Results tagged ‘ Yogi Berra ’

Making a name

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

A few names and numbers from the week that was in baseball:


8-21-09-Hayes_AbreuHenderson.jpgBobby’s World:
With two home runs against the Orioles last weekend, the Angels’ Bobby Abreu became the fifth player with 11 10 home run/20 stolen base seasons, joining Barry and Bobby Bonds and Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Joe Morgan.

Last week, Abreu hit his 250th career homer, which placed him with Willie Mays as the only players in baseball history with 250-plus homers, 300-plus steals and a .300 or better career average. He also became one of only six players in major league history with 2,000 hits, 250 home runs, 1,000 runs scored, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases. The other five are Henderson, Mays, Morgan, Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio.

Mauer power: On Tuesday night, Joe Mauer collected three hits – including two homers – finishing the night with 25 homers and a .383 batting average. Hall of Famers Ted Williams (1941 and 1957), Joe DiMaggio (1939), Lou Gehrig (1930 and 1936) and Babe Ruth (1931) were the last four AL players prior to Mauer with at least 25 home runs and a .380 batting average through 119 games.

.300 Angels: The Angels accomplished a feat on Tuesday at Cleveland which hadn’t been seen since 1934. A quick scan of the box score Wednesday morning showed a .300 average or better for each player in the lineup. With Mike Napoli and Maicer Izturis, a super-substitute, each ending the night with a .300 average, the Angels matched the 1934 Tigers as the last team to sport that kind of arsenal in a lineup 100 games into the season.
 
The Tigers included Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin and Hank Greenberg. Pitcher Schoolboy Rowe even joined the cause with a .302 average.


8-21-09-Hayes_Stargell.jpgCelebration:
The summer of ’69 and ’79 are remembered rather fondly in two National League cities. And this weekend, both the Pirates and the Mets will celebrate their good times.

The Pirates are remembering their last World Championship with “We Are Fam-A-Lee Weekend.” Breakout the polyester because 1979 throwbacks will be worn by the Pirates and their opponents, the Reds, on Friday and Saturday and a ceremony will be held on Saturday honoring the 22 players and staff who are attending, including  Margaret Stargell (wife of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell), Dave Parker, Phil Garner, Bert Blyleven and Dale Berra.

Also on Saturday The Miracle Mets will celebrate their amazing World Series victory. Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Yogi Berra are scheduled to be on the field with several other key members of that magic season, including the widow of manager Gil Hodges.

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

Side retired

Berowski_90.jpg8-5-09-Berowski_Henderson.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

“He’s a player Major League history will never forget. His records will never be broken. There will never be another Rickey Henderson.”

These were the words spoken by Rickey Henderson’s best friend Dave Stewart last Saturday. Less than one week after his induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Oakland Athletics retired Rickey Henderson’s No. 24 in a pregame ceremony that Master of Ceremonies Ray Fosse called “the start of Rickey Henderson Month.”

8-5-09-Berowski_Rice.jpgOnly four days earlier, another member of the Hall of Fame’s class of 2009 also had his uniform number retired.  In a pregame ceremony, the man Red Sox manager Terry Francona called “one of the most dominating offensive players in the game,” Jim Rice, had his No. 14 retired by the Boston Red Sox, the team he spent his entire career with. Among those in attendance were Rice’s family and many of his former teammates, including fellow Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley and Carlton Fisk. Boston Mayor Tom Menino dubbed June 28, 2009 as “Jim Rice Day” throughout the city.

Unlike the specific rules for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, there are no specific guidelines provided by Major League Baseball for the honoring of an individual by retiring his uniform number. That decision – with the exception of the universal retirement of Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 – is left entirely up to the teams.

The practice of retiring a number to honor a player began in 1939, 10 years after permanent uniform numbers were first introduced by the New York Yankees. Ironically, it was the Yankees that first retired Lou Gehrig’s No. 4 in honor of their fatally ill Captain. The Yankees have retired 15 numbers to honor 16 players – No. 8 was retired in honor of both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra – a Major League high.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sun shines on Induction Weekend

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Another Hall of Fame Weekend is in the books and by all accounts, it was a rousing success. Our staff was well prepared and ready to assure that each and every guest – from the returning Hall of Famers to the invited guests to the 21,000 fans who support the game we all love so much by attending the Induction – had the best possible experience possible.

7-29-09-Idelson_Berra.jpgEach year our staff agrees to control everything we can to assure success and be as prepared as humanly possible for elements we can’t. For the past five or six years, the weather patterns have been suspect and we have yet to have a completely dry four consecutive days of Hall of Fame Weekend. 

A few years ago, I was sitting on the back porch of the Otesaga on Friday morning of Hall of Fame Weekend in rocking chairs with Yogi Berra. He looked at me and said, “Hey Jeff, how come it rains a little bit on Hall of Fame Weekend all the time?” I explained Cooperstown is nestled between two mountain ranges – the Catskills and Adirondacks – and situated at the base of nine mile-long Otesgo Lake, making weather somewhat unpredictable. “Why don’t you move Hall of Fame Weekend to a different one when it’s not raining?” he said. I scratched my head, had a sip of coffee, and scratched my head again. End of conversation.

Mother Nature has a pretty good streak of being kind to us. Sure, we get some serious snow in the winter and spring can be cool. But when the chips are down (Hall of Fame Weekend), she is as interested in seeing the stars shine as much as we do. We’ve not had to move ceremony inside since 1990.

This year, it rained most of Friday, but Mother Nature gave us windows of decent weather when it mattered most, allowing us to stage our two Doubleday Field events – Play Ball with Ozzie Smith in the morning, and our Legends for Youth Skills Clinic.  

7-29-09-Idelson_Boggs.jpgSaturday was beautiful all day – cool and dry. The Hall of Fame golf tournament proceeded seamlessly, the annual New York-Penn League game was played without a hint of delay, and fans could leisurely walk Main Street and enjoy all the village of Cooperstown has to offer. It sprinkled for just a few minutes before our version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame – the annual Red Carpet Ceremony where the game’s living legends arrive at the Hall of Fame by trolley for an evening reception.

Sunday, on the other hand, was dicey, as rain clouds threatened from the minute I woke at 7 a.m.  By 11 a.m, we were monitoring Doppler Radar and beginning to run through the various “what if” scenarios. 

Each year we prepare four versions of the Induction Ceremony with the ultimate goal, to stay outdoors for every fan to enjoy. The versions include (1) regular run of show; (2) delay; (3) reverse order with elements cut, and; (4) indoors. The final version, not needed since 1990, only comes into play when the weather dictates the potential for disaster, such as lightening or hail.

The forecast looked ominous at 12:30 p.m, as Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Clark, security chief Evan Chase and I looked at the various forecasts. The weather was OK enough to not have to go indoors, but it was going to deteriorate as the day progressed, so going to a delay was not an option either. We made the decision to go with the “reverse order” ceremony, which is why we started with the inductees and ended with the award winners. Thankfully, our new broadcast partner, the MLB Network, was able to air the ceremony live, in its entirety.

7-29-09-Idelson_HendersonRice.jpgAs we boarded buses at 1 p.m to head from the Otesaga Resort Hotel to the Clark Sports Center, we knew we might get pelted with rain. The forecast was showing a large rain cell in Binghamton, N.Y., south and west of Cooperstown, and heading directly toward us. We knew there was a good chance of a soaking rain around 2 p.m, but with the unpredictability of central New York weather, there was reason to hope.

Well, Mother Nature must not be a very good bowler, as she delivered a 7-10 split.  The winds starting howling and some light rain ensued, but the storm split, as it does sometimes, going north and south of us and leaving us dry for the Ceremony.

We were able to complete the Induction, but as I looked out the window from the Hall of Fame members’ dinner that evening, I saw sheets of rain streaming down on the lake. I was glad we made the right call.

Mother Nature got it out of her system. Monday was gorgeous as the Weekend concluded with our annual Legends Series event with our new inductees, Rickey and Jim.

And for the 19th consecutive year, Mother Nature did her part. Maybe we should give her a plaque.

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

Colorful Browns memories

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Bill Purdy was born and raised in St. Louis. But last week, he and his wife, Mary Beth, experienced what felt like a homecoming in Cooperstown.

For a few days at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Purdy relived a youth spent as close to the big leagues as you can get without being listed in a box score.

5-28-09-Hayes_PurdyHornsby.jpgPurdy grew up a fan of the St. Louis Browns and by the time he entered high school, they were his obsession. As a catcher during his teen years, Bill was a fan of Les Moss, who caught for the Browns from 1946-53. They shared a similar trait aside from catching.

“He was about as slow as a turtle running the bases, and I wasn’t fast either,” said Purdy, who supports the Hall of Fame as a Member of the Museum’s development program. “But I sure could hit the ball.”

It was Purdy’s catching ability, however, that dictated his baseball life after 1952. Bill Veeck, who purchased the Browns in 1951, was working to create greater interest in the team. So in 1952, the future Hall of Fame executive held a promotional contest to work as a bat boy for the Browns. Purdy won the contest.

During the middle of the season, the Browns needed someone to catch batting practice, so Purdy started doing that. For the rest of the season, he was the team’s bat boy and batting-practice catcher. In 1953, he served as just the batting-practice catcher and also traveled with the team.

As the bullpen catcher, he caught many legends, including the seemingly ageless Negro league great and future Hall of Famer Satchel Paige; an aging Virgil Trucks, who won 177 big league games; Harry Brecheen, who won three games in the 1946 World Series with the Cardinals; Don Larsen, who threw the only perfect game in World Series history; Bob Turley, who went on to win four World Series games, two rings and five pennants with the Yankees; Ned Garver, who won 20 games for the last-place Browns in 1951; and Tommy Byrne, a left-hander and part of the Yankees dynasty in the 1940s and ’50s.

5-28-09-Hayes_PurdyMug.jpgPurdy also has one great memory from a trip to Yankee Stadium in 1952. Like the players, Purdy kept his uniform, catcher’s mitt and the rest of his equipment in a trunk. The trunks were unloaded from the team’s train and taken straight to the clubhouse at the ballpark. Just before the team went to New York, the Browns were carrying three catchers, something the Yankees apparently knew. St. Louis’ third-string catcher, however, was sent to the Minors before the team arrived and another catcher wasn’t called up — something the Yankees apparently didn’t know.

“I’m assuming that the clubhouse man from the Yankees saw my stuff in there and thought I’d been activated,” Purdy said. “So they printed the scorecard with my name and number on it. I have it to this day, and it will baffle any historian here, because you won’t find my name on the list of active players. But my name is on the scorecard from Yankee Stadium — it’s the same scorecard that had Mantle, Berra and Casey Stengel on it.”

That scorecard, along with autographed balls and other artifacts — including seat frames from old Sportsman’s Park with original Busch Stadium seats in it — are among the memorabilia Purdy still has from his days with the Browns.

But the stories are what he treasures most.

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

Happy 84th birthday, Yogi

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

On this, his 84th birthday, at least four decades of baseball fans know only the post-playing-career Yogi Berra.

The funny quotes. The managerial stints. The commercials with the talking duck.

Yet for the generation of fans from the 1940s and ’50s — the ones that saw Berra in his prime — Berra is much more.

Catchers with Berra’s combination of skill at the plate and behind it are few and far between in baseball history. He hit 20 or more home runs 11 times and drove in 100 or more runs five times. He threw out an incredible 47.8 percent of runners who tried to steal against him.

5-12-09-Muder_BerraPitch.jpgOnly seven players won as many Most Valuable Player Awards — three — as Berra did. Only Barry Bonds won more.

Factor in leadership — 14 World Series appearances and 10 championship rings in his 18-year career — and Berra rises to a level almost without peer.

As a cultural icon, however, Berra reaches an even greater audience. Those who have never been to a baseball game know his name. His wit and wisdom will live forever. Just say the word “Yogi,” and everybody — save for a few Hanna-Barbera cartoon fans — thinks of Lawrence Peter Berra.

Still, it all comes back to the game on the field. Thank heaven we have the numbers to prove it was real.

It’s a body of work that still seems to good to be true.

Happy birthday, Mr. Berra.

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

Ellsbury pulls off Hall of Fame-like steal of home

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

On Sunday night, the Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury did something that is rare in today’s game — he managed a straight steal of home off the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte. Pettitte looked devastated after it happened, and Ellsbury got a curtain call from the Fenway Park faithful after his daring dash.

The straight steal of home is rare, just like no-hitters or cycles. This season, there have been three cycles, and there were five last year. Last season there were two no-hitters. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there were 15 steals of home in 2008, with just four being straight thefts. Torii Hunter’s straight steal on Sept. 18, 2008, was the last steal of home of any kind.

4-28-09-Hayes_Ellsbury.jpgDuring the ESPN telecast, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was asked how many times he’d performed a straight steal of home. Morgan, who ranks ninth among modern-era players with 689 stolen bases, said he’d done it maybe twice in his career. (He’s done it three times.) But after one particularly close attempt, teammate Tony Perez — another future Hall of Famer — told him not to do it anymore. Morgan listened.

Because stealing home is not an official statistic, research is considered ongoing, but the untouchable leader in steals of home is Hall of Famer Ty Cobb. He stole home a staggering 54 times in his career, including 25 straight steals. Max Carey, another Hall of Famer, is second with 33.

In Major League history, 38 men have 10 or more steals of home. Of those 38, exactly half, 19, are in the Hall of Fame.

Rk Hall of Famer Steals of Home
1) Ty Cobb 54
2) Max Carey 33
4) Honus Wagner 27
8) George Sisler 20
7) Johnny Evers 21
9) Frankie Frisch 19
9) Jackie Robinson 19
11) Tris Speaker 18
11) Joe Tinker 18
14) Rod Carew 17
14) Eddie Collins 17
18) Fred Clarke 15
18) Lou Gehrig 15
26) Sam Rice 12
28) Harry Hooper 11
32) Rabbit Maranville 10
32) Paul Molitor 10
32) Babe Ruth 10
32) Ross Youngs 10

Cobb holds the single-season record with eight during the 1912 season, whereas Pete Reiser holds the National League single-season record with seven. Carew, who stole home seven times in 1969, is the most productive home-plate thief in the post-Jackie Robinson era.

4-29-09-Hayes_Cobb.jpgRobinson, however, may have recorded the most famous steal of home. On Sept. 28, 1955, in Game 1 of the World Series, Robinson — who made stealing home and driving pitchers nuts an art form — slid under the tag of catcher Yogi Berra during an eighth-inning attempt, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 6-5. Berra immediately began arguing with home-plate umpire Bill Summers, insisting that Robinson was out — a stance he maintains to this day. The Hall of Fame catcher lost the argument, and eventually his team lost the World Series.

The Mets’ Jose Reyes, one of today’s prolific basestealers, said he’s planning a tribute to Robinson this season. After being told Jackie stole home 19 times, Reyes couldn’t believe it, but he’s been inspired and said he wants to pilfer the plate to honor Robinson’s fearlessness on the bases.

There’s an ongoing argument in baseball about the most exciting play in the game. Some people call it the triple; others say it’s a squeeze play or the inside-the-park home run. On Sunday night, Ellsbury reminded fans that the straight steal of home should be included in that conversation.

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

Lloyd Monsen: left wing and pitcher at the 1952 Olympics

Shieber_90.jpgBy Tom Shieber

We’re unveiling a new exhibit titled Olympic Baseball. As you might guess, it is a celebration of the history of baseball in the Olympics. What you may not know is that our national pastime has been played at the Olympics for almost 100 years, starting with a pair of exhibition games at the 1912 Games in Stockholm.

Baseball was also played at the 1936 Games in Berlin, the ’56 Games in Melbourne, Australia, and the ’64 Games in Tokyo. But perhaps the most surprising and obscure appearance of baseball in the Olympics took place at the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland.

That summer, the Olympics featured an exhibition of pesšpallo, a popular Finnish game adapted from our game of baseball. Famed sportswriter and future J.G. Taylor Spink Award-winner Red Smith witnessed the game and wrote: “[Pesšpallo] was invented by Lauri Pihkala, a professor who wears a hearing aid and believes his game was modeled on baseball. Somebody must have described baseball to him when his battery was dead.”

4-27-09-Shieber_Olympics.jpgApparently, the local Olympic organizing committee invited the U.S. to play a game of baseball (the original game, not the Finnish version) against a champion team from Finland. Walter Giesler, coach of the U.S. soccer team and a future Soccer Hall of Famer, was tasked with organizing the baseball team. With his soccer team quickly eliminated from the Olympics, bowing to the Italians, 8-0 ,on July 16, he had a surplus of top athletes with little to do. Why not play baseball?

The U.S. played a practice game against Venezuela on July 29, posting a 14-6 victory, then followed that up with the main contest against the Finns, a 19-1 drubbing played at Helsinki Football Stadium on Aug. 5.

As lead curator of the exhibit, I wanted to make sure that we featured artifacts from each Olympiad in which baseball was played. The one hole was the Helsinki contests. I immediately set to work trying to track down some of the soccer players from the 1952 U.S. team in hopes that they might provide some leads.

Finding out who was on the U.S. soccer squad was no problem, as the team is well-documented and featured quite a few “name” players. Besides Coach Giesler, the team featured five other future Soccer Hall of Famers: Charlie Colombo, Harry Keough, Lloyd Monsen, Willy Schaller and John Souza.

Of these greats, four — Colombo, Giesler, Keough and Souza — were members of the famed U.S. soccer team that stunned England, 1-0, at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. The victory is considered by many to be the greatest moment in U.S. soccer history … and the worst in the storied history of English soccer.

Working my way alphabetically through the list of six Hall of Famers, I turned my attention to Colombo. Like many others on the Olympic soccer team, Colombo hailed from St. Louis, a city that has long been a hotbed of soccer talent. Like baseball legends Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola, Colombo grew up in St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood known as “Dago Hill,” today referred to as simply “The Hill.” But Colombo passed away over 20 years ago, so I turned my attention to Harry Keough.

Harry was, and still is, a legend in St. Louis. Not only did he win a national junior championship, play on the 1950 U.S. team that toppled England and participate in two Olympic Games (1952 and ’56), but he also went on to coach the St. Louis University Billikens to five NCAA men’s soccer championships. Fortunately, I was able to contact his son Ty, a great player in his own right as well as a television soccer analyst. Unfortunately, my timing was off. Ty informed me that his father was out of the country.

Next: Lloyd Monsen.

Monsen, who played left wing for U.S. Olympic soccer team, was born and raised in Brooklyn. Some cursory research led me to believe that he might still be living in the area, but in checking on the Web, I found that not only was there no “Lloyd Monsen” listed in Brooklyn, there was no one by that name in the entire state of New York. I decided to “go for it” and searched for any Lloyd Monsen in the country … and found just one!

I made the cold call to Clearwater, Fla., and when a man answered the phone, I introduced myself and asked if this was Lloyd Monsen.

“Yes.”

Was this the same Lloyd Monsen who played soccer at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki?

“Yes.”

Did he know anything about the baseball games that were played that summer in Finland?

“Not only did I play in those games, I was the starting pitcher.”

Unbelievable! Lloyd was, and is, as sharp as a tack and went on to describe the baseball games in surprising detail. He recalled that U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. threw out the first pitch before the game against Finland, and noted that the host country supplied all the baseball equipment.

Thankfully, Lloyd kept quite a few souvenirs from his Olympic experience in Finland, and he has graciously loaned us the patch from his team jacket along with his official Olympic ID for our exhibit. These wonderful artifacts are just two of over 50 that are featured in our Olympic Baseball exhibit, now open on the second floor of the Museum.

Tom Shieber is senior curator of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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