Results tagged ‘ Tony Gwynn ’

Baseball Gene

By Bill Francis

Born and raised in Chicago, young Gene Walter was a fan of such Windy City legends as Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams. Recently, the former big league hurler visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to not only revisit his childhood but share his past with his family.

On his way to Boston for business from his home outside Louisville, Ky., Walter, a southpaw relief pitcher for four big league seasons (1985-88) with the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Seattle Mariners, made a stop in Cooperstown along with his wife and two young sons on Saturday afternoon.

“I definitely wanted to have the family visit Cooperstown and I wanted to get a chance to see it again,” said Walter, soon after he and his family checked out his clipping and photo files at the Hall of Fame Library. “Obviously being a baseball player your dreams at an early age involve one day being a member of the Hall of Fame, but certainly being a part of Major League Baseball was a great thrill and a great honor.”

Walter, who has worked as a financial planner since retiring as a professional player in 1993, made his only other Hall of Fame visit back in 1992 when he and a few teammates from the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, including future big leaguer David Weathers, made the trek on an off-day.

“It sends chills up your spine,” is how Walter explains his feelings when walking through the Cooperstown institution. “When you grow up watching the greats, and I grew up watching baseball in the late 1960s and early ‘70s before free agency when teams played together for long periods of time, those guys are special to me.”

A trio of Walter’s former big league teammates would end up with their bronze likenesses in the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery.

“With the Padres, Tony Gwynn was a consummate professional and just a great teammate, Goose (Gossage) was a great competitor who just gritted his teeth and reared back and intimidated and basically threw the heck out of the ball,” Walter recalled. “And with the Mets, Gary (Carter) was someone who just loved being out on the field.”

Reflecting on his own playing career, which included a 4-7 won-loss record and 3.74 ERA in 128 big league games, Walter says it was just a great opportunity to get to the majors.

“There was nothing etched in stone that I’d play one day professionally let alone get to the big leagues,” Walter said. “I was the Padres last pick in ’82 and I had a hurt arm in college that year and was fortunate enough to get drafted. I was the 29th round pick for the Padres and their last, and I was the first guy to make it to the big leagues out of that draft with them. The only thing that was disappointing is that the arm didn’t hold up long enough to give me the opportunity to play as long as I wanted to play.

“When you reach the big leagues and have a certain level of performance, and that performance lasts a year and a half and then you have an injury and you’re no longer a major league pitcher it’s tough. But you battle and you try to hang in there,” he added. “You’ve got to love to compete, you’ve got to love to put that uniform on and go out there. At the end of my career I was better at working out than getting people out, and you can’t hang around a long time like that.”

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

Hall Monitor: Crushing, Curses and the Killer

By Trevor Hayes

Things have settled down for me a bit with our publication season, which means the return of my favorite stat-based blog feature, the Hall Monitor. There’s been a lot already this season that has made 2011 special, including Braves icon Chipper Jones setting career marks by collecting his 1,500th RBI and passing Mickey Mantle on switch-hitters RBI leader board. We’ve had lots of great pitching, including two no-hitters – Francisco Liriano’s cap and game ball made it to the Hall earlier this week – and several near misses. So here’s what’s been going lately:

Giambi’s first three: Jason Giambi, the former Yankee-A’s All-Star slugger turned Rockies part-timer, collected his first three homer game last night to lead Colorado over Philly 7-1. Showing he’s still got some power in the tank, Giambi pulled a comparison to Stan the Man. Stan Musial at 41 years old is the oldest player to hit three home runs in a game, beating out Giambi, who at age 40 years, 131 days is now the second-oldest player to do it.

With 416 homers before Thursday’s contest, he also has the highest total before his fiDerek Jeterrst three homer game in Major League history aside from Babe Ruth, who had 522 career dingers before his first three home run performance. Coincidentally enough, Ruth also collected his first three home run game against Philadelphia – but playing in the AL, it was against the A’s not the Phillies.

Another feather in his cap: Derek Jeter likes hitting against the Birds and this week he added one more feat to his growing list of accomplishments on his journey to reach 3,000 hits. With career hit No. 300 against the Orioles, the Yankees captain became the first player with 300 hits against one franchise since Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn retired after the 2001 season. Mr. Padre had at least 300 against Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston and San Francisco.

Fall Classic mixing and matching: Interleague Play, which begins tonight, always brings some interesting matchups, from the geographic rivals like the 2000 World Series Subway Series rematch of Mets-Yankees, the Bay Bridge Series re-matching the 1989 Fall Classic combatants in Oakland and San Francisco or the I-70 Series 1985 rematch of St. Louis and Kansas City.

But this year brings a rare pairing of the formerly cursed Red Sox hosting the still-cursed Cubs. The Northsiders will be back in Fenway for the first time since the 1918 World Series – which began a drought of 86 years without a title the following year. Saturday night will pair the two in throwback uniforms and several icons from the teams will be around Beantown like Bill Buckner

Mourning the Killer: The Hall of Fame and the baseball community lost a great man and an incredibly talented ballplayer this week with the passing of Harmon Killebrew. His funeral service was held today in Peoria, Ariz., with several Hall of Famers in attendance including 2011 Electee Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Frank Robinson and Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson. Next Thursday, Twins fans will have their chance to show their love for Killebrew with a public Memorial Service at Target Field in Minnesota starting at 7 p.m.

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

Hall Monitor: Hot Winter Meetings

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The temperatures in Orlando weren’t that warm, but plenty of big splashes and a flurry of other news made for a week of sizzling Hot Stove action. With Spring Training approaching, many names have changed places, giving them opportunity to put a new mark of the narration of the game.


12-10-10-Hayes_Gillick.jpgWerth Announcing
: On Monday, Pat Gillick was announced as the first new Inductee for the Hall of Fame Class of 2011, which only seems fitting coming a day after the announcement of Jayson Werth signing with Washington. The two are connected because Gillick brought Werth to Philadelphia after the struggling outfielder was cut by the Dodgers in December of 2006. That signing was one of a number of moves by Gillick and the Phillies that led to their 2008 World Title – the third of Gillick’s career.

Not Gonzo in San Diego: The first major splash once the Winter Meetings began was the Red Sox’s signing of Adrian Gonzalez, who will join a storied tradition of hitters in Boston, including fellow San Diego native Ted Williams. But Gonzalez will leave behind an unfinished assault on most of the Padres offensive records.

Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn is the hit king in Southern Cali, besting Gonzalez by 2,285 base knocks. But over his five seasons in San Diego, Gonzalez had been steadily building his case as the most powerful Padre. He leaves San Diego two home runs shy of the team’s all-time record of 163 by Nate Colbert. He currently ranks fifth on the doubles list, three two-baggers behind another Hall of Famer, Dave Winfield. And with an average season in 2011, he would have passed Phil Nevin for third on the Padres RBI list, behind only Gwynn and Winfield.


12-10-10-Hayes_ApplingFox.jpgTwo Grand in Pale Hose
: Frank Thomas missed by 41 games, but with his new deal Paul Konerko should be able to reach 2,000 games played for the White Sox. Wednesday, Konerko signed on for three more years in the Southside and sits just 232 games away from the mark. To this point, only Hall of Famers Luke Appling (2,422 games) and Nellie Fox (2,115 games) have topped the two-grand threshold for the Sox – one of the eight original AL clubs.

Burning up the base paths: It would appear that the Red Sox newest outfielder might have his sights set on his new team’s stolen base record. Carl Crawford, who signed with Boston Thursday, has stolen 409 bases during his nine years, with only nine of those coming in his first season in the Majors. The Red Sox record is 300, held by Harry Hooper who played in Boston from 1909 to 1920. The second and third place slots are filled by a pair of Hall of Famers in Tris Speaker (267 steals from 1907-15) and Carl Yastrzemski (168 steals from 1961-83).

Aside from his talents on the bases, Crawford’s power-speed combination will be unique to the Sox. Last year he compiled at least 100 runs, 30 doubles, 10 triples and 15 home runs. Nomar Garciaparra reached those numbers in 1997 and 2003. To find another Boston player to achieve that combination, you have to go back 70 years to 1940 when a 21-year-old Ted Williams did it.


12-10-10-Hayes_Smith.jpgAnother Week, Another Cooperstown-worthy show
: This week, 2010 Hall of Fame Inductee Whitey Herzog sits down on Inside Studio 42 with Bob Costas. Herzog and Costas will talk about the Cardinals teams of the 1980s, Whiteyball and the state of the game today. Also stopping by will be fellow Cardinal Hall of Famer, the Wizard of Oz, Ozzie Smith. The show airs at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

Last respects: Possibly the most beloved broadcaster in the Northwest, Ford C. Frick Award winner Dave Niehaus will be honored Saturday with a ceremony at Safeco Field. Gates open at 12 p.m. PT and the ceremony will be carried live on six different outlets in the Pacific Northwest region. Niehaus’ son and daughter will be on hand for the ceremony, which will also feature video tribute from fellow Frick Award winners Vin Scully, Jon Miller, Joe Garagiola and Marty Brennaman.

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

Hall Monitor: Hot Stove Around the Corner

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Not much is left of 2010 and even less remains of the baseball season. With the Rookies of the Year, Cy Youngs and Manager of the Year Awards doled out this week, two awards remain – the League MVPs. The remnants of the season that was haven’t stopped a flurry of action building toward 2011.

Classic impact: Monday saw a pair of new-bloods honored with the Rookie of the Year Awards. And for the third time in history, both players helped lead their club to the World Series. The Giants’ Buster Posey and Rangers’ Neftali Feliz were the first pair since 11-19-10-Hayes_KoufaxCarltonMaddux.jpgFernando Valenzuela and Dave Righetti in 1981 for the Yankees and Dodgers. The first pair was Gil McDougald and Hall of Famer Willie Mays in 1951 for the Yankees and Giants, respectively.

Seven is Three’s Company: Your National League Cy Young Award winner, author of two no-hitters – one a perfect game and the other the second ever thrown in the postseason – is Roy Halladay. The Doc’s second Cy Young shows he is among the game’s elite, but he remains five behind the all-time lead in that category. His team however, just became one of only three teams with at least seven Cy Young Awards. Hallday is joined in Phillies history by Hall of Famer Steve Carlton (four), Steve Bedrosian and John Denny (one each).

Interestingly enough, the other two clubs with seven are also NL teams. The Braves racked up seven with Greg Maddux (three), Tom Glavine (two), Hall of Famer Warren Spahn and John Smoltz (one each). And the Dodgers out-rank all major league teams with nine Cy Young Award winners: Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax (three) and Don Drysdale (one), along with Eric Gagne, Orel Hershiser, Mike Marshall, Don Newcombe and Fernando Valenzuela (one each).


11-19-10-Hayes_810WManagers.jpgNine years is a heck of a start
: Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire won his first Manager of the Year Award, and Twins fans think it’s about time. Gardy had previously finished second in voting five times. His teams have won 90 games five times and he is the first manger in history to win six division titles in his first nine years. With 803 career wins, only five managers had more wins in their first nine seasons than Gardenhire. All five now call Cooperstown home: Sparky Anderson (863), Al Lopez (836), Joe McCarthy (828), Earl Weaver (812) and Frank Chance (810). Current Angels manager Mike Scioscia, also had exactly 803 wins through his first nine seasons.

Hot Stove action: While the heat really turns up around the Winter Meetings, a least one big trade has already gone down. All-Star utility man Omar Infante is taking his talents to South Beach while slugging second baseman Dan Uggla shifts to Atlanta. Losing an All-Star who can play almost any position on the field is big, but the Braves may have picked up a steal. Uggla owns the third-best batting average of anyone at Turner Field since it opened in 1997 at .354. Only Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds have hit better.

11-19-10-Hayes_GordonBanksRipken.jpgBut batting average aside, Uggla’s best skill is his power. He’s the first second baseman to produce four 30-home run seasons, let alone consecutively. And among the first five years of any middle infielder’s career, Uggla’s 154 home runs are tops. Three MVP-wining Hall of Famers round out the top five, with 500-home run club member Ernie Banks second (136), Joe Gordon third (125) and Cal Ripken Jr. fifth (108). Nomar Garciaparra is fourth with 117.

King Felix’s Mariners vs. Lefty’s Phils: Announced Thursday was the American League Cy Young winner, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. The honor continues a trend of moving away from wins in the voting. In fact, the AL wins leader has won only five of the last nine Cy Young Awards.

With the lowest win total for a Cy Young winner ever, King Felix and his team set a new precedent. Previously, Steve Carlton’s 1972 Phillies were the worst team to boast a Cy Young winner. While the Hall of Fame lefty lead the league with an incredible 27 wins, his Phillies won 59 games – a .378 win percentage. This season, run support torpedoed Hernandez, who went 13-12, while Seattle posted a winning percentage of .377.

11-19-10-Hayes_CarewGwynn.jpgCatching up with the Hall of Famers: Drafted in 1978 and debuting in 1981 with the Phillies, Ryne Sandberg is returning to Philadelphia. After four seasons managing in the Cubs’ farm system, the 2010 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year was hired to manage the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. Starting next season, Ryno will head the Lehigh Valley IronPigs as he continues his quest to pilot a big league club.

Stan Musial made news this week as the Cardinals legend was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. The St. Louis faithful campaigned all season to get Stan the Man the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Also, two more Hall of Famers grace Studio 42 with Bob Costas tonight. Legendary hitters Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew will drop by to talk baseball and the art of hitting with the veteran broadcaster at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

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

Hall Monitor: Vlad laps the majors

Hayes_90.jpg

By Trevor Hayes

Last week, on a ball way out of the strike zone where only he could make an opponent pay, the Rangers’ Vladimir Guerrero sent one of his signature bad-ball home runs over the fence. This particular home run came against his former mates in Anaheim, the Angels – the 30th team he’s homered against. And that round-tripper put him into a small group, as only 32 players have hit a home run against all 30 teams.

But only one of the 203 Hall of Famers who played in the major leagues – Eddie Murray – homered against every active team during his era.

05-28-10-Hayes_Murray.jpg

Retiring in 1997, Murray never had a chance to hit against Arizona and Tampa Bay, but he amassed home runs against 28 opponents. Murray’s march through the majors consisted of 504 home runs during 21 seasons. He played 13 years with the Orioles, four with the Dodgers, three with the Indians, two with the Mets and one with the Angels. The Twins were his most victimized team, as Murray hit 44 home runs against Minnesota – with Detroit following at 38 home runs yielded. Despite his long stint in Baltimore, he still clouted six against them. His least victimized teams were Colorado (one home run), Florida (three home runs) and a three-way tie between Philadelphia, Montreal and the Mets (four home runs).

Because the last round of expansion came so recently, few Hall of Famers have even had the chance to complete Guerrero’s feat of homering against 30 teams. Among current Hall of Famers, only Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor played in 1998 or beyond.

Of them, Eckersley, a pitcher, had three career home runs, Ripken and Gwynn spent their entire careers with one team – making it impossible to hit home runs against the Orioles and Padres, respectively.

Molitor and Boggs played exclusively in the American League, giving them from 1997 on to take advantage of Interleague play. Molitor played just one season with all 30 clubs, homering against 16 total teams – with one each against the Cubs and Astros and none in 11 games against Tampa Bay. Boggs retired in 1999, playing for Tampa in its first two seasons of existence while collecting just one home run against an NL club – the Expos.

05-28-10-Hayes_Guerrero.jpg

Henderson homered against 27 teams during 25 seasons with 11 teams. The speedster missed out on the Diamondbacks, Braves and Astros.

Other than Henderson, Gwynn, Ripken, Boggs, Eckersley and Molitor, Murray and Ryne Sandberg are the only Hall of Famers to participate in Interleague games – which means in order to accomplish the feat, inductees prior to them must have played for a minimum of four teams (two in each league).

In all, there are 59 Hall of Famers who played with four or more teams. Of them, 35 hit 16 or more home runs in their career – the minimum number of home runs needed to hit one against each team in the modern pre-expansion era. Of those 35, just seven played for two franchises in the AL and two in the NL: Frank Robinson, Jimmie Foxx, Murray, Orlando Cepeda, Al Simmons, Enos Slaughter and Heinie Manush.

Robinson and Slaughter came the closest, falling one team shy of homering against all clubs of their era – leaving Murray, for now, in a class by himself.

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

Strasburg at home in Central New York

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A half hour before the 7:05 p.m. start of Friday night’s game, traffic was backed up a mile away from the ballpark. A broadcaster on a local radio station said the game might be pushed back some 10 minutes to allow more fans to get inside. All due to a record-setting crowd on hand in anticipation of baseball’s latest phenom.

05-11-10-Francis_Strasburg.jpgThe distance between the upstate New York outposts of Syracuse and Cooperstown is about 66 miles. If projections prove true, baseball’s latest pitching sensation, Stephen Strasburg, currently learning his craft in the Salt City, might one day find himself with a plaque that short distance down the New York State Thruway at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The 6-foot-5, 225 pound Strasburg, the first overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft by the Washington Nationals, was making only his sixth professional start as well as his Triple-A debut for the Syracuse Chiefs against the visiting Gwinnett Braves on Friday night. The 21-year-old right-hander proved more than prepared, going six innings while allowing one hit and one walk in the 7-0 win. When it was all over, he had faced just 20 batters, striking out six, in his 65 pitches.

“It felt pretty good,” said Strasburg after the game to the 30-or-so assembled media that included reporters from USA Today, the Associated Press and The Washington Post. “I was just trying to keep doing what I’ve been doing, trying to build off of what I learned in Harrisburg and trying to do that up here, and I was able to do that tonight.”

Strasburg had made five starts for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators this season, in which he compiled a 3-1 record and 1.64 ERA in 22 innings.

An announced crowd of 13,766 was on hand at Alliance Bank Stadium that chilly night to see Strasburg, a record attendance for a professional baseball game in Syracuse dating back to 1876.

“It’s great to be pitching in front of a sellout crowd,” Strasburg said. “Everybody was really excited, and you can tell a lot of the players were ready to play today.”

Known for his combination of velocity and control, Strasburg was armed with a fastball that topped out at 99 miles per hour this night. Also in his arsenal are a knee-bending curve, sinker and changeup.

05-11-10-Francis_Gwynn.jpg“The bottom line is you can’t really worry about what caliber of hitter you’re facing,” Strasburg said. “You have to worry about what’s in your control and that’s executing the pitches to the best of your ability. Good pitches should get good hitters out, bottom line.

“I’ve got six starts under my belt, five in Double-A, and I’m starting to get comfortable.”

According to Strasburg’s catcher, Carlos Maldonado, he wasn’t shook off once by his new teammate.

“That’s what was fun about it. I just called the game. I put my fingers down and he executed every pitch,” Maldonado said. “He was like what I was expecting. It was fun to catch him in the bullpen; it was fun to catch him in the game. Every pitch was working for him today.”

Might Strasburg one day join his former coach at San Diego State, Tony Gwynn, as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame? He joins a long line of young fireballers that have dotted the national pastime’s history. Some have ultimately succeeded like Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan; others have flamed out for one reason or another such as Steve Dalkowski, David Clyde and Mark Prior. 

“This game is not easy,” Strasburg said. “I’m happy with where I’m at. I’ll let you guys place a timetable for that. Right now I’m happy to be in Syracuse and happy to be learning from these guys.

“Personally, I’m not going to make any expectations for myself. This is my first year. I’m just going out there to learn. A lot of these coaches and players have a lot more games under their belt than I do and I’m trying to soak it all in and just become a better player and help whatever team I’m on win some ballgames.”

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

Hoop madness comes to Cooperstown

Light_90.jpgBy Steve Light

Spring training is in full swing, but the eyes of the sports world this week are fixed on the college basketball tournaments. While we all wait for the Cinderella team that will make our brackets fall to pieces, let’s not forget that many of baseball’s brightest stars have stepped on the court in college, and even in the NBA.

The most famous crossover player – Michael Jordan – perhaps had a better handle on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament than he did the curve ball. The former North Carolina star hit the game winning shot in the championship game against Georgetown in 1982, but in his one season with the Double-A Birmingham Barons Jordan hit .202 with three home runs, 51 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.

Yet MJ wasn’t the only basketball star to take the field. Another basketball Hall of Famer, Dave DeBusschere, pitched for the Chicago White Sox in 1962 and 1963, compiling a 3-4 record with a 2.90 ERA over 36 games. And when former Celtic, Trail Blazer, and Phoenix Sun Danny Ainge led his BYU team to the regional finals in 1981, he had already made it to the majors. Drafted in 1977 by the Toronto Blue Jays, Ainge made his big league debut on May 21, 1979. In three seasons with the Jays, Ainge batted .220 with two home runs, 37 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. Perhaps spurred on by his tournament success – his coast-to-coast drive with seven seconds left sunk second seeded Notre Dame in the regional semifinals – Ainge quit baseball following the 1981 season and focused on his basketball career.

On the flip side, many baseball stars have found success on the basketball court as well. Point guard Kenny Lofton helped the Arizona Wildcats make it to the Final Four in the 1988 tournament before being drafted by the Houston Astros that summer. Even Hall of Famers have gotten in on the act, Robin Roberts starred on the court for the Michigan State Spartans, while Tony Gwynn was San Diego State’s floor general in his college career. Gwynn still holds school records for assists in a single season and assists in a career. He was even drafted by the San Diego Clippers of the NBA, but luckily for us, chose baseball instead.

03-18-10-Light_GwynnRobertsWinfield.jpgSix-foot-six Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was a standout baseball and basketball player for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Winfield and the Gophers made it to the tournament in 1972 and even earned a first round bye. The Gophers lost their first game in the Midwest Region to eventual national-runner up Florida Sate, 70 – 56, with Winfield playing all 40 minutes and chipping in eight points and eight rebounds. In the regional third-place game, the Gophers bounced back to beat Marquette 77 – 72, with Winfield compiling 16 points and nine rebounds. Scouts so highly rated Winfield’s athletic ability that he was not only drafted by the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Utah Stars of the ABA, but also his hometown Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. He had not even played college football.

As the regional semifinals and finals come to nearby Syracuse March 25 and 27, the Hall of Fame will celebrate the connections between baseball and basketball on Friday, March 26 with a full day of programs, including special trivia contests that test our visitor’s knowledge of baseball and the NCAA tournament.

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

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