Results tagged ‘ Hall of Fame ’
Five Hall of Famers will be among more than 40 former Yankees scheduled to attend the 70th annual Old-Timers’ Day Sunday, June 12, at Yankee Stadium. Fans are asked to be in their seats by 11:30 a.m. for the festivities with the traditional Old-Timers’ game to follow. All pregame celebrations will be aired exclusively on the YES Network. The Yankees will then play the Tigers at 2:05 p.m., also on YES. Gates will open to ticket-holding fans at 10 a.m.
The Old-Timers are headlined by Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson and Joe Torre. Former Yankees and current YES Network broadcasters David Cone, John Flaherty and Paul O’Neill will also be part of the pregame with program.
Three-time All-Star closer John Wetteland, who won the 1996 World Series Most Valuable Player Award with saves in all four of their victories toward their 23rd World Series title, will make his Old-Timers’ Day debut, alongside 1996 teammate Mariano Duncan, as well as Bubba Crosby and the oldest living former Yankees player, Eddie Robinson, 95.
Joining the Hall of Famers and former Yankees on the field will be the widows of five legendary Yankees—Arlene Howard, widow of Elston Howard; Helen Hunter, widow of Jim “Catfish” Hunter; Jill Martin, widow of Billy Martin; Diana Munson, widow of Thurman Munson; and Kay Murcer, widow of Bobby Murcer.
A complete list of Old Timers’ Day attendees:
Jesse Barfield, Brian Boehringer, Scott Bradley, Dr. Bobby Brown, Homer Bush, David Cone, Bubba Crosby, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, Mariano Duncan, John Flaherty, Whitey Ford, Oscar Gamble, Joe Girardi, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Arlene Howard (widow), Helen Hunter (widow), Reggie Jackson, Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly, Don Larsen, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Jill Martin (widow), Hideki Matsui, Lee Mazzilli, Ramiro Mendoza, Stump Merrill, Gene “Stick” Michael, Gene Monahan (Trainer), Diana Munson (widow), Kay Murcer (widow), Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Joe Pepitone, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, Eddie Robinson, Tanyon Sturtze, Ralph Terry, Marcus Thames, Joe Torre, John Wetteland, Roy White, Bernie Williams.
The quality start is somewhat of a bogus statistic. It is rewarded to a starting pitcher who allows three or fewer runs in six innings. Since three runs allowed in six innings converts to an earned run average of 4.50, the quality start can be a pretty hollow stat.
However, a 4.50 ERA looks pretty good these days to Michael Pineda, whose ERA stands at 6.34 after what qualified Sunday as a quality start for him as the Yankees won their fifth straight game and completed their first four-game sweep at Oakland since 1979.
That Pineda had one of those six innings-three runs quality starts was just fine with the Yankees, who have been waiting for him to come close to one and falling in line with the rest of the rotation in creating this winning streak. The more important stat for Pineda was the “W,” a winning decision that ended a winless stretch of eight starts since his only other victory April 6. On that day, the righthander allowed six earned runs in five innings (10.80 ERA) and benefit from his teammates scoring a season-high 16 runs.
Pineda showed progress to some degree in pitching from the stretch and displayed improved control of his slider, which has been wayward to say the least. The most quality of his innings was the sixth because in retiring the side in order Pineda held onto a 4-3 lead and set up the rest of the game for Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman to finish off the Athletics.
Carlos Beltran helped the situation further with a two-out, RBI double in the seventh for a 5-3 Yankees advantage. Betances had two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 seventh, but Miller had to work to avoid having the A’s tie the score in the eighth after consecutive errors by shortstop Didi Gregorius and second baseman Starlin Castro gave Oakland runners on the corner with none out. Miller got a huge strikeout of Danny Valencia before pinch hitter Billy Butler drove in a run with a groundout to third. Another grounder to third by pinch hitter Khris Davis ended the threat before Chapman worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save.
This was the fifth time all three power relievers appeared in the same game. They have combined for a 1-0 record with five saves, a 1.17 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings in those games. Overall, the Yankees’ bullpen over the past 20 games is 4-1 with seven saves and a 2.10 ERA in 60 innings.
Yet it has been starting pitching that has done the most to shape the winning streak. Starters were 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA this turn through the rotation and allowed 19 hits and four walks with 26 strikeouts in 31 innings.
After winning the first three games of the Oakland series with only one home run (by Beltran), the Yankees got solo shots from Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury off A’s starter Jesse Hahn. After the A’s regained the lead in the fifth on a two-out, RBI double by Stephen Vogt, the Yankees got a pair of two-out hits of their own to move ahead for good.
Mark Teixeira greeted reliever John Axford with an infield single to end a 0-for-19 stretch and get his first run batted in since May 1 covering 71 plate appearances. The legs of Brett Gardner got that RBI for Tex by scampering home from second base on the grounder that was knocked down by A’s second baseman Chris Coghlan in shallow center field. Castro got the Yankees back in front with a single to left-center.
Beltran finished off an incredible series that brought the Yankees’ season record within one game of .500 (21-22) in which he had nine hits in 17 at-bats (.529) with eight RBI. His fifth double of the set was career No. 515, which tied Hall of Famer Joe Cronin for 50th place on the all-time list. With Alex Rodriguez due to come off the 15-day disabled list when the Yankees open a brief homestand Tuesday night, Beltran will have to surrender his designated hitter duties.
The Yankees are 13-6 since A-Rod went on the DL. Beltran’s productivity has been a major factor in that record. In 12 games as the DH, Beltran hit .367 with nine runs, nine doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI in 49 at-bats. The Yankees were 10-2 in those games. Rodriguez has big shoes to fill.
Fenway Park has been a comfort zone for the Yankees in recent years. Red Sox fans could not have been pleased that the Yankees won seven of nine games there last year and were 23-13 at Fenway since the start of 2012, their best four-year run in the rival team’s home in 49 years.
Masahiro Tanaka certainly looked comfortable at Fenway Friday night. Until the seventh inning, that is. Tanaka was working on a three-hit shutout through six when the tide turned against him. Three left-handed batters went to the opposite field for hits that wiped out a 2-0 deficit.
A double off the wall by Jackie Bradley that scored Travis Shaw and Brock Holt, each of whom had punched singles to left field with one out, was the killer for Tanaka, a stunning development since it came one pitch after the righthander had struck out Ryan Hanigan on a 94-mph fastball.
Given new life, the Red Sox struck again in the eighth against Dellin Betances. David Ortiz drove a hanging curve ball over the Green Monster for a two-run home run. Just like that, the Yankees were 4-2 losers. Yankees fans have seen Ortiz do such dramatics over the years against the Bombers. Ortiz is a career .307 hitter with 48 home runs and 160 RBI in 834 career at-bats against Yankees pitching. Fourteen of those homers have given Boston leads in games. Yankees fans are happy this is his last season.
That the Red Sox were still in position to make a comeback was due primarily to the failure of the Yankees’ offense to take advantage of all the base runners they had over the first six innings against lefthander Henry Owens, who entered the game with a career 13.50 ERA against them. Brett Gardner’s two-out, RBI single in the fifth was the Yanks’ only hit in five at-bats with runners in scoring position. Alex Rodriguez’s fourth home run accounted for the other Yankees run. They had 10 runners on base in the first five innings against Owens, and only two scored. The Red Sox turned four double plays behind Owens.
Rodriguez’s 691st career home run was also career hit No. 3,082, which pushed him past Hall of Famer Cap Anson into 20th place on the all-time list. Next up is another Hall of Famer, Dave Winfield, at 3,110.
Boston relievers Matt Barnes, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel each retired the side in order in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively. The Yankees’ opportunities came against Owens, but they let them slip away, just like the game.
Division races do not get much tighter than this: two teams separated by only a half-game both locked in 1-1 games entering the ninth inning. That was the case for the Yankees and the Blue Jays Tuesday night.
Toronto ended up going into extras. The Yankees wished they could have done the same. After eight brilliant innings from Masahiro Tanaka, Chasen Shreve (6-2) gave up a home run to Chris Davis leading off the ninth and it held up for a 1-0 Orioles victory. Not long after the game at Yankee Stadium ended, the Blue Jays scored four runs in the 10th for a 5-1 victory at Fenway Park and took a 1 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East.
It was a tough no-decision for Tanaka, who gave the Yankees exactly the kind of start they needed on the heels of the loss of Nathan Eovaldi probably for the rest of the regular season due to right elbow inflammation and to spare the bullpen that may be needed Wednesday night with CC Sabathia coming back to the rotation after a stint on the 15-day disabled list because of right knee inflammation.
Tanaka was at his dominant best with 10 strikeouts. He flirted with a perfect game for four innings. That ended with a leadoff walk, his only base on balls, in the fifth, and soon the no-hit bid was gone as well when Matt Wieters singled on a dribbler against the overshift.
The shutout remained intact through that inning, but a home run to right by Ryan Flaherty at the start of the sixth put an end to the scoreless tie. The Yankees responded with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning by Alex Rodriguez off Kevin Gausman. It was an historic hit for A-Rod, career No. 3,056 that pushed him by Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson into 22nd place on the all-time list. In addition, Rodriguez reached the 30-homer plateau for the15th time in his career, tying the record established by Hall of Famer Henry Aaron.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, that would be the extend of their scoring as relievers T.J. McFarland, Darren O’Day (6-2) and Zach Britton (31st save) held them hitless over four innings. The last 11 Yankees batters went out in order.
That the game was so close was a testament not only to Tanaka’s pitching but also their defense. Third baseman Brendan Ryan made a remarkable stop of a scorching grounder by Jonathan Schoop and from his knees threw a dart to second baseman Stephen Drew to start a double play that loomed large when the next batter, Wieters, doubled off the wall in left-center. Shortstop Didi Gregorius followed with a good stop of a grounder by J.J. Hardy to get the third out of the inning.
After Davis’ homer in the ninth, the Orioles threatened to extend their lead with singles by Jimmy Paredes and Schoop. One out later, Shreve struck out Hardy for the front end of a double play as Ryan kept the glove on Schoop, who attempted to steal third base but over-slid the bag slightly. An offensive highlight to match that was not forthcoming, however.
The condition is known as the wheels falling off. Fortunately for the Yankees, the condition struck Chris Archer in the sixth inning Sunday that helped them survive a major scare by the Rays.
Archer, who took a 5-0 career record and 1.78 ERA against the Yankees into the game, appeared destined to improve those statistics over the first five innings, four of which he retired the side in order.
As Yankees catcher Brian McCann noted of Archer, “He didn’t pitch out of the stretch a whole lot early in the game.”
The sixth inning was another story, and it was McCann who was pivotal in the Yankees’ turning the game around. Archer began the sixth working on a one-hit shutout with a three-run lead, thanks to a two-run home run by Kevin Kiermaier in the second inning and a two-out, RBI single by Logan Forsythe in the third against Ivan Nova, who ended up the winning pitcher because of the turn of events in the sixth.
It seemed like another mow-down inning in store for Archer when Stephen Drew flied out to left field leading off. Jacoby Ellsbury, who had the Yankees’ only hit to that point (a two-out single in the third that ended a 0-for-17 stretch), hit a ground single to right, but Archer came right back to strike out Brett Gardner.
Curiously, Archer pitched especially carefully to Carlos Beltran for no reason I could detect and walked him on five pitches. At 2-0, Beltran expected to see a fastball, but Archer threw three straight sliders and lost him. Beltran was 0-for-2 in the game and 2-for-14 (.143) against Archer in his career, so why be so careful when a hitter as dangerous as McCann on deck.
McCann’s career numbers against Archer (2-for-16 going into that at-bat) weren’t much better than Beltran’s, but they were about to become so. Archer fell behind 3-1 to McCann, who got the fastball Beltran expected and drove the ball over the right field fence for a three-run homer that knotted the score.
As if the wheels had not fallen off enough for Archer, Alex Rodriguez also took him deep on the next pitch. Once again, the long ball came to the Yankees’ rescue as they went on to a 6-4 victory to keep pace with the Blue Jays, 10-4 winners over the Orioles and clinging to a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League East.
McCann’s 25th home run marked a career high in one season for the catcher, who seems much more comfortable in his second year in pinstripes.
“I know the league a lot better,” said McCann, who spent nine years in the National League with the Braves before signing with the Yankees as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. “Getting to know the pitchers, the ones and twos on each staff and situational lefthanders. When you’re in the same league year after year you don’t have to make that much of an adjustment.
“That’s our formula,” manager Joe Girardi said of the home runs, and he was right on target.
The Yankees, whose overall record is 76-59 (.563), are 65-34 (.657) when they homer. When they hit two home runs, as they did Sunday, or more, they are 41-11 (.788). Of the 13 runs the Yanks scored in the three games at Yankee Stadium against the Rays, nine were the result of home runs.
The Yankees added two runs against a ragged Tampa Bay bullpen, one on a throwing error by Fosythe and one on a single by Didi Gregorius, who had two more hits and has had at least one RBI in eight of his past 10 games. A-Rod contributed to the eighth-inning rally with a single, his 3,053rd career hit that tied him with Hall of Famer Rod Carew for 24th place on the all-time list.
But what most of the 35,299 people in attendance at the Stadium will remember most about Sunday’s game were the home runs in the inning when the wheels fell off for a modern-day Yankee killer.
A couple of Texas natives had big nights deep in the heart of their home state Friday night for the Yankees.
Houston native Chris Young ended the Yanks’ 15-inning scoreless streak at Minute Maid Park by clouting a three-run home run in the seventh off previously untouchable reliever Will Harris to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead that was upheld by three Yankees relievers.
The rally created a winning decision for starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (7-2), who worked six strong innings under the watchful eye of fellow Alvin, Texas, native Nolan Ryan, who was seated in the front row behind the plate alongside his wife, Ruth. The Hall of Famer rejoined the Astros organization last year after leaving the Rangers.
Pitching in his home area for the first time, Eovaldi followed his sturdy outing Old-Timers’ Day with another solid performance in front of scores of friends and relatives in the crowd of 37,748. The righthander allowed two runs, five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings.
And yet he was in position to be on the losing side in the game because Astros starter Vincent Velasquez was even better over the first six innings. He held the Yankees to three hits with only one base runner getting beyond first.
One out into the seventh, however, the Yankees made their move. Singles by Carlos Beltran and Garrett Jones prompted Houston manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Harris, who entered the game with a 4-0 record and 0.78 ERA. With no left-handed bat on the bench, Yankees manager Joe Girardi stayed with Young, who rewarded the skipper by putting a charge into a 1-1 cut fastball for his ninth home run of the season.
Young’s numbers this season are lopsided. He leads American League hitters against left-handed pitching (.379, eight doubles, four home runs, 10 RBI in 66 at-bats), including two hits off Dallas Keuchel, who shut down the rest of the Yankees Thursday night. Against righthanders, however, Young was batting only .177 going into Friday night’s game. By going 3-for-4 against righties, Young improved his stats to .210 with two doubles, five home runs and 13 RBI in 100 at-bats.
Minute Maid Park has become a home away from home for Young. In 25 career games there, he is hitting .410 with seven doubles, one triple, nine home runs and 33 RBI in 105 at-bats with 14 multi-hit games. It marks his highest career average in any major league park.
Young, a graduate of Houston’s Bellaire High School, extended his hitting streak to nine games since June 18 during which he has batted .471 with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI in 34 at-bats. Over the span, Young has raised his season batting average from .220 to .271.
Once the Yankees moved in front, Girardi turned to his pen, which did a superb job. Chasen Shreve struck out the side in the seventh. After a two-out walk by Justin Wilson in the eighth, Dellin Betances was called on for a four-out save, which he handled perfectly with two strikeouts.
Brett Gardner continued his hot hitting with a double and a single and is up to .294. With Tampa Bay losing, the Yankees moved to a half-game of the first-place Rays in the American League East.
Stuck in a 0-for-22 slump, Stephen Drew was benched for two games on the recently-completed Yankees’ West Coast trip and speculation was ripe that he might lose his second base job. He had two big hits in a come-from-behind, extra-inning victory for the Yankees in Seattle to give manager Joe Girardi more reason to stick with him and opened the homestand Friday night with two home runs in an 8-7 victory over the Angels.
Drew got pushed to the side a bit as the game took a weird turn at the end. Who would have thought with the Yankees up by 8-1 entering the ninth inning that Dellin Betances would get in the game and be in a save situation? And come close to blowing it?
Esmil Rogers faced five batters, did not get any of them out, and all of them scored. One hit was tainted. Chase Headley, shifted to first base in what seemed a blowout, and second baseman Jose Pirela let a popup drop between them for a single by Grant Green.
Betances did not stop the bleeding right away. He gave up a hit and two walks and, finally, an earned run for the first time in 27 appearances and 29 2/3 innings. His strikeout of Kirk Neuwenhuis was the first out of the inning — to the ninth batter! A force play at second ended Betances’ scoreless season and put the potential tying run at third base, but he ended the debacle of an inning by striking out pinch hitter Carlos Perez.
How many times have you seen it? A player hits a foul home run and despite cries from the crowd “Straighten it out,” invariably makes an out on the next pitch. It almost never happens that the hitter does indeed straighten it out.
Drew did so, however, in the second inning in jumping the Yanks out to a 2-0 lead over the Angels’ Jered Weaver. Batting with two out and a runner on first base, Drew, who showed some signs of life offensively in the recent series at Seattle, hit a loud foul near the right field foul pole. You figured at that point that might be his shot.
Then on the next pitch, Drew put another charge into the ball and it made it over the right field wall on the fair side for a two-run home run. Call it a Yankee Stadium homer if you want (it landed maybe two rows over the fence), but a homer is a homer.
Another Stadium homer came two innings later from a more regular source of power — Mark Teixeira. It also came after two were out and barely cleared the right field barrier. It was No. 17 for Tex, who is now one behind American League leader Nelson Cruz of the Mariners. Teixeira also raised his league-leading RBI total to 43.
Speaking of RBI, Alex Rodriguez took over sole possession of second place on the all-time list with No. 1,997 on a two-out single in the fifth that scored Brett Gardner, who had tripled to left-center one out earlier. A-Rod, who had four hits and is batting .284 with 11 homers and 28 RBI, has a ways to go to catch the career RBI leader, Hall of Famer Henry Aaron, with 2,297. Only 300 RBI to go.
Drew connected for his second home run, a two-run shot, with two out in the sixth that sent Weaver to the clubhouse. Fans got excited an inning later when Drew batted with the bases loaded, but he grounded out.
Considering how Drew has struggled — he is still well below the Mendoza line with a .173 batting average — the two-homer, four-RBI game offers some encouragement for the future.
Nathan Eovaldi (5-1) was rolling along for five innings until he lost the plate in the sixth and walked the bases loaded. Chasen Shreve kept the damage to a minimum with one run on an infield out and got a big strikeout of Eric Aybar to end the inning.
The schizophrenic nature of the Yankees’ season has surfaced again on the West Coast. After sweeping a three-game series against the Royals, the team with the best record in the American League, the Yankees lost the first two games of the four-game set to the Athletics, the team with the worst record in the league. On top of that, Oakland entered the series with a 1-10 record when opponents start a left-handed pitcher, and the A’s won Thursday night against CC Sabathia and Friday night against Chris Capuano, both lefties.
Except for the hitting of Brian McCann and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees have had another offensive breakdown. The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury (strained right knee) is part of it, although Slade Heathcott, who was recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to help fill the void, was playing well (.353, 1 HR, 3 RBI). Now Heathcott is out with a strained right quadriceps that landed him on the 15-day disabled list Saturday. The Yankees recalled outfielder Ramos Flores from SWP to take the place of Heathcott, who is expected to be out for a month.
McCann has homered in four straight games, the longest streak by a catcher in the major leagues this season. Mac is one of two Yankees to homer in four straight games while playing catcher since 1957. The other was Mike Stanley (four homers in four games July 20-25, 1993). The only Yankees catcher since at least 1914 with a longer streak is Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, who hit six home runs in five games June 20-25, 1937.
During his seven-game hitting streak, McCann is 9-for-23 (.391) with six runs, 1 double, four homers, 11 RBI and six walks. He has reached base safely in 15 of his past 29 plate appearances for a .517 on-base percentage. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that McCann is the first Yankees catcher with an RBI in seven consecutive games, all as catcher, since Hall of Famer Yogi Berra had an eight-game streak Sept. 11-23, 1956. McCann’s streak is the longest RBI streak by any Yankees player since Alfonso Soriano’s seven-gamer Sept. 1-7, 2013. Mac is tied with the Padres’ Derek Norris for second among MLB catchers with 32 RBI in 2015. The leader is Oakland’s Stephen Vogt with 35. Vogt played first base Friday night and drove in two runs with a double in the A’s four-run third inning against Capuano.
Also streaking is Rodriguez, with an eight-game stretch in which he has hit .414 with seven runs, one double, one home run, five RBI and three walks in 29 at-bats as his batting average has climbed from .246 to .277. A-Rod has hit safely in 13 consecutive starts and is batting .346 in his past 15 games and 52 at-bats overall since May 13.
Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly Thursday gave him 1,996 career RBI to tie Barry Bonds for second place on baseball’s all-time list, according to Elias, the official statistician of MLB. Statistics found on MLB.com and baseball-reference.com are not official stats. The RBI became an official statistic in 1920. Rodriguez passed Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig (1,993) for the all-time AL RBI record with a three-run homer Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. A-Rod has scored 1,947 career runs, two shy of tying Hall of Famer Stan Musial for eighth place on the all-time list.
Despite the two losses in Oakland, the Yankees remained in first place in the AL East by one game over the Rays and Orioles, who are playing each other this weekend. The Yankees will also get some reinforcements when Masahiro Tanaka returns to the rotation. He is scheduled to start Wednesday in Seattle in the last game of the trip.
The rotation could use a shot in the, well, arm. Yankees starters are a combined 18-19 with a 4.29 ERA, which ranks 20th of 30 major-league clubs. The Yankees are the only club with a winning record (25-24) whose starting unit has a losing mark. Opposing hitters are batting .275 against Yankees starting pitchers.
Although he has not played a game in the major leagues since the end of the 2006 season and has already fallen off the Hall of Fame ballot, Bernie Williams has never officially announced his retirement as a player.
That will change at 5:45 p.m. Friday in the press conference room at Yankee Stadium before the first game of this season’s Subway Series when Williams will formally sign his retirement papers in a ceremony to be overseen by general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman.
During Friday’s press conference, the Yankees will unveil a logo related to his uniform number (51) retirement and Monument Park plaque dedication, which will take place on Sunday, May 24, prior to the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers.
Additionally Friday — in an on-field ceremony at approximately 6:45 p.m. — the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams. Fifteen percent of net sales from the pins will go to Hillside Food Outreach (www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org).
Bernie will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Mets.
Williams, 46, played his entire 16-year major-league career with the Yankees (1991-2006). The switch hitter batted .297 over 2,076 games. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the American League batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.
A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ’98, ’99, 2000), Williams is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and is third in games played (121). He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player after batting .474 with two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series against the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning home run to win the game for the Yankees.
I remember telling Bernie when the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot came out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that whether he liked it or not he was officially retired. He just laughed and said, “Man, I can’t believe five years went by so fast.”
Williams stayed on the ballot for only two years. He received 9.6 percent of the vote in 2012 and 3.3 percent in 2013. Players need to achieve 75 percent of the vote to gain election and are dropped from consideration if they do not get five percent of the vote. I voted for him both years and wish more of my colleagues recognized the Hall of Fame worthiness of his career.
The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.
“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”
Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.
“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”
“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”
Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.
“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’
“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”
I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.
They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.
And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.
This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”
He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”
Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.
Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.
Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.
Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”
That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”