Results tagged ‘ Tampa Bay Rays ’

New stadiums, new memories

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

This week, Major League Baseball and New York will welcome two new shrines, as the Mets christen Citi Field on Monday night and the new Yankee Stadium (everything old is new again) will host its formal inauguration Thursday.

We’ll be documenting both of these openings in Cooperstown with artifacts that capture this moment in time for future generations. Look for updates this week as we share our latest donation items with you.

4-13-09-Horn_Citi Field.jpgWhen future generations of fans look back on this week, it’s likely they’ll say these stadiums represent the last of a new breed. For the last 20 years, baseball stadiums have been constructed at a rate, and a cost, never before seen in our game’s history.

The 1990s unleashed a fury of new ballparks, when the old seemingly was not enough. Toronto (’89), Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland and Arlington got the ball rolling. Soon, Atlanta, Seattle, Detroit, San Francisco and Houston followed suit, as did an entirely rebuilt Angels Stadium in Anaheim. Expansion clubs Colorado (’95) and Arizona (’98) christened new ballparks, while Tampa Bay and Florida also established new traditions, albeit in fairly older structures. The 21st century welcomed new parks in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, San Diego, St. Louis and Washington. Just this offseason, Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium underwent a major renovation. Boston’s Fenway Park, long a stalwart, has had multiple facelifts throughout the last 10 years.

In fact, only Wrigley Field (Chicago), Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles), the Metrodome (Minneapolis) and Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland) are the last major structures not enduring entire overhaul or replacement since the era of the new ballpark began 20 years ago. The Met will join the list of replaced stadiums next year as Minneapolis welcomes a new outdoor home.

What will become of the next phase of ballparks? Which of the “new” will be the first to be deemed “outdated?”

One thing is for sure — no period in baseball history is likely to see as much change as we have witnessed in the last two decades.

Visitors to Cooperstown can celebrate stadiums of past and present in Sacred Ground, an exhibit dedicated to the ballpark experience, only at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Love of baseball grows in spring

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Just back to Cooperstown after a nine-day road trip to Los Angeles, for the WBC; Phoenix, to meet with a couple of owners; and Florida, for some fundraising initiatives. My trip home from Florida on Sunday was fine, though my string of six straight Southwest flights in seat 11C – exit row aisle – came to an end.  Hey, at least I got an aisle seat.

 The main thrust of my visit to Florida was our annual Hall of Fame Champions Grapefruit League trip. We have a great circle of Champions –  individuals and couples who support the Hall of Fame at $5,000 or more.  In return for supporting our educational mission, Champions receive invitations to events across the country with Hall of Famers, spring training games in Florida and Arizona, exhibit openings, Hall of Fame Weekend and the Hall of Fame Classic, all with exclusive access.

4-3-09-Idelson_Roberts.jpgTwo weeks ago we were in Arizona to see the A’s and Mariners play. A’s General Manager Billy Beane joined us for a while before the game, and we had dinner with Hall of Famer Billy Williams.

For our Grapefruit League endeavor, we headed for Ft. Myers. Hall of Fame Vice President and Chief Curator Ted Spencer, named after Ted Williams, Senior Development Director Ken Meifert, whose heart belongs to the Indians, and I, were joined by Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

We picked up the Hall of Fame right-hander at his home outside Tampa. “The Rays are selling out every game this spring,” beamed the longtime Phillie, about his hometown Tampa Bay Rays.

We headed south to Naples, where I talked to Robin about his career. “Sure I met Cy Young. I asked him how he won all those games and he told me he held the ball way back in his hand. I met Cobb too. He told me, ‘I wish I had a few less hits and a few more friends.'”

In Napes, we met Champion Jay Baker for lunch. Jay is a long-time Yankees fan and history buff, and along with his wife Patty, an ardent supporter of many philanthropic causes, such as the Hall of Fame. 

Over lunch, I asked Robin if he had ever been in a movie. “No, but Ashburn and I met Spencer Tracy when he was filming Judgment at Nuremberg,” he said. “What a nice man.”

Robin then quipped, “I was on television once, on What’s My Line (YouTube clip of Robin). The panel had to try and guess my off-season job, which was with the Neptunalia Seafood Company. I was president of Gold King and we sold frozen shrimp. No one could figure out what I did, but they sure came close.”

“I was on Murphy Brown,” quipped Baker. “If you watch carefully, you can see me. I was so smooth we did it on one take,” he laughed.

We spent the afternoon seeing two impressive private baseball collections – Jay’s and the one of another area Champion, Don Gunther. Both are wonderful examples of how the game means so much to people personally. They are both inspired by their love of the game and its history, akin to what happens to visitors every day in Cooperstown.

Jay and Patty generously hosted a Champions recruiting dinner that evening in Naples. There were 24 dinner guests, including former major leaguer Sterling Hitchcock, and we spent the evening all sharing personal stories about what the game means to each of us. 

Robin reminisced about meeting Grover Cleveland Alexander in grade school in Springfield, Illinois. “We had a two-room school house for 8 grades. Alexander was the special guest one day when I was in the eighth grade. He told us, ‘Baseball is a great game. Don’t drink. Look what it did to me.’ Sad, but true.”  

Hitchcock recounted how he grew up unhappy with George Brett who once refused to sign an autograph for him as a high school student. He told his fiancée (who became his wife) that if he ever made the majors, he would hit Brett with a pitch.

4-3-09-Idelson_Hitchcock.jpgNot too many years later, making his major league debut at Yankee Stadium, Hitchcock hit Brett on the elbow, very much by mistake. The phone rang that night, and Sterling’s mother-in-law, who was watching the game, remembered the story and thought he had done it on purpose. “Of course, I hadn’t, nor would I ever do that” said Hitchcock, laughing.

The dinner conversation was delightful, with everyone sharing childhood memories of how they first fell in love with the game.  

Jim Collias, a retired neurosurgeon from Yale-New Haven Medical Center, recalled growing up in Boston’s South End. “Mr. Yawkey gave a bunch of us jobs working in the clubhouse during the Depression. I have fond memories of being in Fenway Park and Mr. Yawkey was a nice man. We also were sent to the train station to get the players’ bags when the team arrived in town. We all got very excited to welcome the Yankees, though Joe DiMaggio would never let us carry his bag. He would just shake his head, ‘No.'”

Saturday was spent in City of Palms Park, home to the Red Sox, who played the Twins.   Brad Penny and Francisco Liriano pitched, and – aided by some serious wind blowing out to left field –  Rocco Baldelli, Big Papi and Jason Bay all hit home runs in a Red Sox victory.

Thanks to the generosity of the Red Sox, we enjoyed the afternoon from the owners’ suite.  A number of our Champions and recruits enjoyed the beautiful weather and the pristine ballpark while talking baseball all afternoon. 

Cincinnati-based champion Buck Newsome and his wife Robin traveled in for the game with Robin keeping a detailed scorebook. “This book’s only for spring training,” she explained to me “and I like this style scorebook, because it allows me to count pitches.” The Newsomes are my kind of people — ones who adore the game.

Robin (the pitcher, not the scorekeeper) and I were on the field before the game and we spoke with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “Things sure have changed in pitching,” said Robin to Ron.  “My pitching coach and mentor, Cy Perkins’, instruction to me was pretty simple.  He said, ‘Kid, you can really pitch, keep it up; stay ahead of the batter, and; don’t get past 2-2 on a hitter.’ That was it.” 

After the game, we headed north to Sarasota to have dinner with Reds’ owner Bob Castellini and his wife, Susie, along with their son Bob, Jr., team general manager Walt Jocketty and Hall of Fame champion Bob Crotty. The dinner was wonderful. We talked to the Castellinis about the Hall of Fame and its programs and shared a lot of laughs.

On the way back to Tampa, I asked Robin about how he developed such an effective curveball. “Sal Maglie,” said Robin. “I pitched against ‘The Barber’ on opening day in 1952 and watched how he really shortened up his delivery with the curveball. So, I copied it, won 28 games that year, and never told him.”

We dropped Robin off at home around 11:30 pm, concluding a great couple of days with a group of friends who truly love the game of baseball.

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

Opening Day at the Hall of Fame

Light_90.jpgBy Stephen Light

“It follows the seasons, beginning each year with the fond expectancy of springtime and ending with the hard facts of autumn.” Of all the quotes, monologues, and stories Ken Burns shared with us in his documentary Baseball, this one has always stuck with me.

And here we are — April. The fond expectancy of springtime. Hopes are high all across baseball. Will the Rays repeat their magical run to the World Series? Can the Phillies defend their crown?
4-1-09-Light_RedsMets.jpgWill a new-look Mets bullpen help wipe away memories of two consecutive late-season collapses? How will the Yankees rotation stand the pressure of the pinstripes? Is this the Cubs’ year?

Here in Cooperstown, spring is in the air as well. After an icy cold winter, the snow has disappeared, the ice on Otsego Lake has thawed and temperatures are reaching up into the 50s. The streets have become busier, too, as baseball fans head to the Hall in anticipation of the new season.

In the Education Department, we are preparing for a busy spring and summer, with April kicking off an exciting schedule of public programs and events. Opening Day of the baseball season will serve as an opening day of sorts for us as well. If you are in the area, stop by the Hall of Fame on Monday, April 6, as we bring visitors live coverage of the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds in the Bullpen Theater starting at 1 p.m.

In between innings, we’ll serve up some Opening Day trivia. I’ll even give our blog readers the chance to do some homework on the first question: Which president showed off his ambidextrous talent by throwing out two ceremonial first pitches on Opening Day, one left-handed and one right-handed?

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

Japan shines at Classic

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

Japan has proven once again that when it comes to international tournament play, no country performs better.

With Monday’s 5-3 victory in 10 innings over a tough Korea team, Japan defended its 2006 World Baseball Classic crown in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, parlaying timely hitting and dominant pitching into victory as more than 54,000 fans roared, chanted and were entertained as a super rivalry reached a white-hot intensity.

3-24-09-Horn_Iwakuma.jpgAfter the game, Team Japan stars Ichiro Suzuki, Hisashi Iwakuma and Yu Darvish each donated artifacts to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which will be added to the Today’s Game exhibit in the near future.

Suzuki, who has been one of the most generous players in history with the Hall of Fame in terms of number of artifacts, donated the bat he used in Round 1 of the Classic. In 2006, he donated his helmet from the WBC.

Iwakuma, Japan’s reigning Cy Young-equivalent winner, donated the cap he wore on Monday. And young sensation Darvish, who threw the first and last pitch of the ’09 Classic, will be sending a pair of spikes to Cooperstown.

After the medal ceremony in the Japanese dugout, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson congratulated Ichiro, a player he’s been friendly with since Ichiro arrived in Seattle in 2001.

An ecstatic Ichiro said to him, “What an honor it was to play in this game and in this tournament.”

Any number of Japanese players could have been chosen to represent the team in the second Classic. Akinori Iwamura, already a Major League star with the Tampa Bay Rays, pulled off a double “World” feat, with an October appearance in the Fall Classic and a March stint in the Classic. This time, Aki and his teammates are truly world champs.

“That was a tough game,” Aki told me last night as we walked toward Japan’s clubhouse. As one of the few English-speaking Japanese stars, Aki was gracious in helping the Museum acquire artifacts from Darvish and Iwakuma.

In any language, recognizing the incredible team unity and spirit displayed by Japan only furthers the globalization of the game. It will be another four years before the next Classic in 2013, but there’s no doubt they’ll still be talking of this night for many generations to come.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

It has a nice ring to it

Strohl_90.jpgBy Erik Strohl

This replica 1980 championship ring was given to fans at Veterans Stadium on April 19, 1981, the first Sunday home game of the new season. But it is no cheap, plastic, disposable item. It’s solid metal and just donated to the Hall by longtime Phils fan Duane Cosner, who was at that game as a 10-year-old child.

3-23-09-Strohl_PhilliesRing.jpgThis ring was added to the Hall of Fame’s exhibit that’s dedicated to the 2008 World Series, Autumn Glory. Until November 2009, we will show the equipment and uniforms used in the 2008 Fall Classic, such as the Game 5 jersey of Series MVP Cole Hamels. The exhibit also includes some unusual items, such as the “Elmer Fudd” cap worn by Rays manager Joe Maddon in the cold and rain of Philadelphia and the rule book used by Commissioner Bud Selig when he made history by suspending Game 5.

The 2008 Phillies will receive rings celebrating their championship, only the second in the history of the franchise, at the beginning of the regular season. In June, the Hall will get a copy of that ring, as we do every year, and put it on display in the World Series exhibit as well. Check back later this spring to learn when the Hall of Fame’s 2008 world championship ring will go on display.

Erik Strohl is the senior director of exhibits and collections at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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