Results tagged ‘ Washington Senators ’

Mike McCormick visits Hall of Fame

By Bill Francis

Mike McCormick had experienced much in his baseball career, from making his big league debut 55 years ago at the age of 17, to capturing the 1967 National League Cy Young Award, and surrendering Hank Aaron’s 500th career home run. But it wasn’t until this week that the longtime left-handed pitcher visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

“It’s the first time that I’ve been to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and shame on me,” McCormick said on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve heard about it, obviously, my whole career and honored to be in it in different ways, not as an elected person. It’s been a wonderful day so far and we’re looking forward to the rest of it.”

The 72-year-old McCormick is a native Californian who moved with his wife to Pinehurst, N.C. eight years ago. Now retired, he spends time on the golf course and keeping up with his beloved Giants thanks to a cable television baseball package. He was visiting Cooperstown with one of his daughters, her husband, and their two children. Soon after the family arrived, they were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum.

“You come in as the average citizen and you see the exhibits but you don’t see what’s behind those exhibits,” McCormick said. “They have some incredible things that they shared with my family and me that, had it not been under the conditions, we wouldn’t even be aware that such things existed.”

After a heralded prep career in a Los Angeles suburb in which he posted records of 49-4 in American Legion and 34-4 in high school, McCormick spent 16 seasons (1956-71) as a major league hurler. Because of the rules at the time, his reported $50,000 signing bonus from the New York Giants demanded he stay on the big league roster for his first two professional seasons.

“I wanted to be a baseball player,” McCormick recalled. “And all at once I was thrust into it at 17 and it was whole different world, let me tell you. I grew up real fast.”

While McCormick spent most of his time with the Giants, first in New York and then with San Francisco after the franchise moved in 1958, he also saw time with the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators, New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals. His career, which ended with a 134-128 won-loss record, was highlighted by his 22 wins in 1967 that helped him capture the senior circuit’s top pitching prize.

“When I was healthy, I don’t want to say I was the best but I was among the best. I just had a struggle staying healthy,” McCormick said. “I went my first six years feeling fine then all at once I ran into a sore shoulder which set me back the next three years. I stayed in the major leagues but I was really a nonproductive individual. Then I got to Washington and re-established that I had some value, where I had three or four good years, one of which one was the Cy Young Award year. But then I had back problems and had to succumb to a back operation.”

Walking through the Plaque Gallery, McCormick not only saw the bronze likenesses of such former teammates as Willie Mays, Gaylord Perry, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, but also legendary opponents like Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle.

“I’ve been blessed to have played with and against the finest in the game,” McCormick said. “I pitched in both leagues in the 1950s and ‘60s, an era I consider one of baseball’s best ever.”

Before continuing on his first-ever Hall of Fame visit, McCormick added, “It’s an incredible place. I would tell everybody that has an opportunity that this is the place to come.”

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

The oldest major leaguer

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Art Mahan was born 13 months before Babe Ruth made his big league debut.

By the time Mahan died – on Tuesday at the age of 97 – Mahan had lived to see baseball evolve from a simple game to a national treasure.

Mahan, who played in 146 games for the Phillies in his only big league season in 1940, was the fourth-oldest living major leaguer at the time of his death. Ranking first on that chart is Tony Malinosky, who played 35 games for Brooklyn in 1937 and today stands at 101 years and 63 days old.

But Malinosky has a ways to go before he can lay claim to being the oldest major leaguer ever. 

12-09-10-Berowski_Hilltop.jpgThe Sept. 7, 1911 New York Times said of Chet “Red” Hoff’s major league debut against the Washington Senators: “Pitcher Hoff was in the game long enough to have his picture taken.”

This contemporary account is contrary to most published reports nearly 90 years later, largely based on the tales told by Hoff himself. But after a lifetime – the longest lifetime of any former big league player – Chet Hoff earned the right to tell a few stories.  

Chester Cornelius Hoff was born May 8, 1891 in Ossining, N.Y., and lived 107 years, 4 months and 9 days, making him the longest living major leaguer. He pitched in five games his rookie season, going straight from the sandlots of Ossining to the top of the hill in New York City, playing for the Highlanders who would become the Yankees in 1913. He even met up with Ty Cobb that season, but not in his major league debut. 

In the years shortly before his death, Hoff recalled his debut, getting the call from his manager Hal Chase in the ninth inning of a blow-out game, and striking out Cobb on three straight pitches. Hoff claimed he didn’t know who he had faced until the next day when he read the newspaper and was stunned when he read a headline “Hoff Strikes out Ty Cobb.”

12-09-10-Berowski_Cobb.jpgHoff’s actual debut came on Sept. 6, throwing a scoreless frame in a 6-2 loss against the Washington Senators. Hoff got his action against the Tigers 12 days later. The Sept. 19, 1911 New York Times stated, “Hoff pitched the last four innings and did good work.”

In his four innings of one-run ball, Hoff faced Ty Cobb and according to the Times, “fooled Ty with a roundhouse curve, which crossed the center of the plate for the third strike”. It was a rare two-strikeout day for the legendary Cobb, who also fanned in his first at bat of the day against Yankee ace Russ Ford.

Hoff pitched in 12 games for the Highlanders and Yankees over the course of three seasons and compiled an 0-2 record, with a 3.89 ERA. Hoff pitched one season for the St. Louis Browns, 1915, and went 2-2 with a 1.24 ERA. He retired from professional baseball in 1918, but his love for the game never diminished. 

He returned home to Ossining, where he went to work as a paper cutter for Rand-McNally, continued to play semi-pro ball on weekends and continued to follow the Yankees. Chet Hoff’s story made national news when he turned 100 and appeared on The Today Show in 1993. He followed up that appearance with some appearances for his old ballclub, including an appearance alongside Gene Michael and Willie Randolph at a ceremony dedicating a plaque on the site of Hilltop Park, the Yankees original home, where Hoff made his major league debut. 

Hoff passed away on Sept. 17, 1998.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Hall Monitor: One Round Down


Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The opening round of the playoffs was notable in many ways, from to woes Minnesota has with the Bronx Bombers to the tight, to-the-wire competitions between the Giants and Braves. As October rolls on, today’s players write their stories.


10-15-10-Hayes_FellerLemon.jpgThe Roys
: Bolstered by the second-ever postseason no-hitter and a solid sweep, the Phillies’ rotation is set for another run. And coincidentally, two of the team’s three NLDS starting pitchers share more than a uniform. If Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt can help bring another World Series trophy to Philadelphia, they will be the fifth set of same-named starters to do so. The others: The 1998 Yankees with David Cone and David Wells; the 1988 Dodgers with Tim Belcher and Tim Leary; the 1983 Orioles with Mike Boddicker and Mike Flanagan; and the first pair, who not only led the 1948 Indians but also joined the Hall of Fame: Bob Feller and Bob Lemon.

Famous in Philly: Cole Hamels was impressive two years ago, and along with the Roys, he’s harnessing that again. He tossed a shutout in the deciding game of the NLDS. In 2008, he marched the Phillies to their first World Series title since 1980, picking up iconic status in the city, four wins and a pair of postseason MVP Awards along the way. His shutout this year was his sixth career playoff win, matching another legend, Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, who served as the team’s ace during its glory years in the 1980s.


10-15-10-Hayes_GehrigRuth.jpgTexas Boppers meet Bronx Bombers
: Over the last week, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz provided plenty of pop to propel the Rangers to an ALCS matchup with the Yankees. The Texas duo each hit three home runs, making them the second pair of teammates to connect for at least three homers apiece while playing five or fewer postseason games, The other pair set their standard in 1928. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, with each famous Yankee hitting three homers during a four-game sweep of the Cardinals.

Master Lee: The Ranger’s success against the Rays can also be attributed to the man who won two games. Cliff Lee’s postseason dominance has made him seem incapable of walking batters, who seem incapable of getting to him. His 21 strikeouts without a walk set a new single-series record, besting the previous mark of 14 set by the Braves’ Kevin Millwood when he didn’t walk a Giant in the 2002 NLDS. Meanwhile, Lee  tossed a complete game in Game Five, his fifth game with seven or more innings of without a walk. That ties Hall of Fame Christy Mathewson for the second-most and is just two behind Greg Maddux’s record of seven.

10-15-10-Hayes_GomezGibson.jpgWith just two years of postseason play under his belt, Lee is now 6-0 in seven starts. Only five pitchers in major league history have six wins in their first seven postseason starts, including Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lefty Gomez.  Pitching in Games One and Five, Lee won his fifth and sixth straight decisions as a starter to begin his postseason career, equaling Gomez for third-most all-time. The record is eight, and Lee is slated for at least one more start without going on short rest. He’s also rattled off five straight W’s in which he pitched seven or more innings. Only Dave Stewart, Gibson and fellow Hall of Famers Red Ruffing have longer streaks.

Last of the 30: In the first-ever series in which the road team won every game, the Rangers picked up their first-ever postseason series win. Dating back to the 1961 Washington Senators, the franchise has finally claimed victory in baseball’s second season, the last active franchise to do so. The franchise waited 41 years to taste postseason glory, a drought only eclipsed by four teams, three of which began play before the World Series started in 1903. From their birth onward, only the Phillies (104 years), Dodgers (79 years), Orioles (63 years) and Cardinals (50 years) took longer to win their first playoff series. Like Texas, each of those teams had made the postseason before. And each year they finally won a postseason series, they went on to win the World Series. In fact, only the Astros, Brewers, Mariners, Nationals, Padres, Rays and Rockies did not win the World Series in the same season the franchise garnered its first playoff series win.

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

Twin careers

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Charley Walters walked into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Friday like hundreds of other tourists.

But unlike most other visitors, Walters found a piece of his own history inside the Museum walls.

05-14-10-Muder_Walters.jpgWalters, a sports columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, stopped in Cooperstown to visit the home of baseball. An award-winning journalist, Walters is also a former big leaguer – having pitched in six games with the Minnesota Twins in 1969.

“It wasn’t much of a career,” Walters said.

Nonetheless, a clippings file detailing Walters’ baseball life is preserved at the Hall of Fame – just like each of the more than 17,000 other men who have played Major League Baseball. And the Museum’s photo archive also contains shots of Walters – a fact that shocked the former fastballer from Minneapolis.

“I can’t believe you have this one,” said Walters of a photo of himself in uniform with the Washington Senators, a team he was traded to in 1970 but for which Walters never appeared in a regular-season game. “I didn’t even know this existed.”

Walters signed with the Twins in 1966 following a tryout camp and made Minnesota’s Opening Day roster in 1969. He debuted on April 11 of that year against the Angels, and was unscored upon in his first five appearances before being charged with four runs in one-and-a-third innings on May 14 against Baltimore – his last big league game.

“I had a great fastball, but no curve,” Walters said. “Billy Martin (the Twins manager in 1969) loved me, though, because I threw hard and threw inside.”

Walters spent the rest of the 1969 season in the minors, but did pick up $1,600 (a quarter playoff share) when the Twins won the American League West. He was traded to the Senators in the spring of 1970 in a deal for outfielder Brant Alyea.

“I always wanted to be a journalist, so when my playing career was done I went back to the University of Minnesota and got my degree,” said Walters, who went on to become a beat writer for the Twins. “I always thought being a baseball writer was like a fairy tale: Every day was a new adventure.”

For Walters, however, the real adventure came Friday in Cooperstown.

“This is just wonderful, seeing all the history here,” Walters said. “It’s incredible to see something like this photo of me in the Hall of Fame.”

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

A trip through time

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Whitey Herzog leaned forward in his chair to get a closer look at the outfielder crashing into the Yankee Stadium fence.

“I ended up with 57 stitches, but I caught that ball,” said Herzog. “To this day, Yogi still reminds me that he would have had 359 career home runs if I had just let it go.”

04-27-10-Muder_Herzog.jpgThe photo, part of the collection of more than 500,000 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, showed Herzog as a Baltimore Oriole right fielder in 1961 as he robbed Yogi Berra of a hit. It will be a one of many stories told again this summer as Berra – along with more than 50 other living Hall of Famers – helps welcome Herzog into the Hall of Fame.

Herzog took his Hall of Fame Orientation Tour on Monday in preparation for his July 25 induction. Along with Andre Dawson and Doug Harvey, Herzog will be enshrined as the Class of 2010 in Cooperstown.

Monday’s tour gave Herzog a chance to look behind the scenes at the Hall of Fame, and the former reserve outfielder for the Senators, Athletics, Orioles and Tigers seemed overwhelmed when he considered his surroundings.

“You know, I got a bigger bonus than Mickey Mantle when I signed with the Yankees,” said Herzog, who began his playing career in 1949 as a Yankee farmhand. “That’s the only time I ever made more money than Mickey.”

However, as a manager, Herzog had few peers and was widely regarded as one of the best in the game. Herzog led his team’s to six postseason berths in 18 seasons, winning National League pennants in 1985 and 1987 with the Cardinals and the 1982 World Series with the Redbirds.

He is just the 19th former big league manager elected to Cooperstown.

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

Managing greatness

 
Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Noted baseball author and historian Harold Seymour penned the book “The Golden Age of Baseball” about early 20th century baseball – a time when Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson were the stars of the game. Some would say that what we are experiencing now is the golden age of the baseball manager.

03-17-10-Berowski_LaRusaCoxTorre.jpgEntering the 2010 season, three of baseball’s five all-time winningest managers are active. At 2,552 wins, Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa sits about three seasons away from moving into second-place all-time, ahead of New York Giants Hall of Fame manager John McGraw. Thirteen times LaRussa has piloted clubs to a playoff birth, including two World Championships.

Bobby Cox of the Braves and Joe Torre of the Dodgers, with a combined five World Series championships and 29 postseason appearances, come in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, on the all-time manager win list. With the exception of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Cox lead Atlanta to a first-place finish every season from 1991 to 2005, a mark that is unparalleled in Major League Baseball history.

Meanwhile, for 14 seasons beginning in 1996, Torre has lead either the Yankees or the Dodgers to the postseason with either a first-place finish or a wild-card berth.

To find the last time that three of baseball’s top five winningest managers were active in a season, we have to go back 60 years. The 1950 season was the last for Connie Mack and Joe McCarthy, and also marked the beginning of Bucky Harris’ third stint with the Washington Senators.

At 3,731 wins, no one will be closing in on Mack’s spot at No. 1 on the list anytime soon. But if history holds true it is only a matter of time before Cooperstown comes calling for LaRussa, Cox and Torre. Other than those three active skippers, the rest of the top 11 all-time winningest managers are already enshrined in Cooperstown.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Postseason drama

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

On Tuesday, the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins met in the 12th tie-breaker play-in in major league history. The 12-inning affair also matched Game Seven of the 1924 World Series for the second-longest elimination game in major league history, a game in which 12 Hall of Famers saw on-field action.

10-9-09-Berowski_Gomez.jpgTuesday night’s game ended in dramatic fashion when Tigers closer Fernando Rodney, pitching in his fourth inning (something unheard of for a closer in this era), gave up the game-winning hit. Alexi Casilla, hitting a major league low .202 in 2009 for batters with more than 200 at-bats, drove a single to right allowing the speedy Carlos Gomez, the primary piece of the 2008 Johan Santana trade, to score the winning run from second base and secure the AL Central title for the Twins. This Tigers loss also marked the fifth time since 1900 that a team lead by as many as seven games in September and lost the lead, ultimately missing the post-season. The other teams to suffer the same fate as the Tigers: the 1934 Giants, the 1938 Pirates, the 1964 Phillies and the 2007 Mets.

The 1924 World Series between the New York Giants and the franchise that is today known as the Minnesota Twins – the Washington Senators – would take all seven games to decide. Eight future Hall of Famers competed for the Giants that day while the Senators fielded four, including Game Seven’s winning pitcher, Walter Johnson.

10-9-09-Berowski_Johnson.jpgAlready 0-2 in the Series, The Big Train played a pivotal role in this game from the time he entered in relief in the 9th inning, striking out five and allowing only three base hits until the game’s end. With one out and nobody on in the bottom of the 12th, Giants backstop Hank Gowdy dropped a foul pop-up by his Senators counterpart, Muddy Ruel. Ruel took full advantage of his second chance, driving a double to left field. Johnson was up next and he too reached base, on an error committed by future Hall of Fame shortstop Travis Jackson. Instead of a three-up, three-down inning, runners were now on first and second with one out. Light-hitting Earl McNeely, batting only .192 in the Series and already 0-for-5 in the game, proved the unlikely hero, doubling home the winning run.

Incidentally, the record for most innings played in an MLB elimination game – where both teams could be eliminated – is 13, when the Colorado Rockies defeated the San Diego Padres to become the 2007 National League Wild Card winner.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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