Results tagged ‘ Tim Wakefield ’

Hall Monitor: World Series Special

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The World Series is upon us. The whole season comes down to this, and like the previous 105, this one is already living up to the name Fall Classic.


10-29-10-Hayes_DrysdaleKoufax.jpgTexas Three-Step?
: Just two of the previous seven teams to dig a hole like Texas’ current deficit – losing the first two games, each by at least four runs – have come back to win the World Series. The last team to create such a predicament was the 2001 Yankees, who forced a seventh game but ultimately lost to the Diamondbacks. The pair to overcome similarly lopsided losses: Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale’s 1965 Dodgers, who rallied against the Twins, and the 1996 Yankees, who defeated the Braves.

Record line: In three career postseason starts, San Francisco’s Matt Cain has given up just one run – an unearned blemish in the sixth inning of the NLDS against the Braves. Cain has compiled a 2-0 record after blanking the Rangers in Game Two. Few other players have begun their postseason careers with three straight games in which they didn’t allow an earnie. Giants legends and Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson began his postseason career with what may be the most impressive performance ever: Three straight complete game shutouts in the 1905 World Series – going on three days rest and then two days for the final two. Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt allowed two unearned runs in three starts for the 1921 Yankees- going 2-1 in his first foray into postseason play. And Jon Matlack allowed three unearned while going 2-1 in his first three games before eventually ending with a 2-2 record during the Mets’ postseason run in 1973 – his only career postseason.

10-29-10-Hayes_Mathewson.jpgCain’s 21.1 innings without an earned run to start his postseason career is the sixth longest mark. He sits behind Hoyt (34 innings), Mathewson (28 innings), Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon  (26.1 innings), Matlack  (25 innings) and another Giant Hall of Famer, Carl Hubbell  (22 innings).

End of the run: Cliff Lee went 4.2 innings and gave up seven runs in Game One on Wednesday. His numbers are so astounding because he was on an unbelievable run. Before Wednesday’s aberration, his career 1.26 postseason ERA ranked third among pitchers with at least five starts. Just Sandy Koufax and Christy Mathewson held an edge over Lee’s dominance. As it is now, he still holds a 1.96 ERA and a 7-1 record in nine starts during his playoff career.

Big hits: Nine times in World Series history, a Giant has collected four hits in a game. After his 4-for-5 night in game one, Freddy Sanchez became the latest. The previously four before him is a good group to be in: Hall of Famers Ross Youngs (1923), Fred Lindstrom (1924), Mel Ott (1933) and Monte Irvin (1951).

Pivotal Pitching: The Phils “Feared the Beard” during the NLCS, as Brian Wilson recorded a win or a save in each of the Giants victories. With three saves and a win, he’s just the fourth pitcher since saves became an official stat in 1969 to wreak that kind of havoc on an opponent. Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, with four saves and an MVP Award 1988 ALCS leads the group, followed by Mitch Williams (two wins and two saves in the 1993 NLCS) and John Wetteland (four saves and an MVP Award in the 1996 World Series).

10-29-10-Hayes_Ryan.jpgCheckup up on the stars: Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster and 2003 Ford C. Frick Award winner Bob Uecker was released from the hospital after undergoing successful heart surgery last Tuesday. The broadcaster received a valve replacement earlier this season before surgery to repair a tear at the replacement site earlier this month.

Throughout the postseason, several Hall of Famers have tossed several ceremonial first pitches. Game One of the World Series was no different with Orlando Cepeda, Monte Irvin, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry tossing the first ball. In Texas, Saturday’s game will likewise feature a living legend as Rangers President Nolan Ryan reprises the role after he and Fergie Jenkins took the honors in Game One and Two of the ALCS, respectively.

For a good cause: Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was honored before Thursday’s game with the Roberto Clemente Award. Beating out nominees from the other 29 clubs in his eighth year of being nominated, Wakefield is honored for combining dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field.

Wakefield was honored by Commissioner Bud Selig, widow Clemente’s Vera Clemente and his sons Roberto Jr. and Luis. Of the 27 eligible former winners of the Award, 13 are Hall of Famers.

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

No-spin zone

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

The brotherhood of big league knuckleball pitchers is relatively small, but one of its former practitioners could be seen floating through the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Monday.

Steve Sparks made a name for himself tossing a baseball with no spin to bewildered hitters during a nine-year big league career spent with the Milwaukee Brewers (1995-96), Anaheim Angels (1998-99), Detroit Tigers (2000-03), Oakland A’s (2003) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2004). The right-hander made the trip from his home outside Houston in Sugar Land, Texas, with his 14-year-old son Blake.

07-20-10-Francis_Sparks.jpg“Blake and I have talked about coming to the Hall of Fame for four or five years now,” Spark said. “He’s going into high school next year and just thought with his schedule this might be our last chance for awhile, so we decided to make the trip this year.

“His sisters are in camp for the month of July so this is a chance for him and me to get out and do something by ourselves.”

This was Sparks’ first trip to the Hall of Fame.

“I’d never been here before, so I was very anxious. It’s a dream come true just seeing all the artifacts. I’ve always been enthralled by the game’s history,” Sparks said. “I grew up reading books about the history of the game, and I work with Fox Sports in Houston doing the pre- and post-game shows for the Houston Astros, so I’ve stayed in it and I’ve always enjoyed it. So for Blake and me to enjoy this together has been a lot of fun.”

Sparks, who turned 45 on July 2, ended his major league with a 59-76 record, highlighted by a 14-9 mark with the 2001 Tigers, and a 4.88 ERA.

“I was in my 40s and I just felt like I was ready to be home with my family,” Sparks said. “And the hitters let me know it was time to get out of the game, too.”

While the Hall of Fame boasts two knuckleball pitchers – Hoyt Wilhelm and Phil Niekro – the game has seen at least 250, but fewer than 90 who threw it regularly. This year, only Boston’s Tim Wakefield, R.A. Dickey of the Mets and Los Angeles Dodger Charlie Haeger are regulars at it.

Sparks was your regular fastball, curveball, slider, changeup pitcher before the Brewers approached him about making a radical change.

“I played professionally for 19 years but my first five or six years I was a conventional pitcher,” Sparks said. “I was kind of stalling out at the Double-A level, and the Milwaukee Brewers, the team I was with in the minor leagues at that point, felt like I might be a good candidate for the knuckleball because being shorter in stature helps (he’s 6-feet tall) and also I had pretty clean mechanics.

“They gave me a three-year plan and I started back over in Single-A, and by the end of that three years I was knocking on the door.”

According to Sparks, it was a lot of trial and error in the beginning, but eventually a coach hooked him up with big league knuckleballer Tom Candiotti.

“I had about five pages worth of questions to ask him over the telephone,” Sparks said. “And then actually got a chance to meet him at the Houston Astrodome at the tail end of one of his seasons with the Dodgers and that was very beneficial. It’s a very close fraternity of knuckleball pitchers, and Candiotti, for myself, was probably the most helpful. He was kind of a hybrid knuckleball pitcher, where he threw a lot of curves and sliders and fastballs, and that’s what I did a lot.

“The biggest luxury for me at the major league level was the bounce back factor. You didn’t have to rely on velocity three or four days after you pitched. You could go out there, and as long as you had good feel and took the spin off the ball you had a chance to be successful.”

And while Sparks played with and against a number of Hall of Famers over the years, he grew up in Tulsa, Okla., with fellow pitcher Tom Seaver as his favorite player.

“In 1969 I was five years old and my father taught me how to read the box scores,” Sparks said. “That was the year the Mets had their miracle season, Tom Seaver was the best player on that team at that time, and that’s who I stuck with.”

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

Hall Monitor: Perfection, Civil Rights in Cincy and one cycle?

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The last week has been a historical one in many respects and will certainly go down as an important one in the 2010 memory bank.
 
Tex and Lou: The Sox-Yankees feud adds a new layer each year. This year’s latest notable? Mark Teixeira’s three-homer game on Saturday matched Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig’s as the only Yankees’ three-homer effort against Boston. Gehrig’s barrage came in an 11-4 win at Fenway Park on June 23, 1927. Since 1920, Bronx Bombers have recorded 22 games with three or more homers.


05-14-10-Hayes_Cycles.jpgJust one cycle
: On May 14, 2009, the majors had already witnessed three cycles with a fourth to come in a little more than a week. This season only Milwaukee’s Jody Gerut has accomplished the feat, with his cycle last Saturday. Last season a record-tying eight cycles were hit, artifacts of which can be seen – along with Gerut’s bat from the first home run in Citi Field history – in the Today’s Game exhibit at the Hall of Fame.

Third knuckler to 2,000: With his fourth-inning K of Vernon Wells on Wednesday, Tim Wakefield achieved his 2,000th major-league strikeout. Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough are the only other knucklers above the 2,000-mark, with the Hall of Famer at 3,342 and Hough at 2,362. At the age of 43 years, 283 days, Wakefield became the second-oldest pitcher to reach the 2,000-strikeout mark. The only older pitcher to reach the milestone was Jamie Moyer at 44 years, 145 days in 2007.


05-14-10-Hayes_MBuehrle.jpgFollowing Perfection
: Dallas Braden’s media whirlwind is over and his artifacts are in Cooperstown, so what’s next after tossing the major’s 18th regular-season perfect game last Sunday? Less than a year ago, Mark Buehrle threw a perfecto against the same Tampa Bay Rays Braden faced – making it the shortest time span separating a pair of perfect games since Worcester’s Lee Richmond against Cleveland (the first perfect game) and Providence’s Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward versus Buffalo, which happened within a week in 1880 – and then retired the 17 batters he faced in his next start. Coupled with the final batter of his start prior to the perfect game, Buehrle set the record for consecutive hitters retired. Braden has his chance to keep perfection going tonight against the Angels in a 10:05 ET start in Los Angeles. “To have something of mine taking up space in that beautiful Hall is pretty nice,” said Braden, who visited Cooperstown a few years ago.

Celebrating Civil Rights: Hall of Famer Joe Morgan will be back in Cincinnati this weekend for the annual Civil Rights Game – which this year features the Cardinals and Reds. The former second baseman for the Big Red Machine is helping kick off the event with a roundtable discussion on the state of race relations. Also among the festivities held at the Freedom Center and the Reds Hall of Fame are a meet-and-greet event with former Negro leagues players and a special exhibition of Jackie Robinson artifacts, including a game-worn jerseys, a Robinson bat and a ticket stub from the April 15, 1947, game in which Robinson broke the color barrier for the Dodgers.

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

Wakefield joins exclusive club started by Hall of Famer Satchel Paige

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Satchel Paige called it the realization of the last of his three great dreams – to play in the major leagues, to pitch in the World Series and to be selected to the league’s All-Star Game.

For Paige, that first All-Star selection came in 1952, just days before his 46th birthday. He made his big league debut and pitched in the World Series in 1948 – just a few of many highlights that resulted in Paige being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

7-8-09-Berowski_Wakefield.jpgThis year, the dream of making the league’s All-Star team happened for Red Sox hurler Tim Wakefield. The 17-year-veteran was selected for his first All-Star team just days ago by manager American League skipper Joe Maddon. 

The 42 year-old Wakefield earned his selection by compiling a 10-3 mark in the first half for the Boston Red Sox.  While his ERA, WHIP and strikeout totals may not match up to those of some of his fellow All-Stars, Maddon explained Wakefield’s selection, stating: “Wakefield is having a good year, obviously, pitches in Boston and he’s had a tremendous body of work throughout his entire career… I just felt that getting him on a team was the right thing to do.”

Wakefield is only the third player in major league history to make his All-Star debut in his 40s. He follows two other pitchers: Paige in 1952 and Jamie Moyer in 2003 – who both earned their first All-Star berths at age 40.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate 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.

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