Results tagged ‘ Willie McCovey ’

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.

Hall Monitor: World Series Special

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The World Series is upon us. The whole season comes down to this, and like the previous 105, this one is already living up to the name Fall Classic.


10-29-10-Hayes_DrysdaleKoufax.jpgTexas Three-Step?
: Just two of the previous seven teams to dig a hole like Texas’ current deficit – losing the first two games, each by at least four runs – have come back to win the World Series. The last team to create such a predicament was the 2001 Yankees, who forced a seventh game but ultimately lost to the Diamondbacks. The pair to overcome similarly lopsided losses: Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale’s 1965 Dodgers, who rallied against the Twins, and the 1996 Yankees, who defeated the Braves.

Record line: In three career postseason starts, San Francisco’s Matt Cain has given up just one run – an unearned blemish in the sixth inning of the NLDS against the Braves. Cain has compiled a 2-0 record after blanking the Rangers in Game Two. Few other players have begun their postseason careers with three straight games in which they didn’t allow an earnie. Giants legends and Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson began his postseason career with what may be the most impressive performance ever: Three straight complete game shutouts in the 1905 World Series – going on three days rest and then two days for the final two. Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt allowed two unearned runs in three starts for the 1921 Yankees- going 2-1 in his first foray into postseason play. And Jon Matlack allowed three unearned while going 2-1 in his first three games before eventually ending with a 2-2 record during the Mets’ postseason run in 1973 – his only career postseason.

10-29-10-Hayes_Mathewson.jpgCain’s 21.1 innings without an earned run to start his postseason career is the sixth longest mark. He sits behind Hoyt (34 innings), Mathewson (28 innings), Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon  (26.1 innings), Matlack  (25 innings) and another Giant Hall of Famer, Carl Hubbell  (22 innings).

End of the run: Cliff Lee went 4.2 innings and gave up seven runs in Game One on Wednesday. His numbers are so astounding because he was on an unbelievable run. Before Wednesday’s aberration, his career 1.26 postseason ERA ranked third among pitchers with at least five starts. Just Sandy Koufax and Christy Mathewson held an edge over Lee’s dominance. As it is now, he still holds a 1.96 ERA and a 7-1 record in nine starts during his playoff career.

Big hits: Nine times in World Series history, a Giant has collected four hits in a game. After his 4-for-5 night in game one, Freddy Sanchez became the latest. The previously four before him is a good group to be in: Hall of Famers Ross Youngs (1923), Fred Lindstrom (1924), Mel Ott (1933) and Monte Irvin (1951).

Pivotal Pitching: The Phils “Feared the Beard” during the NLCS, as Brian Wilson recorded a win or a save in each of the Giants victories. With three saves and a win, he’s just the fourth pitcher since saves became an official stat in 1969 to wreak that kind of havoc on an opponent. Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, with four saves and an MVP Award 1988 ALCS leads the group, followed by Mitch Williams (two wins and two saves in the 1993 NLCS) and John Wetteland (four saves and an MVP Award in the 1996 World Series).

10-29-10-Hayes_Ryan.jpgCheckup up on the stars: Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster and 2003 Ford C. Frick Award winner Bob Uecker was released from the hospital after undergoing successful heart surgery last Tuesday. The broadcaster received a valve replacement earlier this season before surgery to repair a tear at the replacement site earlier this month.

Throughout the postseason, several Hall of Famers have tossed several ceremonial first pitches. Game One of the World Series was no different with Orlando Cepeda, Monte Irvin, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry tossing the first ball. In Texas, Saturday’s game will likewise feature a living legend as Rangers President Nolan Ryan reprises the role after he and Fergie Jenkins took the honors in Game One and Two of the ALCS, respectively.

For a good cause: Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was honored before Thursday’s game with the Roberto Clemente Award. Beating out nominees from the other 29 clubs in his eighth year of being nominated, Wakefield is honored for combining dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field.

Wakefield was honored by Commissioner Bud Selig, widow Clemente’s Vera Clemente and his sons Roberto Jr. and Luis. Of the 27 eligible former winners of the Award, 13 are Hall of Famers.

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

A visit with history

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

The job requirements that come with being president of the Hall of Fame are diverse, but one of the great elements is staying in touch with our Hall of Fame members.

12-07-09-Idelson_Seaver.jpgWe have 65 living legends, many of whom I see several times annually. It’s important for the Hall of Fame that I maintain and grow these relationships, as they are the lifeblood of the Hall of Fame. These are the men who bestow the virtues of Cooperstown upon fans across the country.

Just before Thanksgiving, I made a trip west to see Tom Seaver, Willie McCovey and Bobby Doerr. I met McCovey at his home south of San Francisco in the Peninsula area, and then had dinner with Willie and his friend of 50 years, Rocky Dudem, near Willie Mac’s home. We talked about the state of the Giants, what’s new in Cooperstown and how much Willie missed attending Hall of Fame Weekend this year.

A few days later I ventured north to Napa Valley to visit with Tom and Nancy Seaver. Tom’s added a new chapter to his life as a wine maker. GTS Vineyards bottles Cabernet and is terrific. For Tom, he approaches his new career as he did his playing career. “It’s all about the journey,” No. 41 said to me as he greeted me in blue jeans and a work shirt with a pair of pruning shears in his back pocket.  As we walked the vineyard, it became obvious that creating the product was as – if not more – important than distributing the wine.

12-07-09-Idelson_Doerr.jpgA quick flight to Portland, Ore., the following morning, followed by a two-hour drive south on I-5 to Junction City, brought me to the home of Bobby Doerr. Getting to Bobby’s house reminded me of driving in central New York. “Take the 5 south, take a right at a stop sign, go over a bridge for 5 miles, and a left will get you to my house,” said Doerr prior to my visit.

A man of great character, the 91-year old Doerr — the Hall of Fame’s oldest living player — greeted me with a big smile. As we sat in the living room of his modest ranch-style home amidst 150 acres of virgin farm land, Doerr reveled how he and his father-in-law had built the home he shared with his late wife Monica two years after he retired in 1951. He proudly showed me a recent picture he found, one of Bobby in his Little League uniform, with his dad and brother.

After lunch in an area restaurant that used to be a bank, I dropped Bobby home and headed north to Portland.

Seeing our Hall of Famers in the natural surroundings reminded me that these men are just like any of us. They care about their community, are proud and have a great zest for life outside of baseball — as they did when playing.

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

Induction Week Memories

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

After this Sunday’s Induction Ceremony at 1:30 p.m. EDT, nine men who have worn the San Diego Padres uniform will have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Of those nine, Lillian Edmondson and Ann Spraker will have seen eight.

7-21-09-Hayes_InductionWeek.jpgThe two women have seen Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Tony Gwynn, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith, Dick Williams and Dave Winfield grace the stage at Clark Sports Center after making the cross-country pilgrimage from San Diego to Cooperstown. Spraker, who is originally from Upstate New York, always made an annual trip, but 20 years ago Edmondson started coming along as well.

“We come to Cooperstown every year because it’s a beautiful place,” Edmondson said on Tuesday. “And the Hall of Fame is great.”

This year the two will see their eighth Padre inducted into the Hall of Fame – they missed the induction of Willie McCovey in 1986 – when Rickey Henderson joins Jim Rice and Joe Gordon as the Induction Class of 2009.

“We had Rickey for a little while and then we traded him, but then he came back and when he came back, he made the game fun, lively and interesting,” Edmondson said. “When Rickey was on base, look out. You never knew what was going to happen.”

Henderson holds a place in Edmondson and Spraker’s hearts, but one man stands above the rest: Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn. Now with Tony Gwynn Jr. playing in San Diego, it’s a bit of a trip back in time.

“It’s fun when you look up at the scoreboard and see a Tony Gwynn batting,” Edmondson said. “We had to be here the year Tony went in as well as Cal Ripken – two very high-class individuals.”

That summer they enrolled in the Hall of Fame Membership Program for the first time – something they’ve done every year since. Spraker said they wanted to make sure they weren’t going to miss out on any of the events.

“We wanted to be sure we didn’t miss out on anything,” Spraker said. “It was the most fantastic week. Everyone was wearing clothes of both teams and just being courteous to each other.”

As veterans of several Inductions prior to 2007, they knew Hall of Fame Weekend provides a lot to do, but a few events are exclusive for members. There are still tickets for a few of this year’s the Member events, including:


7-21-09-Hayes_PLAYBall.jpgFriday July 24 -
PLAY Ball! with Ozzie Smith, an opportunity to interact at Doubleday Field with the Wizard and fellow Hall of Famers Wade Boggs, Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Murray. (8:30 a.m.)

The Legends for Youth Skills Clinic gives children (5 to 12) a chance to enhance their baseball skills with former major leaguers on historic Doubleday Field. (1:30 p.m.)

Saturday July 25 -
At Connecting Generations, audience participants will compete with Goose Gossage, Ryne Sandberg and Dick Williams in a trivia contest moderated by former major leaguer and MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds. (3 p.m., Clark Sports Center)

Monday July 27 -
The Legends Series Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice relive the memories from their playing careers. (10:30 a.m., Clark Sports Center)

To become a member click here and to reserve tickets for Member exclusive Induction Weekend events call 607.547.0397.

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

The greatness of Hank Aaron

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

“Here’s the pitch from Downing … swinging … there’s a drive into left-center field. The ball is gonna beeee … out of here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home-run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron.”

That was the radio call of Braves broadcaster Milo Hamilton on April 8, 1974, when Aaron broke Babe Ruth‘s long-standing home-run record. As important as that milestone was, and as immortal as Hamilton’s words have become, that singular event is precisely why Aaron ranks among baseball’s most underrated ballplayers.

4-24-09-Idelson_Aaron.jpgFans tend to remember Lou Gehrig because he died from ALS. Outside of Baltimore, Cal Ripken Jr. is remembered for “the streak.” And Aaron is often remembered for the home runs, though he accomplished so much more.

On this — the eve of the opening of Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, our new exhibit dedicated to Aaron at the Baseball Hall of Fame — it is appropriate to consider the magnitude of what Aaron accomplished on and off the field.

Who is the all-time leader today in RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits? Hank Aaron. “The Hammer” also ranks second all time in home runs, third in hits and fourth in runs. He showed up to play every day, which is why he is among the top five all time in games played, at-bats and plate appearances.

Aaron’s also a member of the prestigious 3,000-hit club. Take away each and every one of his 755 home runs, and he still has 3,016 hits.

Said teammate Phil Niekro of Aaron’s home runs after No. 700, “It’s like the sun coming up every morning. You just don’t know what time.”

Over 23 seasons, Aaron was great, averaging 33 home runs and 100 RBIs with a .305 batting average. He was a 25-time All-Star, representing his league every year except his rookie year and final season. Aaron was in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting 12 times, winning it in 1957 when the Braves won the World Series. By the way, Aaron hit .393 with three home runs and seven RBIs in the Braves’ victory over the Yankees in the Fall Classic.

4-24-09-Idelson_Aaron2.jpgNot only was he great, but Aaron was consistently awesome: He hit 20 or more home runs 20 times, drove in 100 or more runs 11 times and hit better than .300 14 times. He hit .303 with 385 home runs at home and .306 with 370 home runs on the road. His batting average never varied by more than 10 points, month to month, over his career.

The Hammer was raised in Mobile, Ala., a hotbed for talent. Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith and Billy Williams were all born in Mobile, a city with a population under 200,000.

Aaron accomplished so much with a quiet grace and dignity which he brought to the ballpark every day in a time of racial divide in America. He was also among those who integrated the South Atlantic League, and he broke Ruth’s home-run mark in the face of intense hatred and racism. It’s no surprise that his hero was Jackie Robinson, who paved Aaron’s way to the way to the Majors.

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

A perfect storm

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

The White Sox can slug. Last season they hit 235 home runs, tops in the Majors and 21 ahead of the world champion Phillies. This season, they’ve hit 10 — tied for ninth at the moment, with the Rangers leading the way with 17 homers in this young season.

But Chicago has a fearsome heart of the order with Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and then Paul Konerko. And their bats are coming alive. Quentin deposited a pair of balls over the outfield wall at Comerica Park on Monday, and it was the team’s first four-homer game of 2009. They had 11 last year.

The story of Monday’s Tigers-White Sox game was, of course, two men making history by hitting their 300th career home runs in back-to-back at-bats. Dye and Konerko became the first teammates to reach a century milestone of at least 300 in the same game, let alone doing so in back-to-back fashion.

4-15-09-Hayes_KonerkoDye.jpgIt was the fifth time in Major League history that two men have reached a century milestone of at least 300 in the same day, and Thome has been involved in two of those events. The others are Mark McGwire (400) and Andres Galarraga (300) on May 8, 1998; Albert Belle (300) and Rafael Palmeiro (300) on July 17, 1998; Juan Gonzalez (400) and Thome (300) on June 5, 2002; and Thome (500) and Todd Helton on Sept. 16, 2007.

Thome, Dye and Koneko have been together since 2006 and are fairly well represented at the Hall of Fame. Dye’s jersey from Game 4 of his Most Valuable Player performance during the 2005 World Series is here, as are the jersey Thome wore when he hit his 400th career home-run on June 29, 2004, and his 500th home-run ball. In fact, Thome came to Cooperstown last August and presented the ball to the Hall’s chief curator, Ted Spencer.

Something to think about as the Sox home-run machine gets its engines turning is this: With Dye in right field, Konerko at first base and Thome as the designated hitter, the White Sox have 1,143 career home runs in their lineup between just three men. Of course dropping Dye or Konerko for Ken Griffey Jr. at the end of last 2008 considerably ups the total. Both Konerko and Dye ended 2008 with 298 and Thome ended with 541, while Griffey had 611 for an unreal total of 1,450 home runs. That kind of slugging is historic in nature.

An incomplete look at some of the great home-run hitting trios in baseball history turns up very few teams featuring a lineup with that much pop. I was only able to find one team that can overtake the current Sox. In 2006, the Yankees had Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. Those three Bronx Bombers finished the season with a combined 1,269 career homers (Rodriguez at 464, Sheffield at 455 and Giambi at 350). The next season, Sheffield was traded to Detroit, breaking up the unit.

Many teams have come close. Mr. Cub’s Lovable Losers fall just short of their Windy City successors. In Hall of Famer Ernie Banks‘ final year, the North Siders had 1,131 career homers between their three top sluggers. Banks had 512, Hall of Famer Billy Williams had 319 and Ron Santo had 300.

Babe Ruth‘s final year with the Yankees, 1934, was another homer-happy squad, but even they can’t match the Sox mashers despite having three prominent Hall of Famers. With Ruth at 708 and Lou Gehrig at 348, the two sluggers had 1,056. Like many teams however, they fell short of finding a third player. Bill Dickey‘s 62 give the 1934 Yankees a combined 1,118 career home runs.

The 1971 Giants, featuring two Hall of Famers with a 40-year-old Willie Mays at 646 and Willie McCovey at 370, also had a young Bobby Bonds with 100 career homer runs, combining for a total of 1,116.

Eddie Murray played in Baltimore for many years and came back at the tail end of 1996 with 474 homers at the end of the season and teamed with Cal Ripken Jr. (353) and Palmeiro (233) for 1,060 total home runs. 

4-15-09-Hayes_MantleAaron.jpgThe ’04 Cubs had Slammin’ Sammy Sosa with 543, Moises Alou at 278 and Derrek Lee with 162 for a total of 983. That team also featured Aramis Ramirez with 127 at the time.

The hardest part of finding a team with over 1,000 career homers between three players is finding three prolific hitters at that point in their careers. 2009 inductee Jim Rice and Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams all played in Boston and overlapped each other’s tenures, but they never played together that late in their careers.

The Milwaukee Braves of the late ’50s and ’60s were known for their slugging threesome. In 1962, the Braves featured Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews at 399, Hall of Famer and eventual home-run king Hank Aaron at 298 and Joe Adcock with 270 for a 967 total. Four years later, Adcock was gone, but by then Mathews (493) and Aaron (442) had come a long way. Felipe Alou’s 148 give the new threesome 935 homers in 1966.

Mickey Mantle ran into the same problem. He played with Joe DiMaggio as a youngster and Yogi Berra for a long period of time. By 1963, Mantle had 419 longballs, Berra had 358 and slugger Roger Maris contributed 214 for a total of 991.

It takes the perfect storm to put 1,143 career home runs into one lineup. Right now, the White Sox have it, and it’s fun to watch.

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

Retiring from full-time duty

Spencer_90.jpgBy Ted Spencer

So, this is it — the last week of my time as a full-time employee of the Baseball Hall of Fame. My last day is this Thursday, April 16. (There will be an explanation on the significance of the 16th on the day itself.)

It certainly isn’t the same place it was on the day I started, April 19, 1982. At that time, the number of full-time employees here was about 18. Now, we number close to 100. There were approximately 30,000 square feet of exhibit space. Now, it is around 50,000.

4-13-09-Spencer_Artifact.jpgMore importantly, we have grown philosophically. I remember the first month I was here, I asked Howard Talbot, the museum director, “Are we a museum or a tourist destination?” His response: “That is a question we’re trying to answer.”

I believe that, in the years that followed, it was answered. Even though the vast majority of our visitors are here on vacation, we have matured into a major museum and most importantly, a serious research center. With the staff we have in place throughout the organization, I think the future years here will be very exciting.

For me, personally, it has been quite a ride. What an experience! For someone who was just an everyday fan in the fall of 1981, to find himself on first-name terms with many of his childhood idols — it’s mind boggling. In addition: taking an exhibit to Japan, spending five days in Cuba, meeting three U.S. presidents, working in the White House. That’s all topped off by being able to raise your family in Cooperstown. How much better can it get?

Around 9:30 on Friday morning, the entire family heads for a week’s vacation in South Carolina. When I return, I will be coming into the office for a few mornings each week. I will be prowling through the institution’s archives, which — I hope — date back to our beginning. This is an area I’ve wanted to research for some time. I hope to find information on the history of the exhibits as well as any information on the donation of artifacts. A cursory look through has already unearthed some 1950 correspondence between the Hall and Ty Cobb, which led to his donation of his “Honey Boy” Evans trophies from the early 20th century.

I anticipate reporting on my findings in future blogs.

Right now, I have an office to clean out.

Ted Spencer is vice president and chief curator of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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