Results tagged ‘ Ted Williams ’

Moments that make the Game

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

For some baseball fans, stats can be the lifeblood of the season, but we can’t forget that the individuals in this game and the moments they create make it worth watching.


8-14-09-Hayes_Mantle.jpgRemembering the Mantles:
The Hall of Fame’s condolences go out to the Mantle family. On Monday, Mickey Mantle‘s wife, Merlyn passed away at the age of 77. Merlyn, who married Mickey after his rookie season in 1951, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She passed just three days before the 14th anniversary of Mickey’s death on Thursday. The three-time MVP and Yankee legend died in 1995 of liver cancer at the age of 63. They were married 43 years and will be buried next to each other at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.

Ninth = Second: Alex Rodriguez passed Harmon Killebrew earlier this week with his 574th home run, moving into sole possession of ninth on the all-time list. Rodriguez’s total is the second highest among active players (behind Ken Griffey Jr.) and by passing the Killer, he is behind Babe Ruth‘s 708 bombs in American League history.


8-14-09-Hayes_Guerrero.jpgJoining a select club:
On Monday, Vladimir Guerrero smashed his 399th and 400th career homers, becoming the 45th player in baseball history to reach the mark. More impressively however, Guerrero currently sports a .322 career batting average. Only five players hit 400 home runs and finished their careers with a .320 average or better. They are Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Not bad company to keep.

Throwback weekend: The Mets will honor their city’s National League heritage when the Giants come to town this weekend. Throughout the series, the Mets will don white jerseys featuring a blue “NY,” hearkening back to the days of the New York Giants, who wore similar uniforms in 1904, 1907 and 1917-1918. The Giants moved to San Francisco after 1957, but won five World Championships and 14 pennants in New York. During their 75 years in Manhattan, the Giants/Gothams fielded 46 Hall of Famers including 10 who bear the team’s logo on their plaque like Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, Christy Mathewson and John McGraw.

8-14-09-Hayes_1929Athletics.gifOn Sunday, the Athletics franchise will celebrate the 80th anniversary of its 1929 World Championship. Oakland will exchange their trademark green and gold for Philly A’s blue and white to mark the occasion. Four Hall of Famers played for the 1929 champs including Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove. They were run by longtime manager Connie Mack, who steered them to a 104-46 record and a victory of the Cubs in the Series. Relatives of Foxx and Mack will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitches.

To see the uniforms being used as a basis for this weekend’s throwbacks, check-out the online Hall’s uniform exhibit: Dressed to the Nines.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager 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.

Historic homers

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

This past week, a couple of today’s top sluggers surpassed marks set by two of the top stars of yesteryear.

On Thursday, 29-year-old Ryan Howard became the quickest player to reach the 200-home run plateau when he clubbed his 200th in only his 658th major league game. Howard eclipsed the mark set by Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner on Aug. 3, 1950, when Kiner took Cubs hurler Johnny Schmitz deep for his 200th round-tripper in career game number 706.

7-22-09-Berowski_KinerHoward.jpgKiner was two years younger than Howard when he established his mark. But while Howard’s big blasts have come for a very successful Phillies club, Kiner’s bombs came for a Pittsburgh club who struggled in the National League’s second division. After Kiner led the league in home runs for the seventh straight season in 1952, with the Pirates finishing last for the second time in three seasons, Pirates general manager Branch Rickey – another future Hall of Famer – rejected his request for a pay increase, stating: “We would have finished last without you”.

Rickey traded Kiner to the Cubs as part of a 10-player deal only 41 games into the 1953 season, and with that trade proved his statement true as the Pirates once again finished last. Kiner was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975.

7-22-09-Berowski_RamirezSchmidt.jpgMeanwhile, Manny Ramirez moved into sole possession of 15th place on Major League Baseball’s all-time home run list on Monday, passing Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle with his 537th career long ball.

The Mick hit his 536th-and-final home run off of Boston’s Jim Lonborg on Sept. 20, 1968. Eight days later, the 36-year-old Mantle would have the final at bat of his career, a first-inning ground out to short, also against Lonborg.

Manny’s 537th was a second-inning, two-run shot off the Reds’ Micah Owings. In the last season and a half, the 37-year-old Ramirez has passed no less than eight other Hall of Famers on the home run list, including Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams. Up next for Manny: the No. 14 spot currently occupied by Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt, who hit 548 career homers. 

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

Cooperstown is home to biggest of stars

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Back in December, we did some research on the All-Star Game. The Veterans Committee had just elected Joe Gordon to the Hall of Fame, and we found that Gordon played 11 seasons and was an All-Star nine times – a pretty good ratio, but how good?

We figured that at 81.8 percent, he would be fairly high. The numbers show that Gordon was the highest among all Veterans Committee inductees – and that the percentage of seasons he was an All-Star was 13th overall among all Hall of Famers.

7-6-09-Hayes_Gordon.jpgBut en route to finding Gordon’s numbers, we found some other interesting stats concerning All-Stars and Hall of Famers. Two caveats: For purposes of this research, a season is counted for a player only if they debuted before June 1. And time spent in the armed services does not count as a season.

Hank Aaron holds the MLB record for both the most seasons as an All-Star (21) and the most selections (25). From 1959-62, two All-Star Games were played every season.

Following Aaron are Willie Mays and Stan Musial at 20 seasons and 24 games apiece. These three players and seven others have percentages above 90 (among players with at least six All-Star selections). The 90-to-99 club includes Aaron (91.3), Bill Dickey (91.7), Ted Williams (94.4), Rod Carew (94.7), Cal Ripken Jr. (95) and Mays and Musial (both at 95.2).

Only three players in the history of the Midsummer Classic have been selected to every game for which they were eligible. Lou Gehrig, who began his playing career 10 seasons before the creation of the All-Star Game, spent his last seven as All-Star (including a 1939 selection, despite playing his final game in April of that year). Joe DiMaggio spent three seasons in the military during World War II, but all of his 13 seasons on either side of his service time were All-Star years.

7-6-09-Hayes_Pujols.jpgThe only non-Hall of Famer to have been selected as an All-Star in at least 90 percent of his seasons is Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki – who is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. After a successful career in Japan, Ichiro debuted in the major leagues in 2001 and has been an All-Star each of the nine seasons since.

Keep your eye on Albert Pujols. The Cardinals first baseman received 5.3 million votes this year – the second highest total in the history of fan balloting. And with each All-Star selection, Pujols is inching up a very select ladder. His current percentage of 88.9 is tied with Mickey Mantle and is trailing only those 10 above 90 percent.

Listed below are the top 15 Hall of Famer percentages for seasons as an All-Star:


 
7-6-09-Hayes_ASGTable.jpgTrevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Golf and Baseball

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

On Saturday, I met up with Michael Walker, the senior editor of Golf Magazine. He was in town for the weekend to hit the links and crush a few at the Leatherstocking Golf Course while taking in the scenic and blossoming village of Cooperstown and its three renowned museums: The Fenimore Art Museum, the Farmers’ Museum and of course the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Walker is a Medfield, Mass. native and which is just under 45 minutes from 4 Yawkey Way – the address of Fenway Park and the home of the Boston Red Sox. When I asked him to get his picture taken in the Plaque Gallery, he mentioned Ted Williams, then Carlton Fisk. As we walked through the gallery, I motioned to Williams plaque and asked him if he preferred Fisk over Williams as his favorite Hall of Famer.

5-19-09-Hayes_Walker.jpg“I think for me it would have to be Williams for what he meant to the city.”

Like most Sox fans, conversation about the team quickly steered to present day and the success the team has seen this decade. Walker had said he hadn’t been to the Museum since 2001, so I asked if he knew we had Curt Schilling’s bloody sock. His face lit up. I could tell he was suddenly reliving the 2004 World Series again.

“Has it been tested for ketchup like all those Yankees fans claim?” he joked. “I can’t wait to see everything from 2004. For me baseball has changed so much since I was here in ’01.”

As a baseball guy talking to a golf guy, I had to ask, what’s the allure of golf to ballplayers?

“I think pitchers for whatever reason are usually the best; it’s that pitching motion that is similar,” Walker said. “I mean, (Red Sox pitcher John) Smoltz plays with Tiger (Woods). Pitchers and hockey players are always good and I think it’s because the swing is so similar to what they did in their sport.
 
“It seems like all ex-jocks, when they can’t compete any more in their sport take up golf so they can compete in something,” he said. “You see all these Pro-Am’s and they are just filled with former ballplayers.”
 
Walker told me that he had a buddy who played in a group of four with Tim Wakefield, but he’d never played with any big name baseball players. Then as if to further make his point about golf and baseball, Walker mentioned that he saw 2009 Hall of Fame electee Jim Rice out on the course earlier that morning.

“I haven’t really played with any guys, but meeting Rice this morning out on the course, that was something else.”

The natural question after he said he’d met Rice, was if he’d be back later this summer for Induction? Walker said he didn’t think he’d be able to make it this year, but true to his 2004 dedication, he said there is one ballplayer he won’t miss.

“My brother and I were talking and I think for Pedro (Martinez) – when it happens – we’ll come back.”

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at 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.

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.

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