Results tagged ‘ Yogi Berra ’

Hall Monitor: Playoff Pleasures

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

10-8-10-Hayes_Larsen.jpgThe regular season is done. That means October is upon us and there is no better time to see greatness than during Autumn’s Glory.

Busy at the Hall: With the regular season over and the postseason heating up, donations are rolling into Cooperstown. On Sept. 19, Bobby Abreu clocked his 20th homer of the season, giving him nine seasons with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Only Barry and Bobby Bonds – at 10 each – have more 20/20 seasons. To commemorate the achievement, his bat is now in Cooperstown.

Also announced this week following his historic pitching performance on Wednesday, Roy Halladay’s jersey and a ball from the no-hitter will be making their way to join the artifacts from his May 29th perfect game and the items on display from Don Larsen’s 1956 perfecto – the only other no-hitter in postseason history.


10-8-10-Hayes_Sutton.jpgNot to be outdone
: Tim Lincecum of the Giants, whose 1.78 September team ERA is the lowest in the Divisional Era, proved his mettle yesterday. Like Halladay, pitching in his first postseason game, Lincecum was brilliant. The two-time Cy Young winner struck out a postseason record 14 Braves, as he tossed a complete game two-hitter. Lincecum’s mark tied Joe Coleman (1972), John Candelaria (1975), Mike Boddicker (1983) and Mike Scott (1986) for the major league record in a postseason debut.

Walking-off into infamy: Halladay threw his gem against the best offense in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds – a team which punched its first ticket to the postseason since 1995 in dramatic fashion last Tuesday. With the score tied at two, Jay Bruce smashed the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the ninth into batter’s eye grass in left-center field at Great American Ballpark. The walk-off was the fifth game-ending home run to clinch a postseason berth.

The others include Steve Finley’s grand slam for the Dodgers in 2004, Alfonso Soriano’s first career hit that sent the 1999 Yankees on to postseason glory and the famous “Shot Heard Round the World” by Bobby Thomson for the 1951 Giants. The only Hall of Famer walk-off postseason clincher came from Hank Aaron, in the 11th inning for the 1957 Milwaukee Braves.


10-8-10-Hayes_Bresnahan.jpgTrend Tracker
: Twenty-year-old rookie Jayson Heyward drew a walk against Lincecum, one of just three Braves to reach base against the Giants ace. Heyward’s walk was just an extension of the 91 he racked up during the regular season – a number surpassed at his age by only Hall of Famers Mel Ott (113 in 1929) and Ted Williams (107 in 1939).

Also look for Tampa Bay catcher John Jaso. The lefty-swinging backstop only stole four bases this season, but batted leadoff 45 times in his 88 starts. Hitting .272 with a .380 on-base percentage, if the Rays stay alive, he may get a start there again. If he hits leadoff against right-handed Colby Lewis on Saturday, he would join just two other catchers to start in the one-hole in the postseason. The others are noted speedster Jason Kendall for the 2006 Oakland A’s and Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan for the 1905 New York Giants.

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

Breaking barriers

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Claire Smith is accustomed to working outside the status quo, so being the first female keynote speaker in the 22 years of the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture is par for the course.

Held at the different venues at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the three-day event kicked off Wednesday afternoon with Smith’s keynote, titled “Race and Gender: Perspectives from the Press Box.” Smith is not only a female in a male- dominated field, but she’s also African-American.

06-02-10-Francis_Smith.jpgCurrently a news editor at ESPN who covered baseball for 27 years at the Hartford Courant, the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Smith offered a unique perspective on the trails and tribulations she had to endure as a woman and a minority in her chosen field.

Honored for her writing numerous times over the years, Smith, a longstanding member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, admits that “being a woman and being African-American in the field of baseball writing remain somewhat unique and far too unusual in this day and age.”

Smith talked about being drawn to the field because of her mother’s love of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who faced hardships as he crossed the big league color line in 1947.

“I knew of his story from the moment I could walk and talk, I think, because my mother, more so than my father, was a Jackie Robinson fan,” Smith said. “America was always represented as what is possible. She passed that on to me.

“I wanted to know as much as I could about sports. The older I got the more I wanted to know. I was able to dovetail this interest that never made me want to think about anything other than baseball.”

Smith would late joke about another Hall of Famer: “As Yogi Berra would say, Jackie (Robinson) -  thanks for making this necessary.”

Encouraged by her mother’s love of Jackie Robinson (her father was a Willie Mays fan), Smith has always bled Dodger blue. So it should come as no surprise when visiting the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery prior to her speech she made sure to check out the bronze likenesses of Robinson and Sandy Koufax.

Moving on to gender, Smith said that’s always been the more intriguing and difficult aspect of her life in baseball.

“It’s safe to say by the time I started covering baseball it wasn’t politically correct to show any kind of prejudice in terms of race in major league clubhouses,’ Smith said. “Not so much to show prejudice against women. It happened early, it happened often.”

Often the only women in a baseball clubhouse, Smith called it “tough, it really was tough.”

“I don’t believe there is a female writer of my generation who didn’t have a tale to tell that wouldn’t bring another female writer to tears because it was a very vulnerable place to be,” Smith added. “And often your male peers were so busy doing their job that they couldn’t interrupt their jobs and come to your aid.”

Smith then recalled her defining moment, her “tipping point,” came in the 1984 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres when she was physically removed by players from the Padres clubhouse after Game One. While the situation was eventually resolved, thanks to Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, it left scars for a number of years.

But despite the hardships Smith suffered due only to the profession she chose, she told those in attendance to encourage their students, daughters, nieces and granddaughters to pursue sports writing as a career. Not only are there numerous opportunities with the Internet, but also it can be a very rewarding.

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.

Nov. 18, 1966: Koufax calls it quits

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

When Sandy Koufax called it quits 43 years ago today — Nov. 18, 1966 — he ended a six-year run that scouts only dream about.

It was a six-year run good enough for a place in Cooperstown.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Koufax.jpgKoufax, who grew up in Brooklyn playing in the city’s “Ice Cream Leagues,” debuted with his hometown Dodgers in 1955. He posted five wins and a 3.02 ERA in his rookie year. The powerful lefty averaged only six wins per year for the first half of his career, but in 1961 Koufax began quite possibly the most impressive six-year span for a pitcher.

Koufax led the bigs in wins in 1963 (25), 1965 (26) and 1966 (27). His average ERA during his tyranny on National League hitters was an exceptional 1.99.

“I can see how he won 25 games,” said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra of Koufax’s 1963 season. “What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”

In 1963, Koufax also became just the second pitcher to ever take home an MVP and a Cy Young in the same season – after Don Newcombe did it with Brooklyn in the first year of the Cy Young award of 1956. Only six have earned that dual honor since (Vida Blue, Roger Clemens, Willie HernŠndez, Denny McLain and Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Bob Gibson).

And it wasn’t just soft-hitting utility men that had trouble with the mighty southpaw. Try a Hall of Famer with 475 career home runs.

“Hitting against Sandy Koufax is like drinking coffee with a fork,” said Pirates’ slugger Willie Stargell.

11-18-09-Lawrence_KoufaxNoHitters.jpgHarry Hooper, a four-time champion with the early 20th century Red Sox, echoed Stargell’s sentiments.

“You name a better left-hander in the history of baseball and I’ll eat my hat,” he said, referring to Koufax.

Koufax also became the first pitcher to reach four career no-hitters on Sept. 25, 1965, surpassing Larry Corcoran, Cy Young and Bob Feller. He is also one of only six pitchers to toss a perfect game and a regular no-hitter, along with Young, Jim Bunning, Addie Joss, Randy Johnson and the newest member Mark Buehrle.

It was severe arthritis in the once-in-a-generation left arm of Koufax that led to the demise of his young career. In fact, in April of 1966 Koufax was told that he couldn’t go another season, but he did – winning a career high 27 games with a career-best 1.73 ERA.

“Sandy pitches in extreme pain that can only be overcome by his motivational urge,” said team physician Dr. Robert Kerlan, according to an article in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

11-18-09-Lawrence_Chart.jpgAnd despite this mental resolve that allowed the vaunted ace to pitch through immense pain, he was a gentleman of the highest order.

“There is hardly a strong enough word for the way the other players feel about Koufax,” said Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. “It almost goes beyond affection… for a man so gentle he seems misplaced in a jock shop.”

Koufax was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, just the 10th player (at the time) to be inducted in his first year of eligibility.

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

Oct. 7, 1950: Ford gets first of six rings

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

The Chairman of the Board emphatically shut the door on Philly’s 59 years ago today — Oct. 7, 1950.


10-7-09-Lawrence_FordPitch.jpgWhitey Ford
, dubbed the “Chairman of the Board” by teammates, is the all-time World Series leader in wins (10) and strikeouts (94). It all began in Game 4 of the 1950 Fall Classic, as his Yankees were looking for a sweep of manger Eddie Sawyer’s Philadelphia Phillies.

On a Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, in front of more than 68,000 fans, Ford had the ball opposite Phils hurler Bob Miller with a chance to earn the Bombers’ 13th World Series title.

Ford, as a rookie, went a sterling 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA in 1950 – finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting to the Red Sox’ Walt Dropo.

The Yankees were defending champions, after taking the ’49 series against cross-town rival Brooklyn under new manager Casey Stengel.

Ford might not have had Game 7 pressure on him, with the Yankees’ three-game cushion, but nonetheless the rookie faced a daunting task at the age of 21. And while it didn’t hurt to have future Hall of Famers like Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Mize on his side, Ford was fearless every time he toed the rubber.

10-7-09-Lawrence_Ford.jpg“He was my banty rooster,” said Stengel. “He used to puff his chest out, like this, and walk out to the mound against any of those big pitchers.”

Despite that “rooster” persona, Ford was a pensive pitcher who chose deception over brute force. Ford promptly demoralized the Phils on Oct. 7, twirling 8.2 innings of brilliant baseball – giving up only two unearned runs.

A native of New York City, Ford went on to those record-setting 10 World Series wins as well as a fantastic postseason ERA of 2.71.

Ford not only owned October in the win column, but the 20th century as well. His 236-106 record makes him the most consistent victor — among pitchers with at least 200 wins — during those years, with a .690 winning percentage.

10-7-09-Lawrence_NYYSeriesChart.jpg“I don’t care what the situation was, how high the stakes were… it never bothered Whitey Ford,” said Yankee great Mickey Mantle. “He pitched his game. Cool. Crafty. Nerves of steel.”

In fact, Ford harnessed those “nerves of steel” to toss 33 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play, another signature “Chairman” mark. Ford also had seven complete games in the Classic, good for fifth all-time, and was part of six Yankees championship teams.

Ford was welcomed into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1974.

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

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

Lawrence_90.jpgBy Thomas Lawrence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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