Results tagged ‘ Hank Aaron ’
Any concern the Yankees had about the condition of Robinson Cano’s left hip abated when he made a dazzling play at second base to rob Nick Markakis of a base hit in the first inning Thursday night at Baltimore. Unfortunately, it was the only out the Yankees got for a while because the next four guys all got hits off David Phelps and scored.
Cano was sore after Tuesday night’s game at St. Petersburg, Fla., and was the designated hitter Wednesday night. He was back at second base Thursday night and appeared his old self. Fans were probably delighted to see him dive for Markakis’ ball after he failed to dive for a ball that became a game-winning hit Tuesday night against the Rays.
A packed house at Camden Yards on a night honoring Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. on the 16th anniversary of his breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games was ecstatic over the first-inning outburst against Phelps. After three straight singles produced one run, Matt Wieters clouted his 19th home run into the second row down the left field line for three more. Wieters has had a hit in all 15 games the Orioles and Yankees have played against each other this year.
Phelps gave up another home run, a solo shot by Robert Andino, Baltimore’s 9-hole hitter, in the fourth, which turned out to be the righthander’s last inning. Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not hesitate to go to the bullpen early as he treated this game as if were a playoff game. Phelps just did not have it. He allowed five earned runs, six hits, two walks and a balk with three strikeouts in four innings.
Cano gave the Orioles a scare in the top of the fourth when he hit a line drive off the right elbow of Jason Hammel. The ball ricocheted into left field for a single. Hammel, making his first start in seven weeks after recovering from right knee surgery, remained in the game. He allowed a two-out, RBI single by Curtis Granderson that inning and pitched one batter into the sixth before Orioles manager Buck Showalter lifted him after a walk. Reliever Randy Wolf threw a double-play ball that helped the Orioles get out of the inning without damage.
This was career game No. 2,500 for Alex Rodriguez, who is the fourth active player to reach the mark, joining teammate Derek Jeter earlier this season, Omar Vizquel and Jim Thome. Only two players had more hits (2,876) and extra-base hits (1,185) through 2,500 games than A-Rod – Stan Musial (3,176 hits, 1,233 extra-base hits) and Hank Aaron (3,044 hits, 1,200 extra-base hits).
If the Yankees start hitting with runners in scoring position and with the bases loaded more regularly, they might just run away and hide in the American League East. The Yanks entered play Tuesday night against the Indians with a three-game lead in the division despite hitting a combined .220 in 592 at-bats with runners in scoring position and .176 in 74 at-bats with the bags full.
Despite those horrendous figures, the Yankees rank fifth in the league in runs. They lead the majors in home runs, which is a chief factor in their winning ways, along with a pitching staff that ranks fifth in the AL with a 3.65 ERA and a bullpen that is second in the majors with a 2.63 ERA.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi is tired of talking about the team’s problems in the clutch and is confident that the numbers will even out. If that ever happens, watch out!
All that came to mind in the second inning when the Yankees got three consecutive hits with runners in scoring position, including one with the bases loaded. That is not a typographical error.
And on top of that, all the hits came after two were out. DeWayne Wise, who earned another start in left field after his fine game Monday night (triple, home run, three RBI), set up the situation with a single to right that moved Nick Swisher, who had reached base on a fielder’s choice, to third base.
Instead of getting stuck there as has often been the case in such situations for the Yankee this year, Swish came trotting home on a single to center by Chris Stewart. Birthday boy Derek Jeter, who turned 38, singled off the leg of Tribe pitcher Justin Masterson, which loaded the bases. No ducks left on the pond this time as Curtis Granderson singled home Wise and Stewart.
It was the sort of rally the Yankees could use on a more consistent basis instead of relying so often on the long ball. That was one reason Girardi put Wise in the lineup again, to make use of his speed, a facet in short supply with regular left fielder Brett Gardner on the disabled list the past two months.
Wise became the center of attention in the game with a tumbling catch or non-catch as it turned out into the left field stands in the seventh inning for the final out with a runner at third base. Wise disappeared into the seats as he reached for the ball. Third base umpire Mike DiMuro made the out call, even though it was unclear whether Wise ever had control of the ball. It appeared to have hit off the heel of his glove, but he and the ball were soon out of sight.
“Truthfully, the ball popped out,” Wise said afterward. “He never asked to see the ball. It was a tough angle for the umpire. I wasn’t going to argue with him. That’s why I got back up and ran on to the field and headed for the dugout.”
Fans in the area apparently tried to put the ball in Wise’s glove as he lay prone but failed to do so. Wise returned to the dugout with an empty glove.
“He disappeared into the stands, and I believed that the ball was in his glove when he came out of the stands,” DiMuro said. “In hindsight, I should have asked him to show me the ball since he fell into the stands and out of my line of vision.”
DiMuro added after the game that he had seen the replay and “It’s obvious that the ball fell out of his glove.”
Wise is having a good series with the umpires. On his triple Monday night, video replays showed that he was actually out at third base. The catch loomed large when the Indians, held scoreless for eight innings by a very strong Phil Hughes, scored four runs in the ninth off Cory Wade and needed Rafael Soriano to save the 6-4 victory.
How fitting such a play as the best catch Wise never made should come on Jeter’s birthday. Diving into the left field stands is one of the captain’s specialties. Jeter had 2-for-5 to improve his birthday batting average to .327 with two doubles and three RBI in 11 games and 49 at-bats. The only players to accumulate more hits prior to turning 38 were Ty Cobb (3,666) and Hank Aaron (3,272). He has 13 more hits than all-time leader Pete Rose (3,170) at the time of his 38th birthday.
Dayna Varano, the Yankees’ winner of the Honorary Bat Girl Contest, will be honored Thursday night when the team concludes a three-game series against the Royals at Yankee Stadium. A cancer patient from Wayne, N.J., Dayna will be the Yankees’ on-field guest during batting practice and assist in the delivery of the lineup card to the plate prior to throwing out the game’s ceremonial first pitch.
Major League Baseball and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, announced the winners of the 2011 Honorary Bat Girl Contest, a campaign to recognize baseball fans that have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrated a commitment to fighting the disease.
Dayna is one of the 30 winners, one for each major league club, among more than 1,500 entrants that were selected by more than a half-million fan votes on http://www.HonoraryBatGirl.com, a Web site powered by MLB.com, and a panel of celebrity judges.
Among those on the panel were cancer survivors such as Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman; Billye Aaron, Komen Global Ambassador for breast cancer and wife of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron; Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; actress Gabrielle Union and Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester. Other panelists included Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor; Twins designated hitter Jim Thome, whose mother passed away from lung cancer, and former pitcher and MLB Network analyst Mitch Williams, whose late mother had breast cancer.
On Valentine’s Day 2007, while already battling a brain tumor, Dayna was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. Amid countless surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, Dayna has continued her efforts in educating and counseling those affected by the disease. She is a chairperson for the Young Survival Coalition in NYC, an organization dedicated to offering resources and outreach to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Dayna has also helped collect more than 10,000 toys for children who have either lost a parent to cancer or have a surviving parent that is experiencing financial hardship.
The Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer initiative celebrated on Mother’s Day. In three years, nearly 4,000 testimonials have been submitted and more than six million fan votes have been cast. Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer is a joint partnership between MLB, its licensed partners and Susan G. Komen for the Cure to raise awareness about the breast cancer cause, while also raising funds to support breast cancer research.
On Mother’s Day this past Sunday, hundreds of players used pink bats by Louisville Slugger, the official bat of MLB, stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo and wore the symbolic pink ribbons on their uniforms along with pink wrist bands. Commemorative dugout lineup cards were also colored pink. Game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats from Mother’s Day games will be auctioned exclusively on MLB.com at a later date to raise additional funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which is now the world’s largest breast cancer organization and the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer with more than $1.9 billion invested to date. For more information about Susan G. Komen for the Cure, breast health or breast cancer, visit komen.org or call 1-877 GO KOMEN.
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 were reminisces aplenty about Tuesday’s 50th anniversary of Ted Williams’ final at-bat in the major leagues in which he hit a home run, career No. 521, which at the time was the third highest total in history behind only Babe Ruth (714) and Jimmie Foxx (534). A lot has changed in half a century. Teddy Ballgame now stands in a three-way tie with Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas for 18th place, and Barry Bonds (762) and Hank Aaron (755) have long since passed the Babe.
As for what Williams did his last time up in the big leagues, thousands of words have been written about the grand style in which he ended his career by lofting one into the right field seats at Fenway Park. That is all well and good, but for me that is just the usual batch of Red Sox Nation tripe.
I have a personal beef about the whole matter from the mindset of a pre-teen who got stood up by the guy they called the “Splendid Splinter.” He wasn’t much of a splinter by then, nor at 42 did he fit his other nickname, “The Kid,” and from my point of view he damn sure wasn’t splendid.
Here’s why. Do you know what little piece of information all those Boston boors leave out of their Teddy’s last at-bat stories? How about this: nobody in the yard knew it was Williams’ last at-bat until after the game. That’s right. The Red Sox still had three more games to play, at Yankee Stadium, but after the game Williams told the writers that he wasn’t going to New York. The Yankees had already clinched the American League pennant, the Red Sox had been dead meat for a month, so there was no point in his making the trip.
Now doesn’t take a bit of the bite out of that story. I mean, it would have rung truer if he had told the press before the game that he wasn’t playing any more. To Red Sox fans, this was the perfect ending to a Hall of Fame career by admittedly one of the game’s greatest hitters. But to Yankees fans holding tickets to games that weekend, it was a big gyp. The only allure of the series was to see Williams bow out, not watch Carroll Hardy in left field.
My uncle, Bill Gallagher, had gotten tickets for the Friday night game Sept. 30, 1960, and we talked about Williams on the ride to the Stadium. I was really into baseball in those days and was amazed at how vital the two great aging stars of that time, Williams and Stan Musial, still were. Musial, in fact, would play three more seasons, and I would get to see him three home runs in one game at the Polo Grounds in 1963 when he was 42.
God bless Casey Stengel, then in his last year as manager of the Yankees. Although the Yankees were already set for the World Series, ‘ol Case started his regular lineup. Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and the rest. The Red Sox? No Ted Williams. What?
Unlike today’s 24/7 media whirlwind, information from out of town came slowly in those days. A man sitting in the seat next to Uncle Bill said that he heard that Williams decided not to accompany the team to town. Truth be told, I had not been much of a Yankees fan to that point in my life, but I cheered my head off for them that night. To make matters worse, the Red Sox almost won the game.
What follows comes from my old, pencil-scribbled scorecard, boys and girls (I still score in pencil).
Bill Monbouquette, a wonderful guy whom I would get to know more than 20 years later when he was the pitching coach for the Mets, was Boston’s best pitcher and took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but he was replaced by lefthander Tom Brewer after Bobby Richardson led off with a single. Brewer gave up a single to Gil McDougald, and the Yankees had a rally going.
Tony Kubek, another terrific person I would get to know years later, flied out, but Hector Lopez and Maris followed with singles to tie the score and put runners on first and third. Mantle had come out of the game earlier, and his spot in the lineup was taken by Bob Cerv, the thickly-built, right-handed hitter.
Boston manager Pinky Higgins brought in a right-handed pitcher I had never heard of, but a year later he would almost be a household name – Tracy Stallard, the guy who gave up Maris’ 61st home run. On this night, Stallard would be done in by his second baseman, a September callup named Marlan Coughtry. Thanks to him, I learned something important about the game – the need to remain calm in a crisis.
Cerv hit a grounder to Coughtry, who considering Cerv’s lack of speed should have thrown to second base to start a double play. Instead, he decided to tag Maris in the base path and then throw to first. Maris, who never got enough credit for being a heads-up player, put on the brakes and went into reverse. Coughtry took the bait. Lopez broke for the plate. The rookie tagged Maris eventually for the second out but in hesitating lost any chance to get the third out as Lopez scored the winning run.
Talk about a satisfying finish! It made me forget all about Ted Williams, who insulted baseball fans in New York so that he could have all his Beantown acolytes wax poetic about his going deep in his last big-league plate appearance.
Oh, that’s right. The Yankees played a game Wednesday. It wasn’t as if Alex Rodriguez was out there alone trying to homer himself into history. The other Yankees had a job to do, too, which was to avoid what would have been their first four-game losing streak of the season.
That was the most satisfying aspect of Rodriguez’s 600th career home run. The two-run shot came in the first inning and gave the Yankees a lead that they would not relinquish. Derek Jeter scored ahead of A-Rod on what would be a four-hit day for the captain. Phil Hughes, battling a cold, gutted his way through 5 1/3 innings and allowed one run. Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera combined for 3 2/3 innings of scoreless, 1-hit relief. Mark Teixeira drove in three runs with a double and a single, and the team was flawless in the field.
“We needed to win a ballgame,” Rodriguez said afterwards.
Sure did. A-Rod’s march to 600 had become a gauntlet, and the Yankees skidded along with him, dropping five games in the American League East standings and out of first place.
“It hadn’t been a lot of fun,” Rodriguez said. “I had found a niche in that clubhouse, to let my bat do the talking instead of talking so much to you guys [press]. The last 10 days have been the opposite. I was pressing because I wanted to get it out of the way I don’t like to talk that much about myself. That’s the old Alex. So much has changed – my place on in the clubhouse, my relationship with my teammates. We’re about winning and checking our egos at the door. No personal achievement can top celebrating on the mound as the last team standing.”
After another hitless game Tuesday night, Rodriguez hung around the clubhouse late and had a long talk with his captain. Jeter went through a similar challenge last year in pursuit of Lou Gehrig’s franchise record for hits. Derek centered on A-Rod’s 0-for-17 slump more than the 46 at-bat homerless stretch and told Alex he needed to relax and just get a hit, bunt if you have to.
The funny thing is that when Rodriguez came to bat with Jeter on first base and two out in the first inning, I turned to my friend Kevin Kernan of the New York Post and said, “He ought to lay one down here. The shortstop and third baseman are in left field. Give Robinson Cano a shot to drive in some runs.”
Alex had other ideas, of course, but Jeter had not forgotten the previous night’s conversation. When he embraced A-Rod at the plate, DJ said, “I guess I can forget about that bunt.”
The collective met the personal for A-Rod, who last year learned the importance of teamwork in earning his first World Series ring. The Yankees’ 27th championship came at the end of a 2009 season that began with Rodriguez’s admission of past use of anabolic steroids, a stain he knows he must live with the rest of his career.
“I said last year that there were things in my life I wish I could change,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve often said things in the past that had been hot air, and I didn’t follow through. I learned that you have to walk the walk.”
“Congratulations to Alex on this great achievement and on adding another highlight to Yankees history,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “We are especially proud he accomplished the feat as a Yankee and here before the most loyal fans in baseball.”
Rodriguez was the second player to hit his 600th home run in a Yankees uniform. The other was Babe Ruth, who once held the record for career home runs. That now belongs to Barry Bonds at 762. Can A-Rod catch him?
“It took three years to the day for me to hit 100, so that’s not on my radar now,” Rodriguez said.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was playing for the Padres in the game 40 years ago when Willie Mays got his 600th home run in 1970 at San Diego.
“Not too many people can say that they’ve seen that twice,” Gaston said. “I think that if Alex stays healthy he can get to 700. I don’t know if he’ll pass Hank [Aaron, who had 755] or Bonds. What’s interesting to me is that he hit his 600th on the same date that he hit his 500th three years ago. You do the math, and he’d be around 700 at around 38. He has to stay healthy.”
Alex was able to get the ball because it did not go into the stands and was retrieved by a security guard who climbed onto the netting above Monument Park beyond the center field fence at Yankee Stadium. Frankie Babilonia of lower Manhattan became a part of the story just doing his job was rewarded with a bat from A-Rod
“It’s definitely a special number, and I’m certain certainly proud of it,” Rodriguez said. “Maybe years from now I can reflect on it a lot better.”
For now, he will remember that it came in a victory that his team really desperately needed.
On the 31st anniversary of Thurman Munson’s death in a small plane crash, discussion among Yankees fans often centers on why he is not in the Hall of Fame. The answer is simple. He was not elected. The question is: Why?
Munson is one of the strangest cases in Hall of Fame voting, which is conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America of members with 10 or more consecutive years of coverage. On the face of it, his credentials are impressive. The hard-nosed catcher earned Rookie of the Year (1970) and Most Valuable Player (1976) honors from the BBWAA, drove in 100 or more runs three times, batted .300 five times, won three Gold Gloves, was named to seven All-Star teams and was one of the centerpieces of Yankees teams that won two World Series.
So what went wrong come election time? For one thing, his career was short. Munson played in 11 seasons and hit .292 with 113 home runs. Hall of Fame voters tend to lose for comparisons when voting. There was one obvious comparison for Munson, and that was Roy Campanella, the Brooklyn Dodgers catcher of the 1950s whose career was also shortened (to 10 years) because of a tragic auto accident that paralyzed him.
In his decade in the majors, Campy batted .276 with 242 home runs, played on five World Series teams (winning only once, in 1955), drove in more than 100 runs three times, hit .300 three times, was named to eight All-Star teams and was the National League MVP three times. The Gold Glove was not established until 1957, his last season, but he was acknowledged as one of the game’s best receivers and handlers of pitchers. The writers elected him to the Hall of Fame in 1969 in his fifth year of eligibility.
There does not seem to be much difference, does there? Well, there was one major difference between the two, and that was the matter of personality. Munson was popular with many of his teammates, from Bobby Murcer to Lou Piniella to Jim “Catfish” Hunter to Goose Gossage and beyond, but he was not as well liked by writers for the most part.
Munson had a prickly relationship with the press. He was gruff and impatient. Campanella, on the other hand, was one of the nicest human beings to grace a major-league clubhouse. Extremely popular with teammates and the press alike, Campy’s departure from the game left a definite void, and writers felt he was deserving of Hall recognition eventually.
Should how a player treats the press matter in Hall voting? No, and in most cases it doesn’t. Truth be told, Mickey Mantle wasn’t very sweet with writers during his career. Neither were Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or Warren Spahn or Frank Robinson. And BBWAA members could write encyclopedias about how nasty Eddie Murray was to them. Not everybody in baseball is Yogi Berra or Stan Musial or Ernie Banks. Yet the malicious ones were voted into the Hall by writers anyway, so it is not about that.
What did hurt Munson was that perhaps due to his standoffishness with the press he had no one or previous few championing his case other than Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whose opinion was prejudiced to say the least. The Boss felt his players should have won every award for which they were candidates and berated voters if it didn’t happen, so his campaigning carried no weight.
Munson’s best vote total was his first year on the ballot, in 1981, when he received 62 votes for 15 percent. He never got more than 10 percent of the vote after that. Munson remained on the ballot the full 15 years, which is amazing considering that he annually gathered only 30 to 40 votes.
My own view is that Munson’s chance to make the Hall was hurt by his going on the ballot immediately. The five-year waiting rule that went into effect in the mid-1950s is waved in the case of players who die. When Roberto Clemente was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve in 1972, there was a movement by writers to override the five-year wait and vote him in. A special election was held during spring training in 1973 and Clemente received 93 percent of the vote.
Clemente was a fairly obvious Hall of Fame choice, however, with 3,000 hits, an MVP Award, a World Series MVP and a dozen Gold Gloves, even though his relationship with the press was along the lines of Munson’s.
The five-year waiting period is a good rule. It allows perspective to become part of the equation in evaluating a player’s career. Campanella had to wait five years because he did not die. Munson went on the ballot too soon for his supporters’ good. Had writers been able to step back for five years and then look at his career, I feel that his chances would have been better.
Now Munson’s case falls to the Veterans Committee. As chairman of the BBWAA’s Historical Overview Committee which forms the Veterans Committee ballots, I can tell you that Munson get his day in court and just may make it one of these years.
The Yankees did their share to help teammate Alex Rodriguez celebrate his 35th birthday with career home run No. 600. They created a dramatic situation Tuesday night at Cleveland’s Progressive Field in the ninth inning wherein A-Rod’s 600th would have tied the score.
In the end, it was another oh-fer for Rodriguez as the wait to become the seventh member of the 600 Home Run Club continues. A-Rod is 0-for-8 in two games at Cleveland, but he wasn’t the only Yankees hitter who suffered Tuesday night against Indians rookie righthander Josh Tomlin, who was making his major-league debut and held the Bombers to one run and three hits in seven-plus innings.
Rodriguez grounded out twice and flied out against Tomlin. Derek Jeter gave A-Rod a fresh count when he tried to steal second base on a 1-2 pitch from Tomlin to Rodriguez and was thrown out for the final out of the inning. That meant A-Rod could start anew against Tomlin in the fifth, but he grounded out.
Tomlin’s efficiency and that of three Tribe relievers nearly prevented Rodriguez from getting a fourth at-bat. Entering the ninth, the Yankees needed two men to get on base for A-Rod to have one more shot provided there were no double plays.
They did just that as Brett Gardner and Jeter singled to put runners on the corners with none out and bring the potential tying run to the plate. Nick Swisher struck out and Mark Teixeira flied out, leaving it up to A-Rod to square things against the Indians with his 600th dinger.
Tribe closer Chris Perez yielded Rodriguez’s 590th homer, a grand slam May 31 at Yankee Stadium, but there was no drama this time. Perez got a called strike one on a fastball, then came back with a slider that A-Rod hit softly on the ground to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who got the last out on a force play at second base.
Rodriguez has now gone 21 at-bats since he reached 599 last Thursday night against the Royals at the Stadium. Is he pressing? Of course. He has a history of this, going long stretches of at-bats as he approaches a milestone. Maybe in this case, however, Rodriguez knows that there is something hollow about this achievement.
Think back to when he hit his 500th career homer August 4, 2007 at the Stadium off Kansas City’s Kyle Davies. The feat was widely applauded, and A-Rod was perceived as the antidote to Barry Bonds. Many fans believed Bonds had surpassed Hank Aaron in home runs with the help of performance-enhancing drugs. Rodriguez’s pursuit of Bonds’ record was a major part of the contract extension he signed with the Yankees prior to the 2008 season that awards him bonuses on passing certain milestones.
Fast forward to the spring of 2009 when A-Rod admitted that he, too, had used anabolic steroids during his three seasons with the Rangers, and the PED stain fell on him as well. It was to Alex’s credit that he did not smirk at baseball fans as Bonds had done and offered confession. Rodriguez found a new appreciation for the game and performed incredibly last October to earn his first World Series ring. And while his image has been altered to a more positive note because of those accomplishments, the fact that a number of his home runs came under the influence of PEDs cannot be dismissed.
In his Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday at Cooperstown, N.Y., Andre Dawson touched on this issue pointedly when he said, “It bothers me when I hear people knock the game. There’s nothing wrong with the game of baseball. Baseball will from time to time, and like anything else in life, fall victim to the mistakes that people make. It’s not pleasant, and it’s not right. Those mistakes have hurt the game and taken a toll on all of us. Individuals have chosen the wrong road and have chosen that as their legacy. Others still have a chance to choose theirs. Do not be lured to the dark side. It’s a stain on the game, a stain gradually being removed. But that’s the people, not the game. There’s nothing wrong with the game. Never has been. I think people just forget why we ever got involved in the game in the first place. When we were nine of 10 years old, we just loved playing the game. What we found was that if you put your heart into this game, if you love this game, the game will love you back.”
Just the same, the Yankees will be relieved when 600 is come and gone and they can all go about the business of winning games and pennants.
Back from Cooperstown where Yogi Berra’s absence was felt by everyone. Yogi and wife Carmen are among the most popular couples during Induction Weekend, the first they have missed since Yogi was managing the Yankees in 1984. A huge card was displayed in the lobby of the Otesaga Hotel and signed by all the Hall of Famers saying how much they miss Yogi.
“I don’t miss him,” Whitey Ford quipped. “I see Yogi all the time.”
I figured that Alex Rodriguez would have gotten to 600 home runs over the weekend against Kansas City pitching. The games were watched by visitors all weekend on a huge flat-screen TV behind the bar in the Hawkeye Grill.
“Let’s go watch No. 600,” was a familiar remark, although I don’t think anyone heard Hank Aaron or Willie Mays say that.
One of the inductees Sunday was Doug Harvey, the well-respected umpire who during his speech took umbrage at people referring to umpires as a necessary evil. “We are necessary but not evil,” the ump known as “God” said.
The Yankees begged to differ Monday night at Cleveland. A blown call against Rodriguez defused a rally in the fourth inning and was ruled a double play. Television replays of A-Rod’s diving liner clearly showed that the ball was trapped by left fielder Trevor Crowe, who came up throwing and threw to second where Mark Teixeira, who had walked to reach base for the 42nd consecutive game, was tagged out. So instead of having runners on first and second with one out, the Yankees were out of the inning.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, TV replays are used only on questionable home run calls. The best Yankees manager Joe Girardi could do was to get the four umpires to talk it over, but the original call was upheld.
The very next inning, another potential Yankees rally was doused by a missed ball. Second base umpire Dale Scott called Curtis Granderson out trying to stretch a single into a double. With Jorge Posada running ahead of him, Granderson had to make sure the slow-footed catcher was going to third base before turning on the jets and heading for second. Still, according to video replays, Granderson was tagged by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera after his slide.
It was an impressive play by right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who grabbed the ball with his bare left hand on a carom off the wall and threw a dart to second base, but Granderson appeared safe. He didn’t argue the call, however. He probably figured what’s the use after what happened the previous inning dealing with the necessary evil.