Results tagged ‘ World Baseball Classic ’

A great month

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

5-29-09-Idelson_Aaron.jpgWhat a month it has been for the Hall of Fame — from opening two new major exhibits to having five Hall of Famers in town. It’s been a whirlwind, but a good whirlwind.

The Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream exhibit opening was especially gratifying because Henry and his wife Billye were in Cooperstown, and truly impressed with the presentation. You could almost see their sense of pride seeing in brick and mortar all that they have accomplished in life. Our Voices of the Game program with members was great, especially when Henry grabbed a Jackie Robinson model bat and started showing everyone how Jackie grabbed the bat tightly, while Henry’s hands were loose. Insider info. So cool.

5-29-09-Idelson_Viva.jpgTwo weeks later, we opened ¡Viva Baseball! Orlando Cepeda traveled from San Francisco and Juan Marichal from the Dominican Republic for the dedication. This exhibit may be the most intricate one we have established, with its widespread use of multimedia, and with every single element — labels, captions and video, all bilingual. As I delivered my remarks while standing on a map of South America, and specifically on Nicaragua, it caused me to pause and remember that Orioles and Expos star, Dennis Martinez, the all-time winningest pitcher in the country’s history, signed a contract in the spring of 1973, just months after Hall of Fame hero and humanitarian Roberto Clemente died trying to deliver earthquake relief supplies there on New Year’s Eve. 

Both exhibits are ones with which our entire staff is so proud.

5-29-09-Idelson_HendersonRice.jpgSprinkled among the openings were orientation visits from Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson. Both were seeing the Museum for the first time. It’s always interesting to see how the guys react to being in Cooperstown and the result is always the same: humbled. They both now are beginning to realize the enormity of being a Hall of Famer. From talking to a lot of Hall of Famers over the years, coming to Cooperstown and then giving their speech on stage truly leads them to realize that their careers are ongoing. I know Rickey still thinks about playing… he asked me if he could play in the WBC in January.

Now we roll into June and the Hall of Fame Classic is quickly approaching and five MORE Hall of Famers will be in Coop. July will bring 50+ more. 

While the village of Cooperstown can be classified as sleepy, the Museum certainly can not.  There’s always something fun happening in the Hall.

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

Turning four: Congrats Tommy and Happy Birthday MLBlogs

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

This weekend we were a little busy with the sale of Hall of Fame Classic tickets and the announcement of Mike Pagliarulo’s participation in the June 21st Father’s Day Game. But we did note that Saturday was the MLBlog-osphere‘s fourth birthday; and we’d like to send a shout out to one of our own who helped start this thing.


4-20-09-Hayes_Lasorda.jpgHall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda
wrote an introductory post on April 18, 2005, for the launch of this grand old network talking about this grand old game. Tommy has always been a great ambassador to the game (as you can see by that first post: “Remembering my friend Jackie” on Jackie Robinson). His blog has become an outlet for so many stories. As a newbie to the blog world, we here at Cooperstown Chatter are taking a page out of what he’s done and hope we can build the kind of community he has.

Today is the 41st entry for the Hall of Fame on Cooperstown Chatter and we are just over a month old, but we feel like we’re starting to connect to the vibrant community here on mlblogs.com. We have a wide variety of voices coming to you from recently retired Hall of Fame Chief Curator Ted Spencer to a special contributor Marty Appel, who made his debut last week. We’ve made a lot of progress very quickly in social networking (check out our Facebook site), and even though the Major League season is still young, we’re already chronicling the artifacts we’re collecting from the game’s historic openings, victories and defeats.

So here’s to you Tommy, and Happy Belated Birthday MLBlogs.

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

Japan a true world champion

Gates_90.jpgBy Jim Gates

I enjoyed watching the World Baseball Classic and was not particularly surprised to see Japan playing for the championship once again. Baseball in Japan has a long history, and there is as much baseball folklore and tradition on this island nation as exists in any
4-9-09-Gates_JapanvAmerica.jpg
 
 country. The national high school tournament is conducted with the same fervor as Americans attach to the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Japanese major leagues have some of the most vocal fans on the planet.

An American expatriate educator named Horace Wilson is credited with introducing the Japanese to baseball in the early 1870s, and we have tried to reflect this nation’s long history in our collection. As I go through the files in our archive, I often come across artifacts that relate to the relationship between Japan, the United States and the game of baseball. Among the hundred of items from Japan, one of my favorites is a program from the 1931 Major League tour featuring Lou Gehrig, Frankie Frisch, Lefty Grove, Rabbit Maranville and Mickey Cochrane, who together compiled a record of 17-0. I wonder if they ever thought that baseball would become such an international sport and that the Japanese would become such a baseball power?

The Japanese have had a chance to fully develop their own baseball history, and this has led to a strong sense of pride in their game and to the players that have been introduced to the rest of the world. This includes the Olympic Games, the World Baseball Classic and right into Major league Baseball. It will be interesting to see what type of artifacts and documents we acquire in future years relating to this element of the game.

Jim Gates is librarian of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

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 fiancée (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.

Japan shines at Classic

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

Japan has proven once again that when it comes to international tournament play, no country performs better.

With Monday’s 5-3 victory in 10 innings over a tough Korea team, Japan defended its 2006 World Baseball Classic crown in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, parlaying timely hitting and dominant pitching into victory as more than 54,000 fans roared, chanted and were entertained as a super rivalry reached a white-hot intensity.

3-24-09-Horn_Iwakuma.jpgAfter the game, Team Japan stars Ichiro Suzuki, Hisashi Iwakuma and Yu Darvish each donated artifacts to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which will be added to the Today’s Game exhibit in the near future.

Suzuki, who has been one of the most generous players in history with the Hall of Fame in terms of number of artifacts, donated the bat he used in Round 1 of the Classic. In 2006, he donated his helmet from the WBC.

Iwakuma, Japan’s reigning Cy Young-equivalent winner, donated the cap he wore on Monday. And young sensation Darvish, who threw the first and last pitch of the ’09 Classic, will be sending a pair of spikes to Cooperstown.

After the medal ceremony in the Japanese dugout, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson congratulated Ichiro, a player he’s been friendly with since Ichiro arrived in Seattle in 2001.

An ecstatic Ichiro said to him, “What an honor it was to play in this game and in this tournament.”

Any number of Japanese players could have been chosen to represent the team in the second Classic. Akinori Iwamura, already a Major League star with the Tampa Bay Rays, pulled off a double “World” feat, with an October appearance in the Fall Classic and a March stint in the Classic. This time, Aki and his teammates are truly world champs.

“That was a tough game,” Aki told me last night as we walked toward Japan’s clubhouse. As one of the few English-speaking Japanese stars, Aki was gracious in helping the Museum acquire artifacts from Darvish and Iwakuma.

In any language, recognizing the incredible team unity and spirit displayed by Japan only furthers the globalization of the game. It will be another four years before the next Classic in 2013, but there’s no doubt they’ll still be talking of this night for many generations to come.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Pacific Rim comes up strong in Classic

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

The second of two semifinal World Baseball Classic games came to an end last night here at historic Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. The Japanese national side proved too tough for its U.S. counterpart, beating the American team in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.

So Japan, which sealed victory in the 2006 Classic by beating Cuba, will defend its title by playing intracontinental rival Korea tonight, with first pitch slated for 9 p.m. ET.

3-23-09-Idelson_Wright.jpgLast night’s game had a similar feeling to the Korea-Venezuela semifinal on Saturday. Korea, featuring but one current Major Leaguer, Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin Soo Choo, faced a Venezuela club that was stocked with Major Leaguers. As any good team will do, the Koreans took advantage of five Venezuela errors and parlayed that into a bunch or runs and a lopsided victory.

The U.S. also played sloppily defensively, and Daisuke Matsuzaka was effective enough to keep the U.S. in check, allowing two runs over five innings. A three-run ninth inning for Japan turned a 6-4 game into a lopsided 9-4 final outcome.

The pageantry in the stands was vintage international sports. Japanese flags, thundersticks, balloons, homemade signs and constant enthusiasm gave Team Japan support and took any thoughts of home-field advantage away from the U.S. True, the support for the U.S. was strong, but there was great balance.

Japanese baseball Commissioner Ryozo Kato and all-time home-run leader Sadaharu Oh were in the stands, sitting in front of me. I first met the commissioner last spring in Washington, D.C., when U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon England invited me to lunch in his Pentagon office with Kato and Stan Kasten of the Nationals.

At the time, Commissioner Kato, a very big baseball fan with a deep understanding of U.S. baseball history, was Japan’s ambassador to the United States. He is very proud of his national team.

After the Korea-Venezuela game, Brad Horn and I visited with U.S. reliever Brad Ziegler, who last year ran a record-string of scoreless frames for a pitcher starting his Major League career (and yes, he did donate his spikes). Ziegler, an impressive kid who has tremendous respect for the game and visited the Hall of Fame last fall to enjoy the game’s history, felt that the team chemistry was strong, allowing the U.S. to reach the semis. Chemistry in sports does matter, but the U.S. side just did not jell last night.

3-23-09-Idelson_Japan.jpgBefore the game yesterday, the team seemed loose. David Wright, who delivered the game-winning walkoff hit to propel the U.S. over Puerto Rico and into the semifinals, donated the bat he used to the Hall in the U.S. dugout. “I am so honored to be asked to have something in Cooperstown,” he told me. I let him know how grateful we were to him for recognizing that fans would want to see his bat for many years to come and thanked him for sharing it with the baseball public.

Tonight’s matchup should be terrific. You have a hungry team in Korea, whose players want to show they can beat a world-class team like Japan. The Koreans have 2008 league most valuable player Kwang-Hyun Kim, who was 16-4 with a 2.39 ERA last year, as well as the two players who finished second and third in the voting, outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim (.357 average) and first baseman Tae Kyun Kim (.324, 31 home runs, 92 RBI).

Japan has a host of talent, led by Ichiro Suzuki, who has 3,000 combined hits between the U.S. and Japan, pitching phenom Yu Darvish, who was 16-4 with a 1.88 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2008, and standout outfielder Norichika Aoki (.347 average in 2008).

It should be a great game, and the Pacific Rim again is showing the world that baseball is as important there as it is in Latin America or the Untied States.

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

Team Venezuela generous to Hall of Fame after loss in Classic

Horn_90.jpgBy Brad Horn

As Hall of Fame skipper Earl Weaver was known to have said during his managerial career for the Orioles, “Nobody likes to hear it because it’s dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same — pitching.”

No one could argue Earl on that point and have a realistic shot to win the debate. Consider Saturday’s World Baseball Classic semifinal at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Venezuelan roster boasted 22 players currently active on Major League teams. The Koreans? Just one. Still, just 20 minutes into the first of two Classic semifinals, it was clear the Korean team had a significant mental edge and a superior starter over the Venezuelans, jumping to a 5-0 lead after the first half inning.

By the time the dust cleared Saturday night at Chavez Ravine, the Koreans swung a mighty stick with a 10-2 victory to advance to Monday’s Classic final against Japan.

3-23-09-Horn_Cabrera.jpgPitching had a large role in Saturday’s contest. Korean pitcher Suk Min Yoon dazzled, baffling Venezuelan sluggers and surrendering just six hits thorugh his first six innings against a lineup of potent bats featuring Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez, among others.

Even though the Venezuelan team fell short to the Koreans on Saturday, ending its Classic bid, humility in defeat and graciousness permeated the Venezuelan clubhouse following the loss.

As we in Cooperstown strive to document and preserve the game’s history, the collection of artifact donations from current-day stars as these historic moments unfold is critical to our ability to tell the story in a timely manner for our visitors. We hope to represent all four semifinal teams in Cooperstown from the 2009 Classic through artifact donations from the teams and their players, and Saturday, Venezuelan stars Cabrera and Felix Hernandez were more than willing to help us commemorate this historic event.

Shortly after the loss, Cabrera donated the helmet he wore in the tournament to us. Excited for the opportunity of having his first item in Cooperstown, Cabrera didn’t think twice in handing his helmet to me. The pain was evident, though, in his eyes, after falling short in a quest for the Classic title. A powerful sense of national pride was visible in members of all four of the semifinal teams here in Los Angeles. The Venezuelans are very proud countrymen, and returning to their Major League camps and going home early surely was not their plan on this night.

3-23-09-Horn_San Diego.jpgAlso after the loss, the Venezuelan team donated the cap worn by Hernandez in his two wins during Classic tournament play. If one word summed up King Felix in this Classic, it was excellence. His pitching line reads like a masterpiece: 2-0 in 8 2/3 scoreless innings, with five hits, six walks and 11 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .172 in his two starts. If I’m a Mariners fan, I have to be hopeful about this ace heading to Opening Day.

Sunday, the artifact chase continued with an acquisition from the USA. Prior to last night’s game, the Hall of Fame received the bat from David Wright, whose ninth-inning, game-winning base hit on Wednesday night propelled the U.S. past Puerto Rico, punching its first semifinal ticket in Classic play. It will be the first artifact from Wright’s young career to make its way to Cooperstown.

Today, we’ll also solicit artifact donations from both teams in the finals. The only things constant in baseball are winning and losing, but we’ll be hoping for continued generosity from the international baseball world so that these treasures can be viewed for generations, only in Cooperstown.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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