Results tagged ‘ Voices of the Game ’

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.

King Juan reigns in New York

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

He strolled through the Yankee Stadium press box Monday evening with a smile that made you stop and take notice.

 
10-19-10-Muder_Marichal.jpgJuan Marichal turns 73 on Wednesday, but everything about him seems young and vital. He is a living link to baseball’s past – and still very much a part of its future.

Marichal is at the American League Championship Series as a broadcaster for ESPN Deportes. He’ll remain in the role through the World Series.

The Hall of Fame pitcher, who posted a 2.25 earned-run average in a pair of postseason starts for the Giants during his career, witnessed first-hand the brilliance of Cliff Lee on Monday night. In many ways, it must have been like looking in a mirror.

The right-handed Marichal was the Lee of the 1960s – a strike-throwing machine who piled up huge strikeout numbers while issuing virtually no walks. Marichal led the National League in strikeout-to-walk ratio three times, issued less than two walks per nine innings pitched and finished with a career K/BB ratio of 3.25, the 28th-best figure of all time.

10-19-10-Muder_VivaMarichal.jpgLee, the Texas Rangers’ smooth lefty, led the American League this season with an other-worldly K/BB ratio of 10.28 and has a ratio of 3.10 during his regular-season career. In the postseason, Lee’s ratio is 9.4 strikeouts to walks in eight career games.

 As for Marichal today, he’ll broadcast the action this postseason to legions of fans who not only follow Lee but also the tremendous Latin American stars on the ALCS field like the Yankees’ Robinson Cano and the Rangers’ Neftali Feliz, both of whom are from Marichal’s native Dominican Republic.

Then there’s Texas’ Vladimir Guerrero, another son of the Dominican who appears on track to join Marichal in the Hall of Fame sometime in the next decade.

Marichal, the first Dominican Republic native to be elected to the Hall of Fame, paved the way for all of them. And the greatness of the Dominican Dandy remains obvious to anyone fortunate enough to cross his path.

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

Fun and games

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Seven Hall of Famers, heroes all.

They range in age from 55 to 91, but they remain kids at heart. And on Saturday – the day before the Father’s Day Hall of Fame Classic – they were all thinking about their dad.

06-19-10-Muder_VOG.jpgIn front of a capacity crowd of more than 500 fans at Cooperstown High School, the seven Hall of Famers who will appear at Sunday’s Hall of Fame Classic reminisced about their playing days and told stories about one another.

Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, Goose Gossage, Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, Phil Niekro and Gary Carter brought the house down several times with one-liners – and drew applause when remembering their fathers.

“I think all of us on this stage remember when we played catch with our dads,” Smith said. “To be here in the Mecca of baseball on this weekend is very special for me.”

Just being around their former teammates and opponents was pretty special, too. The jokes flowed quickly from the stage – much to the delight of the audience.

06-19-10-Muder_Box.jpg“Phil, you better get some rest,” said Carter to Niekro when Knucksie was told he’ll be starting in Sunday’s Classic.

“Why?” deadpanned Niekro. “I never did when I played.”

After an hour, it was over – the legends were gone. To be continued on Sunday at Doubleday Field. Where the legends live forever.

“I’ve always loved it in Cooperstown,” said Gossage. “To be elected to the Hall of Fame and to play in this game, I still can’t put into words what it means to me.”

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

Hands down, Schmidt among greatest ever

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

His hands settled around the shaft of the golf club, then drew back for his practice swing.

Swish!

The power of that swing — the legendary power of Michael Jack Schmidt — was still apparent, even if the familiar baseball bat had been replaced by the metal wood.

Those hands — an unforgettable instinct.

9-8-09-Muder_Schmidt.jpgSchmidt, who will turn 60 in less than three weeks, is still fit and trim. The once-red hair is now gray, but the body looks to be not far removed from his playing days with the Phillies. At the very least, it would be easy to picture Schmidt on the Champions Tour.

The Hall of Fame third baseman was in Cooperstown this weekend, and on Tuesday he teed off at the Pro-Am for the Otesaga Hotel Seniors Open. Schmidt served as the celebrity host of the tournament, which benefits Pathfinder Village, located in nearby Edmeston, N.Y., a residential community dedicated to children and adults with Down syndrome. The tournament also benefits the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“No charity I’ve ever been associated with is more deserving of a tournament like this,” said Schmidt of Pathfinder Village. “I’ve played in this tournament a couple times now, and it’s always great to come back.”

Schmidt spent 18 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1972-89, winning eight National League home run titles and three NL MVP awards.

But his greatest thrill as a pro athlete just might have come on the famous Leatherstocking Golf Course in Cooperstown.

“I’m not playing in the Seniors Open this year, but I did a couple years ago and actually finished third in my flight. I got a check for $700. When you’re up against competition like this — great senior pros from around the country — that’s pretty good.”

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

Classic Hall of Famers thrill packed crowd, promise more

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

There were literally no empty seats in the Grandstand Theater for the Hall of Fame Classic Voices of the Game. And this special Father’s Day edition delivered with the same impact the four Hall of Famers on stage had during their careers.

The sellout crowd listened for as Triple-Crown winner Bob Feller, 300-game winner Phil Niekro, 3,000-hit Club member Paul Molitor and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner Brooks Robinson reflected on their careers and talked about the game they love.

6-20-09-Hayes_VOG.jpgAll four legends and fellow Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins headline the signature event of the weekend, the Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day at Doubleday Field.

The theme of fathers and sons has been a principal element throughout this inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Weekend and was present during Voices of the Game. Niekro spoke vividly of his relationship. As a youngster in Ohio, he looked up to his father, who taught him the weapon that would be his bread and butter in a 24 season career.

“”If it wasn’t for the knuckleball, I probably would have ended up coal mining,” Niekro said. “I didn’t know what it was. I just had fun playing knuckle ball in the back yard. Then I was able to get Little League guys out.”

His success continued and he hitched a ride to a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves. He signed for $500. Early on, Knucksie as he became known, was unsure of his talents. When the Hall’s manager of museum programs Steve Light, who moderated the event asked Niekro how he fared against the two accomplished hitters on either side of him, Knucksie started laughing.

6-20-09-Hayes_RobinsonNiekro.jpg“I faced Brooks early on during a Spring Training game,” he recalled. “One of my 77-mph fastballs got away from me and I hit him in the head.”

Robinson countered, “Didn’t hurt a bit.”

“I thought I was going to be done the next day for hitting Brooks Robinson with a fastball,” Niekro said.

Robinson’s start wasn’t something to brag about either, though he did. He played most of the 1955 season for the York (Penn.) White Roses – a B-League team in the Piedmont League. Robinson got the call at the end of the season and got two hits in his first start.

“I called home and said, ‘This is cake. Why did I play in [the minors] all year? I should have been in the big leagues.'”

He then went 0-for-18. He recovered and became one of the cornerstones of the great Orioles teams of the 1960’s and 70’s. He appeared in four World Series, winning a pair of rings. Robinson played on a lot of great teams, but he feels one of the best didn’t achieve to the level that some of his other teams might have.

6-20-09-Hayes_Robinson.jpgIn honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Miracle Mets, Light asked Robinson about the 1969 World Series.

“I thought our ’62 team was our best,” he said. “But anything can happen in a seven-game series. We beat [Hall of Famer Tom] Seaver and lost the next four, straight.”

Baltimore was back in the Series again the next season and Robinson took the MVP honors, hitting .429 against the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati. He drove in six and hit a pair of home runs. Molitor like Robinson achieved October glory by winning the MVP Award in 1993 with the Blue Jays.

During that Fall Classic, he hit .500 with a pair of doubles, a pair of triples and a pair of homers while driving in eight against the Phillies. Molitor’s best memory of that Series however, was not one of his personal achievements.

“The ’93 Series, I was on first base when Joe Carter hit that ball over the wall,” he said. “I was thinking if it goes off the wall and I hustle, I can score and end this thing, but then it went out and it was all over anyway.”

Another highlight of Molitor’s career was reaching 3,000 hits. Pure consistency throughout his career allowed The Ignitor to retire with a career .306 batting average and 3,319 hits. In 1987, he took a run at one of the game’s longest standing records, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Molitor hit safely in 39 straight.

6-20-09-Hayes_Niekro.jpg“Whether it’s milestones or streaks, players don’t really play for those, but numbers are big in baseball,” he said. “Falling 17 games short is still a long way away from that number and my perspective changed after that streak.

“I always tell people: The way you handle success is directly related to the way you handle failure, because 3,000 hits means 7,000 outs.”

Knucksie, a member of another elite club – the 300-game winners – applauded Molitor on the achievement. He said pitchers have help in winning games, but hitters are alone. 

Niekro’s 300th came in his last start of 1985 as a Yankee. It was a special moment for him and his father, who was faltering in health. Niekro was 46 at the time and at the end of his contract.

“If I didn’t win it, I would have had to wait until the next spring and he wasn’t going to hold on that long,” he said. “So really that was a blessing for both of us.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Feller.jpgFeller missed 300 wins by 34. But he recorded a career-high 27 in 1940 followed by 25 in 1941 before leaving baseball for most of four seasons to serve in the Navy during World War II. Light noted that the Grandstand Theater is a replica of Chicago’s Comiskey Park where Feller authored one of his three no-hitters and the only Opening Day no-no in the history of the game.

“Well it was 69 years ago and I remember it quite well,” the Indians ace recalled. “It wasn’t my best no-hitter. I didn’t have great stuff that day. I only struck out eight and we won 1-0. I remember that my catcher, Rollie Hemsley, hit a triple with my rommmate on base to score the only run.”

At 90, Feller’s memory is as sharp as if he were reading a box score. Light asked him about his famous high-leg kick and he laughed.

“That high leg kick…You’ve seen the picture taken in Yankee Stadium in 1936 or ’37 with my leg kicked over my head and the photographer laying flat on the ground,” Feller said. “That is all for show. It was just symbolism. But it’s the most popular picture they’ve got of me and it sells well at card shows.”

6-20-09-Hayes_Molitor.jpgAnother Feller myth was confirmed, when Light asked the former fireballer about the motorcycle and his fastball. Feller said that, that also happened in Chicago. He was wearing a tie and a dress shirt during the exhibition, but when he wound up with the motorcycle ten feet behind him, the ball beat the bike to the target. Using a timer and the vehicles speedometer, it was figured that he threw the ball 104 mph. Later a similar event was held and Feller clocked in at 107 mph.

Apparently worried by this, Molitor interrupted the story, “Can I ask him how his arm is feeling, since I have to leadoff against him tomorrow? I’ve heard stories of him hitting the first batter, so I’m just curious.”

Once the laughter subsided, and it was confirmed that Molitor would be the first batter to face the Classic’s starting pitcher – the 90-year-old Feller – Light asked Robinson how he felt knowing that he’d be the first guy to dig in against Knucksie in the bottom of the first.

6-20-09-Hayes_MolitorFeller.jpgRecalling their Spring Training encounter, Robinson looked worried and Niekro laughed, “Put your helmet on big boy, it’s coming.”

It is coming. In less than 24 hours, the legends will take the field at Doubleday and the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic will begin with Molitor facing Feller and Robinson against Niekro. Feller’s words seemed to sum up the entire weekend.

Baseball is a game of luck and there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad,” he said, noting the rain that fell on Cooperstown for most of Saturday. “We’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow, rain or shine.”

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

A great month

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

5-29-09-Idelson_Aaron.jpgWhat a month it has been for the Hall of Fame — from opening two new major exhibits to having five Hall of Famers in town. It’s been a whirlwind, but a good whirlwind.

The Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream exhibit opening was especially gratifying because Henry and his wife Billye were in Cooperstown, and truly impressed with the presentation. You could almost see their sense of pride seeing in brick and mortar all that they have accomplished in life. Our Voices of the Game program with members was great, especially when Henry grabbed a Jackie Robinson model bat and started showing everyone how Jackie grabbed the bat tightly, while Henry’s hands were loose. Insider info. So cool.

5-29-09-Idelson_Viva.jpgTwo weeks later, we opened Viva Baseball! Orlando Cepeda traveled from San Francisco and Juan Marichal from the Dominican Republic for the dedication. This exhibit may be the most intricate one we have established, with its widespread use of multimedia, and with every single element — labels, captions and video, all bilingual. As I delivered my remarks while standing on a map of South America, and specifically on Nicaragua, it caused me to pause and remember that Orioles and Expos star, Dennis Martinez, the all-time winningest pitcher in the country’s history, signed a contract in the spring of 1973, just months after Hall of Fame hero and humanitarian Roberto Clemente died trying to deliver earthquake relief supplies there on New Year’s Eve. 

Both exhibits are ones with which our entire staff is so proud.

5-29-09-Idelson_HendersonRice.jpgSprinkled among the openings were orientation visits from Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson. Both were seeing the Museum for the first time. It’s always interesting to see how the guys react to being in Cooperstown and the result is always the same: humbled. They both now are beginning to realize the enormity of being a Hall of Famer. From talking to a lot of Hall of Famers over the years, coming to Cooperstown and then giving their speech on stage truly leads them to realize that their careers are ongoing. I know Rickey still thinks about playing… he asked me if he could play in the WBC in January.

Now we roll into June and the Hall of Fame Classic is quickly approaching and five MORE Hall of Famers will be in Coop. July will bring 50+ more. 

While the village of Cooperstown can be classified as sleepy, the Museum certainly can not.  There’s always something fun happening in the Hall.

Jeff Idelson is president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Jackie Robinson Day

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

All Major Leaguers wore the No. 42 yesterday in honor of one man. It’s amazing to me that a number can be retired throughout a sport to honor just one person. But then the accomplishments of Jackie Robinson are far beyond amazing.

I recently finished reading Jonathan Eig’s book Opening Day, about Robinson’s first season in the Majors. Let me just say this — I knew what he accomplished was hard, but I really had no clue. The truth about Robinson’s first season goes way beyond anything I ever knew beforehand.

The hatred he faced in the early part of the season is nothing I can even comprehend. Death threats — something Hank Aaron also received while chasing the Babe — were just the tip of it. 4-16-09-Hayes_Mets42.jpgHe had really had no friends other than his wife and infant son. Players threatened to stop playing, thinking the game would continue without Robinson and other black players.

I was born after the Civil Rights Movement, so for me to try to understand the environment is tough. The book, however, gave me a good clue. One of Eig’s main sources was Jackie’s widow, Rachel Robinson. Between the research Eig did in newspapers and interviews with Rachel, the book painted a picture for me that I can more fully appreciate.

I had the good fortune to say hello and shake Rachel’s hand in November when the Hall of Fame dedicated the Character and Courage statues in the lobby of the Museum. Eig was also there that day and participated in a Voices of the Game event with Roberto Clemente‘s sons. I learned that day that baseball can mean so much more. The game follows the ebb and flow of the nation.

A lot of things have been said about why Branch Rickey signed Robinson. Regardless of the original reason, Robinson became an icon not just for African-Americans but for people throughout the country. He was Martin Luther King Jr. before the Civil Rights Movement had a face. Malcolm X charted Robinson’s batting average while listening to Red Barber on the radio.

The Robinsons were celebrated but were also outcasts. They lived a fairly secluded life, but Jackie may have been the most recognizable face in America — and most certainly was the most recognizable African-American next to Joe Louis.

His success that first season proved a color line should have never been drawn. He carried the team for parts of the season, and he made thousands of people instant Dodger fans. His style of play made the game a thrill ride. It was aggressive, it was fast-paced and it was exciting.

Babe Ruth changed the game with the home run, but Jackie Robinson revolutionized it. He opened the door, and talent flooded through. Larry Doby was in the Majors by July. Dan Bankhead joined the Dodgers for the playoff push. But Jackie was first. He faced unreal circumstances and showed he could flourish. The bravery, skill and spirit he displayed are attributes that we can admire.

Robinson deserves every bit of appreciation we can gather. He is immortalized here at the Hall of Fame in the Plaque Gallery. The month of November has been designated Character and Courage Month to celebrate Robinson and two players he shared those characteristics with — Clemente and Lou Gehrig. Their statues in the lobby serve as year-round reminders of traits we should all aspire to exhibit. The entrance to the Mets’ new ballpark, Citi Field, was dedicated to him. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda replicates the entrance to Ebbets Field where Jackie broke the color barrier. His No. 42 hangs in every ballpark, and yesterday it was on the back of every player to take the field.

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

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