Results tagged ‘ World Series ’

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.

Hall of Fame husband and wife

By Tim Wiles

September 14, 2011, was a special day here at the Hall of Fame, as baseball fans Randy McLean and Linda Kim tied the knot in a ceremony officiated by Cooperstown Mayor Joe Booan in the Hall’s plaque gallery.

The newlyweds travelled from their home in Abbotsford, British Columbia, near Vancouver, to Cooperstown. It was Randy’s fourth trip to the Hall, and Linda’s second.  They met in January, 2001, and recall watching the 2001 World Series together as a strong contributor to the baseball portion of their relationship.

Both are lifelong baseball fans, but for Linda, her interest in the game deepened when she met Randy. “Since being with Randy, I’ve learned many of the intricacies of the game.  He always points things out a few moments before the announcers get around to saying them.”

Randy is a lifelong fan, player, and coach. “We couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to get married.  We love baseball, and it was fitting,” he says.  “Baseball’s been so good to me all my life.  It’s just something we love. It brings me to tears sometimes, being here in the Hall of Fame, the Babe Ruth exhibit, and reading how the Babe was always there for the fans on his barnstorming tours.”

Randy roots for the Orioles, because their team colors were the same as one of his youth league teams. Linda is a Phillies fan. Since they came so far to get married, they didn’t bring a wedding party with them, so they asked June Dolhun, the Hall’s manager of group sales, and I to stand up for them as witnesses.

Dolhun says that a handful of couples marry at the Hall each year.

“It’s always special, and a lot of fun,” Dolhun said.

I have to agree: I was married in the Plaque Gallery back in 2005.

Tim Wiles is the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Prepare 4 October in Cooperstown: New York Yankees

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.

Bronx Bombers fans have a heavily beaten path from New York City to Cooperstown, the Yankees are a short drive from the Home of Baseball, where they are well represented with a record 27 World Championships.

The team’s legacy goes back almost a full century with 48 Hall of Famers tied to the interlocking NY, while 25 have made their careers on the field while wearing the pinstripes of baseball’s winningest franchise. From the early days of Wee Willie and Happy Jack to the Babe, the Iron Horse, the Clipper, the Mick, Casey, Yogi and Whitey followed by Catfish, Goose and Mr. October and more recently Bernie, Mr. November, Mo and A-Rod; the Yanks have been blessed with stardom. All of which is detailed in a special exhibit from the Associated Press at the Hall of Fame called Pinstripe Pictures.

During first two years of the American League’s existence, there was no team in New York, but the Baltimore Orioles moved to the Big Apple and became the Highlanders. While stars like Jack Chesbro, whose record 41st win of the 1904 season is celebrated with the record-setting ball in One for the Books, came first, it wasn’t however until adopting a new nickname and buying Babe Ruth from their rivals in Beantown that the Yankees really came into their own.

Ruth, of course, is one of the greatest players of all-time and as such, is honored for his record-setting career as a home run hitter in One for the Books and The Babe Ruth Room which is found within the Baseball Timeline and is dedicated to telling his story. The Yankees of the 1920s and 30s were molded in Ruth’s image, taking on the moniker Murderer’s Row with future Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri – who is noted as the first player to hit two grand slams in a single game with a scorebook showing his feat in One for the Books – leading the lineup while Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock were the stalwarts on the mound.

In 1928, the Bronx Bombers boasted nine future Hall of Famers with another baseball legend, Miller Huggins at the helm. By 1930, they’d reached six World Series and won three. Within the Timeline are items presented to Hoyt after the 1928 season in which he went 23-7 and won two games in the Series; a jacket, cap and mitt used by Pennock; spikes belonging to leadoff hitter and speedster Combs; and a pocket watch and warm-up sweater worn by Huggins

While Ruth aged and Gehrig came in to his prime, manager Joe McCarthy took over in 1931. The team once again was led by a future Hall of Famer and featured nine on the field for three seasons with names like Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. As the Yanks won five more Championships in the 1930s, the team carved a larger place within baseball history and therefore in the Timeline, where Gehrig’s original Yankee Stadium locker, trophies and his uniform are on display, while a 1939 uniform from his final season in One for the Books marks the end of his consecutive games played streak – once considered an unbreakable record.

Transitioning from the Iron Horse to the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio became the on field leader. In the 1940s New York took home four more Championships and five AL pennants, despite a small dip during World War II when the team sent several stars to the military like DiMaggio, 2009 Hall of Fame Inductee Joe Gordon, catcher Bill Dickey, and shortstop and future Voice of the Yankees Phil Rizzuto, whose popular catchphrase “Holy Cow!” inspired an exhibit that now greets visitors near the lobby at the Hall of Fame.

Within the Hall, DiMaggio has a presence within One for the Books where his record 56-game hitting streak is celebrated with an interactive video monitor inside his original Yankee Stadium locker.

As the 1950s arrived stars like Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra joined DiMaggio and the Bombers, while the legendary Professor Casey Stengel took over the reigns in 1949, capturing a record five straight Titles from 1949-53. Stengel left the team after the 1960 season, failing to reach the World Series in 1954 and 1959 – winning seven times. During this time, Don Larsen authored the lone perfect game in World Series history, which is preserved in Autumn Glory with several artifacts.

The mitt worn by Larsen’s receiver, Berra, is on display in One for the Books, while the backstop’s 1951 MVP Award – one of three he earned – along with Rizzuto’s glove and batting helmet; Stengel’s warm-up jacket and spikes; items from team architects George Weiss and Lee MacPhail and jerseys from Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle can be found in the Timeline. Mantle also has artifacts like the ball he hit for his 522nd homer, passing Ted Williams are also in the Timeline, while the bat he used to hit his 500th home run and the bat he used to hit an estimated 565-foot home run are on display in One for the Books. Also during this time period Mantle and two-time MVP  Roger Maris unleashed an assault on Ruth’s home run record, with Maris breaking the mark in 1961 by hitting 61. A score sheet from the historic game, Maris’ bat and the ball from No. 61 call One for the Books their home. In Baseball at the Movies, as part of the 50th celebration of this event, there are also a number of artifacts from the movie 61* about the 1961 season including an autographed shooting script from director Billy Crystal.

After losing the 1964 World Series, it wouldn’t be until 1976 that the Bombers would make it back to the promised land and not until 1977 that they’d capture another crown. With a new crop of future Inductees, the Yankees won back-to-back titles with a team referred to as the Bronx Zoo. In the Hall of Fame’s Timeline this era is represented by Reggie Jackson’s bat from 1977, the season he earned his Mr. October nickname; a mitt and mask used by captain and catcher Thurman Munson; and Goose Gossage’s 1982 jersey, in which he struck out 102 batters in 93 innings and saved 30 games.

While the 1980s were the first decade since the Teens that the Yankees failed to win a championship, stars like captain Don Mattingly and future Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro and Dave Winfield wore the pinstripes. Each of them craved their own niche in baseball history – with Niekro and Mattingly’s record-setting time noted in One for the Books. Mattingly’s sixth grand slam bat and his eighth consecutive game with a home run bat, both from the 1987 season, appear there along with Niekro’s interlocking NY cap worn during his 3,000th career strikeout.

The Yankees reloaded and began their next dynasty in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s, the players making history continued to be generous in donations. Among items the Hall has collected since the 90s began are one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott’s 1993 no-hitter cap (One for the Books); a bat used by Paul O’Neill’s during his 1994 batting title; a bat used by the second most prolific postseason home run hitter of all-time Bernie Williams during the 1996 Title run; manager Joe Torre’s 1998 World Series jersey; David Cone’s perfect game jersey from 1999 (all in the Timeline); and Hideki Matsui’s bat from the 2003 World Series when he became the first Japanese-born player to homer in the Fall Classic (Today’s Game).

Moving from old to new, the Bronx Bombers’ winning tradition is marked in One for the Books where a replica of the 1996 World Series trophy is on display, donated by former team owner George Steinbrenner – who led the team to seven World Championships.

The Yankees squads of today – some of whom were around for the beginning of the 90s renaissance – have staked out their spot inside the Hall of Fame as well. In his climb up the home run leader boards, Alex Rodriguez has donated his 500th home run helmet (One for the Books); his 2009 jersey from when he tied the AL record for 30 home run and 100 RBI seasons with 13 (Today’s Game); and  to  600th career home run spikes (Today’s Game). Artifacts from current captain Derek Jeter include his 1996 World Series jersey (Autumn Glory); 1998 World Series spikes (Timeline); the batting gloves he wore to become the Yankees all-time hits leader, passing Gehrig (Today’s Game); and his 3,000th hit batting gloves and helmet from earlier this year (Today’s Game). And Panamanian-born closer Mariano Rivera – who just this week reached 600 career saves – donated among other items, his cap from save No. 400 (Today’s Game), the 1999 World Series spikes in which he recorded two of his 23 consecutive saves (¡Viva Baseball!) and his 2009 two-save World Series cap.

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

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Prepare 4 October in Cooperstown: Detroit Tigers

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.

The Tigers’ 2011 resurgence has brought the team’s legends of yesteryear – like Cobb, Greenberg and Kaline – together with the stars of today like Cabrera and Verlander. Tiger fans might not be able to make it to Oakland this weekend to see their team continue its march toward the division crown, but Cooperstown offers a chance to follow along from afar while celebrating the team’s legacy in person.

And there is plenty to see for Bengal Believers at the Hall of Fame. To date, 25 Hall of Famers have worn Detroit’s Old English D, including 10 who entered the Hall of Fame sporting that signature D on their plaques.

While he’s preceded in history by Hall of Fame exec Ed Barrow and teammate Sam Crawford, Ty Cobb was the first Tiger elected to the Hall of Fame – having been a part of the inaugural class of 1936. Cobb, who led the Tigers to pennants in 1907, 1908 and 1909, won an MVP Award in 1911 (at the time a player could only win one during his career) with an other-worldly batting average of .420. He’s well represented in the Hall of Fame both in the Museum’s Baseball Timeline and in the newest exhibit One for the Books. Artifacts like the 1909 and 1911 Honeyboy Evans trophies, awarded to the all-time career batting leader for batting titles in those seasons, as well as sliding pads worn by the former all-time leader in stolen bases, are on exhibit in Cooperstown. Other artifacts from Cobb in the two exhibits include bats used during a career in which he won 11 batting titles; spikes worn during his career; and even a glove used by the stellar-fielding star, who holds the major league record for most games played in the outfield with 2,934.

The Tigers’ 1930s and 40s dynasty has a section devoted to it in the Timeline, marking the achievements of Hall of Famers like Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane and Hal Newhouser. From 1934 to 1945, this core group took Detroit to the World Series four times, winning in 1935 and 1945. The ’36 team holds the franchise record by fielding a lineup of four future Hall of Fame players and player/manager Cochrane. Found within the exhibit about these Motown Mashers are Cochrane’s catcher’s mitt; Gehringer’s bronzed second baseman glove; a home run ball from Greenberg’s 1940 league-leading campaign; a cap and jersey worn by Newhouser; and a number of awards, trophies and trinkets given to the group.

Between Fall Classic appearances in 1945 and 1968, notable Hall of Famers like third baseman and batting wizard George Kell, future senator and ace pitcher Jim Bunning and Mr. Tiger himself – Al Kaline – joined the team. Representing this trio in the Timeline are a pair of silver bats awarded to Kell for batting titles in 1943 (in the Interstate League) and 1949; Bunning’s spikes from his first career no-hitter – thrown at Fenway on July 20, 1958; and a uniform from Kaline who helped lead the Tigers back to the Fall Classic in 1968 when they topped the Cardinals to become World Champions. This group is also represented in One for the Books by Kaline’s 3,000th hit bat and the glove worn by 1968 and 1969 Cy Young Award winner, Denny McLain, who in 1968 became the first big leaguer to win 30 games in a season since 1934.

After Kaline retired, the torch passed to veteran manager Sparky Anderson, who after having won two World Series titles with the Cincinnati Reds, helmed a 1980s Tigers team poised to make some noise. In 1984, they won the World Series – and reached the ALCS again in 1987. Those teams have a spot in Cooperstown with Kirk Gibson’s 1987 batting helmet, Lou Whitaker’s 1984 championship jersey, Alan Trammel’s 1983 Gold Glove jersey, and Jack Morris 1984 no-hitter cap appearing in the Timeline alongside a 1984 Series cap from Sparky.

Recent Detroit squads have plenty of artifacts at the Hall of Fame, celebrating their success. Since winning the AL pennant in 2006, the Tigers have generously donated items found in Today’s Game such as: Bats from 2006 ALCS MVP Placido Polanco and ALCS Game Four walk-off home run slugger Magglio Ordonez, (in ¡Viva Baseball!); a jersey from Curtis Granderson, who joined Willie Mays and Frank Schulte as the only players with at least 20 doubles, triples, home runs and steals in a single season in 2007.

Other items within the Hall’s walls include a piece of the Tiger Stadium outfield wall (in Sacred Ground); and in Today’s Game the cap worn by Brian Moehler on April 11, 2000, when he became the first pitcher to start a game at Comerica Park; and the spikes from Armando Galarraga’s near perfect game on June 2, 2010, while first base from the game resides in One for the Books.

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

Bruno in Cooperstown

By Bill Francis

Tom Brunansky was surprised after looking through a pair of manila folders containing both images and stories from his 14 years in the big leagues.

Evan after a career that included 271 home runs and a World Series ring, Brunansky was amazed to find his career documented in Cooperstown.

“It’s pretty special and neat that not only my mom would collect that,” he said afterward, “but the Hall of Fame would as well.”

Brunansky, currently the hitting coach for the New Britain Rock Cats, a Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins in the Eastern League, was with about 10 members of his team inside the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center on Wednesday morning as they checked out the clippings and photo files of the player nicknamed “Bruno.”

“Oh, it got a lot of laughs, a lot of stories, and a lot of things that after a course of a career you kind of seem to forget about,” Brunansky said of his Hall of Fame files.

In a playing career (1981-94) spent mostly with the Twins, the longtime right-fielder finished with 1,543 hits, 919 RBI, a .245 batting average and an All-Star Game selection in 1985.

For Brunansky, who will celebrate his 51st birthday on Aug. 20, the chance to come to Cooperstown arose thanks to a Rock Cats’ series against the Binghamton Mets – another Eastern League team located about an hour from the home of baseball.

“They try and make these trips for the kids who haven’t been here, and I’ve never been here, so it was obviously well worth getting up early to come on out,” he said. “We play tonight, so we’ve got an early bus, but to bring these kids out and to see part of history is pretty cool.

“I always knew the Hall of Fame was kind of neat because of all the things that were here, but to see the degree and how far they’ve gone and how much work has been put into it is amazing,” he added. “I love the cleats, I love the gloves, I love the baseballs, I love the bats – that’s the stuff I enjoy seeing.”

While he enjoyed the baseball artifacts, what Brunansky really wanted to see was the Hall of Fame plaques.

“The Plaque Gallery was kind of neat, too, because I liked going through there and seeing who I played against and who were teammates.”

One of the newest plaques on display belong to 2011 inductee Bert Blyleven, a teammate of Brunansky’s with the Twins from 1985 to 1988.

“Bert was one of the ultimate gamers,” Brunansky said. “The one thing about having Bert as a teammate is every fifth day he took the ball, gave you the best chance to win that day, and always competed.”

Bill Francis is a Library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Thankful to be in Cooperstown

By Craig Muder

The brain aneurysm that changed John Olerud’s life is visible today by only a small indentation on the left side of his forehead.

But the effects of that event shape Olerud’s outlook to this day – and has left the 17-year big league veteran with a deep sense of gratitude.

Olerud visited the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday with his wife, Kelly; two of their children, Garrett and Jessica; and his in-laws. The 42-year-old Olerud, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, made the trip to Cooperstown based on the recommendation of former teammate Ed Sprague.

“Ed told me what an incredible visit he had, getting to see all the history,” Olerud said. “I have to say: He was right.”

Olerud, looking very much like the strapping 6-foot-5, 205-pound first baseman he was with the Blue Jays, Mets, Mariners, Yankees and Red Sox from 1989-2005, marveled at Museum artifacts like a Babe Ruth bat and a Roberto Clemente cap.

He even held a bat that he donated to the Hall of Fame in 2000 after recording the first-ever hit at Detroit’s Comerica Park as a member of the Mariners.

His .295 career batting average, 2,239 hits, two All-Star Game selections and three Gold Glove Awards were enough to secure him a place on the 2011 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot. But the modest Olerud, a key member of the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series winners in 1992-93, downplayed his own accomplishments.

“I’m just so thankful to have had the chance to get married, have kids and play the game I love,” said Olerud, who suffered the aneurysm while he was working out at Washington State University in 1988, but recovered to debut with the Jays in 1989 after bypassing the minor leagues entirely. “When you’re playing, you don’t really think about something like the Hall of Fame because you’re just trying to help the team and keep yourself in the lineup. And now that I’m retired, I’ve been so involved with my family, it seems like that time when I played is so far away.

“But to come here and see all this, it reminds you of how fortunate you are to play baseball.”

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

Canada’s moment in Cooperstown

By Bill Francis

Jerry Howarth is a Toronto institution, having been a member of the Blue Jays radio team for three decades. During that time, his press box seat enabled him to witness firsthand the accomplishments of two of this year’s inductees – general manager Pat Gillick and second baseman Robert Alomar – as they enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I came to the Blue Jays in 1982, my first full season, and I met Pat and we had a lot in common,” said Howarth, an invited guest of Gillick’s to this year’s Induction Weekend, after attending, appropriately enough, a presentation by author Curt Smith on his new book, A Talk in the Park: Nine Decades of Baseball Tales from the Broadcast Booth, that was held before a full house inside the Bullpen Theater on Friday afternoon. “We’re both from California, we both love baseball, and he was very good to me as I started to enjoy Blue Jays broadcasts. He was encouraging.

“But I could tell that he was someone special, too, who listened, communicated well, and had a bevy of scouts that were so loyal to him. Then I began to see the Blue Jays grow. I saw his patience and steadfastness. And sure enough he took that team – orchestrated it from the very beginning – and won those two World Series in 1992 and ’93.”

As for Alomar, Howarth says he and Willie Mays are the two best players he’s seen in his life.

“I grew up in San Francisco and I watched Willie Mays every day. We all wanted to be like Willie,” Howarth said. “And then we acquired Roberto in 1991, and he was with the Blue Jays through 1995. He’s the best player I’ve ever seen with Willie. By putting those two together I’m talking about all the aspects of the game – the proverbial five-tool player. But more than that, he had instincts, he could beat you in a game with a home run, a bunt, a stolen base, a fielding play, it didn’t matter. A wonderful passion and desire to make himself ever better.

“And Roberto stood out with the Blue Jays. They would not have won those World Series without him, but having said that, Pat together great teams. But Roberto stood out. And there’s no substitute for defense and Roberto provided the best defense that I’ve ever seen.”

Having recently spent time with both Gillick and Alomar, can Howarth predict the emotional state of the pair as they stand before thousands on Sunday afternoon?

“Pat will be balling like a baby up there because I’ve seen him cry at John Olerud getting a base hit. I can’t wait to hear his speech. I’m sure there will be a lot of Kleenex up there,” Howarth said with a laugh. “And Roberto, too. Roberto is from a baseball family and I think he appreciates his career and what he’s done.

“And remember, too, both of them, especially Roberto, they’re doing this for a country, Canada, and they feel that. They know the presence that they have in an entire nation. So that makes it very extraordinary for them.”

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

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