Results tagged ‘ Don Mattingly ’
Vernon Wells lost a stolen base when an official scorer’s ruling was changed from Wednesday night’s game at Coors Field. Rockies shortstop Jonathan Herrera has instead been charged with an error for dropping the throw from catcher Wilin Rosario that allowed Wells to be safe at second base. Wells eventually scored on an infield hit by Brennan Boesch. Due to the error that run is now unearned on the record of Colorado reliever Rafael Betancourt. This was the correct call. Wells was running on a hit-and-run play and would have been out at second if Herrera had hung on to Rosario’s accurate throw.
ESPN has grabbed the Yankees-Red Sox game of June 2 for Sunday Night Baseball. That makes it an 8:05 p.m. start. The game is scheduled to air on ESPN2. It will move to ESPN if the NBA Western Conference finals playoff series goes less than seven games.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Robinson Cano reached the 1,500-hit mark Thursday at Denver eight years and six days after his major league debut (May 3, 2005), the shortest span from a player’s first big-league game to 1,500 hits for the Yankees. Derek Jeter had the previous mark of eight years and 79 days. The only active players who made it to the milestone quicker than Cano in terms of days after their major-league debut are Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols and Juan Pierre. Elias also noted that Cano (30 years, 199 days old) became the fifth Yankees player to reach 1,500 hits before his 31st birthday, joining Mickey Mantle (28 years, 305 days) in 1960, Jeter (29 years, 51 days) in 2003, Lou Gehrig (29 years, 52 days) in 1932 and Don Mattingly (30 years, 94 days) in 1991. . .Cano’s 186th career home run Thursday put him in 17th place on the Yankees’ all-time list, one ahead of Paul O’Neill. Next up in 16th place is Tino Martinez at 192.
For those who thought Derek Jeter’s 200-hit seasons were well behind him, think again. The Captain rapped a single to center off Blue Jays lefthander Ricky Romero for his 200th hit of the season.
It marked the eighth time DJ has gone two-ding-ding in hits, taking control of the club record for 200-hit seasons that he had shared with Lou Gehrig. The only active major-league player with more 200-hit seasons than Jeter is his teammate, Ichiro Suzuki, who reached the plateau in 10 consecutive seasons (2001-10) with the Mariners.
Jeter got to 200 hits in his 145th game (and the Yankees’ 148th), which matches the earliest he has reached that level, in 1999 and 2009. He is seeking to become the first Yankees player to lead the American League in hits since Alfonso Soriano had 209 in 2002 when he also had the highest total in the major leagues.
Jeter led the majors in hits with 219 in 1999 and could become the first Yankees player to be the major-league leader in hits in multiple seasons. Entering play Wednesday night, Jeter had a 10-hit lead over Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera in the AL and was 18 hits up on the National League leader, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
Other Yankees players to have led the majors in hits other than Jeter and Soriano were third baseman Red Rolfe with 213 in 1939, second baseman Snuffy Stirnweiss with 205 in 1944 and first baseman Don Mattingly with 238 in 1986.
Much of what makes the 2012 Yankees tick is the home run. They lead the majors in that category and added a lot to the total Friday night in a 6-4 victory over the Red Sox. Five of the Yankees’ runs came on balls that left the yard, and yet it was a two-out single by Jayson Nix in the sixth inning that scored the run that proved to be the winner.
The five home runs, all solo shots, raised the Yankees’ season total to 186. That puts them on a pace to smack 253 home runs, which would shatter the franchise record of 244 in 2009 and come close to challenging the major-league mark of 264 by the Mariners in 1997. The Yankees have homered in 33 of their past 37 games and 99 of their 119 games this season. In the 20 games in which the Yanks have not homered, their record is 3-17, so going deep has been essential to their winning games.
Nick Swisher led the way with two home runs, one from each side of the plate. That marks a dozen times Swish has done that in his career. Only Mark Teixeira with 13 has accomplished the feat more often. This is pretty heady stuff. Even Mickey Mantle, the Yankees’ greatest switch hitter, had only 10 such games. It’s strange for me to write “only” there because the Mick held the record for many years until Eddie Murray and Chili Davis came along. And now Tex and Swish have left them all in the dust.
Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin had back-to-back homers in the second inning. Granderson’s 31st home run of the season was his 10th off a left-handed pitcher, in this case Franklin Morales. Martin’s homer brought his batting average to .200 for the first time in six weeks, but he went 0-for-3 after that to fall to .198.
The other home run was from Derek Jeter, career No. 250, which tied the score in the fifth. It was a crucial blow because there was rain in the forecast all night, and both sides feared falling behind if the game was stopped and perhaps halted for good. It rained pretty hard for two innings with thunder and lightning all around. Then it went away. Try to figure out weather.
Swisher’s two-homer night is part of a hot stretch dating to Aug. 8 when he was moved into the 2-hole of the batting order as Granderson was slumping. Swish has responded by batting .310 with two doubles, four home runs and 14 RBI in 42 at-bats. He has bashed Red Sox pitching all year at a .448 clip.
Four of Swisher’s past six home runs and five of his past nine have given the Yankees the lead (his first-inning homer Friday night did). He has hit four home runs in the past five games and has had at least one run and one run batted in six straight games, matching a streak by Alex Rodriguez in 2008 from Aug. 30 to Sept. 4. The only Yankees player with a longer streak since 1957 was by Don Mattingly, now the Dodgers manager, who had such a streak of nine games in 1987 from July 7-18.
All the long balls backed a fine start from Phil Hughes, who gave up four runs in seven innings but none was earned. That was due to an errant throw by Hughes that extended the third inning and allowed Dustin Pedroia to give the Red Sox the momentary lead with a three-run home run.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was pleased to see Hughes make use of his changeup, a pitch he had all but abandoned in recent starts. “I wanted to give hitters a different look,” he said.
Prior to Wednesday’s conclusion of the Yankees’ Grapefruit League schedule with their victory over the Mets at Tampa’s Steinbrenner Field, the Yanks honored pitcher David Phelps with the 2012 James P. Dawson Award as the outstanding rookie in camp as voted on by writers covering the team.
Phelps, 25, had a 0-1 record with one save and a 2.08 ERA in seven spring appearances, including one start. The righthander pitched 17 1/3 innings and allowed six runs (four earned), 16 hits, including one home run, and four walks with 14 strikeouts.
In 2011, Phelps led all minor-league pitchers in the Yankees organization in ERA at 2.99 in his 7-7 season at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he made 20 starts and pitched 114 1/3 innings. Phelps was also the 2010 recipient of the Kevin Lawn Award as the organization’s minor-league pitcher of the year for compiling a combined 10-2 record with a 2.50 ERA in 26 outings, all but one as a starter, for Scranton and Double A Trenton.
The Missouri native attended Notre Dame and was the Yankees’ choice in the 14th round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft.
The award was established in honor of James P. Dawson (1896-1953), who began a 45-year career with The New York Times as a copy boy in 1908. Eight years later, he became boxing editor and covered boxing and baseball until his death during spring training in 1953. In conjunction with the award, Phelps received an Elysee watch from Manfredi Jewelers.
The first Dawson Award winner was Norm Siebern in 1956. Tony Kubek won the next year and went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award that season. Another future AL Rookie of the Year Award winner who had also won the Dawson Award was Tom Tresh in 1962. Other prominent Dawson Award winners over the years include Roy White (1966), Willie Randolph (1976), Don Mattingly (1983), Al Leiter (1988), Jorge Posada (1997), Alfonso Soriano (2001), Hideki Matsui (2003) and Brett Gardner (2009).
The Yankees certainly had a grand day Thursday in a game none of the buildings known as Yankee Stadium ever experienced. In fact, no ballpark anywhere did because it was the first time in major-league history that three players on the same team homered with the bases loaded in the same game.
Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson pulled off the trick. Cano’s slam brought the Yankees to 7-6 after Oakland had broken out to a 7-1 lead. Martin’s blow gave the Yankees the lead. Granderson’s just added to the barrage of runs the Yankees collected in a 22-9 blowout that took 4 hours and 31 minutes to complete, following a rain delay of 1 hours, 29 minutes; that was 6 hours of powerhouse baseball.
In the three previous times two Yankees hit grand slams in one game, all were on the road. Two were in Toronto: Sept. 14, 1999 at SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) by Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill and June 29, 1987 at Exhibition Stadium by Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly. The other was May 24, 1936 at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park by Tony Lazzeri, who hit both of them.
The Yankees have a strong connection with grand slams. The career record holder with 23 is Lou Gehrig. Right behind him with 22 is Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, although only 12 of his have been with the Yankees. Mattingly’s six slams in 1987 are tied for the most in a single season (amazingly, they were the only salamis of Donnie Baseball’s career). Of the 18 grand slams hit in the World Series, eight were by Yankees players – Lazzeri (1936), Gil McDougald (1951), Mickey Mantle (1953), Yogi Berra (1956), Moose Skowron (1956), Bobby Richardson (1960), Joe Pepitone (1964) and Tino Martinez (1996).
Prior to Thursday, the Yankees never had more than one player hit a grand slam in a home game, which is pretty remarkable when you think about it. They had plenty of opportunities to hit even more Thursday. The Yankees had 17 plate appearances in the game with the bases loaded. After going 3-for-23 (.130) with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series against the Athletics, the Yankees were 10-for-21 (.476) in those situations Thursday.
There are 19 teams in the majors that have not hit as many grand slams all year as the Yankees did Thursday. It was only the third time that three slams were slugged in one game. The other times: Aug. 6, 1986 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium by the Orioles (2) and Rangers (1) and June 3, 1987 at Chicago’s Wrigley Field by the Cubs (2) and Astros (1).
The Yankees took over the major-league lead in grand slams with eight, including five this month. Jorge Posada did it Aug. 13 against the Rays and Cano Aug. 11 against the Angels, both at the Stadium. As if the 12 runs that came on the three salamis weren’t enough, the Yankees got 10 more runs on top of them.
The 22 runs marked the most for the Yankees in a game since they had that total June 19, 2000 at Boston’s Fenway Park and tied their most in a home game in franchise history July 26, 1931, a 22-5 victory over the White Sox. The 31 combined runs were the most in a Yankees game since Aug. 21, 2009, 2009, a 20-11 victory at Boston, and the most at the current Stadium. The Yanks had a season-high 13 walks, including seven in the seventh inning.
All this slamming obscured the fact that Phil Hughes had a rough start, allowing six earned runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings. But, man, talk about guys picking up a teammate!
His catcher, Martin, had a 5-for-5 game with a walk and six RBI and became the Yanks’ first catcher to get a five-hit game since Elston Howard was 5-for-6 April 18, 1959 at Fenway. Cano pushed his team-best hitting streak to 16 games during which he is batting .353 with four homers and 18 RBI. Granderson took over the major-league lead in RBI (105) to go with his big-league leading 119 runs.
Derek Jeter had three hits and keeps moving up those career lists; he passed Rickey Henderson for 21st place in hits with 3,058 (two behind No. 20 Craig Biggio) and Jimmie Foxx for 20th place in runs with 1,753 (22 behind No. 19 Charlie Gehringer). The Captain is one away from tying Mantle for the most games in Yankees history. That’s a big one. The Mick always said he was more proud of that distinction than any other of his Hall of Fame career.
Despite balls flying over fences all day (Andruw Jones also homered in one of the few times the bags were empty), Rodriguez, who got his first two hits since coming off the disabled list, extended his homerless stretch to 94 at-bats. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is A-Rod’s longest power drought since he got his first career homer in his 103rd at-bat.
And to top of the long day was a good laugh, provided by Jorge Posada, who convinced manager Joe Girardi to allow him to play second base in the ninth inning. Posada began his pro career as a second baseman. He got a shaky assist on the final out of the game as Nick Swisher at first base saved his throw in the dirt, a good example of why the Yankees moved Posada behind the plate.
The pitchers’ duel expected Saturday night from the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and the Red Sox’ Josh Beckett played out for six innings. Boston scored two runs in the fifth on a bases-loaded double by Jacoby Ellsbury, but this was still a ballgame. It became less so when the Sox poured across four runs in the seventh.
The crushing blow against CC was a three-run home run by Adrian Gonzalez, who also homered Friday night and has now gone deep in four consecutive games, half way toward the record that is shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Junior Griffey.
From the Yankees’ standpoint, the pitch that really ruined the inning was a 2-2 slider to Jason Varitek that plate umpire Mike Winters called a ball. It was one of those borderline pitches that could have gone either way. It went the Red Sox’ way. Sabathia was clearly annoyed by it and perhaps had enough of a lapse in concentration that he gave up a single to Varitek on the next pitch that scored the third run.
CC retired Ellsbury on an infield pop for the second out, but Dustin Pedroia singled sharply past Mark Teixeira at first base and Gonzalez followed with his ninth homer of the season. A 2-0 game had suddenly become 6-0. Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave Winters a piece of his mind after removing Sabathia and was ejected.
“Mike called a lot of pitches low in the zone for strikes,” Girardi said. “The pitch to Varitek turned out to be a pivotal pitch in the game.”
It was a tough night for the manager, who had one of his players, designated hitter Jorge Posada, pull himself from the starting lineup before a national television audience on Fox. The whole country gets to watch these two teams again Sunday night on ESPN.
Buckett held the Yankees to four hits, all singles, and two walks with nine strikeouts through six innings and has not yielded a run in 14 innings against them this year. The Yanks’ failure in the clutch continues to haunt them. They had 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position Saturday night and are 1-for-17 (.059) for the series and 5-for-39 (.128) in their first four-game losing streak of the season.
The Yankees have lost four of five games this year against Boston. They trail the Rays by two games in the American League East and are only two games ahead of the third-place Red Sox, who after that 2-10 start are now within a game of .500. The Yankees’ chances of running away and hiding in the division have run away and hid.
Last week’s Hall of Fame election was a tough one for those players with ties to the Yankees. Of the eight players on the ballot who spent time with the Yankees, five failed to get the five percent required to remain in consideration and were dropped. The three players who will remain on the ballot next year did nothing to improve their chances of election anytime soon, if ever.
With a record total of 581 ballots submitted by Baseball Writers’ Association of America members with 10 or more consecutive years of service, 436 votes were needed for election to satisfy the 75-percent requirement. Second baseman Roberto Alomar with 523 (90.0 percent) and pitcher Bert Blyleven with 463 (79.7) were the only ones to make the grade; Alomar in his second time on the ballot and Blyleven in his 14th and next to last time.
Kevin Brown, who pitched for the Yankees in his later years after having been a Yankees Killer with the Rangers early in his career, did the best of those who wore the pinstripes that failed to make the cut, with 12 votes, which reflected only 2.1 percent of the ballots cast. First baseman Tino Martinez, one of the franchise’s most popular players, got 6 votes (1.0 percent), and pitcher Al Leiter and first baseman John Olerud received 4 apiece (0.7). Shut out entirely was outfielder Raul Mondesi.
Brown has become sort of a darling of the SABR (Society of Baseball Research) set, who love his statistics. I admit Brown had a better career than a lot of people may think (211-144 record, 3.28 ERA, 2 ERA and WHIP titles, 6 All-Star appearances), but the Hall of Fame is for the great, not just the very good. Brown’s time with the Yankees was one of the areas that worked against him. His impact was less than minimal; it was non-existent. Martinez also falls into the very good category, as did his old buddy Paul O’Neill, who was a one-and-done candidate four years ago.
The others had their moments in the sun, which is why they were on the ballot in the first place, but Cooperstown just was not to be their destination.
As for those who remain, the outlook is not good, since each lost ground in the voting. Reliever Lee Smith, who pitched in eight games for the Yankees in 1993, is stuck below 50 percent. He might have been expected to get to the half-way point in this year’s election but instead fell to 45.3 percent – two percent below his 2010 showing. He has up to six more years for consideration (players may stay on the ballot up to 15 years provided they get 5 percent of the vote each year), but he appears to be going backward.
The same holds true for outfielder Tim Raines, whose candidacy is based more on his high-profile years with the Expos and White Sox rather than his role-playing time with the Yankees. I would have thought that appreciation for Raines’ record as a leadoff hitter would have heightened after Rickey Henderson’s election in 2009, but Rock is also moving in reverse. He went from receiving 37.5 percent of the vote last year to 30.4 percent this year. Time at least is on Raines’ side; this was only his fourth year on the ballot.
Very much like Smith, time is running out on Don Mattingly, the Dodgers’ new manager whose entire playing career was spent with the Yankees. The 2011 election was Donnie Baseball’s 11th year on the ballot. He fell from 16.1 percent last year to 13.6 percent this year. Mattingly has never done better than the 28.2 percent he got in his first ballot year of 2001. He is down to less than half of that now and has only four years possibly remaining for consideration.
The 2012 ballot will feature another Yankees favorite, Bernie Williams, the switch-hitting center fielder and cleanup hitter on four World Series championship teams. This is just a hunch, but he is bound to do better than the first-year candidates with Yankees pedigrees this time around.
As each year comes to a close, baseball writers center on their annual responsibility of voting for the Hall of Fame. Ballots are mailed out to writers Dec. 1 and due back in the hands to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America by a Dec. 31 postmark.
So it is not just Santa Claus who makes a list and checks it twice come the Christmas season.
As secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, I have conducted the election since 1995, the year Mike Schmidt was elected. I will be busy with Hall of Fame business the next few days but will find time to share some thoughts with Yankees fans about the election. Results will be announced at 2 p.m. Wednesday on bbwaa.com, baseballhall.org, MLB.com and the MLB Network.
The ballot contains 33 names this year, eight of whom spent a portion of their careers with the Yankees, including two of the most popular figures in the franchise’s history, first basemen Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez. Others on the ballot who spent time with the Yankees are pitchers Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Lee Smith, outfielders Tim Raines and Raul Mondesi and first baseman John Olerud.
Mattingly has been on the ballot for 10 years and has never done better than 28 percent of the vote going back to his first year. To gain entry into Cooperstown, 75 percent is required. Mattingly was at 16.1 percent last year. Martinez, his successor at first base for the Yankees, is a first-time candidate this year. It is doubtful writers will find Tino’s candidacy all that compelling, any more than they did another Yankees fan favorite Paul O’Neill two years ago. Martinez’s goal should be to get five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot, which players must do to stay in contention for the full 15 years of eligibility. O’Neill failed to do that and was dropped after one year.
Brown, whose time with the Yankees was filled with controversy, had a fine career, but New York fans rarely saw him at his best except when he pitched against the Yankees for the Rangers. Yankees fans know Brown for breaking his pitching hand in anger and his implosion on the mound in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship, the franchise’s worst moment.
Leiter started and ended his career with the Yankees but had his best seasons with the Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets. His 162-132 record and 3.80 ERA does not spell immortality.
Raines, on the other hand, is an interesting case. He came to the Yankees after years with the Expos and White Sox and was a key role player on the World Series title teams of 1996, ’98 and ’99. With 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases, Raines has some Hall of Fame numbers, but after three years on the ballot he has done no better than 30 percent.
Smith, Olerud and Mondesi had limited time in pinstripes. Olerud and Mondesi are on the ballot for the first time and are not likely to get the five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot. Smith, who pitched in only eight games for the Yankees in 1993, once held the major-record for saves with 478 but has yet to attract even half the vote in eight previous elections.
The favorites this time around are second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven, each of whom came close last year. Blyleven was on 74.2 percent of the ballots cast and missed by five votes. Alomar missed by eight votes at 397, or 73.7 percent.
The only player not to get elected when eligible the year after getting more than 70 percent in the vote was pitcher Jim Bunning. He was on 74 percent of the ballots in 1988 and missed by four votes. The next year, however, with a thicker ballot consisting of first-year inductees Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski and fellow pitching greats Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins, Bunning lost 34 votes and dropped 11 percent in his final year on the ballot. He was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
The most accomplished of the new names are first basemen Jeff Bagwell and Rafael Palmeiro and outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Larry Walker. Palmeiro and Gonzalez will have a rough time.
Despite being only the fourth player in history to get more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro is a long shot because of his positive test for anabolic steroids in 2005, the same year he testified before Congress that he had never taken them. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, the only other members of both the 3,000 Hit and 500 Home Run Clubs were elected in their first years of eligibility.
Gonzales, a two-time AL Most Valuable Player, showed up in the Mitchell Report as a steroids user, which could hurt his chances for a big vote. After all, Mark McGwire with his 587 home runs has been on the ballot for four years and is hovering at 23 percent.
Bagwell, who had an amazing career (.297, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI, 1,517 runs, .408 on-base percentage, .540 slugging percentage), never failed a drug test but faced suspicions of possible performance-enhancing aid after he felt in love with the weight room in the mid-1990s. Walker, like Bagwell a National League MVP, had some very good years in Montreal and then some monster years in Colorado. Will the Coors Field effect hurt his chances?
See, this voting stuff isn’t easy. After thorough study, I finally filled out my ballot.
Checks went to Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Walker, Mattingly, Raines, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff and Jack Morris.
My take on Bagwell was that he is innocent until proved guilty. Larkin is following a path not dissimilar to another NL MVP middle infielder who took a few years to get to Cooperstown, Ryne Sandberg. Ask any Yankees fan who watched the 1995 Division Series about Edgar Martinez, who was simply one of the greatest right-handed hitters I ever saw. McGriff, who came through the Yankees system but was traded away, slugged 493 homers the clean way and made a major difference on the only Atlanta Braves team to win a World Series. Morris was the ace of every staff for which he pitched, including three teams that won the World Series – the 1984 Tigers, ’91 Twins and ’92 Blue Jays.
Let the arguments begin. I’ll be back after the election.
There is a great void in baseball now that Bob Feller has left us. He was a Hall of Famer more than half of his life, a distinction for which he took great pride. Somehow, Induction Weekend in Cooperstown will never be the same.
Feller, fallen by leukemia at the age of 92, represented the epitome of the American Dream, the Iowa farm boy who made it to the big leagues before he graduated from high school and became one of the icons of an era depicted so memorably in Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation.”
Of all his accomplishments – and there were many – Feller was most proud of the four years he served in the United States Navy as a gunner on the U.S. Alabama during World War II. It cost him four precious seasons at the height of his pitching career, but he never regretted a single day he devoted to his country.
I remember his appearance at the 1986 New York Baseball Writers Dinner when he did me a huge favor. That year, Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly and Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden were co-winners of our Sid Mercer Award for the player of the year. The original plan was to have Stan Musial present the award to Mattingly and Feller to Gooden.
The day of the dinner, Musial’s plane was re-routed to Albany due to fog in New York that forced the three metro airports to close for several hours. I offered Stan a private car to come down to Manhattan, but he declined. “I don’t know how old you are, Jack, but I’m 65, and three hours in a car is not something I’m comfortable with anymore,” The Man said.
I thanked him and told him he should just go back home. Less than an hour later, I found out that Gooden couldn’t come, either. Just a couple of hours before the dinner, I had lost two marquee attractions. Mattingly and Feller had come to New York the night before, so I knew we still had them. The idea now was to ask “Rapid Robert” to present the award to “Donnie Baseball.”
Prompt as usual, Feller was the first to arrive in the dais room an hour before the dinner. I explained my dilemma and asked him if he would give the award to Mattingly.
“I’d be honored to,” he said. “Just do me two favors. One, write down some of Donnie’s statistics; I know he had a helluva year, but I don’t know the exact numbers. Two, make sure in your introduction of me that you mention my four years’ service in the Navy in World War II. Nothing I have done in my life is more important than that.”
My father and uncle were at a table up front with Anne, Feller’s wife, and got pretty friendly during the dinner. The last award presentation was Mattingly’s, and I introduced Bob with emphasis on his war record. At that point, Anne leaned over to my father and uncle and said, “He made that poor boy say that.”
Several years later, I did a piece in the Hartford Courant on Feller in connection with the Hall of Fame honoring World War II veterans. He had just come home from a tour of Okinawa where he had served in the war. I figured he was suffering from jet lag and suggested we do the interview when he was more rested.
“Come on, O’Connell, let’s do it now; I’ll have plenty of time to rest when my eyes close for good,” he said and spent the next 90 minutes detailing every step of his tour of duty in the Pacific.
Feller was proudest of the fact that he was the first major league player to enter the armed services after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese fleet. Another Hall of Famer, Hank Greenberg, also lay claim to being the first, but Feller said, “I checked it out; I beat Hank by about half an hour.”
Here’s the rub. At the time of Bob’s enlistment, his father had terminal cancer. As the sole support of his family, Bob Feller could have been excused from serving in the war, but he felt it was his duty. Think for a minute what his career statistics would have looked like had Feller not joined the Navy and played in those four seasons from 1942 through ’45.
Considering the shape of many of the war-depleted lineups in the early 1940s, Feller might have had seasons of 30-plus victories. Heck, he might have even challenged Jack Chesbro’s 1904 record of 41 victories. Since Feller had pitched in 44 games in 1941, it is conceivable that a 41-win season might not be out of the question. I have a feeling, however, that Feller would have never been able to live with the asterisk that might have been attached to all those victories against hollow lineups.
He had a tremendous career anyway with three no-hitters, including the only Opening Day no-no in 1940, and 12 one-hitters and a ring from the 1948 World Series, still the most recent championship by the Indians. He remains the greatest player in the history of that franchise, which was a charter member of the American League in 1901.
When he and Jackie Robinson were elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, they were the first to do so in their first year on the ballot since the original class of 1936: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.
No one wore his Hall of Fame stature more gallantly. Here are some thoughts on Feller from his Hall teammates:
Bobby Doerr: “Bob was just a regular, solid person. He was the same guy, all the time. He gave his opinions and he said what he thought. He didn’t hedge around anything. He was one of the top pitchers I saw in my time. He was timed at 100 miles per hour, and he had a real good curve ball. You had to always be alert with him. He was a real competitor.”
Gaylord Perry: “I really enjoyed Bob’s company, and hearing his stories about history – from baseball to war and everything else, from out of the cornfields to the major leagues. He did so much for baseball and had so many great stories, particularly about barnstorming and his memories of players like Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige. I was very fond of Bob. I traveled to his Museum in Van Meter to support his Museum. I consider Bob a great American.”
Cal Ripken Jr.: “The passing of Bob Feller is a great loss for the game of baseball. Clearly Bob was one of the greatest pitchers in history, and anyone who knew him understood that he was one of the game’s great personalities as well. That said, baseball didn’t define Bob. His service to our country is something that he was very proud of and something we are all grateful for. Bob lived an incredible life, and he will be missed.”
Nolan Ryan: “I am deeply sorry to hear of the passing of Bob Feller. He was baseball’s top power pitcher of the 1940s and 1950s and was a source of inspiration for all Americans for his service during World War II. He was a true Hall of Famer.”
Dennis Eckersley: “Bob was truly a great American and a great ambassador for the game of baseball.”
Hall of Fame board chairman Jane Forbes Clark: “We are all saddened to hear of the passing of Bob Feller. He represented the National Baseball Hall of Fame longer than any individual in history, as 2011 would have been his 50th year as a Hall of Fame member. No one loved coming back to Cooperstown more than Bob, which he and Anne did often. Bob was a wonderful ambassador for the Hall of Fame, always willing to help the Museum. Watching him pitch just shy of his 91st birthday at the Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown will be a memory that we will always treasure. He will always be missed.”
Hall president Jeff Idelson: “The Baseball Hall of Fame has lost an American original – there will never be anyone quite like Bob Feller ever again. He was truly larger than life – baseball’s John Wayne – coming out of the Iowa cornfields to the major leagues at age 17 and then dominating for two decades. Bob loved being a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but he was most proud of his service as a highly decorated soldier in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. He reached the pinnacle of individual achievement in 1962, earning enshrinement in Cooperstown, spending more than half his life as a Hall of Fame member.&nbs
p; He probably flew more miles, signed more autographs, met more people and visited more places than anyone, a testament to his ceaseless zest for life, baseball and country. Cooperstown will never be the same without Rapid Robert.”
That’s for sure.
Right away Monday, I knew things would be different at Yankee Stadium. As I entered the lobby, I ran into a pair of old friends – Joe Torre and Don Mattingly.
Yes, this was going to be quite a night.
The former Yankees manager and captain were in the new Yankee Stadium for the first time to be part of the ceremony before Monday night’s Yankees-Rays game to honor the memory of the late Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner with the unveiling of a plaque in the middle of Monument Park.
“I wanted to come back here last year for the World Series, but I didn’t do a good enough job,” Torre said, alluding to his Dodgers team’s failure to get past the Phillies in the National League Championship Series.
Last Friday, Joe announced that he was stepping down as Dodgers manager next year and will be succeeded by his bench coach, Mattingly, who will finally fulfill his dream by managing on the major-league level. Donnie gave me a hug and I said, “I can’t call you ‘Cap’ anymore. I’ll have to start calling you ‘Skip’ now.”
There were a lot of years and memories of Yankees greatness in these two figures standing in the Gate 2 lobby where next to the elevators stands a statue of “The Boss.”
Shortly after, Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost came out of one of the elevators and greeted Torre and Mattingly and proceeded to start them on a tour of the two-year-old park. Let’s hope that this is the beginning of a renewed relationship between the team and its estranged icons.
Trost contacted Torre right after his press conference Friday and invited him and Mattingly to the ceremony. Monday was an open date on the Dodgers’ schedule
It must be noted that both men left the Yankees after the 2007 season not on the best of terms, Torre more so than Mattingly. Unable to get a contract extension that suited him, Torre left and went to the Dodgers. Mattingly had been a candidate for the Yankees manager’s job, but it went to Joe Girardi. Mattingly went to Los Angeles to be on Torre’s coaching staff.
“I always expected to come back,” Mattingly said. “I played my whole career here. I love the Yankees. I’m with another storied organization in L.A. now, but it was the Yankees who taught me the game, and I love coming back.”
As for Torre, Mattingly likened his return to the Stadium to when Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who was also at the Stadium for the Steinbrenner ceremony, returned to the Bronx in 1999 after a lengthy feud with the owner.
“Like Yogi, Joe needed to get back,” Donnie said. “I remember those years when Yogi wasn’t around and thinking his coming back needed to happen. It’s the same with Joe.”
Torre and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman agreed that their relationship was strained after “The Yankees Years,” a book co-written by Torre and Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, characterized them as having opposing views towards the end of Torre’s 12-year run as Yankees manager.
They spoke Monday for the first time since parting ways three years ago.
“It was time to turn the page,” Cashman said. “I was the general manager for 10 of the 12 years Joe was here, and it was a magic carpet ride nearly all of that time. I was disappointed that the majority of our time together was not presented in the book. But we had a good talk, and we’ll move on from there.”
One thing Torre and Cashman were in agreement over was their respect for Steinbrenner. Cashman said those in the front office are still adjusting to running the Yankees without him.
“You have to understand that he did everything with the Yankees,” Cashman said. “No matter what area of business there was, he had the final say. And you always knew when he was in the Stadium. You could just feel his presence once you got two feet into the door. Some would say you could feel it in the parking lot.”
“George is responsible for the best years of my life professionally,” Torre said. “We had some disagreements, but it was a good relationship. You always knew how much George wanted to win, for this city and for this organization. The last time I spoke to him was his 80th birthday. I knew he would get a lot of attention that day, so I actually called him the day before. We spoke for about 10 minutes. He was in very good spirits. It’s a good feeling to get back to this. George belongs not only in Monument Park but also in the Hall of Fame.”
The pre-game ceremony was attended by Joan Steinbrenner, George’s widow, and her four children – sons Hank and Hal and daughters Jennifer and Jessica and their spouses. Other guests included Berra and fellow Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson as well as commissioner Bud Selig, Gene Michael, Roy White, Lee Mazzilli, David Wells and Tino Martinez.
Torre was accompanied by his wife, Ali. Yogi and the Steinbrenner family climbed on to a golf cart and began a procession down the right field line and along the warning track to Monument Park beyond the center field wall. Not surprisingly, the loudest cheers were for Torre and especially Mattingly.
“There has never been a greater group of fans than the fans at Yankee Stadium,” Torre said.
The plaque read:
July 4, 1930 – July 13, 2010
New York Yankees Principal Owner
1973 – 2010
Purchased the New York Yankees on January 3, 1973.
A true visionary who changed the game of baseball forever,
he was considered the most influential owner in all of sports.
In his 37 years as Principal Owner, the Yankees posted a Major League-best .566 winning percentage,
while winning 11 American League pennants and seven World Series titles,
becoming the most recognizable sports brand in the world.
A devoted sportsman, he was Vice President of the United States Olympic Committee, a member of
the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors and a member of the NCAA Foundation Board of Trustees.
A great philanthropist whose charitable efforts were mostly performed without fanfare, he followed a
personal motto of the greatest form of charity is anonymity.
Dedicated by the New York Yankees
September 20, 2010