Results tagged ‘ Hall of Fame Weekend ’
Inevitably, the 2008 Hall of Fame Induction was destined to provide somewhat of a letdown, since there was no way in Hades that 75,000 fans were going to pour through the Cooperstown gates the way they did last year. The Hall announced that 14,000 fans attended the Sunday ceremony, but the institution historically overestimates the crowds, usually by about 5,000. More realistically, there were about 10,000 fans gathered at the Clark Sports Center to watch the induction of Goose Gossage, Dick Williams, Billy Southworth, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O’Malley, and Barney Dreyfuss.
Still, the lack of fans didn’t detract from an enjoyable weekend. The weather was terrific, emotions ran particularly high at the ceremony, and scores of former big leaguers descended on Cooperstown to make the weekend the festival of baseball that it has become. In addition to the record 54 Hall of Famers who traveled to Cooperstown this past weekend for the induction extravaganza, hordes of other retired players also made their way into our small, upstate village. Hall of Famers aside, here is a list of the former major leaguers and Negro Leaguers (along with some parenthetical remarks) who were spotted in Cooperstown from Thursday through Sunday:
*Dick Allen (White Sox teammate of Gossage, 1972 AL MVP)
*Jim Beattie (Yankee teammate of Goose)
*Paul “Motormouth” Blair (Yankee teammate of Gossage)
*Vida Blue (played for Dick Williams, 1971 AL Cy Young and MVP)
*Ralph Branca (Brooklyn Dodgers alumnus)
*Dave Campbell (former Padres infielder)
*David Cone (current Yankee broadcaster)
*Steve Garvey (played for Dick Williams)
*Dwight “Doc” Gooden
*Jim “Mudcat” Grant (played for Dick Williams)
*Ron Guidry (Yankee teammate of Gossage)
*Pat Kelly (former Yankee second baseman)
*Gene “Stick” Michael (former manager of Gossage; current Yankee executive)
*Graig Nettles (teammate of Gossage)
*Mickey Rivers (teammate of Gossage)
*Pete Rose (argghhh!)
*Joe Rudi (played for Dick Williams)
*Robert “Bob” Scott (Negro Leagues player)
*Bobby Shantz (1952 AL MVP)
*George “Shotgun” Shuba (former Brooklyn Dodger)
*Chuck Tanner (Gossage’s first manager)
*Roy White (Yankee teammate of Gossage)
There were also a number of current and former executives in town, including Yankee GM Brian Cashman, Yankee advisor Arthur Richman, former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley (son of Walter), former White Sox owner Eddie Einhorn, and longtime White Sox executive Roland Hemond, who now works for the Diamondbacks…
Other news and notes from the weekend: At Sunday night’s annual meeting of the Society for American Baseball Research, several historians noted that Ernie Banks did not attend the Friday afternoon dedication of the new Buck O’Neil statue. That seemed a bit odd, considering that Banks played for O’Neil with the Kansas City Monarchs before being brought to the Cubs by O’Neil. Another former Cubs great, Billy Williams, did attend the O’Neil ceremony…
After the SABR meeting on Sunday night, I ran into three members of the “Dick Williams Lunch Bunch.” They’re all residents of Nevada and longtime friends of Williams who meet with him for lunch every Thursday afternoon. Fifteen of the “Lunch Bunchers” attended the Sunday ceremony, replete with special T-shirts and vintage Charlie Finley green-and-gold A’s caps…
Finally, for those thinking of next year’s Hall of Fame induction, expect to see at least two new Hall of Famers on the stage. Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice will very likely be entering Cooperstown next summer. Henderson is a slam dunk choice, while Rice should come in at about 77 or 78 per cent of the vote.
Except for a drop or two of moisture on a humid afternoon, the rains stayed away on Sunday in Cooperstown, allowing Goose Gossage and Dick Williams to take center stage at the Clark Sports Center, site of the Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony. Although the crowd was sparse–a conservative estimate placed the total at about 10,000 fans–the emotion coming from the induction stage made for a memorable afternoon. The best speech of the day might have been turned in by longtime Mariners voice Dave Niehaus, who accepted the Hall’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. Sounding smooth and sincere, Niehaus elegantly accepted an award that began three decades ago, when it was first given to the legendary likes of Mel Allen and Red Barber.
I was glad to hear Gossage, who narrowly broke down at several points during his 17-minute speech, take extra measures to credit Chuck Tanner, his first major league manager. Tanner certainly has his critics as a manager–Bill James among them–but on balance has had a distinguished career, achieving success with both the White Sox and the Pirates, including a world championship in 1979. And his “nice guy” persona is no act; he’s one of the sincerely good people in the game.
If you’re a fan of the Yankee world championship team of 1978, you had to be heartened by the support that Gossage found in the Clark Sports Center crowd. Former Gossage teammates Jim Beattie, Ron Guidry, Graig Nettles, and Roy White all attended the ceremony, as did current Yankee executives Gene “Stick” Michael and Brian Cashman. In some ways, it was a nice warmup to the upcoming Old-Timers’ Day festivities at Yankee Stadium.
Dick Williams almost became part of those great Yankee teams of the seventies, but instead managed the Angels and Expos after leaving the clutches of Charlie Finley. Williams deserves credit for skillfully working Finley into his speech, as he jokingly mentioned the “friendship” between his former owner and Bowie Kuhn, another member of today’s induction class. I would have liked to have seen a few more of Williams’ former players in the Cooperstown crowd–Joe Rudi was one of the few in attendance–but perhaps that’s only fitting; Williams never set about to win friends, but was far more interested in extracting the best from his players. He certainly did that during his managerial stops in Boston, Oakland, and San Diego.
Earlier in the day, I walked the streets of Cooperstown with friends and family in order to capture some of the local flavor created by the weekend. With all of the Hall of Famers preparing for the ceremony, it was a chance for other retired ballplayers to take center stage on Main Street. As we worked our way through the crowded block between Pioneer and Chestnut Street, we saw Mudcat Grant and former Brooklyn Dodger George “Shotgun” Shuba signing at TJ’s Place. Negro Leagues standout Robert Scott, a frequent visitor to Cooperstown, ended up signing at several locations along the main boulevard. When a few young fans approached Scott and told him they had no money to pay for his autograph, he playfully responded, “Why is it you kids never have any money by the time you get to us? You always seem to run out once you get here.” It was all good-natured, with Scott finding a way to converse with the kids despite their lack of funds.
On Saturday, Mickey Rivers and Bobby Shantz signed at CVS Pharmacy, with both drawing rave reviews. (Shantz was so nervous before his signing that he woke up at three in the morning, walked the streets of Cooperstown, and then rested in his car until it was time to report to the store.) My spies tell me both Mickey and Bobby were especially friendly and accommodating, as they dealt with long lines of signature seekers. Rivers, dressed in a slick red and white sweatsuit and sporting a tooth with a gold star, made new friends out of a number of fans, including my nephew. He was both engaging and funny, willing to pose for photographs, and only too happy to sign autographs in any way they were requested. Though I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Mickey personally because of prior commitments at the Fenimore Art Museum, my friends at CVS did help me secure a 1973 Topps card inscribed with the words, ”Mick ‘The Quick’ Rivers #17.”
Friendship, former players, and fond memories of baseball. That, folks, is what Hall of Fame Weekend is all about.
After two picture-perfect days here in Cooperstown, partly cloudy skies are greeting us in the village this morning. There’s a threat of rain in the air. but if recent history is any indication, the afternoon induction ceremony will be free of rain, hail, and any other kind of precipitation. A Hall of Fame ceremony hasn’t been rained out since 1991, when heavy rains forced the Joe Morgan/Jim Palmer induction to be pushed back to Monday, and even then it had to take place at the Cooperstown High School Gym. My hunch is that the ceremony will go off without a hitch, allowing Goose Gossage, Dick Williams, Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O’Malley and Billy Southworth to take their places in the Hall of Fame.
Most of the focus will be on the speeches of the two living inductees, Gossage and Williams. I know that Goose will acknowledge Chuck Tanner, his first big league manager. I hope he finds a way to work people like Billy Martin and Bob Lemon into the conversation. As for Williams, he’ll always be best remembered for the work he did in leading the A’s to back-to-back world championships in 1972 and ’73. I hope he mentions Campy Campaneris, Joe Rudi, Reggie Jackson, Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Rollie Fingers, all of whom were central figures to Charlie Finley’s dynasty. And yes, for all the headaches that Finley gave him, I hope Williams has a kind word or two for Charlie O, too.
For those who can’t be at the ceremony in person, ESPN will provide the TV coverage. Once again, in its infinite wisdom, ESPN has seen fit to put the ceremony on ESPN Classic, its fourth channel.That’s another slap in the face to baseball, considering that ESPN will be showing bull riding,–yes, bull riding–on its second channel, ESPN 2.
But let’s not ESPN’s lack of appreciation ruin the day. It’s a supreme day for baseball, a day that the Hall of Fame grows by six, a day that great players and managers will spin stories from bygone eras. The Induction Ceremony is almost hear. It all starts at 1:30 pm Eastern Daylight time. Let’s enjoy it.
To no one’s surprise, MLB and the Hall of Fame emerged from Saturday’s meeting with Save The Fame Game founder Kristian Connolly by reiterating their stance that the Hall of Fame Game is over, essentially dead and buried. During the meeting, MLB president Bob Dupuy pointed out that the game is basically a local attraction, one that matters primarily to the folks of central New York. Connolly responded by pointing out that fans who attend the game come from a far wider geographic base. He also said that the geography of the fan base shouldn’t matter, considering that the game sells out every year, sometimes within a matter of hours or days.
So what’s next in the process? I don’t expect that Connolly will give up just yet, while the Hall of Fame will continue to explore options for replacing the game. The Hall of Fame has a tendency to move slowly on such matters, sometimes at a glacial rate. It would be wise for the institution to move more quickly in this case, in order to quell continuing arguments to sustain the game and to move the focus of the discussion of the new event. My choices continue to be an Old-Timers Game first, and a Futures Game second, with the ideal solution allowing for both to take place. Youth clinics and minor league games are all fine and well, but they simply do not carry enough marquee value to replace a popular and longstanding tradition like the Hall of Fame Game…
I spent part of Saturday afternoon standing in the spacious lobby of the Otesaga Hotel, waiting for a ride that never came. There was definite upside to the lack of transportation, though, since it gave me an opportunity to do some people-watching at the Otesaga. I spotted Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, and Joe Morgan as they made their way through the first floor of the four-star hotel. Along the way, I picked up on some interesting Aaron news. His boyhood home in Mobile, Alabama, is being moved to the ballpark in that same city, as part of an effort to convert it into a museum. In addition, the Hall of Fame will be opening a new Aaron exhibit in April of 2009, fulfilling a dream for the former home run king. He’s long wanted an exhibit in Cooperstown, something similar to the old Babe Ruth Room that used to be featured, and will apparently get his wish within the next year…
Hall of Fame Weekend is not merely about the Hall of Famers. As I scanned the lobby of the Otesaga, I saw Dick Allen, Chuck Tanner, and Roland Hemond make their entrance. They’re all in town for Goose Gossage’s induction. When The Goose made his major league debut for the White Sox in 1972, Allen was his teammate, Tanner his manager, and Hemond a key executive in the Chicago front office. Allen and Tanner have remained particularly close to Gossage over the years. The Goose has always praised Allen for being a good teammate, while crediting Tanner with the fortuitous decision to convert him from starting pitcher to the bullpen…
A walk down Cooperstown’s Main Street also proved fruitful on Saturday. While the crowds are much smaller than the Ripken-Gwynn induction of 2007, there is no shortage of oldtime players to be found signing along the main boulevard. Ron Guidry is in town, presumably to offer support to Gossage during Sunday’s induction. Gentleman Joe Rudi has made the trip from the West Coast; he’s part of the contingent that is here on behalf of Dick Williams. A number of other baseball notables have joined in on the weekend celebration, including former Yankees Jim Beattie and Doc Gooden, oldtime Brooklyn Dodgers Ralph Branca and George Shuba, and former Yankee manager and GM Gene “Stick” Michael. Stick, one of baseball’s best minds, was one of Gossage’s many managers during his six-year tenure in New York. Other celebrities are expected to attend Sunday’s induction ceremony, including Roberto Clemente’s widow Vera, Yankee GM Brian Cashman, and Players’ Association chieftain Donald Fehr. Cashman attended Saturday’s Yankee game in Boston, but is part of the official Yankee welcoming committee that will honor Gossage as he gains official induction to the Hall of Fame on Sunday. Perhaps Cashman will have another deal to announce, coming on the heels of his Friday night steal of Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates.
Perhaps the most interesting item on today’s Hall of Fame Weekend schedule is the 10:00 morning meeting between Save The Fame Game leader Kristian Connolly, MLB president Bob Dupuy, and Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson. I’m still not expecting the Hall of Fame Game will actually be saved, but I applaud Connolly for his grass roots effort and his ability to even engineer a meeting with one of the top executives at MLB. Connolly’s meeting has also produced follow-up pleas from state senators Hilary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, who have signed a letter to MLB, urging the continuance of the game. (The letter may not help, but it can’t hurt.) If nothing else, Connolly has shown that there is still huge support for the game, and that its biggest fans will not let it go without the largest of fights.
If the game cannot be saved, the Hall of Fame has to come up with a suitable replacement. A minor league game involving the International League (or any league for that matter) simply won’t cut it. The Hall has to come up with something bigger, something with more cache, like an Old-Timers Game or a Futures Game, or better yet, even both. One of the games could then be attached to Hall of Fame Weekend, which desperately needs a signature event, while the other could be played in early June to coincide with the Hall’s birth date of June 12.
If nothing else, we need something good to come out of the loss of a wonderful institution like the Hall of Fame Game. Perhaps Connolly’s efforts will underscore that desire.
The highlight of Friday’s induction activities occurred at 12:30 in the afternoon, when the Hall of Fame unveiled its new bronze statue of the late Buck O’Neil. Located near the staircase to the left of the main lobby, the statue is a terrific lifelike representation of O’Neil. The statue portrays the Negro Leagues legend wearing a suit, his arms folded near his midsection, while he flashes his trademark smile. Behind the statue, the Hall of Fame has erected an attractive glass backdrop, featuring engraved text and photo images from his career. If Buck were alive today, he’d look at it and say something like, “Beautiful, just beautiful. They made me look better than I am.” Buck, I’d say it looks just like you. Wonderful…
Another high point on Friday involved the youth clinic sponsored by the Hall of Fame. Taking place at historic Doubleday Field, the clinic featured instruction by former big league ace Mudcat Grant and retired second baseman Pat Kelly. Although Mudcat is now in his early seventies and somewhat limited in his physical movements, he captivated the onlooking youngsters with his words of wisdom. Grant will remain busy throughout the weekend, as he signs autographs on Main Street and continues to charm passersby with his storytelling abilities…
Earlier in the day, I ran into one of my favorite baseball writers, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. He informed me that he’s begun work on his latest book project, a comprehensive biography of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. The book will be published by a major player in the publishing industry, Harper Collins. Madden has previously written books on the tumultuous Yankee teams of the 1980s, along with two revealing books he did in tandem with former Yankee coach Don Zimmer.Of all the New York writers, none cares more about the Hall of Fame than Mr. Madden…
Finally, I’d like to correct a mistake from an earlier post. Contrary to what I had written, Hank Aaron is in town for Hall of Fame Weekend. My apologies to Hammerin’ Hank. The eight Hall of Famers not in Cooperstown this weekend are Rod Carew, George Kell, Lee MacPhail, Stan Musial, Nolan Ryan, Duke Snider, Carl Yastrzemski, and Robin Yount.
As I walked into the Otesaga Hotel on Friday afternoon, the first person I noticed was Willie Mays. Sitting in a chair in the front of the lobby, Mays was surrounded by a phalanx of friends and family. I guess when you’re Willie Mays, it’s hard to move five feet in any direction in Cooperstown without drawing some sort of a crowd. Later in the day, I spotted several other Hall of Famers making their way through the Otesaga lobby, including Jim Bunning, Bob Feller, and Bob Gibson. At 89 years of age, Feller is the third oldest Hall of Famer, just behind Bobby Doerr and Lee MacPhail. He’s also sporting a different look these days, with a new crew cut that reminded me of his days in the military during World War II. Gibson’s appearance also surprised me a bit; he appeared to be smiling, an expression not often seen on the master of intimidation…
Making my way around the basement of the Otesaga, I caught a glimpse of Dick Williams, who is now less than 48 hours away from his induction, in the “Abner Doubleday Room.” A fitting name. As I eavesdropped on Williams’ conversation with a member of the media, I heard him talk about today’s ballplayers. He praised them for being bigger, stronger, and better trained than athletes of the past, but complained “that they have no idea how to play the game.” When it comes to the art of baserunning and the ability of outfielders to throw to the right base, I’m in complete agreement with Williams…
Later in the day, I ran into Cincinnati Reds broadcaster George Grande, who peaked in on us as we sat in the “Natty Bumppo Room.” Grande is currently preparing for Sunday’s induction ceremony, where he will continue his longstanding role as emcee. One of the truly nice guys in the game, Grande reminisced with me about the early days at ESPN, when the channel didn’t broadcast 24 hours a day and when SportsCenter anchors had to wear blazers with ESPN logos. We also talked about his former broadcast partner with the Yankees, Bobby Murcer. Just like everyone else in the game, Grande has nothing but kind words for Murcer, who died earlier this month from cancer. Just like Murcer, Grande is one of the good guys who help make our game something special.
Jim “Mudcat” Grant created a bit of a stir in Cooperstown on Thursday when he likened Barry Bonds to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. Basically, Grant said that Bonds has been put under same kind of intense scrutiny of someone running for president, which has made him a target for criticism on so many fronts. Grant defended Bonds in the interview, saying that he deserves the presumption of innocence on the steroid issue. Grant’s defense of Bonds isn’t surprising considering his long friendship with Barry’s late father, Bobby Bonds. Grant pitched against the elder Bonds in the late 1960s and early seventies, when Mudcat played for the Expos, Cardinals and Pirates and Bobby starred for the Giants. Frankly, what Grant said amounted to very little in terms of real controversy, but it did make a few headlines…
I’ve sometimes compared Mudcat to the late Buck O’Neil, as far as their abilities to charmingly spin stories and make friends. Well, O’Neill will officially be honored on Friday afternoon, when the Hall unveils his new bronze statue in a ceremony taking place in front of the Museum. The statue coincides with a new award the Hall has created, the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. O’Neill, who died two years ago, will be named the first winner of the award during Sunday afternoon’s induction ceremony…
I’m off to the Otesaga Hotel, where I’ll be interviewing Hall of Famers Juan Marichal, Luis Aparicio, Orlando Cepeda, and Tony Perez. The material from these video interviews will be used by the Hall of Fame as part of a new permanent exhibit about the Latino baseball experience. The new exhibit will debut in 2009. Hey, I’m just excited about being allowed into the Otesaga. It’s where all the Hall of Famers stay, and security is usually at the level of something that might be employed by the CIA. Hopefully, they’ll let me in the door.
I noticed the first seeds of Hall of Fame Weekend being sowed on Wednesday night. Just as I finished leading one of my guided tours of Cooperstown, two young boys in the group noticed a trolley arriving at the front doors of the Hall of Fame. Within moments, they exclaimed “Dave Winfield,” and then raced across the street in a failed attempt to acquire his autograph. Autograph or not, Winfield had become the first Hall of Famer to hit town, beginning a procession that continued on Thursday, and will not conclude until all of the Hall of Famers have reached Cooperstown by sometime on Friday.
The Hall of Fame is expecting a record 54 returning Hall of Famers for Sunday’s induction ceremony. Assuming they all attend the ceremony, that would eclipse last year’s mark of 53 Hall of Famers. Originally, the Hall expected only 52, but then Ernie Banks and Cal Ripken, Jr. changed their plans at the last minute and announced that they were coming. Joining Banks and Ripken on the induction stage will be the likes of Tony Gwynn (who was inducted with Ripken during last year’s memorable Hall of Fame Weekend), Willie Mays (the game’s greatest living player), Steve Carlton and Sandy Koufax (the two greatest living left-handers), Bobby Doerr (the oldest Hall of Famer), and Brooks Robinson (the nicest Hall of Famer). All will be on hand for the official induction of Goose Gossage and Dick Williams, along with the late Billy Southworth, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O’Malley, and Barney Dreyfuss.
Only a handful of Hall of Famers will not be in Cooperstown this weekend. The no-shows include Hank Aaron (who seems to carry on a love/hate relationship with the Hall), Stan Musial (whose health has cut down on most of his public appearances), Nolan Ryan (who’s never been back for an induction since his own), and Carl Yastrzemski (probably the most reclusive of the Hall of Famers).
Hall of Famers will not be the only retired ballplayers making appearances in town at the various signings on Main and Pioneer streets. For me, the list of non-Hall of Famers is just as interesting, probably moreso because their stories have not been told as often as those of the game’s immortals. The list of “others” includes Paul “Motormouth” Blair, Ralph Branca, Steve Garvey, Dwight Gooden, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Denny McLain, Graig Nettles, Mickey “Mick the Quick” Rivers, and Bobby Shantz. That’s quite a diverse group, ranging from the troubled trio of Garvey, Gooden and McLain to the ever colorful Rivers to the gentlemanly Branca and Shantz. There’s a lot there for just about everyone, from fans of the 1940s to the more contemporary followers of the game in the eighties and nineties.
One source told me that Pete Rose will also be signing along Main Street, but I have not yet been able to confirm his appearance. I really wish Rose would stay away, if only because he tends to steal attention from where the spotlight really should be–on Gossage, Williams, and the Class of 2008. It’s also bothersome to watch a guy profit from being the outlaw of baseball, a role that Rose is only too pleased to fulfill.
But let’s not allow Rose to spoil the beauty of the weekend. I’ll never cease to be amazed how this small village of 2,200 fulltime residents annually transforms itself into the focal point of the baseball world for four summer days. We saw a few signs of that today, as security guards lined the public access points of the Leatherstocking Golf Course, where a few of the Hall of Famers took in their first round of golf. Yes, Hall of Fame Weekend has begun!
In a small village like Cooperstown, we’re not used to downtown gridlock, bumper to bumper cars on Route 28, or crowds of 75,000 people in town at one time. Well, we experienced all of those big city symptoms over the weekend, when Cooperstown became Baltimore North.
As someone who experienced crowds of 50,000 in 1999, I can safely say that the 2007 turnout made that summer’s induction seem like a private party. Hall officials have a tendency to exaggerate the sizes of induction crowds, but 75 grand seems dead solid accurate to me. The fields of the Clark Sports Center were entirely filled–something I’ve never seen–with people jammed in so tightly that there were few open aisles to speak of. Thankfully, there were no major emergencies. If there had been, I don’t know how the EMTs would have made their way through the mass of lawn chairs and people to tend to the ailing…
I’m a former employee of the Hall of Fame, so pardon me for saying I cringed a bit when Gary Thorne, the emcee for Sunday’s induction ceremony, referred to the “Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.” It was always drilled into us that the Hall has no formal or contractual affiliation with MLB (though it works closely with MLB on numerous ventures). After all, the place is called the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Though Thorne was filling in for regular emcee George Grande, he’s a veteran baseball journalist who should know better and a broadcaster whose work I generally enjoy. It hasn’t been a particularly strong year for Thorne, especially given the Doug Mirabelli/bloody sock fiasco from earlier this season. According to Thorne, Mirabelli had told him that Curt Schilling’s bloody sock was a fake. Mirabelli denied ever talking to Thorne, resulting in an apology from the Orioles’ play-by-play man…
Someone asked me what I thought about the speeches delivered by Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken. I thought they were OK, but nowhere near the top of the line of Hall of Fame speeches. Gwynn sounded sincere but unprepared, while Ripken sounded formal and stiff. Their messages were good, but their deliveries were not particularly smooth. Ripken is not a good public speaker to begin with, but his charisma and character make that a moot point in the eyes of most onlookers. Gwynn is also so likeable that his forgetting to bring his notes to the podium only made him look more human…
The VIP seating section at the Hall of Fame ceremony included John Travolta, wife Kelly Preston, Richard Gere, and Lynda Carter. That’s three A-listers and one 1970s icon who were part of the induction crowd here in Cooperstown. We’ve never seen that kind of Hollywood presence in Cooperstown previously…
One of my favorite local pastimes is keeping tabs on those non-Hall of Famers who visit Cooperstown over induction weekend. To the best of my ability, here’s a complete list of former big league players and managers who visited us during the big weekend in 2007: Joe Altobelli, Brady Anderson (ugh), Jesse Barfield, Ralph Branca, Paul Blair, Al Bumbry, Jerry Coleman, Mike Flanagan, Steve Garvey, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Mark Gubicza, Chris Gwynn, Jack McKeon, Denny McLain (double ugh), John “The Count” Montefusco, Graig Nettles, Joe Orsulak, Jeff Reboulet, Billy Ripken, Pete Rose (triple ugh), David Segui, Larry Sheets, George Shuba, Ken Singleton, Rusty Staub, and B.J. Surhoff… I had a chance to meet Montefusco on Saturday at CVS, where he was signing autographs for a local charity. The former Giant, Brave, Padre, and Yankee right-hander was scheduled to appear for only two hours, but continued to sign for an extra half-hour and didn’t turn down a single request for a personalized autograph or photograph. Having never visited Cooperstown before, Montefusco was surprised by the town, both in terms of the crowds and the sights. The Count hopes to return to baseball with the Giants, his first major league organization. Montefusco would like to work with young pitchers in San Francisco’s minor league system…
I was saddened to hear of the death of Bill Robinson on Sunday. Robinson was working as a minor league batting instructor for the Dodgers and had even been mentioned recently as a candidate to succeed the fired Eddie Murray in Los Angeles. Two things always come to mind when I think about Robinson. First, he was that rare example of a player who performed better in his thirties than he did in his twenties. After struggling to find himself as an outfielder-third baseman with both the Braves and Yankees, Robinson became a productive left fielder for the mid-1970s Phillies and the 1979 world champion Pirates. While most players reach their peak physically during their twenties, some need more time to adjust to the mental stress of playing at the highest level of professional baseball. That adjustment took several years for Robinson, who didn’t start to succeed until his age 30 season with the Phillies (1973). Second, I’ll remember Robinson being prominently mentioned as a candidate to become the first black manager of the Mets, but never receiving that opportunity. Though a highly regarded hitting coach during the Mets’ successful run in the late eighties, Robinson found himself out of work and took a job serving as an analyst for Baseball Tonight in the early 1990s. I don’t know if Robinson was the victim of racism, or whether he simply interviewed poorly, but it seems that he had the smarts and toughness to be a good major league manager. Sadly, that chance never came…
Here’s my initial reaction to the Braves-Rangers blockbuster involving Mark Teixeira: the Rangers brought in a huge haul of young talent for a guy who may have peaked two years ago. First off, I’m a big fan of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He reminds me of a young Ted Simmons, but with a much stronger defensive presence behind the plate. Switch-hitting catchers who have Saltalamacchia’s hitting and fielding portfolios are extremely hard to find. Given his ability to catch and the small size of his contract, I’d rather have Salty for the next five seasons, as opposed to possibly only a season and a half of Teixeira. With teenage shortstop Elvis Andrus and two pitching prospects added to the mix, this becomes a big winner for the rebuilding Rangers…
Let’s finish with some thoughts on potential deals. Kyle Farnsworth’s blowup with Jorge Posada on Sunday practically guarantees that the eccentric right-hander will be traded by Tuesday’s deadline. If his latest faux pas doesn’t result in him being shipped out of town, then the Yankees will never move the flaky Farnsworth… If the Yankees can acquire Eric Gagne without having to give up Melky Cabrera, they will be very happy. Gagne, who is quietly having a standout season for the Rangers, could be coming to the Yankees for a package of pitching prospects that might include Tyler Clippard and Matt DeSalvo… The Mets will make out very well if they finalize the rumored deal for veteran second baseman Luis Castillo, who has long been the object of New York’s affection. The switch-hitter’s ability to get on base will make him an ideal No. 2 hitter behind Jose Reyes. Castillo also has gobs of postseason experience, first with the Marlins and more recently with the Twins… Once the Jermaine Dye deal is completed, he will become a part of the most expensive platoon in major league history. As part of a new look right field configuration, Dye is expected to platoon with J.D. Drew, one of the few disappointments in an otherwise banner season for Boston.