Results tagged ‘ Yankee Stadium ’

Baldwin and baseball

By Bill Francis

Actor Billy Baldwin is certainly a recognizable face after starring in such films as Backdraft, Sliver and Fair Game, but on Friday he was just another fan of the New York Yankees taking in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum experience with his family.

A member of the famed acting clan that includes brothers Alec, Daniel and Stephen, Baldwin lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., but is spending part of the summer in Skaneateles, N.Y., near Syracuse. When the opportunity arose he jumped at the chance to visit Cooperstown with son Vance, a brother-in-law and two nephews.

“Last year I said, ‘We’re going to Cooperstown while we’re in Skaneateles,’ but we never got around to it,” he said while walking to lunch. “This year I said, ‘I’ll be darned if I come up here for another two or three years and we don’t get there. I am going this year.’”

Before they saw the Museum, Baldwin and his family would receive a behind-the-scenes from Senior Curator Tom Shieber, where the actor was able to hold the bat used by Ted Williams to slug his final home run. Baldwin was certainly impressive in his knowledge of the history of the national pastime, whether it be marveling at the home run prowess of Babe Ruth when measured against the other teams in the league or explaining how Joe DiMaggio’s homer production was hampered by playing his home games at Yankee Stadium. 

Baldwin, who unabashedly admits to balling his eyes out when he watches Kevin Costner play catch with his dad in Field of Dreams, also explained his love of the game that is also evident in his son.

“I don’t know how to articulate it … It’s weird because I consider myself a big baseball fan but I’m not one of those guys who sits down with a pad and pen and does all the stats of every game,” Baldwin said. “I’m a huge baseball fan and I’m a diehard Yankees fan and probably watch or listen to a portion of about 100 games a year.

“But if there’s such a thing as having a metronome for your life, for me it starts with pitchers and catchers and goes all the way through October, hopefully with the Yankees in the postseason,” he added with a grin. “In these trying times with the economy not doing well and all sorts of struggles across the country and around the globe, I don’t want to be constantly reminded of all the tough stuff that’s going on. I find that the number one anecdote for that for me is baseball.”

Thanks to a father who once was an usher at Brooklyn’s beloved Ebbets Field, the Baldwin brothers were exposed to the game at a young age. But Billy Baldwin, with a famed wrestling coach living nearby, eventually turned his attentions to the mat.

“Growing up my favorite game was baseball, and I was best at baseball, but I made a mistake when I was in 10th grade,” he recalled. “I ran with this posse of guys on my wrestling team and we all gave up everything we were doing to wrestle all year and I walked away from baseball.

“Obviously, I have the build of a small basketball player or a baseball player or a tennis player and not a wrestler,” he said jokingly. “I was a pretty good wrestler – I won more than I lost – but I was just more of a natural baseball player. I should have stuck with it.”

As for which of the Baldwin brothers was the best baseball player, Billy claimed it was pretty close between him Daniel, who he said  had “kind of like a Boog Powell type of build” before laughingly sharing stories of concussions the older sibling inflicted on him during childhood.

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

Enter Sandman

Light_90.jpgBy Steve Light

03-16-11-Light_Rivera.jpgMy favorite record seems to get further out of reach for all who might one day chase it each October. That’s because the man who owns it, keeps raising (or is it lowering?) the bar when the autumn chill returns to the Bronx, year after year.

As all baseball fans know – seasons come and go, and teams change. Players grow old, or leave, or are traded away. Next year’s team might very well look nothing like the last. But as a Yankees fan, it seems like Mariano Rivera never changes. I feel like I’ve followed Rivera my whole life. He broke in with the Yankees in 1995, when I was just 12, and became a dominating pitcher one year later.

So many of his career moments are engrained into my memory: I remember the sinking feeling as I watched Luis Gonzalez’s blooper in 2001 and the euphoric feeling I felt as Mo sprinted to the mound and collapsed with joy as Aaron Boone rounded the bases in 2003. I even had the chance to fulfill a life-long dream and witness the Yankees clinch the AL pennant in 2009 at Yankee Stadium, with Mo, of course, on the mound. Now in 2011, can I be blamed for assuming that the Yankee’s 9th inning will always belong to him?

03-16-11-Light_Yankee.jpgWhen Mo finally calls it quits – which given recent performances could be many years away – he will undoubtedly leave the game as one of the greatest postseason performers in baseball history. Numbers don’t lie, and Rivera’s record-setting postseason ERA of 0.71 serves as a testament not only to his excellence, but his consistency.

Rivera, who will soon kick off his 17th season in a major league uniform, is the closest thing baseball has to a sure thing: Batters know what he’s throwing, and fans know the game is already over.  In the postseason, his achievements are nothing short of stunning. He has recorded his historic 0.71 ERA over the course of 139.2 innings. To put that into perspective, throughout his career Mo has averaged 79 innings per season. That means he has recorded a 0.71 ERA over nearly two full regular seasons worth of postseason ball. In other words, as good as Mariano is in regular season play (2.23 ERA), he is one and a half runs per game better in the postseason.

On the postseason ERA leader board, Mo keeps company with some impressive names: the top ten includes Hall of Famers Eddie Plank, Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson, and yes, Babe Ruth. One may strongly suspect that when Rivera finally leaves the mound, it won’t be long before they keep him company here in Cooperstown as well. This, however, is one Yankee fan who hopes that those days are still many years away.

It’s memories like these that will be brought to life in the Hall of Fame’s new One for the Books. The exhibit opens Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

Steve Light is the manager of museum programs at the the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

King Juan reigns in New York

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

He strolled through the Yankee Stadium press box Monday evening with a smile that made you stop and take notice.

 
10-19-10-Muder_Marichal.jpgJuan Marichal turns 73 on Wednesday, but everything about him seems young and vital. He is a living link to baseball’s past – and still very much a part of its future.

Marichal is at the American League Championship Series as a broadcaster for ESPN Deportes. He’ll remain in the role through the World Series.

The Hall of Fame pitcher, who posted a 2.25 earned-run average in a pair of postseason starts for the Giants during his career, witnessed first-hand the brilliance of Cliff Lee on Monday night. In many ways, it must have been like looking in a mirror.

The right-handed Marichal was the Lee of the 1960s – a strike-throwing machine who piled up huge strikeout numbers while issuing virtually no walks. Marichal led the National League in strikeout-to-walk ratio three times, issued less than two walks per nine innings pitched and finished with a career K/BB ratio of 3.25, the 28th-best figure of all time.

10-19-10-Muder_VivaMarichal.jpgLee, the Texas Rangers’ smooth lefty, led the American League this season with an other-worldly K/BB ratio of 10.28 and has a ratio of 3.10 during his regular-season career. In the postseason, Lee’s ratio is 9.4 strikeouts to walks in eight career games.

 As for Marichal today, he’ll broadcast the action this postseason to legions of fans who not only follow Lee but also the tremendous Latin American stars on the ALCS field like the Yankees’ Robinson Cano and the Rangers’ Neftali Feliz, both of whom are from Marichal’s native Dominican Republic.

Then there’s Texas’ Vladimir Guerrero, another son of the Dominican who appears on track to join Marichal in the Hall of Fame sometime in the next decade.

Marichal, the first Dominican Republic native to be elected to the Hall of Fame, paved the way for all of them. And the greatness of the Dominican Dandy remains obvious to anyone fortunate enough to cross his path.

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

A short hop to Cooperstown

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Several future Hall of Famers will likely take the field in tonight’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.

But ironically, it’s another Cooperstown candidate – one who’s not a part of this postseason – who had everybody talking on Sunday.

10-18-10-Muder_Vizquel.jpgElvis Andrus’ stellar play in the first two games of the ALCS has both managers raving about the 22-year-old Venezuelan shortstop. Andrus’ accomplishments have drawn comparisons to another Venezuelan star – Omar Vizquel – who made the postseason his own personal showcase.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi left no doubt that he believes Vizquel – who spent the 2010 season with the White Sox and is just 201 hits short of 3,000 for his career – is worthy of a bronze Hall of Fame plaque.

“Omar Vizquel, I believe, is a future Hall of Famer,” Girardi said at Sunday’s Workout Day press conference at Yankee Stadium. “Now we have another young Venezuelan shortstop in Elvis Andrus who’s doing something similar.

“He may not be hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but – just like Omar – when he gets on base it creates issues.”

10-18-10-Muder_Aparicio.jpgAndrus is batting .355 in seven postseason games this year with five runs scored and five stolen bases. Much of the maturity shown by the second-year Rangers’ star can be traced to Vizquel, who played with the Rangers in 2009 when Andrus was a rookie.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Omar helped Elvis during his first season,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington. “We were fortunate to have someone like Omar on this team.”

Vizquel, who will be 44 next April, has played 22 big league seasons but shows no signs of nearing retirement. But if he does not play in another big league game, he would be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration in 2016.

Andrus, meanwhile, appears on his way to extending the tradition of great Venezuelan shortstops – a tradition that includes Luis Aparicio, Davey Concepcion and Vizquel.

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

Worth watching

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

A familiar face from PBS’s popular show Antiques Roadshow for 14 years made a non-televised but nonetheless enlightening appearance at the 22nd annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture this week.

Leila “Lee” Dunbar can often be seen appraising sports memorabilia on the long-running television show – she has provided more than 2,000 verbal appraisals on more than 50 segments – but Thursday afternoon in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Bullpen Theater she presented a talk titled “Stories in Hand – Baseball History Told Through its Memorabilia.” Before a full house, Dunbar talked of her life and the road she traveled to become a professional appraiser of pop culture memorabilia, including sports. Interspersed was the detective work often involved as well as stories of intriguing baseball items she has been involved with over the years.

06-04-10-Francis_Dunbar.jpg“The Cooperstown Symposium is great because it gives a lot of different viewpoints, a lot of different nuances of history, a lot of stories that you don’t get to hear in the mainstream,” Dunbar said after her presentation. “One of the things about baseball is that no matter how much you know, there’s a lot more that you don’t know. And I’ve learned so much just in a day. It’s been just fantastic, and you meet a great group of people.

“People with different viewpoints is fantastic because in my world, normally, I’m either meeting people who have items, so they are what I would call ‘civilians,’ or I know other appraisers, and we discuss things from a slightly different point of view,” she added. “So the people that I meet here are not looking at this as a business, they’re looking at it as a purely historical exercise of deepening knowledge and understanding and I appreciate that, I appreciate that passion.”

Besides her work on TV, Dunbar’s company, Leila Dunbar LLC, provides all types of written appraisals for insurance, donation, estate tax, divorce, etc. Prior to opening her own business in July 2008, she served as senior vice president and director of Sotheby’s Collectibles department.

“One of the great things about the Symposium is that it has scholars, it has journalists, it has curators, and it has collectors. Me as an appraiser and having been in the business of actually buying and selling memorabilia, auctioning memorabilia, I look at objects in a variety of ways,” Dunbar said. “One, I look at is what’s the price, what’s the value? Be it a replacement value, be it value for estate tax or donation. So I have to think in that regard. But the only way you can get to that number is to do many of the same things that the others do, which is to do your research and then be able to think quantitatively about that research.”

According to Dunbar, she had very little choice when it came to her affection for the national pastime. While admitting to loving all sports, baseball’s her favorite because it’s what she grew up while being exposed to the most intense rivalry in the game.

“I was very lucky. I grew up with a love a baseball on both sides of my family,” she said. “My grandfather is an Episcopalian minister in New York who had tickets to Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium and idolized all the Yankees. And my mother, a big baseball fan, was actually a member of the knothole gang for the Boston Braves, and to this day I have all these aunts in their 70s, 80s and 90s who all watch, curse or cheer on the Red Sox depending on how well they’re doing.”

As for the institution that was hosting the Symposium, Dunbar had only high praise.

“I think the Baseball Hall of Fame is the ultimate repository of baseball memorabilia, and one that’s able to continually play a role in deepening the understanding of baseball and its history.”

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

A trip through time

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Whitey Herzog leaned forward in his chair to get a closer look at the outfielder crashing into the Yankee Stadium fence.

“I ended up with 57 stitches, but I caught that ball,” said Herzog. “To this day, Yogi still reminds me that he would have had 359 career home runs if I had just let it go.”

04-27-10-Muder_Herzog.jpgThe photo, part of the collection of more than 500,000 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, showed Herzog as a Baltimore Oriole right fielder in 1961 as he robbed Yogi Berra of a hit. It will be a one of many stories told again this summer as Berra – along with more than 50 other living Hall of Famers – helps welcome Herzog into the Hall of Fame.

Herzog took his Hall of Fame Orientation Tour on Monday in preparation for his July 25 induction. Along with Andre Dawson and Doug Harvey, Herzog will be enshrined as the Class of 2010 in Cooperstown.

Monday’s tour gave Herzog a chance to look behind the scenes at the Hall of Fame, and the former reserve outfielder for the Senators, Athletics, Orioles and Tigers seemed overwhelmed when he considered his surroundings.

“You know, I got a bigger bonus than Mickey Mantle when I signed with the Yankees,” said Herzog, who began his playing career in 1949 as a Yankee farmhand. “That’s the only time I ever made more money than Mickey.”

However, as a manager, Herzog had few peers and was widely regarded as one of the best in the game. Herzog led his team’s to six postseason berths in 18 seasons, winning National League pennants in 1985 and 1987 with the Cardinals and the 1982 World Series with the Redbirds.

He is just the 19th former big league manager elected to Cooperstown.

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

Old rumors become new at Hall of Fame Library

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Rumors are nothing new to baseball.

But no matter how unsubstantiated they may be or at least may seem to be, they had to come from somewhere. Earlier this week we saw yet another example: Albert Pujols, arguably the biggest name in the game, considered in a trade for Ryan Howard, the slugging St. Louis native.

03-19-10-Hayes_DiMaggioWilliams.jpgBoth stars balked. They say haven’t heard anything and the clubs aren’t saying anything. When the report surfaced, it also spawned references to Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams, another famous non-deal.

In 1946, the Yankees and the Red Sox both denied the idea – in the media at least. Combing through the Library at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, you can find a number of items about what could have been – a blockbuster that would “set the American League on its ear!” as Richard Ben Cramer put it in the DiMaggio biography “The Hero’s Life.”

The Sporting News headlines just before and during the 1946 World Series show both teams denying interest. But after trading Joe Gordon – another future Hall of Famer – to Cleveland, accounts hint the Bombers needed an overhaul with the Yankee Clipper on the trading block.

The dynamics of DiMaggio for Williams were much simpler than Howard for Pujols. Both pull hitters could have easily taken advantage of their new parks: Williams hitting into the short porch in right wearing pinstripes, and DiMaggio banging hits and lofting flies over the Green Monster in crimson stockings.

Gossip started swirling before the Series started, but denial on both sides all-but-signaled the death of the story. In the Oct. 16, 1946, Sporting News, Red Sox management said Williams wasn’t for sale while the Yankees expressed a lack of interest.

03-19-10-Hayes_DiMaggioWilliams2.jpgThat set the stage for one of the most inconspicuous conversations in baseball history at Toots Shor’s in New York City. Sometime in December 1946, the future Hall of Fame executives of the two rivals sat down for a long night at the tavern. After several hours, Yankee owner Larry MacPhail proposed the swap to Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. MacPhail said DiMaggio could play next to his brother, Dom, and let fly over the Monster – just 315 feet away. Yawkey suggested Williams could crush Ruth’s record aiming at stands just 296 feet away. Before the night ended, the two shook – DiMaggio for Williams, straight up.

But the next morning, Yawkey called MacPhail to nix the deal. According to the book “The Era” by Roger Kahn, Yawkey said: “I can’t do it. They let Babe Ruth out of Boston. If I let Williams go, the fans will crucify me.”

Some versions of the story, like the one in “Emperors and Idiots” by Mike Vaccaro, say Yawkey tried to salvage the deal by asking for “the kid catcher from Newark” but MacPhail declared: “You’re out of your mind,” to throw in Yogi Berra, who would also be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

It goes to show that you can never be sure about baseball rumors. Howard for Pujols? It could happen. DiMaggio for Williams almost did.

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

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