together, are not always readily accepted.

Such was the point made by Beth Hise, a guest curator for the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum in London, England, during a presentation on Wednesday afternoon in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Education Gallery. Hise’s work, entitled The Crowd Began to Shout “Atta Boy” With a Lancashire Accent: The English Response to Baseball Exhibition Games in the Early 20th Century, was one of many presentations that took place on the first day of the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.

6-6-09-Francis_Wright.jpgHise, who lives in Australia but was raised in Cleveland as an Indians fan, is currently working on an exhibit on cricket and baseball. She combined her appearance at the Symposium with her continuing research at the Hall of Fame.

“Today’s talk was looking in detail at one small element of the exhibition, which is the spreading of the two games,” said Hise. “Cricket spread internationally very strongly through the British Empire, where they weren’t imposing a foreign game; they were imposing an entirely foreign system. And the game came as part of it.

“Where baseball is very different is that baseball tried to missionize and send out teams around the world but they sent out two star-studded teams to play each other,” she added, referring to exhibition games held throughout Europe by the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants in both 1913-14 and 1924. “My talk looked at the reception of those two tours in the early 20th Century and how England, in particular, received those tours.”

According to Hise, England saw in those tours something that was outside of anything that they would have anything to do with.

“It was great spectacle, thousands showed up for the matches, they were watched by royalty, but what I did was I looked at the press response,” she said. “I found a lot of different things that the reporters wrote about – very humorous, very good natured, very much enjoying the spectacle, enjoying what they learned about Americans but keeping it all pretty much at arm’s length.”

Hise added the Major League Baseball International is now promoting the fact that our national pastime isn’t strictly an American game but can be adopted for each country’s own needs and have it reflect what they want it to.

“But in the early 20th Century it was really brought over to England as an American export and very much enjoyed in a very strongly American, patriotic sense.”

The annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, co-sponsored by the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, runs through Friday. Each year, the event brings baseball scholars from throughout the country together to examine the impact of baseball on American culture from inter- and multi-disciplinary perspectives.

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

A great month

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

5-29-09-Idelson_Aaron.jpgWhat a month it has been for the Hall of Fame — from opening two new major exhibits to having five Hall of Famers in town. It’s been a whirlwind, but a good whirlwind.

The Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream exhibit opening was especially gratifying because Henry and his wife Billye were in Cooperstown, and truly impressed with the presentation. You could almost see their sense of pride seeing in brick and mortar all that they have accomplished in life. Our Voices of the Game program with members was great, especially when Henry grabbed a Jackie Robinson model bat and started showing everyone how Jackie grabbed the bat tightly, while Henry’s hands were loose. Insider info. So cool.

5-29-09-Idelson_Viva.jpgTwo weeks later, we opened Viva Baseball! Orlando Cepeda traveled from San Francisco and Juan Marichal from the Dominican Republic for the dedication. This exhibit may be the most intricate one we have established, with its widespread use of multimedia, and with every single element — labels, captions and video, all bilingual. As I delivered my remarks while standing on a map of South America, and specifically on Nicaragua, it caused me to pause and remember that Orioles and Expos star, Dennis Martinez, the all-time winningest pitcher in the country’s history, signed a contract in the spring of 1973, just months after Hall of Fame hero and humanitarian Roberto Clemente died trying to deliver earthquake relief supplies there on New Year’s Eve. 

Both exhibits are ones with which our entire staff is so proud.

5-29-09-Idelson_HendersonRice.jpgSprinkled among the openings were orientation visits from Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson. Both were seeing the Museum for the first time. It’s always interesting to see how the guys react to being in Cooperstown and the result is always the same: humbled. They both now are beginning to realize the enormity of being a Hall of Famer. From talking to a lot of Hall of Famers over the years, coming to Cooperstown and then giving their speech on stage truly leads them to realize that their careers are ongoing. I know Rickey still thinks about playing… he asked me if he could play in the WBC in January.

Now we roll into June and the Hall of Fame Classic is quickly approaching and five MORE Hall of Famers will be in Coop. July will bring 50+ more. 

While the village of Cooperstown can be classified as sleepy, the Museum certainly can not.  There’s always something fun happening in the Hall.

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

Happy 78th Birthday, Willie Mays

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

I can still see the pencil in my hand and the primitive cursive on the paper.

I’m in sixth grade in May of 1981, and we have a writing assignment. A biography about a famous person born this month. There is only one — in my baseball-filled mind — to consider.

Willie Howard Mays was born May 6, 1931, in Alabama…”

At that point, my memory fades. The paper is lost, the words gone.

5-5-09-Muder_Mays.jpgBut the feelings remain.

Even at 12 years old, I could recognize that another Willie Mays might be more than fate could provide. Twenty-eight years later, I am sure of it. Baseball will not see his like again.

What remains are the incredible numbers, the grainy film, the name “Vic Wertz” that instantly brings to mind one of the iconic plays in baseball history. As for the numbers, just the mention of “660 homers” is enough.

But consider this: During his 22-year big league career, Mays led the National League at least once in runs, hits, triples, home runs, stolen bases, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and total bases. His 12 Gold Gloves would likely have been at least 15 had the award existed in his first five seasons. And for 13 straight years — 1954-66 — Mays finished in the top six of the NL MVP vote, save for the 1956 season (when he finished 17th).

“Best Ever” is not something easily formatted to the game of baseball. Too many facets, too many ways to be “best”. But if you work to exclude players from the “Best Ever” list, Willie Mays would be awfully difficult to vote off the island.

To Gloria Brown, who gave me a B+ on my Willie Mays essay: Thanks for the memory.

Happy birthday, Willie Mays.

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

A perfect storm

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The White Sox can slug. Last season they hit 235 home runs, tops in the Majors and 21 ahead of the world champion Phillies. This season, they’ve hit 10 — tied for ninth at the moment, with the Rangers leading the way with 17 homers in this young season.

But Chicago has a fearsome heart of the order with Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and then Paul Konerko. And their bats are coming alive. Quentin deposited a pair of balls over the outfield wall at Comerica Park on Monday, and it was the team’s first four-homer game of 2009. They had 11 last year.

The story of Monday’s Tigers-White Sox game was, of course, two men making history by hitting their 300th career home runs in back-to-back at-bats. Dye and Konerko became the first teammates to reach a century milestone of at least 300 in the same game, let alone doing so in back-to-back fashion.

4-15-09-Hayes_KonerkoDye.jpgIt was the fifth time in Major League history that two men have reached a century milestone of at least 300 in the same day, and Thome has been involved in two of those events. The others are Mark McGwire (400) and Andres Galarraga (300) on May 8, 1998; Albert Belle (300) and Rafael Palmeiro (300) on July 17, 1998; Juan Gonzalez (400) and Thome (300) on June 5, 2002; and Thome (500) and Todd Helton on Sept. 16, 2007.

Thome, Dye and Koneko have been together since 2006 and are fairly well represented at the Hall of Fame. Dye’s jersey from Game 4 of his Most Valuable Player performance during the 2005 World Series is here, as are the jersey Thome wore when he hit his 400th career home-run on June 29, 2004, and his 500th home-run ball. In fact, Thome came to Cooperstown last August and presented the ball to the Hall’s chief curator, Ted Spencer.

Something to think about as the Sox home-run machine gets its engines turning is this: With Dye in right field, Konerko at first base and Thome as the designated hitter, the White Sox have 1,143 career home runs in their lineup between just three men. Of course dropping Dye or Konerko for Ken Griffey Jr. at the end of last 2008 considerably ups the total. Both Konerko and Dye ended 2008 with 298 and Thome ended with 541, while Griffey had 611 for an unreal total of 1,450 home runs. That kind of slugging is historic in nature.

An incomplete look at some of the great home-run hitting trios in baseball history turns up very few teams featuring a lineup with that much pop. I was only able to find one team that can overtake the current Sox. In 2006, the Yankees had Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. Those three Bronx Bombers finished the season with a combined 1,269 career homers (Rodriguez at 464, Sheffield at 455 and Giambi at 350). The next season, Sheffield was traded to Detroit, breaking up the unit.

Many teams have come close. Mr. Cub’s Lovable Losers fall just short of their Windy City successors. In Hall of Famer Ernie Banks‘ final year, the North Siders had 1,131 career homers between their three top sluggers. Banks had 512, Hall of Famer Billy Williams had 319 and Ron Santo had 300.

Babe Ruth‘s final year with the Yankees, 1934, was another homer-happy squad, but even they can’t match the Sox mashers despite having three prominent Hall of Famers. With Ruth at 708 and Lou Gehrig at 348, the two sluggers had 1,056. Like many teams however, they fell short of finding a third player. Bill Dickey‘s 62 give the 1934 Yankees a combined 1,118 career home runs.

The 1971 Giants, featuring two Hall of Famers with a 40-year-old Willie Mays at 646 and Willie McCovey at 370, also had a young Bobby Bonds with 100 career homer runs, combining for a total of 1,116.

Eddie Murray played in Baltimore for many years and came back at the tail end of 1996 with 474 homers at the end of the season and teamed with Cal Ripken Jr. (353) and Palmeiro (233) for 1,060 total home runs. 

4-15-09-Hayes_MantleAaron.jpgThe ’04 Cubs had Slammin’ Sammy Sosa with 543, Moises Alou at 278 and Derrek Lee with 162 for a total of 983. That team also featured Aramis Ramirez with 127 at the time.

The hardest part of finding a team with over 1,000 career homers between three players is finding three prolific hitters at that point in their careers. 2009 inductee Jim Rice and Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams all played in Boston and overlapped each other’s tenures, but they never played together that late in their careers.

The Milwaukee Braves of the late ’50s and ’60s were known for their slugging threesome. In 1962, the Braves featured Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews at 399, Hall of Famer and eventual home-run king Hank Aaron at 298 and Joe Adcock with 270 for a 967 total. Four years later, Adcock was gone, but by then Mathews (493) and Aaron (442) had come a long way. Felipe Alou’s 148 give the new threesome 935 homers in 1966.

Mickey Mantle ran into the same problem. He played with Joe DiMaggio as a youngster and Yogi Berra for a long period of time. By 1963, Mantle had 419 longballs, Berra had 358 and slugger Roger Maris contributed 214 for a total of 991.

It takes the perfect storm to put 1,143 career home runs into one lineup. Right now, the White Sox have it, and it’s fun to watch.

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

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