Results tagged ‘ Willie Keeler ’

Pierre chasing Hall of Famers

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Juan Pierre is on the move again – but this time it’s not on the basepaths.

Pierre, the active career steals leader with 459 whose playing time was limited over the last year and a half due to the Dodgers’ acquisition of Manny Ramirez, was dealt on Tuesday to the Chicago White Sox, where he will become their new left fielder and leadoff man. It will be Pierre’s fifth team in what will be his 11th big league season.

12-16-09-Berowski_Pierre.jpg“Juan always put the Dodgers first, even when it wasn’t in his personal best interest,” said Dodgers GM Ned Colleti.

Pierre currently ranks 47th all-time on Major League Baseball’s stolen base list. At 32 years of age, before all is said and done, Pierre should have no problem moving up considerably on that list. But the question remains, how many more steals are left in those legs?

At 1,406 steals, Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is baseball’s all-time stolen base king, and the only player in history to steal more than 1,000 bases. When Henderson was 32, he was ready to begin his 13th major league campaign and was only two steals shy of Lou Brock’s then record 938 steals. Rickey went on to play 25 seasons with nine different teams before hanging up his spikes for good and ultimately earning enshrinement in Cooperstown this past summer.

Pierre might not match Rickey’s mark of 1,406, but he could pass several Hall of Famers while moving up the all-time steals list. Pierre has averaged 45 steals per year since 2001 and should pass Hall of Famers Tommy McCarthy and Willie Keeler in 2010. He may also pass Hall members Paul Molitor, Fred Clarke and Luis Aparicio next season as well if he stays healthy.

One thing Pierre has going for him is his work ethic.

“I’ve never seen anyone who works like him – never” said Pierre’s former batting coach with the Marlins, Bill Robinson, “He’s hungry for knowledge, hungry to learn, hungry to play. It’s beautiful. He’s a delight.”

If Pierre maintains a stolen base rate close to his average over the next three seasons, by 2013 he will have also passed several more Hall of Famers: Bid McPhee, Hugh Duffy and Ozzie Smith, and in the process crack the top 20 on the all-time list.

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

A little anniversary: Veeck sent Gaedel to bat 58 years ago

Bielefeld_90.jpgBy Bridget Bielefeld

Bill Veeck always found ways to lure fans to the ballpark, using elaborate giveaways and exploding scoreboards.

Yet perhaps the most well-known stunt of his career as baseball executive could hardly be seen by the fans in the upper deck. The memory of that promotion, however, will live forever in baseball lore.

Veeck, then the owner of the St. Louis Browns, sent 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to bat 58 years ago today.

8-19-09-Bielefeld_Veeck.jpgThe American League was celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1951, and Veeck wanted to do something memorable. He partnered with a local brewery to deliver a big crowd, and they came through. The Browns recorded their highest attendance mark in four years, as 18,369 fans crammed into Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis for an August 19 doubleheader between the last place Detroit Tigers and the eventual cellar dwellers, the Browns.

He also hired Gaedel -a 26-year-old stunt performer. To keep his plan a secret, Veeck sent the contract to the league office late on Saturday, Aug. 18 – knowing it would not be delivered until Monday.

Between games Gaedel – sporting No. 1/8 – jumped out of a large papier-mâché cake and scurried into the Browns dugout. Little did the fans know at the time – nor did anyone from the league office – that Veeck had discretely signed Gaedel to a major league contract. Gaedel, given strict orders from Veeck not to swing the bat, swapped his elf-like shoes for a pair of cleats.  

“When he heard what I wanted him to do, he was a little dubious,” Veeck wrote in his autobiography, Veeck – As in Wreck.  “I had to give him a sales pitch.  I said, ‘Eddie, you’ll be the only midget in the history of the game. You’ll be appearing before thousands of people. Your name will go in the record books for all-time. You’ll be famous, Eddie. You’ll be immortal.’”

Gaedel waited in the Browns tunnel until the bottom of the first inning, he heard public address announcer Bernie Ebert boom, “Batting for Frank Saucier, No. 1/8, Eddie Gaedel.”

8-19-09-Bielefeld_Keeler.jpgAs he approached the batters’ box, home plate umpire Ed Hurley summoned Browns manager Zack Taylor. Prepared by Veeck, Taylor brought with him a copy of Gaedel’s contract and a roster – proving they had room for him on the team. Appeased, Hurley called for play to resume.

“When Eddie went into that crouch, his strike zone was just about visible to the naked eye,” Veeck wrote. “I picked up a ruler and measured it for posterity. It was 1.5 inches.” 

Tigers pitcher Bob Cain walked Gaedel on four pitches – all high. At first base, Gaedel was lifted for pinch runner Jim Delsing and left to a roaring ovation from the crowd.

“For a minute, I felt like Babe Ruth,” Gaedel said after the game. 

American League president Will Harridge was not amused. He banned Gaedel from Major League Baseball and implemented a rule stating that all player contracts must be approved by the president prior to that player appearing in a game.

Gaedel’s walk also was expunged from the record books in 1951, but was later restored. His career stat line reads one game, one plate appearance, one walk and an on-base percentage of 1.000.

Veeck would own the Browns for two more seasons before selling. In 1959, he purchased the White Sox and would have two separate stints as the team’s owner. He passed away in 1986 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Bridget Bielefeld is the 2009 public relations intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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