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Monday, July 23, 2012
Fifty years ago today was one of the most famous Cooperstown induction days of them all. On July 13, 1962, the Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed through its doors two of the games biggest stars: Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson.
Their claims to fame were rather obvious. Feller was a star fireballer who made the big leagues as a teen and was a force by his early 20s. He threw multiple no-hitters and 12 one-hitters. He was so dominant that when he struck out 348 batters in 1946, only one other pitcher in the entire league notched half as many punchouts. He was kinda good.
As big a name as Feller was, Robinson’s is the brightest star. His raw numbers aren’t as stellar as Feller’s stats because Robinson only played 10 years. He was a great all-around player who could hit for average, steal bases, play quality defense at a key up-the-middle position, and had enough power in his bat to earn the respect of opposing pitchers.
But, of course, when you think Robinson, those aren't the things that first come to mind. He did all of the above while integrating major league baseball as its first black player of the 20th century.
Both men retired in 1956 and won election in 1962, and that’s also remarkable, for they had won election in their first year of eligibility, and no one had done that since the original class of five in 1936. Yes, for a quarter-century no one earned enshrinement in his first year, and now two had.
That fact had less to do with how well the BBWAA viewed Feller and Robinson—sure they appreciated them, but they’d also appreciated Joe DiMaggio and Lefty Grove—than a series of rule changes made over the years.
Those changes were summarized in a column, but to briefly recap here: at first, writers could vote for anyone, even active players. Thus, in 1936 all notable retired players and some good active players received votes, and that became their rookie ballot season. Then the BBWAA had to deal with the giant glut of former greats, and that slowed up the induction process.
Even more, there wasn’t a five-year waiting period. A guy became eligible after retiring for a year. But it turns out that writers didn’t like voting for a guy that soon, and they’d never get elected in write away. DiMaggio, for instance, played in 1951 and went into Cooperstown in 1955. By modern standards that’s even before he’d be eligible, but by the times he had to wait a bit.
In the 1950s, after DiMaggio had trouble getting in, Cooperstown finally reformed the voting process. A player had to be retired for five years, not just one. Also, a player who’d been retired for too long couldn’t be voted by the BBWAA; 20 years it was decided would be the longest duration, then they’d go to the Veterans Committee.
The first big names to reach the BBWAA ballot as first-timers after the reforms were Feller and Robinson, and that’s why they became the first newbie enshrines in 26 years.
Oh, and they weren’t the only ones going in that day, either. The Veterans Committee added in a pair of their own, centerfielder Edd Roush and manager Bill McKechnie. Rather nicely, all four were still alive to enjoy the honor.
And they got to enjoy it on July 23, 1962, 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim over things.
Click for more...
Pardon me if I seem discombobulated, but I'm suffering from weekend movie whiplash. On Friday night I saw "The Dark Knight Rises." Yesterday I saw "Safety Not Guaranteed." If you can find me two movies out right now that are more dissimilar in terms of tone, themes, budget and every other single other relevant measure, I'd like to know what they are.
Verdicts: "Dark Knight Rises" was really good, though I have to say that it was not as good as "The Dark Knight" due to Heath Ledger deficit disorder, obviously, and because there just weren't any of those "OMFG BATMAN!" moments. You know what I'm talking about. Fine flick, but just not quite as satisfying as the last one, which is not a terrible surprise given how damn good the last one was.
As for "Safety Not Guaranteed": one of the cutest movies I've seen in a long time. And there was a minor, insignificant point in which a character talks about how she used to be married to a ballplayer who, after being traded to Marlins, began to cheat on her, leading to their divorce. The movie was set in a little town near Seattle. I'm going to assume that it was a Mariners player who was traded to Miami. Anyone with any ideas about who this dog was, please note it in the comments. If it helps, the female character is probably in her mid-to-late 30s, and the player would now be around that age, I reckon.
Anyway, two home runs here in my opinion. Which, given what went down yesterday in baseball, is quite appropriate:
Athletics 5, Yankees 4: New York travels to Oakland and gets swept, with all of the games being decided by one run. But this one has to hurt more than your normal one-run loss given that the Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
Diamondbacks 8, Astros 2: Jason Kubel hit three homers on Saturday night and hit another one here. Overall he's had six homers in five games. And boy howdy do the Astros stink. They're 1-9 since the break.
Orioles 4, Indians 3: Just when I started writing off the O's in every radio, TV and video outlet that would have me, they go and rip off five straight wins. The lesson, as always, is that I'm an idiot.
Tigers 6, White Sox 4: Just when I started talking up the Tigers as "a sleeping giant" in every radio, TV and video outlet that would have me, they go and rip off 13 of 15 and power their way into first place. The lesson, as always, is that I'm a genius. Oh, and let's start the day's theme here: Miguel Cabrera hit two homers to lead the Tigers past Chicago.
Twins 7, Royals 5: Ryan Doumit hit two homers to lead the Twins past Kansas City.
Nationals 9, Braves 2: Ryan Zimmerman hit two homers to lead the Nationals past Atlanta.
Phillies 4, Giants 3: John Mayberry Jr. hit two homers to lead the Phillies past San Francisco. Oh, and Nate Schierholtz hit two homers too, but they were not leadership quality, apparently, or else the Giants would have won, eh?
Thus endeth the two-homer hitters, by the way.
Cardinals 7, Cubs 0: A whuppin' to be sure. But the Cubs still decided to have fun after the game. Jon Jay went 4 for 4 and drove in two and Lance Lynn tossed six shutout innings to win his 12th.
Pirates 3, Marlins 0: I did not write the Pirates off nearly as definitively as I wrote the Orioles off -- I gave them a shot at least -- but they have now won five in a row too. Pedro Alvarez his hit four homers in his last six games. Pittsburgh has won 21 of 25 at home.
Padres 3, Rockies 2: Carlos Quentin signed a contract extension and went out and put up an 0 for 4. It happens.
Mariners 2, Rays 1: Blake Beavan outdueld Matt Moore, allowing one run over eight without walking a soul. Idea: they should make pitchers in pitching duels actually duel. Like, Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton-style.
Blue Jays 15, Red Sox 7: The Jays beat up Jon Lester for 11 runs on nine hits -- four of them homers -- in four innings. I was gonna make some Bane/Batman analogy here, but not all of you have seen the movie yet because you're just not real fans.
Reds 2, Brewers 1: The Pirates may be surging, but the Reds are holding them off just fine, winning eight of 10 on the home stand. Johnny Cueto struck out nine and allowed a run over seven innings, winning his 12th and lowering his ERA to 2.23.
Dodgers 8, Mets 3: Allowing, like, 3+ runs in a single extra inning is a special kind of demoralizing. Four wins in a row for LA, eight of nine dropped since the break for the Mets.
Angels 7, Rangers 4: Dan Haren came back and pitched the Angels to a series win. His return -- and the stabilization of the rotation -- will have an awful lot to do with the Angels' prospects down the stretch.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
With the central New York weather rating nearly a perfect 10, it was only fitting that emotions reached a similarly high level on Induction Day in Cooperstown.
Vicki Santo, the widow of Ron Santo, gave one of the most stirring induction speeches in memory, while Barry Larkin delivered a talk high on energy and enthusiasm.
Speaking clearly but emotionally on a sunny and seasonable 80-degree day, Mrs. Santo thanked former Cub greats Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, and “especially Billy Williams” for their support of Santo. She also explained how her husband dealt with his diabetic condition. Because he did not have the technologavical devices available to diabetics today, Santo gauged his sugar levels simply by how he felt while hitting, fielding and running.
She recalled on one occasion how he suffered a reaction while in the on-deck circle. After Williams walked to load the bases, Santo found himself battling a bout with triple vision. Figuring that he ought to swing against the middle of the three pitchers he saw, Santo somehow belted a grand slam home run against Bill Singer, the hard-throwing right-hander for the Dodgers.
Mrs. Santo also spoke of Ron’s commitment to fight diabetes, the disease that plagued him for the entirety of his major league career. She estimated that he raised more than $65 million in the battle against juvenile diabetes.
Finally, Mrs. Santo quoted from a classic Christmas film in summing up the substance of Ron’s life. “I don’t know of anyone who had more friends than Ron Santo … He truly had a wonderful life.”
Faced with a tough act to follow, Larkin did well in conveying his spirited enthusiasm to a crowd that was dominated by a flood of Reds shirts and caps. Though nervous and overcome with emotion near the beginning of his speech, Larkin managed to thank his family members, including his daughter, who sang the National Anthem at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.
He mentioned a number of influential Hall of Famers with the Reds’ organization, including the late Sparky Anderson and the playing trio of Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Tony Perez, who watched Larkin’s speech from the stage behind him.
In perhaps the most touching moment of his speech, Larkin spoke Spanish while thanking the Latino community in attendance. He acknowledged Latino greats like Luis Aparicio, the late Roberto Clemente, and last year’s inductee Roberto Alomar. As a shortstop, Larkin added that he badly had wanted to play with a second baseman like Alomar.
As expected, Larkin acknowledged his first manager, Pete Rose, who is currently banned from Hall of Fame consideration. The mention of Rose’s name drew loud cheers from the assembled crowd of about 15,000 fans. In recalling Rose, Larkin said nothing about Rose’s ban but instead told the story of how he received his call to the majors, except that he had no equipment to use. So Rose gave him his bat and his shoes to play with in his first game; Larkin kept the bat and the shoes, bringing them home as mementos after his major league debut.
Larkin also credited several of his mentors, including veteran shortstop Dave Concepcion, who happened to be one of his boyhood idols. Even though Concepcion knew full well that Larkin was being groomed to take his job, he worked diligently with Larkin on defense and preparation.
Other veteran teammates also helped Larkin. He mentioned Tom Browning, Danny Jackson, Jose Rijo, Billy Hatcher and Chris Sabo, whom he referenced as “Spuds Mackenzie.” Larkin also cited Buddy Bell as his mentor and recalled a story involving outfielders Eric Davis and Dave Parker. After Davis and Parker confronted Larkin about playing with more urgency and determination, the young shortstop overhauled his attitude, spearheading his Hall of Fame career.
Hall of Fame news and notes
Davis, Parker, and Tom Browning all attended the ceremony in honor of Larkin. Larkin’s invited guests included actor and baseball fan Charlie Sheen, who could be seen wearing a Reds cap while sitting in the VIP section at the Clark Sports Center.
Those who attended in support of Santo included former Cubs catcher Randy Hundley and longtime Cubs second baseman Glenn Beckert. Hundley served as one of Santo’s pallbearers, while Beckert was Santo’s roommate in Chicago.
Other baseball notables in the audience included Tony LaRussa, who was honored as part of a celebration of three generations of Cardinals managers; ex-Reds and Cubs manager Lou Piniella; former Phillies right-hander Larry Christenson (who is good friends with Frick Award winner Tim McCarver); and FOX broadcaster Joe Buck, who is McCarver’s on-air partner.
A total of 45 Hall of Famers attended the ceremony. Gaylord Perry escorted his former Giants teammate, Willie Mays, onto the stage. Mays’ vision is very poor, making it difficult for him to walk in tight quarters. Another aging Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra, who has been walking with the assistance of a cane, was helped onto the stage by Whitney Selover, the Hall’s director of Hall of Fame Weekend.
In one of the most memorable sequences of the day, the Hall of Fame played an emotional video tribute to the late Gary Carter on the Jumbotron scoreboard. Carter passed away in February from brain cancer. Carter’s widow, Sandy, courageously attended this weekend’s festivities in Cooperstown.