Results tagged ‘ St. Louis Cardinals ’

Grapefruit stories

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I’m sitting in Tampa International Airport awaiting the one non-stop Southwest Airlines flight back to Albany, having just concluded my Grapefruit League spring training jaunt. My Spring Training mission each year is to visit with those who are close to the Museum – current players and management, Hall of Famers, owners and supporters.

03-24-10-Idelson_DawsonPerez.jpgHaving spent eight years combined in the Red Sox and Yankee front offices before being hired in Cooperstown in 1994, my knowledge was limited to Florida Spring Training: the Yankees were in Ft. Lauderdale and the Red Sox in Winter Haven. Since, I have traveled to the desert, too.

The differences are stark: The air is markedly drier in Arizona, because of the elevation. The ballparks in Arizona are surrounded by mountains; most of the ones in Florida, by water. Thirteen of 15 ballparks in Arizona are within 60 miles of each other. In Florida, they span across the state. I spent seven nights in one hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona; I was in six different places in six nights in Florida and flew in and out of airports across the state from each other.

The one similarity? I had a game rained out in each state.

I had a chance to visit with a number of our Hall of Famers. Andre Dawson and I had dinner in North Miami Beach, near his home. He’s already made great progress on his speech and is getting ready for Induction. “I’ll try not to get too emotional,” the stoic “Hawk” told me. I let him know that if he did not get emotional, I would be worried. Almost every speech I have heard since 1994 has been emotional. 

Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Clark, Ken Meifert from the Hall, and I, saw Mike Schmidt and his wife Donna in Palm Beach Gardens. We talked about a variety of topics, from baseball to bull riding to music to living in Florida. Mike is very excited about our inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Golf tournament in June, in which he will participate. He was thrilled to know that a number of the 28 spots available are already filled.

03-24-10-Idelson_Jupiter.jpgLast Saturday, we hosted our Hall of Fame Champions in Jupiter. John and Kathy Greenthal became the first Champions in Hall of Fame history to attend events in both Spring Training states. Jim and Tina Collias made the trip over from Naples to Jupiter, and Dan Glazer also joined us. Hall of Fame Board member Bill DeWitt, owner of the Cardinals, was generous in hosting us for his team’s game with the Mets. Spring Training games are usually not that interesting, but this one featured the Mets scoring three runs in the 9th, the last on an Ike Davis game-tying home run, only to have Ruben Gotay lead off the bottom of the 9th with a walk-off home run.

Speaking of walk-off home runs, we dined with Dennis and Jennifer Eckersley after the game. I asked Dennis what he thought of Doug Harvey. “He was behind the plate for Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series,” Dennis reminded me, as I began to suffer the symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease. He still thought Harvey was an excellent arbiter. 

I headed across the state to Yankee camp and saw many old friends in the clubhouse before the game: Billy Connors, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, Steve Donohue, the team athletic trainer, Joe Girardi, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, whom we drafted when I worked for the team. The game was rained out as Gene Michael, his minor league teammate and Tigers broadcaster, Jim Price, and I had lunch. Also saw Tiger friends Dave Dombrowski and Al Aliva in the dining room and learned more about the Tigers.

Dinner that night was with Wade and Debbie Boggs and Reggie Jackson. Eddie Fastook, the team’s traveling security director and a long-time friend, also joined us. 

Unbeknownst to me, Boggs grew up a big Reggie Jackson fan, even wearing No. 9 in honor, the number Reggie wore early in his career in Oakland. Wade told the story of how in the mid 1980s, Reggie gave him one of his bats to use in 1985. “I used it for 33 straight games and hit five home runs,” said Wade. “I loved that bat and then I broke it on a Dave Stieb pitch,” a dejected Wade recalled.

03-24-10-Idelson_Zimmer.jpgThe next morning, I visited City of Palms Park in Fort Myers to see the Red Sox and the Rays. I met up with Don Zimmer, who is very bullish on the Rays this year. “The best club we’ve had in my seven years with them,” Zim said.

Zim told me how much he admired Dawson and Ryne Sandberg when he managed the Cubs. “Two guys who led by example,” he said. “The other players watched these guys and saw greatness in the making.”

I told Don I would be seeing Jim Rice and Bob Montgomery later that day. 

“Monty was the best hit-and-run guy I ever had,” recalled Zim. “I remember in a game with Cleveland, the bases were loaded. They had a sinker-baller on the mound so I rolled the dice and gave (coach) Eddie Yost the hit-and-run sign on a 3-2 count. Monty put the bat on the ball and we stayed out of the double play. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, but I really thought it would work, and it did.”

Rice later told me that he believed Thurman Munson and Lou Piniella were among the best hit-and-run guys he saw when he played.

I concluded my trip with dinner at Carlton and Linda Fisk’s home in the Sarasota area. We had a wonderful visit and a great dinner. Pudge joked about how some of the evenings in Florida this year were as cold as those he experienced growing up in New Hampshire.

I’ve had my fill. Let the regular season begin.

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

Old rumors become new at Hall of Fame Library

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Rumors are nothing new to baseball.

But no matter how unsubstantiated they may be or at least may seem to be, they had to come from somewhere. Earlier this week we saw yet another example: Albert Pujols, arguably the biggest name in the game, considered in a trade for Ryan Howard, the slugging St. Louis native.

03-19-10-Hayes_DiMaggioWilliams.jpgBoth stars balked. They say haven’t heard anything and the clubs aren’t saying anything. When the report surfaced, it also spawned references to Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams, another famous non-deal.

In 1946, the Yankees and the Red Sox both denied the idea – in the media at least. Combing through the Library at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, you can find a number of items about what could have been – a blockbuster that would “set the American League on its ear!” as Richard Ben Cramer put it in the DiMaggio biography “The Hero’s Life.”

The Sporting News headlines just before and during the 1946 World Series show both teams denying interest. But after trading Joe Gordon – another future Hall of Famer – to Cleveland, accounts hint the Bombers needed an overhaul with the Yankee Clipper on the trading block.

The dynamics of DiMaggio for Williams were much simpler than Howard for Pujols. Both pull hitters could have easily taken advantage of their new parks: Williams hitting into the short porch in right wearing pinstripes, and DiMaggio banging hits and lofting flies over the Green Monster in crimson stockings.

Gossip started swirling before the Series started, but denial on both sides all-but-signaled the death of the story. In the Oct. 16, 1946, Sporting News, Red Sox management said Williams wasn’t for sale while the Yankees expressed a lack of interest.

03-19-10-Hayes_DiMaggioWilliams2.jpgThat set the stage for one of the most inconspicuous conversations in baseball history at Toots Shor’s in New York City. Sometime in December 1946, the future Hall of Fame executives of the two rivals sat down for a long night at the tavern. After several hours, Yankee owner Larry MacPhail proposed the swap to Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. MacPhail said DiMaggio could play next to his brother, Dom, and let fly over the Monster – just 315 feet away. Yawkey suggested Williams could crush Ruth’s record aiming at stands just 296 feet away. Before the night ended, the two shook – DiMaggio for Williams, straight up.

But the next morning, Yawkey called MacPhail to nix the deal. According to the book “The Era” by Roger Kahn, Yawkey said: “I can’t do it. They let Babe Ruth out of Boston. If I let Williams go, the fans will crucify me.”

Some versions of the story, like the one in “Emperors and Idiots” by Mike Vaccaro, say Yawkey tried to salvage the deal by asking for “the kid catcher from Newark” but MacPhail declared: “You’re out of your mind,” to throw in Yogi Berra, who would also be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

It goes to show that you can never be sure about baseball rumors. Howard for Pujols? It could happen. DiMaggio for Williams almost did.

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

Managing greatness

 
Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Noted baseball author and historian Harold Seymour penned the book “The Golden Age of Baseball” about early 20th century baseball – a time when Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson were the stars of the game. Some would say that what we are experiencing now is the golden age of the baseball manager.

03-17-10-Berowski_LaRusaCoxTorre.jpgEntering the 2010 season, three of baseball’s five all-time winningest managers are active. At 2,552 wins, Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa sits about three seasons away from moving into second-place all-time, ahead of New York Giants Hall of Fame manager John McGraw. Thirteen times LaRussa has piloted clubs to a playoff birth, including two World Championships.

Bobby Cox of the Braves and Joe Torre of the Dodgers, with a combined five World Series championships and 29 postseason appearances, come in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, on the all-time manager win list. With the exception of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Cox lead Atlanta to a first-place finish every season from 1991 to 2005, a mark that is unparalleled in Major League Baseball history.

Meanwhile, for 14 seasons beginning in 1996, Torre has lead either the Yankees or the Dodgers to the postseason with either a first-place finish or a wild-card berth.

To find the last time that three of baseball’s top five winningest managers were active in a season, we have to go back 60 years. The 1950 season was the last for Connie Mack and Joe McCarthy, and also marked the beginning of Bucky Harris’ third stint with the Washington Senators.

At 3,731 wins, no one will be closing in on Mack’s spot at No. 1 on the list anytime soon. But if history holds true it is only a matter of time before Cooperstown comes calling for LaRussa, Cox and Torre. Other than those three active skippers, the rest of the top 11 all-time winningest managers are already enshrined in Cooperstown.

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

Sept. 23, 1984: Anderson becomes first skipper with 100-win seasons in both leagues

Lawrence_90.jpgBy  Thomas Lawrence

Sparky Anderson had a knack for making good teams better. The result was four 100-win seasons – and a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Twenty-five years ago today, on Sept. 23, 1984, Anderson’s eventual world champion Detroit Tigers won their 100th game of the season. Not only did this give Anderson his fourth 100-win season, but it also made him the first manager to do so in both leagues. Since then, Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa have joined that exclusive club.

9-23-09-Lawrence_Anderson.jpgSparky did it with the 1970 Cincinnati Reds the first time, and led the Reds to 100 wins twice more (1975 and 1976) before bringing his winning ways to the Motor City.

“Sparky’s got style and charisma…” said his former outfielder Champ Summers, who played for him in both Cincinnati and Detroit, “…and knows how to manage and get the best out of his players.”

Against the Yankees on that September day in 1984, Anderson’s Tigers pulled out a 4-1 win led by a six-inning, scoreless performance by starter Jack Morris. The win was Morris’ 19th and final regular-season win of his 1984 All-Star campaign.

Solo homers by third baseman Marty Castillo and slugging right fielder Kirk Gibson also helped Detroit’s cause.

9-23-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgIt was Anderson’s 1,338th win out of an eventual 2,194, which is sixth all-time behind current titans Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, as well as John McGraw and all-time leader Connie Mack. When Anderson retired, he was third on the all-time wins list.

In his years as skipper, Anderson took home five league pennants, three World Series rings and two Manager of the Year awards – with the 1984 and 1987 Tigers.

Anderson retired after the 1995 season and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.

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

Sept. 9, 1992: Yount records 3,000th hit

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

Seventeen years ago today — Sept. 9, 1992 — Robin Yount joined one of baseball’s most exclusive fraternities: The 3,000-hit club.

But for Yount, the milestone proved to be a rarity within a rarity.

9-9-09-Lawrence_Yount.jpgYount, the longtime Milwaukee Brewer, was on the verge of his 3,000th career hit in a game against Josť Mesa and the Cleveland Indians. Mesa thwarted Yount in his first three at-bats – forcing a groundout in the first and striking him out in consecutive innings in the third and fourth.

But when Yount stepped up to the plate against Mesa in the bottom of the seventh inning at Milwaukee County Stadium, the hard-driving Brewers outfielder would not be denied.

Utilizing his renowned baserunning intensity, Yount managed an infield single against Mesa – making him the 17th player to join the 3,000-hit club. He became only the second player at the time to notch his 3,000th hit on an infield single. The first was Cardinals great and Hall of Famer Lou Brock against Dennis Lamp and the Cubs on Aug.13, 1979.

Ironically, twenty-one days after Yount reached No. 3,000, George Brett did the same. Seven years later, Brett and Yount were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 1999.

Yount is still the only player to reach 3,000 hits in a Brewers uniform, as Paul Molitor – the other notable Brewer in the club – did so when he was with the Twins. In fact, Yount is only one of eight players in the history of the game to grind out all 3,000 hits with a single team; all eight are Hall of Famers.

Molitor, a teammate of Yount’s on the Brew Crew for 15 seasons, was mentored by Yount when he broke into the big leagues in 1978.

9-9-09-Lawrence_YountSlide.jpg“In retrospect, I can say playing with him (Yount) for 15 years was one of the best things that was part of my experience of being a Brewer,” said Molitor, who joined the 3,000 hit-club on Sept. 16, 1996.

Besides his legendary career totals, Yount is best remembered for his 1982 season – one when he led the Brewers to a 95-67 record and their first American League pennant.

Yount exploded onto the national scene that season, leading the major leagues in hits (210), doubles (46), slugging percentage (.578) and total bases (367). For his efforts, Yount took home the American League MVP award, a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove at shortstop.

He earned his second MVP award with the 1989 Milwaukee club when he hit .318 as the Brewers’ center fielder – making him only the third player to win MVPs at two separate positions.

Yount retired after the 1993 season with 3,142 hits and 583 doubles – which both rank 17th-best all-time.

9-9-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgIn 1999, he became just the 34th player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first time on the ballot.

“I gave it everything I had every time I went out there,” Yount said. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”

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

Ernie Banks hits 400th career home run

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

Mr. Cub brightened an otherwise challenging season of “lovable losing” for Chicago Cubs fans 44 years ago today.

9-2-09-Lawrence_BanksMug.jpgTaking on lefty Curt Simmons and the rival Cardinals on Sept. 2, 1965, Ernie Banks and the Cubs were simply trying to finish strong in a season in which they were 63-73 heading into play on that day.

After two scoreless frames at the plate for the Cubs, they manufactured a run and had future Hall of Famer Billy Williams and teammate Ron Santo on base for Banks.

An influential member of the post-Jackie Robinson era of African-American stars in Major League Baseball, and a former Negro leaguer himself with the Kansas City Monarchs, Banks stepped to the plate against Simmons looking to give the Cubbies a bigger lead, with the potential to set one of his many career milestones.

9-2-09-Lawrence_BanksSwing.jpgBanks promptly blasted the ball into the bleachers at Wrigley Field like he had so many times before. It was home run No. 400 for Banks, making him only the 11th player to join that club at the time – and only the second African American to do so, along with “The Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays.

Banks was also the first to join the home run club as a Cub, and is still one of only four former Cubs in the 500 home run club along with Sammy Sosa, Jimmie Foxx and Rafael Palmeiro.

“Without (Banks), the Cubs would finish in Albuquerque,” said Jimmie *****, the manager of the White Sox from 1934-46.

9-2-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgBanks and the Cubs never reached the postseason during his 19 big league seasons. In 1965, the year of his historic 400th homer, the Cubs finished in eighth out of 10 in the NL with a .444 winning percentage.

But Banks certainly did his part to bring a pennant to Chicago. He is still No. 1 all-time in franchise history in games played (2,528), total bases (4,706) and extra base hits (1,009).

Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 in his first year eligible.

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

Records falling before leaves

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

August is ending, the postseason is around the corner, records are starting to fall and today’s stars are joining the legends of yesteryear.


8-28-09-Hayes_WinfieldGuerrero.jpgBack in the News:
Two weeks after becoming the sixth player to belt 400 homers with a .320 average, Vladimir Guerrero recorded his 1,000th hit for the Angels – the eighth player in franchise history to do so. With 1,215 hits as an Expo, he’s the second player to collect 1,000 hits for a single team in both leagues. As a Padre and then a Yankee, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was the first. Aside from Guerrero, Manny Ramirez is the only active player with 1,000 for two teams (Indians and Red Sox).

Also this week – at 34 years, 194 days old – Guerrero recorded his 1,300th RBI. Since divisional play began in 1969, only eight players have reached the mark at a younger age: Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Ramirez, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Bagwell along with Hall of Famers Jim Rice and Eddie Murray.


8-28-09-Hayes_Sox-Yanks.jpgSox-Yanks:
Baseball’s premiere rivalry provided an offensive showcase last weekend. Friday’s 20-11 slugfest was significant. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the two clubs combined 31 runs, was the most in a single game in the over 100 year history of the rivalry. The previous mark was July 29, 1903, with the Highlanders beating the Americans 15-14 at Huntington Avenue Grounds – almost nine years before Fenway Park opened.

Hideki Matsui paced New York’s 23-hit attack with a pair of three-run jacks and seven RBI. It was the most by a Yankee at Fenway since Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig in 1930.

Not to be outdone, the Sox fired back. Kevin Youkilis contributed two homers and six RBI in a 14-1 victory over the Yankees on Saturday. Over the last 70 years, only Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk has hit two home runs and driven in at least six against the Bronx Bombers. Pudge did it on April 6, 1973 in a 15-5 rout at Fenway.


8-28-09-Hayes_Greinke.jpgA good start:
The Royals Zack Greinke is a long way away from 3,000 strikeouts, but on Tuesday night he recorded a performance that four of the members of the 3,000 strikeout club never did. Greinke sat down 15 Indians to break a single-game club record en route to recording his 700th career strikeout. And while 705 career strikeouts isn’t even a quarter of the way to 3,000, the 15 strikeouts for the 25-year-old Greinke represent a single-game feat Hall of Famers Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Ferguson Jenkins and recent retiree Greg Maddux – all members of the 3,000 strikeout club – never accomplished.

Arms race: John Smoltz will make his second start as a Cardinal tonight. When he debuted last Sunday, he became the ninth former Cy Young Award winner to play under Tony La Russa. Between the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals, La Russa has had two Cy Young winners make it to the Hall of Fame: Dennis Eckersley and Tom Seaver. Joe Torre is the only other manager with nine or more Cy Young winners on his staffs.

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

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