Results tagged ‘ Willie Mays ’

Hall Monitor: Thin air, busy days and record books

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Through a quarter of the season, we’re starting to stretch our legs. He’s what’s been historically notable over the last week.
 
Rockie reaching high: Rarified air is where Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez spends his time these days. On Thursday, the Colorado hurler threw seven innings, allowing just one hit while blanking the Astros. The first eight-game winner this season, he commands a 0.99 ERA through nine starts. Only 05-22-10-Hayes_Jimenez.jpgFernando Valenzuela (8-1, 0.91) during Fernandomania in 1981 and Hall of Famer Juan Marichal in 1966 (8-0, 0.69) have won eight of their first nine and posted ERAs below 1.00 since the expansion era began.

Angel all over: An inside-the-parker and the old 8-2-6-3 triple play. Angel Pagan was busy Wednesday in Washington. Playing center field for the Mets, he is only the second player to achieve the rare double feat in the last 55 years. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Phillies shortstop Ted Kazanski initiated a triple play and hit an inside-the-park homer on Sept. 25, 1955 against the New York Giants. Each of Kazanski’s play has a Cooperstown connection. His inside-the-parker was the result of an outfield collision between Hall of Famer Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes, and the liner he caught to start a 6-4-3 triple play ended the inning, the game, the season and Hall of Famer Leo Durocher’s tenure as Giants manager. The Phils-Giants game was also the last time a team pulled a triple play and hit an inside-the-park homer in the same game. Interestingly enough, the game Pagan hit his first career inside-the-park homer also featured a triple play, when Philadelphia’s Eric Brunlett converted an unassisted triple play to end the game – a moment preserved by the Hall of Fame with Brunlett’s jersey on display in Today’s Game.

A-Rod passes Robby in style: Alex Rodriguez is now cruising towards 600 homers after passing Hall of Famer Frank Robinson last Friday. But his 587th blast was a bit unusual, as an intentional walk to load the bases preceded A-Rod’s homer. The last time he came to the plate after an intentional walk – in 2009 – he retaliated with a grand slam against the Rays in the season finale. The Twins tried it last Friday night and the result was the same.

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

Classic dream fulfilled

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

A defensive whiz on par with the game’s greatest of all time, longtime center fielder Paul Blair fielded numerous questions pertaining to his distinguished big league career when he recently sat down for an interview with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

03-29-10-Francis_Blair1.jpgIn Cooperstown on March 20 to greet visitors in line to buy tickets for the second annual Hall of Fame Classic, the 66-year-old Blair will trade in his beloved golf clubs for another chance to get out on the field in the June 20 legends game. Tickets for the Classic are on sale at www.baseballhall.org or by calling 1-866-849-7770.

During a 17-year big league career, spent mainly with the great Baltimore Orioles teams of the late 1960s and 1970s, the eight-time Gold Glove Award winner and four-time World Series champion was known for his play in center field. But, surprisingly, Blair was a shortstop until he signed his first professional contract.

“I went to my first spring training the manager said, ‘Everybody go to their positions.’ Seven guys went to short – I was going to be the eighth shortstop,” Blair recalled. “They had two in left, two in center and one in right, and I saw (the player in right field) running and throwing and I knew I could beat him out, so I went to right field and became an outfielder. It just came natural to me for some reason.”

Known as the premier center fielder of his era, Blair was renowned for how shallow he played.

03-29-10-Francis_Blair3.jpg“What I tried to do was play where most of the balls were going to be hit. I didn’t play guys like Harmon Killebrew and Reggie Jackson or the big home run hitters right behind second base, but most guys can’t hit the ball straightaway center field out of the ballpark. If they hit balls to center field they are basically going to be line drives or high pops,” Blair said. “The line drives are not going to go out of the ballpark, so what I tried to do was take some of those line drives away. I wanted to be the best center fielder, head and shoulders, over anybody on my team. That way those pitchers would make the manager play me.”

Raised in Los Angeles, Blair was a Dodgers fan but Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays of the hated San Francisco Giants was his idol.

“Whenever the Giants played the Dodgers, I would hope Mays would get four hits but the Dodgers would win,” Blair said. “When I was growing up I used to do the basket catch even though I was at shortstop, but when I became a professional I thought I better do my own thing and not copy Willie because if I ever droped one then it’s going to be heck to pay.”

A star athlete in high school, Blair’s decision to pursue baseball as a profession was influenced by another Hall of Famer.

“I guess that came from Jackie (Robinson),” Blair said. “As long as I can remember, since I was eight years old, I wanted to be a major league baseball player. That was my one desire, my one goal, and I was just fortunate that I had some athletic ability.”

Blair became a regular with the O’s at the tender age of 21 in 1965 and appeared in the postseason six times with Baltimore over his 13 seasons with the club.

03-29-10-Francis_Blair2.jpg“Our whole thing, and it came from (Hall of Fame manager) Earl (Weaver) and he was the catalyst of those ball clubs, is that you went out there and you played great defense, you pitched well, and you played the whole game,” Blair said. “The team came first. You did everything you possibly could to help win a ballgame.

 “We already had a very good ball club but then (future Hall of Famer) Frank (Robinson) came in 1966 that really put us over the top. He was that big gun that all the other pitchers had to concentrate on. The rest of us just had to do our thing. When Frank said, ‘Let’s go,’ we just followed him.”

Looking back on his baseball career, Blair says that he is proudest of the fact that he got to play in the big leagues for 17 years.

“It’s a very big achievement for me because that’s something I always wanted to do, and it’s the only thing I ever want to do,” Blair said. “The bonus was winning the eight Gold Gloves and the four World Series championships.

“I was very fortunate being on the teams that I played on. I played on 10 first place teams. Every time I went to spring training I knew I had a chance to be in a World Series. I wound up getting in eight playoffs, six World Series, and we won four of them. Hopefully I did my part and contributed to us winning. That was very important to me.”

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

54 years ago today, Murray began Hall of Fame journey

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Despite the offensive explosion in Major League Baseball during the last 20 years, this fact remains: Only 10 men in big league history have driven in more than 1,900 runs.

And just two of them – Eddie Murray and Barry Bonds – began their careers after 1960.

02-24-10-Muder_Murray.jpgBonds’ 762 home runs tell the story of many of his RBIs. But Murray – one of the most consistent run producers in the game’s history – remains underappreciated.

Murray turns 54 today, making him one of the youngest Hall of Famers (62nd out of 68) despite the fact it’s been seven years since his election. He was a first-ballot choice by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2003 after finishing his career with 504 home runs, 3,255 hits and eight All-Star Game selections.

Murray’s consistency was staggering. In his 21 big league seasons, Murray’s team played at least 150 games 18 times. Murray appeared in at least 150 contests in 16 of those seasons – and topped the 160-mark six times.

Consider this: Over a typical 162-game season, Murray averaged 103 RBIs – the exact number as Willie Mays, one more than Mickey Mantle.

Few players answered the bell more consistently – and as well.

Twenty-one big league seasons, 1,917 RBIs – ninth on the all-time list. It’s a standard of excellence that will remain for generations to come.

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

Sept. 30, 1972: Clemente records 3,000th hit

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

Thirty-seven years ago Wednesday, Roberto Clemente recorded a career milestone.

On Sept. 30, 1972, Clemente and the defending world champion Pirates were taking on Yogi Berra‘s Mets at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, was hitting an impressive .311 heading into the season finale against New York.

9-30-09-Lawrence_Clemente.jpgBatting third against Mets starter Jon Matlack, the eventual National League Rookie of the Year, Clemente looked to push his career hit total of 2,999 into an historic category. At the time, only 10 other players were members of the 3,000-hit club, and only three — Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial — had done so in the latter half of the 20th century.

Clemente, aside from being a world-renowned humanitarian, had a chance to become the first Latin ballplayer to reach 3,000 hits.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Clemente led off against Matlack after striking out in his first at-bat. Clemente promptly roped a double to the Three Rivers outfield — the 3,000th and last regular-season hit of his exceptional career.

But it wouldn’t be his last impact on Major League Baseball. The Pirates won the National League East and were set to take on Sparky Anderson‘s Reds in the league’s championship series. Clemente only had four hits in the five-game series loss, which officially unseated the 1971 world champions, but a double and a home run were among the four hits.

9-30-09-Lawrence_ClementeHit.jpgAfter 18 magical seasons of watching Clemente control the diamond as few ever did, the world was dealt a huge blow when Clemente was killed on Dec. 31. Flying to Nicaragua to deliver goods to earthquake victims, Clemente was the victim of a plane crash that took his life at the young age of 38.

But to dwell on Clemente’s tragic passing is a disservice to the incredible life he led — one which began on Aug. 18, 1934, in Carolina, Puerto Rico. One of more than 200 Puerto Rican players to play in the big leagues, Clemente remains the commonwealth’s all-time hits leader, 276 in front of runner-up Roberto Alomar.

Clemente became the first Latin American player to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, and dozens of artifacts from Clemente’s life are housed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. In the brand-new Viva Baseball! exhibit, which celebrates the Latin influence on the game, Clemente is recognized alongside other Latin American stars.

9-30-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgA No. 21 Pirates jersey retired on Opening Day 1973, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings covering his untimely passing and the “Roberto Clemente Memorial Album” vinyl record are all on display in Viva Baseball!.

“Roberto Clemente touched us all,” Pirates pitcher Steve Blass once said. “We’re all better players and people for having known him.”

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Rising in the fall

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

A look at some of baseball’s record chasers as the last month of the season gets under way:


9-4-09-Hayes_HowardKlein.jpgRanking Ryan:
With August coming to a close, Ryan Howard cemented his name in the Phillies record book yet again. Last Friday marked his third multi-homer game of the month, tying the Phils record for a single calendar month. Among the five others to do it are Hall of Famers Chuck Klein (August 1931) and Mike Schmidt (August 1974 and August 1983). Howard’s teammate Chase Utley (September 2006) is on the list as well.

The last week also saw Howard drive in his 600th career run in just his 693rd game. That’s the fastest for any major-league player since 1946, when Ted Williams collected his 600th RBI in his 675th game.

Elite Pettitte: Though he lost a perfect game bid in the seventh inning, Andy Pettitte’s win on the final day of August made him the third winningest pitcher in Yankees history. He had been tied with Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez at 189. Only Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231) have more wins in Yankee history.

9-4-09-Hayes_Uggla.jpgPower at second: Florida’s Dan Uggla belted his 25th homer Wednesday, making him the third second baseman to hit at least 25 dingers in four straight seasons. The others are Alfonso Soriano (2002-05) and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg (1989-92). Unlike the others, however, Uggla has done it all in the first four years of his career.

Remembering Roberto: In October, the Hall of Fame will hold its second Character and Courage weekend to honor the achievements and spirit of Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente. Major League Baseball, meanwhile, is in the midst of its own celebration of the Pirates’ legend.

9-4-09-Hayes_Clemente.jpgWednesday was the eighth annual Roberto Clemente Day, and MLB’s teams announced their nominees for the Roberto Clemente Award, which seeks to find the player “who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”

Prior to Clemente’s tragic death on New Year’s Eve 1972 while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, the award was simply called the Commissioner’s Award. Last year’s winner was NL MVP Albert Pujols, and the names on the award read like a who’s who of the game’s greats since 1971 – the first year it was given out.

Hall of Famers have won the award 13 times, including Willie Mays, who received the honor the first year, Al Kaline, who was the first winner of the award after it was renamed in Clemente’s honor; Clemente’s teammate Willie Stargell. Other Hall of Famers who won the Clemente Award include Brooks Robinson, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Phil Niekro, Gary Carter, Cal Ripken, Jr., Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith, Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn.

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

Ernie Banks hits 400th career home run

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

Mr. Cub brightened an otherwise challenging season of “lovable losing” for Chicago Cubs fans 44 years ago today.

9-2-09-Lawrence_BanksMug.jpgTaking on lefty Curt Simmons and the rival Cardinals on Sept. 2, 1965, Ernie Banks and the Cubs were simply trying to finish strong in a season in which they were 63-73 heading into play on that day.

After two scoreless frames at the plate for the Cubs, they manufactured a run and had future Hall of Famer Billy Williams and teammate Ron Santo on base for Banks.

An influential member of the post-Jackie Robinson era of African-American stars in Major League Baseball, and a former Negro leaguer himself with the Kansas City Monarchs, Banks stepped to the plate against Simmons looking to give the Cubbies a bigger lead, with the potential to set one of his many career milestones.

9-2-09-Lawrence_BanksSwing.jpgBanks promptly blasted the ball into the bleachers at Wrigley Field like he had so many times before. It was home run No. 400 for Banks, making him only the 11th player to join that club at the time – and only the second African American to do so, along with “The Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays.

Banks was also the first to join the home run club as a Cub, and is still one of only four former Cubs in the 500 home run club along with Sammy Sosa, Jimmie Foxx and Rafael Palmeiro.

“Without (Banks), the Cubs would finish in Albuquerque,” said Jimmie *****, the manager of the White Sox from 1934-46.

9-2-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgBanks and the Cubs never reached the postseason during his 19 big league seasons. In 1965, the year of his historic 400th homer, the Cubs finished in eighth out of 10 in the NL with a .444 winning percentage.

But Banks certainly did his part to bring a pennant to Chicago. He is still No. 1 all-time in franchise history in games played (2,528), total bases (4,706) and extra base hits (1,009).

Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 in his first year eligible.

Thomas Lawrence was the 2009 publications intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Making a name

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

A few names and numbers from the week that was in baseball:


8-21-09-Hayes_AbreuHenderson.jpgBobby’s World:
With two home runs against the Orioles last weekend, the Angels’ Bobby Abreu became the fifth player with 11 10 home run/20 stolen base seasons, joining Barry and Bobby Bonds and Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Joe Morgan.

Last week, Abreu hit his 250th career homer, which placed him with Willie Mays as the only players in baseball history with 250-plus homers, 300-plus steals and a .300 or better career average. He also became one of only six players in major league history with 2,000 hits, 250 home runs, 1,000 runs scored, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases. The other five are Henderson, Mays, Morgan, Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio.

Mauer power: On Tuesday night, Joe Mauer collected three hits – including two homers – finishing the night with 25 homers and a .383 batting average. Hall of Famers Ted Williams (1941 and 1957), Joe DiMaggio (1939), Lou Gehrig (1930 and 1936) and Babe Ruth (1931) were the last four AL players prior to Mauer with at least 25 home runs and a .380 batting average through 119 games.

.300 Angels: The Angels accomplished a feat on Tuesday at Cleveland which hadn’t been seen since 1934. A quick scan of the box score Wednesday morning showed a .300 average or better for each player in the lineup. With Mike Napoli and Maicer Izturis, a super-substitute, each ending the night with a .300 average, the Angels matched the 1934 Tigers as the last team to sport that kind of arsenal in a lineup 100 games into the season.
 
The Tigers included Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin and Hank Greenberg. Pitcher Schoolboy Rowe even joined the cause with a .302 average.


8-21-09-Hayes_Stargell.jpgCelebration:
The summer of ’69 and ’79 are remembered rather fondly in two National League cities. And this weekend, both the Pirates and the Mets will celebrate their good times.

The Pirates are remembering their last World Championship with “We Are Fam-A-Lee Weekend.” Breakout the polyester because 1979 throwbacks will be worn by the Pirates and their opponents, the Reds, on Friday and Saturday and a ceremony will be held on Saturday honoring the 22 players and staff who are attending, including  Margaret Stargell (wife of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell), Dave Parker, Phil Garner, Bert Blyleven and Dale Berra.

Also on Saturday The Miracle Mets will celebrate their amazing World Series victory. Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Yogi Berra are scheduled to be on the field with several other key members of that magic season, including the widow of manager Gil Hodges.

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

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