Results tagged ‘ Stephen Strasburg ’

A pitch for Cooperstown

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

During a May 29 visit to Syracuse to catch a Syracuse Chiefs home game at Alliance Bank Stadium, I ran into former big league pitcher Steve Grilli. Though fireballing phenom Stephen Strasburg was pitching that night, Grilli seemed more excited about the news he had recently received.

06-17-10-Francis_Grilli.jpg“I just got my invitation to play in this year’s Hall of Fame Classic,” a smiling Grilli said. “If I didn’t, I was going to beg to go back because I had such a wonderful time with my family there last year. It’s a great weekend. I just think Cooperstown is a Norman Rockwell city. You can’t help but have a good time over there.”

Grilli, who calls Syracuse home now, pitched for the Chiefs for four seasons (1978-81) and broadcasts their games on TV and radio. A frequent visitor to Cooperstown over the years, he pitched a scoreless fifth inning to help Team Wagner to a 5-4 win over Team Collins in last year’s Hall of Fame Classic at historic Doubleday Field.  

“I can always say I relieved Bob Feller, which I did last year,” said Grilli, referring to the Hall of Fame hurler. “I was on the same team with Bob and I was one of the relievers that relieved him, so I can always say I pitched with Bob Feller.”

Grilli admits to enjoying the change in format from the previous Hall of Fame Game, in which two big league teams played.

“I think this new way of doing it is exciting because you’re getting to see the Hall of Famers, and the guys that I played with that are in the Hall of Fame had a ball, as well as some of us serviceable players like myself,” said Grilli, the father of major league pitcher Jason Grilli. “I got to ride in the parade with my grandson and rub shoulders with some of the better players who have ever come through the game.”

Grilli finished his four-year big league career (1975-77, 1979), spent mostly with the Detroit Tigers, with a record of 4-3. His claim to fame is as the losing pitcher in the longest game in professional baseball history, a 33-inning International League contest in 1981 that saw Pawtucket come away with a 3-2 win over Rochester.

06-17-10-Francis_GrilliPitch.jpgWhen asked about Strasburg, the Syracuse pitcher we were both waiting to see this night, Grilli had only high praise.

“What I’m most impressed with is his breaking stuff. There are guys in the big leagues that throw 96, 97, 98, this kid was two other really well developed pitches to go along with that 98 mile per hour fastball,” Grilli said. “He pitches at 96, 97, he’ll touch 98, 99, 100 when he has to, but his breaking ball is devastating. I was comparing it to Kerry Wood breaking ball when he struck out the 20 or the Nolan Ryan type of curveball. It’s hard and it’s sharp.”

Grilli referred to a former teammate when asked what it had been like to witness in person all of Strasburg’s Syracuse starts.

“It’s something I can only compare to one thing and that was Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. I was part of that club when Mark broke in with Detroit when he went 19-9 in his rookie season (1976),” Grilli said. “This kid’s got that same kind of electricity. And the attention he’s drawn in this town is something I’ve never seen.”

With Cooperstown only 60 miles from Syracuse, could Grilli see Strasburg with his own plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame one day?

“He has the stuff to be a Hall of Famer some day if he continues to throw as he has.”

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

Hall Monitor: Prodigies, perfection and the past

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes


06-11-10-Hayes_Waner.jpgPirate Prodigy:
Not since 1928 has a Pirate had as many hits at his one-year anniversary as center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Currently riding a .302 average, the 23-year-old celebrated passed the one year mark since his major-league debut last week. He had 185 hits, the most by a Buc since Hall of Famer Lloyd Waner collected 225 in his first year.

Rare day for the all-time leader: Ivan Rodriguez has caught 2,322 games – the all-time leader among catchers after having passed greats like Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. But only three times in his career has Pudge caught a pitcher who racked up 14 strikeouts like Stephen Strasburg did on Tuesday in Washington. Strasburg joins Jeremy Bonderman in 2004 and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1991 as the only pitchers to dominate their opponents that much with Rodriguez behind the plate. Pudge’s Astros jersey from the game in which he broke the games caught record last season is on display in the Museum in the Today’s Game exhibit.


06-11-10-Hayes_BanksWilliamsDawson.jpgCubbies and 300:
One-hundred and twenty-seven players have hit 300 home runs in the history of the majors. Wednesday, Derek Lee added his name to that list and this afternoon, Alfonso Soriano clubbed his 300th. Both join an impressive group of names to do so while playing on the North-side. Six other players have belted No. 300 with the Cubs including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Andre Dawson. The most recent before Lee was Sammy Sosa who the 300th of 609 career home runs in June of 1999.

Boston’s newest Fenway attraction: Two Hall of Famers and two other Red Sox legends were honored this week, as the team dedicated a new statue Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams. The four were staples in the Sox lineups in the 1940s and into the 50s. All four were All-Stars and all four served in the military during World War II. The lifelong friends and Sox legends had their story told in David Halberstam’s book The Teammates – Portrait of a Friendship. The new statue is a tribute to their legacy and features the four standing shoulder to shoulder holding bats. It is outside Fenway’s Gate B at Van Ness and Ipswich.

06-11-10-Hayes_Stearnes.jpgPerfection and the Hall-aday: Roy Halladay threw the major’s 20th perfect game on May 29, beating Marlins ace Josh Johnson 1-0 in the process. The two matched up again Thursday and Johnson got the win. 1965 marks the last time a perfect pitcher faced his opponent again in the same season, as Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and Chicago’s Bob Hendley squared off in back-to-back starts. Koufax mastered the Cubs on Sept. 9, and like Halladay in a 1-0 win, but like Johnson, Hendley got the win in the rematch.

Remembering the past: The Tigers will play host to a weekend long celebration of the Negro leagues, highlighted by their 16th annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game, Saturday. The Tigers will don Detroit Stars uniforms while the Pirates will pay homage to the Pittsburgh Crawfords. During the series, Hall of Famer Turkey Stearnes – a former Star – will be recognized with a video about his plaque, which was dedicated at Comerica Park in 2007. Stearnes’ grandson will throw one of the ceremonial first pitches, while Stearnes daughters will perform the national anthem. Former Negro leaguers Frank Crosson, Joe Douse, Buck Duncan, Bee-Bop Gordon, Bill Hill, Gene Johnson, Cecil Kaiser, Alton King, Bullet Moore and Schoolboy Teasley will be on hand throughout the weekend.

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

Strasburg at home in Central New York

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A half hour before the 7:05 p.m. start of Friday night’s game, traffic was backed up a mile away from the ballpark. A broadcaster on a local radio station said the game might be pushed back some 10 minutes to allow more fans to get inside. All due to a record-setting crowd on hand in anticipation of baseball’s latest phenom.

05-11-10-Francis_Strasburg.jpgThe distance between the upstate New York outposts of Syracuse and Cooperstown is about 66 miles. If projections prove true, baseball’s latest pitching sensation, Stephen Strasburg, currently learning his craft in the Salt City, might one day find himself with a plaque that short distance down the New York State Thruway at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The 6-foot-5, 225 pound Strasburg, the first overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft by the Washington Nationals, was making only his sixth professional start as well as his Triple-A debut for the Syracuse Chiefs against the visiting Gwinnett Braves on Friday night. The 21-year-old right-hander proved more than prepared, going six innings while allowing one hit and one walk in the 7-0 win. When it was all over, he had faced just 20 batters, striking out six, in his 65 pitches.

“It felt pretty good,” said Strasburg after the game to the 30-or-so assembled media that included reporters from USA Today, the Associated Press and The Washington Post. “I was just trying to keep doing what I’ve been doing, trying to build off of what I learned in Harrisburg and trying to do that up here, and I was able to do that tonight.”

Strasburg had made five starts for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators this season, in which he compiled a 3-1 record and 1.64 ERA in 22 innings.

An announced crowd of 13,766 was on hand at Alliance Bank Stadium that chilly night to see Strasburg, a record attendance for a professional baseball game in Syracuse dating back to 1876.

“It’s great to be pitching in front of a sellout crowd,” Strasburg said. “Everybody was really excited, and you can tell a lot of the players were ready to play today.”

Known for his combination of velocity and control, Strasburg was armed with a fastball that topped out at 99 miles per hour this night. Also in his arsenal are a knee-bending curve, sinker and changeup.

05-11-10-Francis_Gwynn.jpg“The bottom line is you can’t really worry about what caliber of hitter you’re facing,” Strasburg said. “You have to worry about what’s in your control and that’s executing the pitches to the best of your ability. Good pitches should get good hitters out, bottom line.

“I’ve got six starts under my belt, five in Double-A, and I’m starting to get comfortable.”

According to Strasburg’s catcher, Carlos Maldonado, he wasn’t shook off once by his new teammate.

“That’s what was fun about it. I just called the game. I put my fingers down and he executed every pitch,” Maldonado said. “He was like what I was expecting. It was fun to catch him in the bullpen; it was fun to catch him in the game. Every pitch was working for him today.”

Might Strasburg one day join his former coach at San Diego State, Tony Gwynn, as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame? He joins a long line of young fireballers that have dotted the national pastime’s history. Some have ultimately succeeded like Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan; others have flamed out for one reason or another such as Steve Dalkowski, David Clyde and Mark Prior. 

“This game is not easy,” Strasburg said. “I’m happy with where I’m at. I’ll let you guys place a timetable for that. Right now I’m happy to be in Syracuse and happy to be learning from these guys.

“Personally, I’m not going to make any expectations for myself. This is my first year. I’m just going out there to learn. A lot of these coaches and players have a lot more games under their belt than I do and I’m trying to soak it all in and just become a better player and help whatever team I’m on win some ballgames.”

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

Caught in the draft

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Monday night, mere moments before the deadline for teams to sign their 2009 amateur draft picks, the Washington Nationals agreed to a record-setting contract with the first overall pick in the draft.

8-19-09-Berowski_StrasburgJackson.jpgAfter failing to sign their first round pick the previous year, the Nationals inked San Diego State fireballing junior Stephen Strasburg to a four-year contract worth in excess of $15 million, smashing the previous record for an amateur contract by nearly five million. If Strasburg had failed to sign with the Nats, he still had several options open, including a return to the Aztecs. His college coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, said: “I wanted him to sign. If he didn’t, he had a place to go. But he had nothing else to prove in college baseball. It was time for him to start his pro career.”

But being the first overall selection in the annual amateur draft is by no means a guarantee of success in the major leagues. Since the draft began in 1965, only 19 No. 1 picks have made an All-Star team, and none have been elected to the Hall of Fame. In fact, three players drafted No. 1 prior to 2005 failed to make the major leagues, including Brien Taylor, a hard-throwing high school pitcher selected by the Yankees in 1991 who drew comparisons to Dwight Gooden.

Only four players drafted in the top 10 have been elected to the Hall of Fame. In 1966, the Mets passed on Reggie Jackson and selected catcher Steve Chilcott out of Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, California. Chilcott never made it past Triple-A. Jackson was taken with the second pick by the Kansas City A’s and is the highest draft pick to earn election to the Hall.

Rounding out the foursome of top ten picks elected to the Hall of Fame are Robin Yount and Dave Winfield, selected with the third and fourth picks respectively in the 1973 draft, and Paul Molitor, taken third overall in 1977.

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