Results tagged ‘ Toronto Blue Jays ’

Giving Thanks for Baseball and Family

By Trevor Hayes

I have post-it notes on my bathroom mirror, my front door and my computer monitor. They say things like “Understand where you are,” “Don’t forget to enjoy it,” and “Be thankful.”

When you work at the Hall of Fame – a place people mark on calendars, plan vacations to and pencil in on bucket lists – I’ve found that I sometimes overlook what makes Cooperstown so special. I think to all of us here, it sometimes becomes just going to the office. My desk is in the basement, away from the visitors and artifacts – away from the magic. So I feel like I can’t always be blamed for forgetting.

If I let myself, I could go weeks without setting foot in the actual Museum. But I don’t. In fact over the last few weeks, I’ve given tours of the Hall to friends. About a month ago it was a Royals security guard and his son. The next week, my friend Keith and his die-hard Tiger fan grandparents. Then two weeks ago it was a high school buddy visiting from New York City. It all served as a reminder of how lucky I am – better than my post-its.

The common thread was family. While my fellow Oak Park High alum was alone, he kept he wants to come back with his father. I’m thankful for my father and the time we’ve spent together here. He had surgery last Friday to remove a kidney that most likely had a cancerous cyst.

Hopefully the surgery will be the extent of his battle. But I know from my prior experiences, that one of the best medicines are memories to which you can hold close. My dad helped me move here from Kansas City in 2008. We watched playoff baseball during our first night in town and saw Robin Roberts during a Voices of the Game event, then toured the Hall the next day. My family came for Father’s Day Weekend in 2010. I played catch with my dad at Doubleday and he got to see me working on the field the same field that was hosting legends like Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew and Ozzie Smith.

Sports – and specifically baseball – have always been a bond between us. He introduced me to athletics and Boy Scouts. I think he did a pretty good job. I’m an Eagle Scout and worked on the same summer camp staff he did. Now I work at the Hall of Fame after two years with the Royals.

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a few of the other things I’m thankful for are: The fact that I’m in Los Angeles right now with my fiancée and we could go to the beach while it might be snowing in Cooperstown; the Royals – if I get to attend my first All-Star Game in KC next summer that will make my 2012 list; and as a uniform geek the Mets and Blue Jays for ditching black. I’m thankful for a seven-game World Series – despite the Cardinals winning it. I give thanks for the game’s greats, especially my favorite Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig and my favorite Gehrig stat which I try to shoe-horn into every Memories and Dreams, social media post or even casual conversation about him. I’m thankful for stars like Justin Verlander, who can hit triple digits in the seventh and eighth; for movies like Bull Durham, Major League and one of my new favorites Moneyball (so sue me, I’m a stat geek, I loved the book, and I hope Brad Pitt wins the Oscar).

But mostly this year, I’m thankful for my family and for my dad.

Oh, I couldn’t leave it like that. That Lou Gehrig stat: Despite playing in 2,130 consecutive games without taking a day off, when they x-rayed his hands in the late 1930s, they found 17 healed fractures. I’m blown away by that.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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

Hall Monitor: Pitching and Home Runs

By Trevor Hayes

The last Hall Monitor topic of two 600 home run hitters squaring off in the same game seems so long ago after the week’s events. But to follow-up, it did happen on Sunday. Alex Rodriguez and the Yanks met Jim Thome and the Twins marked the A.L.’s first 600 vs. 600. Here’s what’s happened since:

These go to 11: Just arrived in Cooperstown: Albert Pujols’ batting gloves and bat from his 30th home run of 2011 made it to their final destination at the beginning of the week. Pujols deposited his 30th into the PNC Park bleachers on Aug. 16. That historic stroke made the man known as The Machine the first player to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first 11 seasons.

A pair of sevens: The American League Cy Young favorite is arguably Justin Verlander, and on Monday night he extended a winning streak to seven starts for the second time this season. The Tigers’ ace also compiled seven straight victories from May 29 to June 30. Over the last 50, years only three other pitchers have had two streaks of seven or more in the same season. Each led their league in wins and earned the Cy Young Award. Fellow Tiger Denny McLain did it in the first of his back-to-back Cy Young seasons while winning 31 in 1968. Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson did it in 1970 with 23 wins and the Twins’ Frank Viola did it in 1988, winning 24.

Movin’ on up: Baseball’s active strikeout leader inched his way a little further up the all-time list on Wednesday as the Marlins’ Javier Vazquez passed Don Drysdale for 30th place. By striking out 11 Reds, the 34-year-old Vazquez now has 2,494 K’s. When Drysdale retied in 1969 he was eighth with 2,486 behind Hall of Fame names like Johnson, Young, Bunning, Spahn, Feller and Keefe. Vazquez should be able to reach 29th this season as Christy Mathewson is just 13 strikeouts away.

Rookie Backstop Power: The Tigers’ Rudy York and Matt Nokes, Red Sox Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, the Dodgers’ Mike Piazza and the Cubs’ Geovany Soto did it – and now the Blue Jays’ J.P Arencibia has too. In a loss to Kansas City Thursday, Arencibia became the sixth rookie to hit 20 home runs as a catcher, joining good company that includes 32 All-Star selections, 14 Silver Sluggers, three Rookie of the Year Award and of course, a Hall of Famer.

A grand old game in the Bronx: Lastly we have an MLB first. Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Ganderson literally slammed the Yankees into the record books Thursday when the three made the Bronx Bombers the first team to hit three grand slams in a game. The 22-9 drubbing of the A’s made history in a lot of ways.

History notes other than the grand trio include from yesterday’s massacre: The Yanks tied a record by having three players with at least five RBIs; they matched the record for largest winning margin by a team which trailed by at least six; they became the fourth team to score at least four runs in four consecutive innings; and Martin is just the second catcher and third Pinstriper, regardless of position, to go 5-for-5 with two home runs and five or more RBIs. He joins current Tigers backstop Victor Martinez who did it as an Indian in 2004 and fellow Yankees Joe DiMaggio (July 9, 1937) and Danny Tartabull (Sept. 8, 1992).

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

Visiting hours

By Craig Muder

Ray Durham looked down at the photo on the table in the Hall of Fame’s archive – and his eyes lit up. Another photo was lying on top of the first picture, leaving only the lower half of the depicted player visible.

But Durham did not need a face to recognize his former White Sox teammate.

“That’s Frank!” said Durham, referring to two-time American League MVP Frank Thomas. “He’s the only guy who could hit while he was lifting his leg like that.”

In an instant, it was the mid-1990s all over again – when Durham and Thomas teamed up in Chicago to power one of the AL’s most potent offenses.

It was a trip back in time, courtesy of the magic of Cooperstown.

The 39-year-old Durham, who retired following the 2008 season after a 14-year big league career with the White Sox, A’s, Giants and Brewers that featured two All-Star Game selections, toured the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday with his family. But he was not the only big league connection at the Museum.

JP Ricciardi, the former Blue Jays general manager, also visited the Museum with his family – including his son Dante, who is playing in a tournament this week in Cooperstown. Ricciardi, who headed up the Jays’ front office for eight seasons between 2002 and 2009, is now a special assistant to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.

“When I was coach in the Yankees’ system in the 1980s, we lived in Oneonta (located about 20 minutes from Cooperstown, and the former home of a Yankees minor league affiliate) for a while,” Ricciardi said. “I’ve been to the Hall of Fame before, but never like this.”

Ricciardi got to hold a Babe Ruth bat as well as a Honus Wagner model, marveling at the weight of bats from the early 20th Century.

“This is incredible,” Ricciardi said. “What a day!”

From All-Stars to front-office masterminds. Just another summer day at the home of baseball.

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

Thankful to be in Cooperstown

By Craig Muder

The brain aneurysm that changed John Olerud’s life is visible today by only a small indentation on the left side of his forehead.

But the effects of that event shape Olerud’s outlook to this day – and has left the 17-year big league veteran with a deep sense of gratitude.

Olerud visited the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday with his wife, Kelly; two of their children, Garrett and Jessica; and his in-laws. The 42-year-old Olerud, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, made the trip to Cooperstown based on the recommendation of former teammate Ed Sprague.

“Ed told me what an incredible visit he had, getting to see all the history,” Olerud said. “I have to say: He was right.”

Olerud, looking very much like the strapping 6-foot-5, 205-pound first baseman he was with the Blue Jays, Mets, Mariners, Yankees and Red Sox from 1989-2005, marveled at Museum artifacts like a Babe Ruth bat and a Roberto Clemente cap.

He even held a bat that he donated to the Hall of Fame in 2000 after recording the first-ever hit at Detroit’s Comerica Park as a member of the Mariners.

His .295 career batting average, 2,239 hits, two All-Star Game selections and three Gold Glove Awards were enough to secure him a place on the 2011 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot. But the modest Olerud, a key member of the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series winners in 1992-93, downplayed his own accomplishments.

“I’m just so thankful to have had the chance to get married, have kids and play the game I love,” said Olerud, who suffered the aneurysm while he was working out at Washington State University in 1988, but recovered to debut with the Jays in 1989 after bypassing the minor leagues entirely. “When you’re playing, you don’t really think about something like the Hall of Fame because you’re just trying to help the team and keep yourself in the lineup. And now that I’m retired, I’ve been so involved with my family, it seems like that time when I played is so far away.

“But to come here and see all this, it reminds you of how fortunate you are to play baseball.”

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

Canada’s moment in Cooperstown

By Bill Francis

Jerry Howarth is a Toronto institution, having been a member of the Blue Jays radio team for three decades. During that time, his press box seat enabled him to witness firsthand the accomplishments of two of this year’s inductees – general manager Pat Gillick and second baseman Robert Alomar – as they enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I came to the Blue Jays in 1982, my first full season, and I met Pat and we had a lot in common,” said Howarth, an invited guest of Gillick’s to this year’s Induction Weekend, after attending, appropriately enough, a presentation by author Curt Smith on his new book, A Talk in the Park: Nine Decades of Baseball Tales from the Broadcast Booth, that was held before a full house inside the Bullpen Theater on Friday afternoon. “We’re both from California, we both love baseball, and he was very good to me as I started to enjoy Blue Jays broadcasts. He was encouraging.

“But I could tell that he was someone special, too, who listened, communicated well, and had a bevy of scouts that were so loyal to him. Then I began to see the Blue Jays grow. I saw his patience and steadfastness. And sure enough he took that team – orchestrated it from the very beginning – and won those two World Series in 1992 and ’93.”

As for Alomar, Howarth says he and Willie Mays are the two best players he’s seen in his life.

“I grew up in San Francisco and I watched Willie Mays every day. We all wanted to be like Willie,” Howarth said. “And then we acquired Roberto in 1991, and he was with the Blue Jays through 1995. He’s the best player I’ve ever seen with Willie. By putting those two together I’m talking about all the aspects of the game – the proverbial five-tool player. But more than that, he had instincts, he could beat you in a game with a home run, a bunt, a stolen base, a fielding play, it didn’t matter. A wonderful passion and desire to make himself ever better.

“And Roberto stood out with the Blue Jays. They would not have won those World Series without him, but having said that, Pat together great teams. But Roberto stood out. And there’s no substitute for defense and Roberto provided the best defense that I’ve ever seen.”

Having recently spent time with both Gillick and Alomar, can Howarth predict the emotional state of the pair as they stand before thousands on Sunday afternoon?

“Pat will be balling like a baby up there because I’ve seen him cry at John Olerud getting a base hit. I can’t wait to hear his speech. I’m sure there will be a lot of Kleenex up there,” Howarth said with a laugh. “And Roberto, too. Roberto is from a baseball family and I think he appreciates his career and what he’s done.

“And remember, too, both of them, especially Roberto, they’re doing this for a country, Canada, and they feel that. They know the presence that they have in an entire nation. So that makes it very extraordinary for them.”

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

Hall Monitor: Cys, Fourths, Hitters and Winners

By Trevor Hayes

Here we are, basically at the halfway point. Many point to the All-Star break as the halfway mark, though that’s not entirely true this season. Seventeen teams are slated to play their 90th game tonight. Baltimore has the fewest games played and tonight will be the Orioles’ 86th contest. Plenty of storylines are swirling with Albert Pujols’ injury, Derek Jeter’s quest for 3,000 and much more. Here’s how the last week has gone.

The Cy Young Returns: On Sunday, the Blue Jays 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay started in Toronto, wearing a Phillies uniform. The outcome was a complete game victory for Doc in his first start as an opposing pitcher since leaving the Jays. Halladay is the sixth former Cy Young to notch a complete game “W” in his first road start against the team for which he won the Cy Young Award. The others include: Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter as a Yankee a season after leaving Oakland in 1975; Tom Seaver after being traded by the Mets to the Reds in 1977; and 300-game winner Randy Johnson in 1999 as a Diamondback against the Mariners.

First-year Oriole mashers: Before this season, Frank Robinson was the only player to collect 20 home runs by the All-Star break in his first season in Baltimore. He had 21 in 1966, the same year he won the AL MVP Award and the Triple Crown. Robinson now has company as Mark Reynolds hit two home runs on Monday, giving him 20 before the break in his first season in Birdland.

Independence Day Fun: Vance Worley led the red-white-and-blue clad Phillies to a 1-0 victory on the Fourth of July. For fans in the city that is home to the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin, they can now claim a .500 record on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. With Hall of Famers from Chuck Klein and Mike Schmidt to Pete Alexander and Steve Carlton, in 201 July 4th games since 1883, Philadelphia’s record is now 101-100.

A fellow N.L. East red-white-and-blue team, the Nationals, also won on Monday. The team in the Nation’s Capital now sports a .633 winning percentage on the Fourth of July. At 31 wins and 18 losses, it’s the best mark for any team with at least 20 Independence Day tilts. Of course, the majority of the franchise’s wins came while playing in another country powered by Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Dick Williams – though as Les Expos de Montreal, they still wore red-white-and-blue uniforms.

Verlander matching Newhouser: Tiger All-Star Justin Verlander, who’s scheduled to throw again this weekend, has been dominant this season, especially so in his last eight starts. After Tuesday, he’s thrown at least seven innings and given up two-or-fewer runs in each of his last eight. It’s rarified air for Detroit pitchers. In 1945, future Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser put together the only other streak like Verlander’s – a nine-game string en route to one of his two MVP Awards.

Youngsters walkin’ off: Mike Stanton became the third youngest player to hit a walk-off  home run when he went yard in the bottom of the 10th on Wednesday. At 21, Stanton’s game-winner gave Florida a 7-6 win over the Phillies. Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews is the youngest, when at 20-years-old he decided a game for the Boston Braves in 1952, also beating the Phillies. Fellow Marlin Alex Gonzalez hit a walk-off homer in 1998 – also 21, but slightly younger than Stanton.

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

Baseball, fathers and Cooperstown

By Bill Francis

The father-son bond in baseball undoubtedly goes back to the sport’s beginnings and continues to thrive, whether that entails playing catch in the front yard, attending a game together, or debating the travails of a favorite team.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, that special relationship was in evidence with a trio of minor leaguers who visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday afternoon.

Throughout major league history, there have been slightly more than 200 players whose father also spent time in The Show. Included in this unique group are infielder Josh Barfield, outfielder John Mayberry Jr. and pitcher Jason Grilli – all current members of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, who visited Cooperstown.

For Josh Barfield, a big leaguer from 2006-09, his father Jesse – a 12-year major league right fielder with the Blue Jays and Yankees who led the American League with 40 home runs in 1986 – was the main reason he chose to pursue baseball as a career.

“He’s the reason that I play,” Josh Barfield said. “I loved watching him. He was always my hero, my favorite player growing up. He’s why I play, he’s the reason I am who I am as a person, so it’s cool that he gets to see me play now.

“I think we (teammates Mayberry Jr. and Grilli) all have that unique situation of growing up around the game, which is pretty special. I was at the field every day, and for me it was fun. You get to go and watch the game that you love, you get to be around your buddies, so it was a lot of fun for me.”

So what are Josh Barfield’s plans on Sunday?

“I talk to him every day,” he said, “but Father’s Day is special just because it’s a time to just say: ‘Thank you for what you’ve done.’”

John Mayberry Jr. has spent parts of the last three seasons with the Phillies, following in the footsteps of his father, a first baseman who clubbed 255 homers over 15 major league seasons spent with four different clubs.

“I grew up around the game and I’ve always loved it, so it’s a dream come true for me to be able to play,” John Mayberry Jr. said. “It was great to get a firsthand glimpse of what big league life is all about.”

It’s connections like these that will be celebrated on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown. Tickets for the annual Father’s Day legends game are available this week at the Hall of Fame and on Sunday at Doubleday Field.

As for his relationship with his father, John Mayberry Jr. said: “My dad and I are in pretty consistent contact, but I’m guessing it’s no different than any other close father-son relationship.”

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

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