Results tagged ‘ Today's Game ’

Ichiro, Phat Albert become Hall of Fame-eligible

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Someday – 10 to 15 years from now – Monday will be known as the day it became official. The day when the clock started ticking. The day two legends truly began their journey to Cooperstown.

04-07-10-Muder_Pujols.jpgMonday was the day that Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki first became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Now, don’t go marking calendars just yet. Phat Albert and Ichiro have a lot of baseball left to play, and their Hall of Fame eligibility doesn’t officially begin until they’ve been retired for five years. At 36, Ichiro looks like he could play for at least 10 more years. And Pujols just turned 30, leaving him with a real chance to take a crack at 700 home runs and 3,000 hits in the latter part of this decade.

But barring the totally unforeseen, Ichiro and Albert are headed for Cooperstown. And on Opening Day, they cleared their primary eligibility hurdle when they appeared in a game in their 10th season of Major League Baseball.

Both Pujols and Suzuki broke into the majors in 2001, and both became instant stars. Each won their respective league’s Rookie of the Year awards that season, and it’s been virtually a non-stop success ride from there.

04-07-10-Muder_Suzuki.jpgIchiro has been named to nine straight All-Star Games, has won nine straight Gold Gloves in right field and was the AL MVP in 2001. He set the all-time single-season hit record in 2004 with 262 base hits, and owns nine straight 200-hit seasons – another big league record.

Pujols has been named to eight All-Star Games, has won three NL MVPs (including the last two in a row), owns a Gold Glove at first base and helped the Cardinals win the 2006 World Series.

But until Monday – when Pujols led his Cardinals over the Reds with two home runs and Ichiro went 1-for-4 for the Mariners in their win against the A’s, the pair had not satisfied the Hall of Fame requirement of playing at least 10 big league seasons.

It would appear to be the last hurdle on a path that will likely take both to Cooperstown.

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

A stitch in time

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

Baseball history comes in all shapes and sizes – and fabrics. And the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is there to record it all.

Check out these socks that bear the Colorado Rockies logo, made at Coors Field by Rockies fan Meredith Davey, which won Craft magazine’s Stitch N’ Pitch design contest in 2007. They were then featured in the Rockies’ official magazine. Stitch N’ Pitch, a program of the National NeedleArts Association, has been hosting events at major and minor league ballparks and other venues since 2006.

03-25-10-DiFranza_Socks.jpgStitch N’ Pitch members came to Cooperstown in 2009 for a day of programs that had visitors “in stitches.” They’ll be back at the Hall of Fame this year on Saturday, April 24, for a hands-on opportunity for the whole family to create their own needlework projects. For more information on this event, click here.

Items made by fans, like these socks, have long been part of the Hall of Fame’s collection. In addition to celebrating baseball history and the greats of the game, the Museum also explores the relationship between baseball and the people who love it.

The socks are now in the Rockies’ exhibit in Today’s Game, the part of the Museum that presents artifacts from recent seasons, with a display for each major league team.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator for new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Former Atlanta Brave Brian Hunter gets his turn in Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Brian Hunter peered into the Braves’ locker in the Hall of Fame’s Today’s Game exhibit and stared right into history.

“Look, Smoltzie’s shoes,” said Hunter of the cleats belonging to former Braves teammate John Smoltz. “And there’s (a photo of Rafael) Furcal. And Andruw Jones’ bat. I was there with all of them.”

8-17-09-Carr_Hunter.jpgHunter was more than “there.” The nine-year major league vet, who spent parts of five seasons with the Braves, appeared in three World Series with Atlanta and played a role in the Braves’ remarkable run through the 1990s.

Hunter toured the Hall of Fame on Monday as part of a team from the Cooperstown All Star Village. Hunter, along with former Minnesota Twins farmhand Vern Hildebrandt, serve as coaches for the team.

Hunter, now 41 but still looking every bit the athlete, broke into the majors in 1991 and finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, He hit .333 in the Braves’ win over Pittsburgh in the NLCS, then scored two runs and drove in three more while playing in all seven games of the World Series. Hunter appeared in the 1992 World Series with Atlanta, then — after being traded to Pittsburgh in following the 1993 season — wrapped up his big league career with stints with the Pirates, Reds, Mariners, Cardinals, Braves (again) and the Phillies.

It was Hunter’s first trip to the Hall of Fame, but — on paper — he’s been here since his big league debut in 1991. Hunter, just like every one of the 17,000-plus men who have played Major League Baseball, has a file in the Hall of Fame’s Library. When shown a file story recounting Hunter’s brush with a beanball, his youth baseball team let out a big “Ooohhhh.”

“This is amazing,” said Hunter while poring over a few of the three million documents in the Hall of Fame’s Library. “It’s all here.”

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

Big shoes to fill

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Growing up, my older brother and sister used to tease me about having wide feet and stubby toes. In fact, they nicknamed me Franklin Stubbs after the 1980s Dodgers first baseman and outfielder. I can look back and laugh at it now, but I can’t imagine how much teasing CC Sabathia took growing up.

4-21-09-Carr_Sabathia.jpgThis week, Sabathia handed over his cleats from Opening Day at Yankee Stadium to Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson — and in the process, broke a new record in Cooperstown.

Mary Bellew, assistant registrar at the Hall of Fame, assures me that at size 15, Sabathia’s shoes are the largest ever in our collection, breaking Ryan Minor’s mark of 13 Ĺ. Minor donated the cleats he wore Sept. 20, 1998, when he took over for Cal Ripken Jr. at third base after Ripken decided to end his record-breaking streak of consecutive games played at 2,632.

We also have shoes from 6-foot-10 and five-time Cy Young-winner Randy Johnson, but he is only a size 13.

Jeff also brought back the bat Grady Sizemore used to hit the first grand slam in the new park and a game-used commemorative Opening Day baseball signed by winning pitcher Cliff Lee. They will be on display, along with Sabathia’s cleats, in the Today’s Game exhibit this summer.

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A disliked bat destined for greatness

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

Baseball immortality takes all shapes and forms. And even, it seems, undesirable forms.

Such is the case of the Louisville Slugger that once belonged to Padres center fielder Jody Gerut until he donated it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Monday night.

Gerut notched not only the first official hit in the history of Citi Field, the Mets’ new showplace just feet from where Shea Stadium once stood, but that game-opening hit on the evening’s third pitch was a home run, adding to the significance of the feat.

After the game, Gerut was all too willing to rid himself of the bat that helped the Padres rain on the Mets’ parade. Walking into the clubhouse with Gerut and Padres shortstop David Eckstein, I told Jody that David could vouch for the care his bat would receive.

4-14-09-Horn_Gerut.jpg“David’s spikes from the ’02 [World] Series are in Cooperstown,” I said.

“Yep,” David added, “And my cap, too.” (The cap coming from his role as the little engine that could in propelling the ’06 Cardinals to a title.)

In having his bat immortalized forever in Cooperstown, Gerut didn’t resist the chance to part with the bat, not trying to milk one or two more clutch hits from this supposed good-luck charm.

“You want this?” Gerut asked me after the game. “Man, this is a lousy bat, go right ahead.”

And with that declaration, Gerut’s bat, along with the ceremonial first-pitch ball thrown by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and caught by legendary catcher Mike Piazza, and a Dunkin’ Donuts cup full of dirt from home plate taken after the game, are en route to their eternal home in Cooperstown this morning, where fans will soon be able to witness these treasures as part of our Today’s Game exhibit.

For Gerut, despite his displeasure with his bat, the moment means his donation will be forever linked with some of the greatest names of all time. And he’ll have the added satisfaction of being the answer to the trivia question, “Who collected the first hit in Citi Field history?”

The honor of the moment, though, is the lasting lesson from a great night for the gracious Gerut. After I had departed the Padres clubhouse last night, Gerut told my good friend Tim Sullivan, columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune, “In the end, it is a very humbling experience to have any part of your equipment in the Hall of Fame. That’s special.”

For Jody, being a part of baseball history will be a special moment in his life, as one day he’ll look back at the feat with a sense of pride. Today, he’ll just be happy that the donation means a new bat. One he’ll enjoy more than the one that ended up in Cooperstown.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for 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.

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