Results tagged ‘ Baseball Writers' Association of America ’

Just another All-Star Game for Jeter

image

MINNEAPOLIS — It was typical of Derek Jeter to take a matter-of-fact approach to the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field and not place any special significance of his last go-round among the top players of the game.

The FOX network that is broadcasting Tuesday night’s event had wanted to have a microphone on Jeter to record his throughs during the game. You know his answer to that, an emphatic no. Yankees fans would have been proud of Jeter’s appearance at Monday’s media session at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. While most players were dressed casually, there was Jeter in a power blue suit complete with tie. Classy, as usual.

“I don’t go into things with expectations,” Jeter told reporters. “I’m looking forward to playing the game, and I pretty much stopped it right there. I’ve always enjoyed All-Star Games, and I’ve always appreciated it, so I don’t think I’ll treat this one any differently. Everybody wants me to be so emotional all of the time, but I’m coming here to play the game, and everything else that comes with it, I don’t know.”

Opposing catcher Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers for one cannot wait to see what the reaction to Jeter will be.

“When he comes to the plate, you know he’s going to get a two-minute standing ovation,” Lucroy said. “I was telling my wife, ‘What am I going to do? It’s going to be awkward.’ I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my hands. I may drop everything and start cheering myself.”

Jeter has been pretty coy about this farewell tour stuff, not wanting teams to over-do it. He’s a different sort from Mariano Rivera, who basked in the glow of his farewell tour a year ago. Jeter just wants to go about his business. There is still baseball to play this year. He is still wearing a Yankees uniform. He is still ready to contribute on a daily basis.

I cannot believe that some writers criticized American League manager John Farrell of the Red Sox for batting Jeter leadoff in the game, claiming the Yankees captain was not deserving due to his .272 batting average. Give me a break. Have these people no sense of propriety. Jeter earned the spot not just for this season but for all 19 years that preceded it.

I would like to remind these critics that Jeter has had one of the best All-Star careers in the game’s history. He took a .440 average into Tuesday night’s game with five runs, one double, one home run and three RBI in 25 at-bats. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2000 game at Turner Field in Atlanta when he went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Later that year, he was the MVP of the Yankees’ World Series triumph over the Mets. His All-Star home run came in 2001 at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Farrell is not alone in his admiration for Jeter. Listen to what two other managers, AL coaches Ron Gardenhire of the Twins and Terry Francona of the Indians, had to say about Jeter to USA Today:

“Although he has kicked our butt a lot of times and knocked us out of the playoffs, I admire him so much,” Gardenhire said, referring to the Yankees beating the Twins, 12-2, in postseason games with Jeter at shortstop.

Added Francona, “That’s the single high point of being here, to watch him in person. I am thrilled. He represents what is good about this game.”

Chiming in was National League shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies: “He’s everything I always wanted to be. He’s why I play shortstop. He’s why I wear No. 2. And to be starting across the side opposite side of him in his final All-Star Game will definitely be cool.”

It was also typical of Jeter when asked his favorite All-Star moment not to pick a game in which he starred. He picked the 1999 game at Fenway Park in Boston when he was 0-for-1. What made it special to Jeter was that the All-Century Team was honored before the game.

“All those great players on the field, and I get a tap on my shoulder,” Jeter recalled. “It’s Hank Aaron. He said he was looking for me because he wanted to meet me. He wants to meet me? That’s one of the best moments on the baseball field that stands out for me.”

In the same vein, commissioner Bud Selig commented on Jeter during his annual question-and-answer session at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s All-Star meeting at the Marriott City Center Hotel.

“If you said two decades ago that this is the guy you wanted to be the face of baseball and being what this generation will remember, you couldn’t have written a script better,” Selig said. “I said to a friend of mine last night talking about Henry Aaron, ‘How lucky can you be to have an American icon like Henry Aaron?’ How lucky can this sport be to have an icon for this generation like Derek Jeter? He has just been remarkable.”

75th anniversary of Lou’s “luckiest man” speech

image
Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium July 4, 1939

One of baseball’s most memorable moments had nothing to do with a ball being pitched or hit. It was a speech delivered July 4, 1939 by Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium as he bid farewell to the game and his fans.

Having been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Gehrig took himself out of the lineup May 2, 1939, in Detroit, thereby ending a consecutive game streak of 2,130 games that lasted as a record until broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr.

On the Fourth of July that year, the Yankees honored the “Iron Horse” at the Stadium before a sellout crowd of nearly 70,000 people. Along the baselines stood his teammates from the current Yankees and those from years gone by, the famous “Murderers Row” teams of the 1920s, including Babe Ruth.

Gehrig had not prepared a speech. He did not expect to talk but just to wave his cap in appreciation. Yankees manager Joe McCarthy whispered to Gehrig, “Lou, you’ve got to say something,” and out of the first baseman’s mouth came words of emotion and dignity.

Here is what Lou Gehrig said:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

That moment will be celebrated this week. At Yankee Stadium Wednesday, the first 18,000 customers will receive a Lou Gehrig bobblehead that depicts him the day he gave that speech.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of Lou Gehrig Day in Cooperstown, N.Y., with special programming while teaming up with the ALS Association Upstate New York Chapter to honor the Hall of Fame first baseman.

The Museum will offer tributes throughout the day Friday, July 4 as well as provide complimentary admission for those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and a care-giver, pre-arranged through The ALS Association UNY Chapter.

Gehrig was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939 in a special election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America before passing away June 2, 1941.

Special programs offered by the Museum Friday, July 4 – all included with Museum admission – will feature:

10 a.m. – The Plaques of the Gallery (Buck O’Neil Award, 1st Floor)
Learn about the history of the Hall of Fame Gallery and the process by which each plaque is made and installed in this 20-minute guided tour.

10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – Operation Gratitude (Learning Center, 1st Floor)
Honor the military personnel and veterans by taking some time out of your visit to write a letter to our soldiers and veterans. All letters will be sent to Operation Gratitude. In honor of the 4th of July we will be handing out American Flags participants in this Museum program.

11 a.m. – Guided Tour: Lou Gehrig (Location, 2nd Floor)
Gehrig’s career will be highlighted in a guided tour throughout the Museum focusing on artifacts that relate to the Iron Horse.

1 p.m. – Artifact Spotlight: Lou Gehrig (Bullpen Theater, 1st Floor)
Get an up-close look at artifacts highlighting Gehrig’s career not currently on exhibit, and learn about the stories behind them.

2 p.m. – A Tribute to Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” Speech
A tribute features a first baseman from each major league team reciting a line from Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech.

3 p.m. – Lou Gehrig Trivia (Bullpen Theater, 1st Floor)
Test your knowledge of Gehrig in this interactive game show. Make your way through nine ‘innings’ of questions, and win a free year-long membership to the Museum.

4 p.m. – “The Pride of the Yankees” (Bullpen Theater, 1st Floor)
A special screening of the 1942 film starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig and featuring Babe Ruth as himself. Gehrig died only one year before its release at the age of 37.

For more information about Lou Gehrig, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org/hof/gehrig-lou.

Babe’s Hall plaque to visit city

Babe Ruth’s Hall of Fame plaque will be leaving Cooperstown, N.Y., for the first time and will travel to New York City next week. It will be on display Tuesday at Yankee Stadium and Wednesday at Grand Central Terminal in support of Metro-North’s “Getaway Day Staycation Showcase Featuring I Love NY’s Path Through History.”

Elected in the original class to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 1936, Ruth made his major league debut 100 years ago this season July 11, 1914. In honor of his 100th anniversary in the majors, the Hall is opening a new gallery in his honor, Babe Ruth: His Life and Legend, Friday, June 13, one day after the museum celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Tuesday, the Ruth plaque will be a part of an on-field pre-game ceremony hosted by the Yankees in recognition of the Ruth exhibit opening in Cooperstown. The Ruth plaque will then be on display for fans to see in the Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America at the Stadium, from approximately 7:30 p.m. through the end of the eighth inning of the Yankees’ game against the Mets.

The plaque will be featured in Metro-North’s “Getaway Day Staycation Showcase Featuring Path Through History” from 11:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal. The plaque will be a part of the museum’s presence to promote New York State’s “Path Through History” Weekend to Cooperstown and the central Leatherstocking Region June 12-14. The Path Through History, launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, highlights historically and culturally significant sites and events throughout New York State, and the special Path Through History weekends are designed to make it easy to experience the Empire State’s rich heritage and diverse attractions.

The Ruth plaque will remain on display at the Hall of Fame through Sunday, May 11 and will be back on display in the Hall’s Gallery Thursday, May 15. For more information, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org/hof/ruth-babe.

Girardi marks 1,000th game as Yanks manager

Friday night’s opener of a three-game series against the Rays marked the 1,000th career game as Yankees manager for Joe Girardi. He became the seventh active manager to manage 1,000 games with his current team and the sixth Yankees skipper to go into four figures.

Girardi’s .580 winning percentage based on a 579-420 record entering play Friday night was the highest among the 1,000-game managers, ahead of the Angels’ Mike Scioscia (.543 on 1,247-1,048), the Rangers’ Ron Washington (.538 on 626-537), the Rays’ Joe Maddon (.520 on 690-636), the Giants’ Bruce Bochy (.513 on 596-566) the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire (.512 on 1,010-961) and the Padres’ Buddy Black (.475 on 533-611).

Girardi’s winning percentage ranks fifth on the Yankees’ list of 1,000-plus game managers, behind Joe McCarthy (.627 on 1,460-867), Casey Stengel (.623 on 1,149-696), Joe Torre (.605 on 1,173-767) and Miller Huggins (.597 on 1,067-719) and ahead of Ralph Houk (.539 on 944-806).

Friday also was the 75th anniversary of the end of Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games. Gehrig took himself out of the lineup May 2, 1939 at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium, a 22-2 Yankees victory over the Tigers. Babe Dahlgren played first base and had a double and a home run.

Gehrig, who was later diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral schleroris (ALS), did not play another game in the majors and died in 1941, two years after the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by acclamation.

Future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. eventually broke Gehrig’s mark in 1995 and continued the streak to 2,632 before he ended it Sept. 19, 1998 in a game between the Orioles and the Yankees at Baltimore’s Camden Yards.

AL reliever award to be named after Rivera

Mariano Rivera’s legacy received some more added cache Wednesday with the announcement by Major League Baseball that from now on the American League Relief Pitcher of the Year Award will be named after him. The corresponding award in the National League will be named after Trevor Hoffman, who was the first reliever to reach the 600-save plateau and whose record of 601 Mo obliterated by running the number to 652.

The new award replaces the Delivery Man of the Year Award that was presented to one reliever every year instead of one in each league as was done previously with the Rolaids Fireman of the Year Award. Rivera won the Delivery Man of the Year Award three times and the Fireman of the Year Award five times. Hoffman was a two-time Rolaids Award winner.

Those awards were based strictly on statistics. The Rivera and Hoffman Awards will be a vote of nine former relief artists. In addition to Rivera and Hoffman, the other committee members will be Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage as well as former closers Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner.

The committee members may vote up to three pitchers in order of preference with a tabulation system awarding five points for first place, three for second and one for third, similar to that of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year Awards.

Other MLB awards named after former players include the Henry Aaron Award for offensive performance and the Edgar Martinez Award for the top designated hitter in the AL. The BBWAA’s Most Valuable Player Award trophy is named for former commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The writers’ pitching award is named for Cy Young.

“Both Mariano and Trevor represented our sport magnificently on and off the mound and earned the universal respect of our fans in their legendary careers,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “I believe it is important to redefine an existing award in honor of their contributions to baseball, and I am delighted that many of the most respected relievers decorated relievers in history will select the winners.”

Tanaka honored as top rookie with Dawson Award

Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese pitcher that the Yankees signed to a seven-year contract during the off-season, has already made a strong impression. The righthander who has earned a spot in the club’s 2014 rotation was named this year’s recipient of the James P. Dawson Award as the outstanding rookie in Yankees camp.

The award has been presented annually since 1956, three years after Dawson, a 45-year veteran of the New York Times, died while covering spring training at the age of 57. Dawson joined the Times as a copy boy in 1908 when he was 12 years old. The award is voted upon each year by beat writers who cover the Yankees.

Tanaka, 25, had a 2-0 record with a 2.14 ERA (21.0IP, 5ER) in five exhibition appearances, including three starts, that totaled 21 innings and led the squad with 26 strikeouts. He allowed 15 hits and three walks. Last year Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA (212.0IP, 30ER, 183K) and 183 strikeouts in 28 appearances (27 starts) covering 212 innings with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Tanaka was signed Jan. 22 by the Yankees via the posting system from the Golden Eagles to a seven-year deal.

Two former winners of the honor, Tony Kubek in 1957 and Tom Tresh in 1962, went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. What about Derek Jeter, the 1996 Jackie Robison Rookie of the Year Award winner? He lost out that year to another foreign-born right-handed pitcher, Mark Hutton of Australia.

The Dawson Award first was presented to outfielder Norm Siebern by manager Casey Stengel in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the conclusion of spring training in 1956. In conjunction with the award, Tanaka will receive a watch from Betteridge Jewelers.

Yankees keep their manager for four more years

Well, that was quick. All things considered, the Yankees were fortunate to keep their manager in place in a relatively quick period of time during an off-season that promises to be busy. Surely a fourth year on the contract extension was a deal doer. Other clubs – notably the Cubs, Nationals and Reds – as well as a television network or two may have had designs on Girardi, but four-year contracts at seven figures per annum are hard to come by, so the Yankees were able to retain the guy they wanted to continue running the club before his current pact was to expire Oct. 31.

Girardi was deserving of the extension. Even with the World Series championship of 2009 at the top of his accomplishments, Joe’s effort with the 2013 Yankees may have been his best work. It certainly was his most arduous. With the abundance of injuries the Yankees had to deal with, just running out a healthy lineup every day was an ordeal for the manager.

Much was made in the media of Girardi’s Illinois background and ties to the Cubs as a fan while growing up and as a catcher as a player being a temptation for him to go off to Wrigley Field. On a conference phone hookup Wednesday, Girardi emphasized it was a family decision. Mom and the kids were A-OK with the Yankees and New York. The Girardi’s have made solid roots in Westchester County.

And let us not forget that Joe Girardi despite all the Cubs history has become a part of Yankees history as well. He fits in very well come Old Timers’ Day as a player who was part of three World Series championship clubs as a player (1996, ’98-99) as well as his one as a manager. He pointed out that in his conversation with the family that getting to manage in the same place for 10 years, which would be the case if Girardi fulfills the whole contract, is pretty special.

Over his first six years as Yankees manager the club has led the major leagues in home runs (1,236), ranked second in runs (4,884) and seventh in hits (8,836) and batting average (.265). The Yankees have also committed the fewest errors (484) over the span with a majors-best .986 team fielding percentage.

In 2013, Girardi did a good job getting the beaten-up Yankees to an 85-77 finish and third-place tie in the American League East with the Orioles. He got his 500th win as Yankees manager May 10 at Kansas City. The club made just 69 errors in 2013, the third-lowest total in the majors and tying the franchise record for fewest in a season (also 2010). Their .988 fielding percentage set a franchise record, fractionally better than their .988 mark in 2010.

In 2009, Girardi became the ninth Yankees manager to win a World Series, and just the fourth to do so in his postseason managerial debut, joining Casey Stengel (1949), Ralph Houk (1961) and Bob Lemon (1978). Girardi also joined Houk and Billy Martin as the only men to win World Series for the club as players and managers.

Girardi was named the 32nd manager of the Yankees Oct. 30, 2007, becoming the 17th Yankees manager to have played for the club and the fourth former Yankees catcher to skipper the team, joining Bill Dickey, Houk and Yogi Berra.

In 2006, Girardi was named National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after guiding the Marlins to a 78-84 record in his first season as a big league manager. With the award, he matched the Astros’ Hal Lanier (1986) and the Giants’ Dusty Baker (1993) as the only managers to win the honor in their managerial debuts.

In 15 major-league seasons as a catcher, Girardi played for the Cubs (1989-92 and 2000-02), Rockies (1993-95), Yankees (1996-99) and Cardinals (2003) and batted .267 with 454 runs, 186 doubles, 36 home runs and 422 RBI in 4,127 at-bats over 1,277 games. He had a .991 career fielding percentage and threw out 27.6 percent of potential base stealers. Girardi was named to the National League All-Star team in 2000 with the Cubs.

With the Yankees, Girardi was behind the plate for Dwight Gooden’s hitter May 14, 1996 against the Mariners and David Cone’s perfect game July 18, 1999 against the Expos. In World Series Game 6 against the Braves in 1996, Girardi tripled in the game’s first run in a three-run third inning off Greg Maddux as the Yankees clinched their first championship since 1978 with a 3-2 victory. He has a .566 winning percentage with a 642-492 record as a manager and is 21-17 in postseason play.

Putting Ichiro’s feat in perspective

There is no question that what Ichiro Suzuki has done is an amazing accomplishment. Banging out 4,000 hits in a professional baseball career is nothing short of astounding. Yet in his case some perspective is in order. Those who are already comparing Ichiro to the major leagues’ only 4,000-hit batters, Pete Rose and Ty Cobb, are not entirely accurate.

Suzuki’s 4,000 hits are a combined total, that of 2,722 here in the major leagues and 1,278 in Japan’s Pacific League. That is why his achievement is more in line with Henry Aaron and Stan Musial than with Rose and Cobb, who surpassed 4,000 hits entirely in the majors, Rose with 4,256 and Cobb with 4,189.

Aaron and Musial also had more than 4,000 hits if you count what they did in the minor leagues. Aaron had 3,771 career hits. Add his 324 hits in the minors and you get 4,095 (and that’s not counting what he had in the Negro Leagues, a number no one is quite sure of). Musial had 3,630 career hits. Add his 371 hits in the minors and you get 4,001.

Like it or not, Ichiro falls into their category.

Why? All he has to do is look at his American League Rookie of the Year trophy for the answer. If he was considered a rookie when he broke into the majors with the Mariners in 2001, then the statistics Suzuki piled up in Japan were not considered equal to the major-league standard. That is the opinion of Major League Baseball.

You can argue left and right about whether that is fair or not, but the fact is that if Ichiro was considered a rookie in 2001 then the hits he had in Japan are akin to what minor league records are in North America.

This issue was first broached in 1995 when Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo began the migration of Asian players to the majors. As the secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and responsible for conducting the annual awards voting, I contacted the commissioner’s office for a clarification of Nomo’s status. Did he or did he not qualify for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award?

Yes, I was told, which was not good news for Chipper Jones that year. He finished second to Nomo in the voting. The reasoning used was that players who entered the majors from the Negro Leagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s were considered rookies in the majors even though they had been professionals playing in organized leagues, and that Asian players entering the majors fit the same profile. That opened the door for Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ichiro to also win Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and 2001, respectively, the same way that Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Sam Jethroe, Willie Mays, Joe Black and Junior Gilliam won the award five decades earlier.

Not all the writers agreed with this viewpoint. Some still don’t. I remember how upset Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner was in 2003 when Hideki Matsui finished second to Royals shortstop Angel Berroa for AL Rookie of the Year. Two writers on that committee later admitted that they did not believe Matsui should have been considered a rookie and left him off their ballots.

Steinbrenner called me personally to complain about the balloting. I told him the two writers’ prejudice was expressed after the fact. How could I know when counting the ballots what was on the minds of every voter? I told him that if those writers had told me of their opinions beforehand I would have excused them from voting and replaced them. On Rookie of the Year ballots, it clearly states that players from foreign leagues who are in their first year of play in the American or National League are considered rookies.

What I am getting at is that it is a bit murky about how we should treat the statistics that Nomo, Ichiro and Matsui put up in Japan in comparison to their major-league achievements. In no way am I undermining what Ichiro has done. I have already written stories in two prominent Japanese publications that Ichiro is on a fast track to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

What Suzuki has done in the States is phenomenal — 10 straight seasons of 200 or more hits and the all-time record for hits in a single season (262 in 2004), breaking the previous mark of Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler of the old St. Louis Browns that stood for 83 years. Despite that, Ichiro cannot fairly be placed in the same category with Rose and Cobb, but I would take being compared with the Hammer and the Man any day of the week.

RIP: Killer Kane, a baseball writer’s best friend

The Yankees lost one of the most colorful characters in their extended family last week with the passing of Bill “Killer” Kane at the age of 75. Kane served two separate terms as the Yankees’ travel director in the 1970s and ‘80s and in that role especially was a baseball writer’s best friend.

Killer told me that he probably was fired by principal owner George Steinbrenner more than any other Yankees employee – and rehired more often, too. Although they butted heads on a regular basis, Steinbrenner valued Kane’s devotion to the Yankees in a variety of positions. Kane, who was born in Brooklyn and was a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, got his start with the Yankees as a statistician for longtime broadcaster Mel Allen.

In those days, writers traveled on teams’ charter flights on a regular basis, a practice that ended in the early 1990s. I was the last newspaper reporter to travel regularly on the Yankees’ plane in 1991, four years after Kane’s last season as travel director.

I dealt with a lot of those guys over the years but none was better than Killer. On getaway games, the bus to the airport was always scheduled to leave 90 minutes after the last out. Writers with tight deadlines really had to scramble to make that bus. After hitting the clubhouse for postgame quotes, there would be a mad dash to get back to the pressbox to compose writethru stories and then pack up your gear to make the bus.

If a game had a wild finish that forced writers to do extra work, Killer always understood and would hold the bus. He would make up some excuse to the players about something being wrong with the carburetor or some other fib. The players did not take kindly to this and would they ever let us have it when we finally climbed onto the bus. But Killer had our backs, and we appreciated everything he did for us.

My favorite Killer story goes back to the Winter Meetings of 1984 at Houston. I was with the Bergen Record then, and my boss’ decision to cover the meetings was after the deadline to apply for credentials and hotel accommodations. I was able to get a credential but could not get into the main hotel and was booked in one several blocks away.

Killer and I turned out to be on the same commercial flight to Houston. He told me had a car and would drive me to my hotel. As we got into the downtown area, he said to me, “Never mind the other hotel; I’ll get you in the Grand Hyatt with us.”

After talking things over with the front desk, Killer gave me a key and told me I had a room for Saturday and Sunday but that I would have to move to another room Monday. I said okay and did not ask any questions. The only other thing he said to me was, “Whatever you do, don’t eat anything they may have spread out for that room.”

I was not quite sure what that meant until I got into the room. It was a luxury suite with two bedrooms, two baths and an enormous living room. On the coffee table in the main room was a spread of various fruits, vegetables and cheeses, plus several bottles of whiskey and a magnum of champagne. I called Killer’s room and told him they must have made a mistake at the front desk.

“It’s no mistake,” he said. “That’s George’s suite. But he’s not coming until Monday. By that time, I’ll have you in another room. Don’t sweat it.”

Steinbrenner was not a big fan of the Winter Meetings. He considered it an unnecessary junket and wanted nothing to do with the golf outings and other extracurricular activities that baseball executives took part in during the week-long meetings. The Yankees always had the smallest contingent at the meetings with George showing up for one or maybe two days to do business and then leave.

Saturday went well, but I was awakened Sunday morning with a phone call.

“Jack, it’s Killer,” Kane said. “You’ve got to get out of there. You got about an hour. George just landed at the airport.”

Fortunately, it was about an hour’s ride from Houston International to downtown, so I had time. I never took anything out of suitcase in the first place, so I just threw my laundry in the bag, packed up my writing gear and went down to the lobby. I could not find Killer anywhere, so I had a bellman put my stuff in layaway until I got another room. While I was tipping the bellman, Steinbrenner walked through the front door.

A close call, I thought, but everything was cool now. Then I realized that I had not erased the messages from my phone in the suite. I finally tracked Killer down and, sure enough, he had another room for me. I left the suite spotless, I told Killer.

“Yeah,” he said, “except George wants to know how come he keeps getting phone calls for O’Connell?”

Some years later when the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America roasted Steinbrenner at our annual Pre-Dinner Dinner, I told that story and was glad to see that George enjoyed it. Killer wasn’t so sure. “Be careful, Jack,” he called out from the crowd, “I might get fired again.”

I paid my respects at the wake for him Sunday in the Tremont section of the Bronx where I gave him many lifts home after BBWAA events. He was one of a kind and it was my good fortune to have known him.

The Colonel and Lou to get their due

Two of the most important figures in the legendary history of the Yankees – Col. Jacob Ruppert and Lou Gehrig – will be the center of attention during the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.

Ruppert, the team’s owner from 1915 until his death in January 1939, will be inducted into the Hall in ceremonies Sunday with two other deceased electees by the Pre-Integration Era Veterans Committee, 19th century catcher Deacon White and early 20th century umpire Hank O’Day.

Gehrig, who was elected to the Hall of Fame by acclamation in 1939, will be among 12 former Hall of Famers who were never officially inducted in ceremonies at Cooperstown and will have their plaques read by current Hall of Famers as part of Sunday’s event at the Clark Sports Center.

On Saturday at Doubleday Field, the Hall will pay tribute to the late Blue Jays radio voice Tom Cheeks with the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting and longtime Philadelphia reporter and columnist Paul Hagen with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.

On the same program, the Hall will also honor Legendary Entertainment chief executive officer Thomas Tull, whose studio produced the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 as well as the honoring of Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered the surgical procedure now known as “Tommy John Surgery.” John, who pitched in 26 major-league seasons and was a two-time 20-game winner during his eight years with the Yankees, will also be featured.

Former Yankees Whitey Ford, Wade Boggs, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry are among the 40 living Hall of Famers who will participate in both days’ ceremonies.

Ruppert, heir to one of New York’s most successful breweries and a four-term United States congressman, purchased the Yankees in January 1915 with partner Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston. Under Ruppert’s stewardship, the Yankees went from being an annual American League also-ran into an annual powerhouse. In his 24 seasons as owner, the Yankees won the first 10 of their 40 pennants and the first seven of their 27 World Series championships. It was Ruppert who put the pinstripes in the Yankees’ uniform, purchased the contract of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox and built the original Yankee Stadium.

Representing Ruppert, who never married, at the ceremony will be his great grandniece, Anne Vernon.

Click this link to view the Yankees on Demand special about Col. Jacob Ruppert.

Gehrig’s 15-season career with the Yankees occurred entirely during Ruppert’s ownership. Lou was forced into retirement because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that since has borne his name, in 1939.

Although Gehrig is usually listed in the Hall of Fame class of 1939, he was never formally inducted. George Sisler, Eddie Collins and Willie Keeler were inducted that summer when the museum first opened. Gehrig was still an active player and did not retire until season’s end.

At the Winter Meetings in December in Cincinnati, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted to suggest that Gehrig be inducted immediately and not wait until the next election, which was not until 1942. The Hall accepted the BBWAA’s suggestion, but since the induction ceremonies had already taken place Gehrig was never officially inducted through any ceremony. He died in 1941.

Induction Weekend ceremonies were not held annually during the early 1940s because of travel restrictions during World War II. The Hall will rectify that this year by reading the plaques of Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby (who was elected by the BBWAA in 1942) and 10 Veterans Committee electees in 1945 none of whom was ever officially inducted.

Cal Ripken Jr., who broke Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games in 1995 and pushed it to 2,632 before ending it in 1998 in a game at Camden Yards against the Yankees, will read the Gehrig plaque.

more
Col. Jacob Ruppert (2nd from left, standing) with Joe McCarthy, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and (seated) Joe DiMaggio (AP Photo)

Hall of Fame board vice chairman Joe Morgan will read the plaque of his fellow second baseman, Hornsby.

Handling the plaque-reading duties for the other Hall of Famers will be Carlton Fisk for Roger Bresnahan, Orlando Cepeda for Dan Brouthers, Bert Blyleven for Fred Clarke, Wade Boggs for Jimmy Collins, Billy Williams for Ed Delahanty, Jim Rice for Hugh Duffy, Ozzie Smith for Hughie Jennings, Andre Dawson for Mike “King” Kelly, Tony Gwynn for Jim O’Rourke and Tommy Lasorda for Wilbert Robinson.

Prior to Saturday’s Awards Presentation on the stage at Doubleday Field, the Hall will honor the 75th anniversary of Abbott & Costello’s Who’s On First? routine and the 125th anniversary of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem Casey at the Bat at a special 3:30 p.m. pre-show program. A live performance of Who’s On First? by Gil “Bud” Palmer and Lou Sciara, noted for their portrayal of the classic comedy duo, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, will be followed by Hall of Fame director of research Tim Wiles’ recitation of Casey At The Bat. Gates open at 3 p.m. and admission is free.

After the Awards Presentation, the fourth annual Hall of Fame Parade of Legends will feature the Hall of Famers riding down Main Street in trucks provided by the Ford Motor Company en route to a private reception at the Museum.

MLB Network will televise the Awards Presentation at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 28 prior to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which will be cablecast live on MLB Network beginning at 1:30 p.m. Greg Amsinger and 2004 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Peter Gammons will be the co-hosts.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.