Results tagged ‘ Whiz Kids ’

Prepare 4 October in Cooperstown: Philadelphia Phillies

By Trevor Hayes

While the heartbeat of baseball can be found in Cooperstown throughout the year, there’s no better time to reconnect with the National Pastime than when legends are being made. As the postseason approaches, fans all over the country can connect with the Hall of Fame to get in the fall spirit.

Phillies Phans have a long and storied past that has heated up over the last few autumns. With the Induction this past summer of the architect of the revival, Philly is well represented within Cooperstown’s shrine – which is just a short day-trip away.

Life with a .473 winning percentage hasn’t always been easy for Phillies fans. They lost their 10,000th game in 2007 – joined by the Braves earlier this season in the five digit loss category. In 129 seasons, they’ve made 14 playoff appearances (including the current 98-win team, five this decade), been to seven World Series (two since 2008) and own two Championships. They didn’t win their first flag until 1980 – 98 years after their founding – as the final franchise of Major League Baseball’s original 16 to do so.

In contrast to the red-clad Phillies, over 54 years the blue-clad Philadelphia Athletics won five World Championships and nine pennants in the City of Brotherly Love. But while Connie Mack’s A’s got more recognition, the Phillies have stayed loyal to their city and their history is covered with legends from Pete Alexander, Chuck Klein, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt to current stars Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. In all 34 Hall of Famers have connections to the team, including six who sport the Philadelphia “P” on their Hall plaques.

From 1883 to 1913, the Phillies achieved just two second place finishes. But in 1915, the Phils made an improbable leap forward with Alexander at the forefront. After finishing sixth the year before, they reached the Fall Classic. In 1916 Dave Bancroft’s talents were added to Alexander and Eppa Rixey, keeping the team in contention. By 1917 the Phillies reached a height of five Hall of Famer with Chief Bender and Johnny Evers joining the team – a modern day club record, beat only by the 1892, squad which featured six.

In the Hall of Fame’s Baseball Timeline, the team’s next star – Chuck Klein – is represented with his 1932 MVP trophy, marking his NL-leading totals in runs, hits, home runs, total bases, slugging percentage and stolen bases; and his 300th career home run ball from 1941.

The A’s collected two World Series rings and reached a third straight Fall Classic in 1931, but then fell on hard times. It wasn’t until the Whiz Kids led by Roberts and Ashburn jumped up and grabbed the NL pennant in 1950 that the city again played in the Fall Classic. Featuring a roster with only a handful of regulars over 30, the team became know for its youth. A 1950 NL Champions banner emblazoned with “Whiz Kids”, a 1952 jersey worn by Robin Roberts, an Ashburn warm-up jacket and a  cap belonging to 33-year-old closer Jim Konstanty, who became the first reliever to be named Most Valuable Player, all appear in the a Timeline.

An occasional blip over the next two decades showed there was still baseball life in Philadelphia, but the team only mustered one second place finish and one third place ranking while hovering around .500. During this time period, future U.S. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning authored a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964. His cap and a ticket from the perfecto against the New York Mets can be found in the Timeline. A few years later, 2011 Hall of Fame Classic participant Rick Wise threw another no-hitter, but his June 23rd, 1971 performance was more than a great pitching performance. He connected for two home runs in the 4-0 victory. His bat from the day is on exhibit in the Hall’s newest exhibit One for Books, which explores baseball records.

Schmidt got a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 1972, when Carlton joined the team. Then in 1975, Schmidt’s second full season, they broke a string of Philly losing campaigns. The following year, they made the playoffs. From 1976 to 1983 the Phillies missed the postseason just twice and reached the World Series twice, raising their first World Champion banner in 1980.

A prolific home run hitter, high-caliber defender at third base and three-time MVP, Schmidt played 18 seasons and was incredibly generous to the Hall of Fame while writing baseball history. Among the objects on display from Schmidt at the Hall are a “Tony Taylor” model bat from his four homer game on April 17, 1976 (One for the Books); a 1979 bat used to hit five homers in three games; a bat from his 1980 NL-leading 48 home run, MVP season; and his 1987 500th home run jersey (all in the Timeline).

Likewise, the four-time Cy Young Award winning Carlton dominates the Phillies artifacts after a career in which the lefty – who at one point held the title of all-time strikeout leader and is now fourth – dominated big league hitters. His 3,000th strikeout ball is in One for the Books and Carlton artifacts in the Timeline include the glove he used when setting the all-time strikeout record for a left-handed pitcher in 1980; his 1980 Cy Young Award; the ball from his NL record setting 3,117th K; his 1982 jersey and cap from when led the NL in wins and strikeouts and earned his fourth Cy Young Award; and 4,000th career strikeout ball, becoming the second pitcher to ever reach the mark.

For one last hurrah during the maroon Phillies era, the team fielded a lineup of four Hall of Famers for a season, adding Joe Morgan and Tony Perez in 1983. That team lost the Series.

The Phils reached the World Series for a fifth time in 1993, but were defeated by the Pat Gillick-led Blue Jays.

It wasn’t until Gillick came to Philly in 2006 that things really started to turn around again. A division title in 2007 followed three straight second place finishes and began the current string of five straight NL East titles which has taken the city to the World Series twice, including the 2008 World Championship. Today’s Game is a testament to the talent currently on display at Citizen’s Bank Park. Many of the artifacts from their ’08 Championship have migrated from their original home in Autumn Glory to the Phillies locker including Carlos Ruiz’s Game Three-winning batting helmet, pitcher Joe Blanton’s Game Four home run bat, Howard’s two home run bat from Game Four, closer Brad Lidge’s World Series cap and Jayson Werth’s ’08 spikes. Also in the locker are Utley’s 35-game hitting streak spikes; Howard’s 2006 league-leading 56-homer, 149 RBI MVP jersey; Rollins’ spikes from his 2007 20-triple, double and steal season, joining Tiger Curtis Granderson that same season in matching a mark completed by only Willie Mays and John Schulte; and Roy Halladay’s May 29, 2010 perfect game ball. Halladay’s cap from the game appears in One for the Books.

In his first season in Philly, Halladay took writing history a step further by throwing only the second-ever postseason no-hitter. And now that he and the Phillies are lining up for another deep October run, fans are hoping for more.

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

Sweet music

By Craig Muder

It was the day before Induction Sunday, so this moment in the first-base dugout at Doubleday Field was a rare chance to sit down.

One-hundred yards away, the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation was just getting started. On the stage was Terry Cashman, telling the assembled crowd about how he came to write his classic piece of baseball nostalgia “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey and The Duke).”

I was tired, I was hot (Saturday featured another day of 90-plus degree temperatures in Cooperstown) and I was thinking about the next item on my to-do list.

And then Terry Cashman started to sing.

The Whiz Kids had won it; Bobby Thomson had done it; and Yogi read the comics all the while…

I have never felt tears well up that quickly.

We’re talking baseball; Kluszewski, Campanella…

Suddenly, it was 1981 all over again. I was 12 years old, in love with this game and its history, and Terry Cashman was signing to me. I decoded each line of the song like it was a treasure.

Talkin’ baseball; The Man and Bobby Feller…

The first time I heard that song, I knew there were kindred spirits out there. Others felt the same love, and Cashman had captured that feeling. In the days before the internet and when ESPN was in its infancy, the song was a unifying force.

The Scooter, The Barber and the Newk; They knew them all from Boston to Dubuque…

All the controversies, trials and quibbling, it’s all just background noise. This game can still be perfect; and the memory of it can still make me cry.

It was all on display this weekend in Cooperstown.

Especially Willie, Mickey and The Duke…

Thank you, Terry, for giving us fans our piece of history. And thank you for coming to Cooperstown.

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

Love of baseball grows in spring

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Just back to Cooperstown after a nine-day road trip to Los Angeles, for the WBC; Phoenix, to meet with a couple of owners; and Florida, for some fundraising initiatives. My trip home from Florida on Sunday was fine, though my string of six straight Southwest flights in seat 11C – exit row aisle – came to an end.  Hey, at least I got an aisle seat.

 The main thrust of my visit to Florida was our annual Hall of Fame Champions Grapefruit League trip. We have a great circle of Champions –  individuals and couples who support the Hall of Fame at $5,000 or more.  In return for supporting our educational mission, Champions receive invitations to events across the country with Hall of Famers, spring training games in Florida and Arizona, exhibit openings, Hall of Fame Weekend and the Hall of Fame Classic, all with exclusive access.

4-3-09-Idelson_Roberts.jpgTwo weeks ago we were in Arizona to see the A’s and Mariners play. A’s General Manager Billy Beane joined us for a while before the game, and we had dinner with Hall of Famer Billy Williams.

For our Grapefruit League endeavor, we headed for Ft. Myers. Hall of Fame Vice President and Chief Curator Ted Spencer, named after Ted Williams, Senior Development Director Ken Meifert, whose heart belongs to the Indians, and I, were joined by Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

We picked up the Hall of Fame right-hander at his home outside Tampa. “The Rays are selling out every game this spring,” beamed the longtime Phillie, about his hometown Tampa Bay Rays.

We headed south to Naples, where I talked to Robin about his career. “Sure I met Cy Young. I asked him how he won all those games and he told me he held the ball way back in his hand. I met Cobb too. He told me, ‘I wish I had a few less hits and a few more friends.'”

In Napes, we met Champion Jay Baker for lunch. Jay is a long-time Yankees fan and history buff, and along with his wife Patty, an ardent supporter of many philanthropic causes, such as the Hall of Fame. 

Over lunch, I asked Robin if he had ever been in a movie. “No, but Ashburn and I met Spencer Tracy when he was filming Judgment at Nuremberg,” he said. “What a nice man.”

Robin then quipped, “I was on television once, on What’s My Line (YouTube clip of Robin). The panel had to try and guess my off-season job, which was with the Neptunalia Seafood Company. I was president of Gold King and we sold frozen shrimp. No one could figure out what I did, but they sure came close.”

“I was on Murphy Brown,” quipped Baker. “If you watch carefully, you can see me. I was so smooth we did it on one take,” he laughed.

We spent the afternoon seeing two impressive private baseball collections – Jay’s and the one of another area Champion, Don Gunther. Both are wonderful examples of how the game means so much to people personally. They are both inspired by their love of the game and its history, akin to what happens to visitors every day in Cooperstown.

Jay and Patty generously hosted a Champions recruiting dinner that evening in Naples. There were 24 dinner guests, including former major leaguer Sterling Hitchcock, and we spent the evening all sharing personal stories about what the game means to each of us. 

Robin reminisced about meeting Grover Cleveland Alexander in grade school in Springfield, Illinois. “We had a two-room school house for 8 grades. Alexander was the special guest one day when I was in the eighth grade. He told us, ‘Baseball is a great game. Don’t drink. Look what it did to me.’ Sad, but true.”  

Hitchcock recounted how he grew up unhappy with George Brett who once refused to sign an autograph for him as a high school student. He told his fiance (who became his wife) that if he ever made the majors, he would hit Brett with a pitch.

4-3-09-Idelson_Hitchcock.jpgNot too many years later, making his major league debut at Yankee Stadium, Hitchcock hit Brett on the elbow, very much by mistake. The phone rang that night, and Sterling’s mother-in-law, who was watching the game, remembered the story and thought he had done it on purpose. “Of course, I hadn’t, nor would I ever do that” said Hitchcock, laughing.

The dinner conversation was delightful, with everyone sharing childhood memories of how they first fell in love with the game.  

Jim Collias, a retired neurosurgeon from Yale-New Haven Medical Center, recalled growing up in Boston’s South End. “Mr. Yawkey gave a bunch of us jobs working in the clubhouse during the Depression. I have fond memories of being in Fenway Park and Mr. Yawkey was a nice man. We also were sent to the train station to get the players’ bags when the team arrived in town. We all got very excited to welcome the Yankees, though Joe DiMaggio would never let us carry his bag. He would just shake his head, ‘No.'”

Saturday was spent in City of Palms Park, home to the Red Sox, who played the Twins.   Brad Penny and Francisco Liriano pitched, and – aided by some serious wind blowing out to left field –  Rocco Baldelli, Big Papi and Jason Bay all hit home runs in a Red Sox victory.

Thanks to the generosity of the Red Sox, we enjoyed the afternoon from the owners’ suite.  A number of our Champions and recruits enjoyed the beautiful weather and the pristine ballpark while talking baseball all afternoon. 

Cincinnati-based champion Buck Newsome and his wife Robin traveled in for the game with Robin keeping a detailed scorebook. “This book’s only for spring training,” she explained to me “and I like this style scorebook, because it allows me to count pitches.” The Newsomes are my kind of people — ones who adore the game.

Robin (the pitcher, not the scorekeeper) and I were on the field before the game and we spoke with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “Things sure have changed in pitching,” said Robin to Ron.  “My pitching coach and mentor, Cy Perkins’, instruction to me was pretty simple.  He said, ‘Kid, you can really pitch, keep it up; stay ahead of the batter, and; don’t get past 2-2 on a hitter.’ That was it.” 

After the game, we headed north to Sarasota to have dinner with Reds’ owner Bob Castellini and his wife, Susie, along with their son Bob, Jr., team general manager Walt Jocketty and Hall of Fame champion Bob Crotty. The dinner was wonderful. We talked to the Castellinis about the Hall of Fame and its programs and shared a lot of laughs.

On the way back to Tampa, I asked Robin about how he developed such an effective curveball. “Sal Maglie,” said Robin. “I pitched against ‘The Barber’ on opening day in 1952 and watched how he really shortened up his delivery with the curveball. So, I copied it, won 28 games that year, and never told him.”

We dropped Robin off at home around 11:30 pm, concluding a great couple of days with a group of friends who truly love the game of baseball.

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

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