Results tagged ‘ Team Wagner ’

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.

Feller joins Club 91

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

11-2-09-Muder_Feller.jpgAt little more than four months ago, Bob Feller was standing on the mound at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown – preparing to throw the first pitch of the Baseball Hall of Fame Classic.

Today, Feller will celebrate his 91st birthday. And the man who has been a Hall of Famer longer than any other shows no signs of slowing down.

Feller, born Nov. 3, 1918, in Van Meter, Iowa, becomes the 12th Hall of Famer to reach his 91st birthday. He is the third-oldest living Hall of Famer – behind 92-year-old Lee MacPhail and 91-year-old Bobby Doerr, who is a little more than six months older than Feller

11-2-09-Muder_Chart.jpgA little perspective: Feller was born eight days before the end of World War I. And at the June 21 Hall of Fame Classic, Feller faced Hall of Famer Paul Molitor – who was born in 1956, Feller’s final year in the major leagues.

Feller, MacPhail, Doerr and Monte Irvin are the only living Hall of Famers who have reached their 90th birthday (Irvin turned 90 on Feb, 25, 2009). Stan Musial will be the next Hall of Famer to turn 90 when he celebrates his birthday on Nov. 21, 2010.

Al Lopez remains the oldest Hall of Famer, having reached the age of 97 before passing away on Oct. 30, 2005.

Feller was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, meaning he has lived more years as a Hall of Famer (47) than not (44). No one has worn the title of “Hall of Famer” with more pride.

Happy birthday, Bob Feller!

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 58 other followers